As an early career teacher (ECT), it can be a struggle to figure out how to achieve a healthy work-life balance. Many ECTs start working in education as they want to make an impact on children and their learning. However, they can sometimes face expectations that are difficult to live up to.


In their Teacher Wellbeing Index, Education Support found that 70% of teachers and education staff suffered from poor mental health due to excessive workload.


One of the difficulties in finding a work-life balance is that life as a teacher constantly changes, as does the pressure at work. The key is to have strategies and techniques ready to use when needed. Finding the sweet spot between achievement and work-life balance can help teachers build a happy and healthy career in education. Read our guide on how to look after your well-being as a new teacher.

Respect your time and set boundaries


Teachers are known for being dedicated and hardworking – many find themselves staying up hours after school to assist students or dedicating weekends to grading papers. It’s crucial to recognise the limitations and understand that attending every school event or planning numerous school trips might not be feasible. Instead, focus on tasks that will have a substantial impact on your students’ success.


One effective strategy is to create a designated workspace for planning and grading. When the school day ends, leave that space behind, allowing yourself the mental freedom to unwind and recharge. Respecting your time means prioritising your personal time and acknowledging that a balanced life contributes positively to your overall well-being as a teacher.

Plan in advance


Creating a realistic schedule that encompasses teaching, planning, and personal time is an essential step towards achieving a healthy work-life balance. Consider planning weeks or even months in advance to feel more in control of your time. This proactive approach allows you to prioritise tasks based on importance and deadlines, preventing last-minute stress.


As a teacher, you’ll juggle various tasks, from lesson planning to grading assignments, so it’s important to stay organised. Utilise tools like Twinkl’s marking timetable or use diaries and planners to plan your days. Online planning templates, such as blank monthly calendars and to-do lists for teachers, offer interactive solutions without the need for printing.


Mastering the art of lesson planning can also significantly contribute to a healthy work-life balance. Explore our tips on lesson planning for new teachers for insights and strategies.

Master the art of saying no


While enthusiasm is commendable, it’s equally important to recognise your limits and learn to say no when necessary. Teachers, by nature, often find it challenging to decline responsibilities or requests. However, overcommitting can lead to burnout and negatively impact your well-being.


Assess your capacity realistically and focus on tasks that align with your priorities and goals. Saying no is not a sign of weakness but a crucial aspect of learning how to achieve a healthy work-life balance. Prioritise your mental and physical health, understanding that a balanced teacher is a more effective one.

Delegate where possible


Consider delegating certain tasks whenever you can. Collaboration with colleagues or involving students in classroom responsibilities can significantly lighten your workload. Delegation is not a sign of incompetence but a strategic move to distribute responsibilities and promote a healthier work environment.


Sharing the load doesn’t only reduce the burden on you; it creates a sense of community and shared responsibility within the classroom. It’s an acknowledgment that effective teaching is a collective effort. By sharing responsibility, teachers will have more time to direct towards self-care, lesson planning and time for socialisation.

Prioritise friends and self-care


Taking time off to rest is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. Many teachers feel guilty about prioritising self-care, fearing it might compromise their dedication to their students. However, rest and personal time contribute to better job performance and can help prevent burnout.


Schedule specific times during the day for self-care activities, whether it’s reading, exercising, or spending time with loved ones. This intentional commitment to yourself is vital for re-energising and maintaining a positive outlook in your teaching career. For inspiration, explore self-care tips for teachers from UNICEF.

Turn off electronics


In today’s digital age, staying connected is easier than ever, with online platforms facilitating communication between teachers, parents, and students. While this connectivity is beneficial, it’s essential to set boundaries, especially after a tiring day at work.


Avoid the temptation to reply to students or answer emails in the evenings. Establish a clear communication policy with your students, letting them know that after a specific time, you will no longer respond to messages or posts. Consider setting a designated time to switch off all electronic devices, creating a clear distinction between work and personal time.


Reducing technology use at night has proven benefits. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine highlights that reducing technology during the evening can have a positive impact on energy levels, sleep quality as well as emotional and mental health. It is therefore important to establish healthy digital habits.

Prioritise quality sleep


In the hustle and bustle of a teacher’s life, sleep often takes a back seat. However, the significance of sufficient sleep cannot be overstated. Aim for 8 hours of sleep each day to allow your body to recover from the stresses of the day.


Quality sleep positively influences problem-solving abilities, decision-making skills, and memory retention. Burnout and sleep deprivation often go hand in hand, so resist the urge to stay up late working on lesson plans or grading papers. Prioritise a good night’s sleep as it can have a big impact on your overall well-being.

Embrace imperfection


The teaching profession comes with its own set of challenges and pressures. It’s easy for teachers, especially early in their careers, to place excessive pressure on themselves to be perfect. The desire to create flawless lessons and respond to every email promptly can become overwhelming.


It’s essential to recognise that perfection is an unattainable goal. Every teacher encounters lessons that don’t go exactly as planned or moments where work spills into personal time. Embrace imperfection as a natural part of the learning process. Learn from challenges, adapt, and move forward with a positive mindset.


For further guidance on understanding what is good enough, as opposed to striving for an unattainable level of achievement, explore resources like Twinkl’s “You Are Not Superhuman”. This insightful resource provides valuable information to help you navigate the expectations placed on teachers.

Achieving a healthy work-life balance is an ongoing journey, especially for teachers in the early stages of their careers. The benefits, however, are far-reaching. Improved job satisfaction, reduced burnout, and better outcomes for students are among the positive outcomes of a well-balanced professional and personal life.


Incorporating these strategies into your daily routine will improve your overall well-being and help you control the stressors in your life. This way you’ll be able to thrive in your teaching career.


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