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The end of another year is only a few weeks away. Until then, we may have complete and detailed plans for all that we want to accomplish. Yet, much of what will actually happen in the coming days will compete with and even disrupt what we have imagined. We will also feel the added pressure and stress to finish instruction, wrap up learning, and finalize other tasks and projects. Ultimately, the time we have left will likely not be enough to do all that we would like.  

The challenge we face is to successfully wrap up the year without feeling as though we are losing control or becoming overwhelmed with frustration and stress. As we anticipate the coming days and weeks, here are six proven strategies to make our work more manageable and our experience more enjoyable. They can help us to find success without losing our sanity. As we think about these strategies, we might consider the safety instructions we receive when beginning a flight: we must put on our own oxygen mask before we can help others to do the same. In this metaphor, the “flight” is, of course, a symbol of our approach to the finish line. 

Set boundaries and create space. Despite the inevitable stress and competing expectations, finding time to do things we enjoy, making memories with family and friends, exercising, and just relaxing are important to being our best selves. If we are stressed and exhausted, we will not do our best work.  

Support and rely on colleagues. Trying to manage and complete everything that must be done by ourselves can be overwhelming. Collaborating on projects, sharing resources, and stepping up to help each other can make a huge difference. Beyond sharing the load, feeling support, and sharing ideas, working with others can lower our stress and increase our sense of connectedness. 

Focus on what really matters. We need to be realistic. The amount of time available is limited, while the number of potential tasks and activities lists are likely to be long. We might consider what we can let go of or postpone. Not every meeting must be held, not every deadline must be firm, and not every expectation must be met.  

Look for small wins. It might be tempting to focus on what might go wrong. We can balance this pressure by focusing on small wins to keep us positive and optimistic. We might reach out to a student with whom we have found it difficult to connect, or we may help a struggling student across the finish line. We might complete a project or perfect a skill with which we have wrestled for some time. The key is to recognize that despite what may feel like chaos, we are still making a difference.  

Be flexible and adapt. We know that not everything will go as planned. There will be surprises and disruptions, and communication will not always be timely and complete. Expecting perfection only adds to our stress. Choosing to “go with the flow,” stay loose, and expect the unexpected can reduce our frustration and help us to maintain our balance as we approach the end.  

Reflect, celebrate, and be present. We, our colleagues, and our students have come a long way. We have faced a myriad of challenges and experienced many accomplishments, and we have all learned and matured. Hopefully, we have also collaborated and grown as we engaged with our colleagues. Now is the time to reflect on what has happened and celebrate what has been accomplished. We also need to allow ourselves to be fully present, appreciate the moment, and experience the sense of completion that the end of the year offers. 

This is a special time of the year. There is much to celebrate, but we can become caught up in the tasks, projects, and challenges that distract us from the big picture and undermine our appreciation of what has been accomplished. Taking time for ourselves, setting reasonable expectations, remaining flexible, supporting each other, and celebrating all that has been achieved can help us to end the year with pride, joy, and satisfaction. 

Thought for the Week

Simply pulling a strategy “off the shelf” or defaulting to the most recently read article or staff development session topic may not generate the results we seek.

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