I’m going to be brutally honest with myself and just admit that I don’t have a plan or a strategy and acknowledge that that frustrates me quite a lot because after about ten months of constantly hustling online and offline, I think I should have a clearer idea of what happens next or how to manage my day better.
From the outside, I’m doing what I love doing, which is teaching, and I’m working with many fascinating students who all have wonderful backgrounds and rich stories to share about their language studies and ambitions, especially students who are preparing for master’s degrees and PhDs at leading American universities.
It’s a privilege and an honor to help them prepare and to share a small part of their success when they write back to let me know that they got the scores that they wanted. There is a sense of satisfaction and pride when I can point at those results and convince myself that it is truly worth it and that I actually am helping students.
My current struggles
What bogs me down though is staying organized and keeping track of all the pending emails that I need to answer since dozens of potential students ask me general and specific questions before they sign up for packages and current students write to get feedback on their writing and speaking tasks and they’d like to get that feedback before the lesson.
Sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed and see that work keeps piling on while my free time keeps shrinking. I want to give people answers, even if their questions may seem obvious, but I need to remember that what may be obvious to me after hundreds of hours of lessons may not be that obvious to a first-time student who is trying out Skype lessons for the first time with a native speaker.
I want to reassure them, make them feel comfortable and confident that I will listen to them and be happy to help them. I give a lot of myself, and maybe sometimes I give too much, since often the time I spend helping strangers takes away time I could spend with my young children or on my hobbies and interests.
I spend a lot of time behind a computer screen and with the webcam on. There are usually about 6 hours of lessons between 8am and 3pm and if I make sure to remember to schedule a lunch break, I don’t end up teaching them all back to back.
I have had a few occasions when I did actually teach 8 hours back to back without any breaks and by the end of the day, my head is swimming and I feel like a zombie. I need to make sure that I’m getting enough food and water and taking occasional breaks throughout the day because as one of my friends has often reminded me, I need to put the oxygen mask on myself first before attempting to help others.
As a result of my increasing course load, website design, content creation, and generating passive income have been neglected. I know that I’m physically limited in terms of the number of hours per day that I can teach and the number of students I can teach individually. I want to be able to help them all and also potentially reach even more students whom I can help.
However, with my current schedule, it’s proving more and more difficult to figure out ways to make the most of thirty minutes or an hour of free time. I could either spend that time responding to emails, checking homework, checking Facebook, eating, resting, or creating content and repurposing lesson content. Oftentimes the last two options don’t happen enough.
As many coaches say, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” and that does apply to my scheduling key times when I want to be available in the evening to brainstorm or write. If I just hope that I’ll have a moment at the end of the day, it won’t happen, and instead I’ll end up going to bed tired and frustrated because I ran out of opportunities. The reality is that I do have 30 minutes here and there and between work and a family, that is actually quite a luxury that I shouldn’t squander.
Today is a bit of an exception because I had a cancelation in the evening and my frustration about my passivity and inertia to make things happen finally reached a breaking point and I decided I had enough with complaining about not having enough time or not knowing which step to take first that I just had to start somewhere.
Progress not perfection
Nobody expects things to be perfect and life is a journey of discoveries. If I knew everything that I had to do step by step, then it would be quite boring and take away the enjoyment of figuring out what works and doesn’t and how to keep improving things. The key is to just get started today and believe that things will get better along the way.
I can’t keep looking at my past achievements and past failures and remain inert. It’s time to start fresh today and seize the opportunity to take action and actually do something. Doing nothing is no longer an option. I will strive to do or produce something each day now and stop complaining about lacking time. The only way to get better at doing something is by doing it consistently. Over time the results will improve, but only if the first commitment of regularity is satisfied.
If you find yourself in a similar position with your schedule and goals, please let me know about your current struggles. Also, if you’ve figured out strategies for getting through these difficult times, please leave me a comment or link to some resource that has helped you move forward. I believe there is strength in numbers when we can help each other along our different paths.