So how many of you have made new year’s resolutions? What were they? A survey by Cancer Research UK listed the most popular resolutions – 19 per cent of us resolve to cut down on alcohol, 34 per cent want to spend less money, 21 per cent to cut down on chocolate, while 22 per cent vow to go to the gym. Seem familiar?
How many of you have stuck to these? Or did it get a little too much already? You are not alone. Just one in 11 of us will stick to our resolutions for six months, the survey found, with 40 per cent giving up within two weeks.
So is there any point to making these kinds of resolutions? There could be. In fact, teachers who set themselves goals are likely to be happier.
Figures from the University of Kent and Teacher Support Network in 2010 show that teachers with career aspirations and a goal to learn were happier than those facing unrealistic expectations.
Teachers who set high performance standards for themselves had higher levels of wellbeing. Similarly, teachers with a goal to advance their professional development had higher levels of mental energy and were more invested in their work than those who were focused on outperforming others.
Yet the study makes it clear that teachers should set these standards for themselves, rather than them being imposed from colleagues or senior managers. In fact, teachers who felt that other people demanded more than they were capable of giving had higher levels of stress, stress-related ill health and burn-out, as well as lower levels of wellbeing.
So what can teachers do to help achieve these goals that they set themselves? Simple as it sounds, writing the goals down could be the answer. Two separate studies found that people that wrote their goals down were far more likely to achieve them.
In 1964, all members of the Harvard Business School graduating class stated that they had, at graduation, clear goals that they wanted to accomplish in life.
Among them, five per cent took the time to write it down on paper. In 1984, a follow-up discovered that 95 per cent of those who wrote down their goals were able to achieve them within 20 years. Among the other graduates, only five per cent were able to reach their expected goals. An earlier study at Yale University also had very similar results.
But what goals should you set yourself to make the most of 2014? Here are a few ideas:
Set a time to finish each term night: “I will finish no later than 6pm on weekdays, so that I can exercise and eat properly.”
Set free time on weekends and/or on some week nights: “I will take two nights off during the week and have one completely free day during the weekend, so that I can spend time with my family.”
Think about signing up to a regular, scheduled activity or group, such as a spinning class or book club. This will ensure that you make time each week or month for an activity you enjoy.
Start slowly. You can’t expect to change your entire life overnight. Introduce small changes, such as set 15-minute relaxation breaks. As you begin to get used to these and your work patterns adapt, gradually increase the length of these breaks.
Schedule a break during the day. Research from Bupa in January 2011 found that only three in 10 UK workers take a lunch break, but almost half felt that their productivity plummeted in the afternoon around 3pm.
Set goals to separate your home and work. Could you stay a little longer at school and complete your work there, thereby keeping your home for you? If you do have to work at home, where is your desk? Is it in your bedroom or where you relax? This can disrupt sleep, because the work is physically still in the room with you. Try moving it somewhere else.
Julian Stanley is chief executive of the Teacher Support Network. Visit www.teachersupport.info or call 08000 562 561 (England), 08000 855088 (Wales).