Priorities and Boundaries in the New Year [Episode 111]


Click below to hear about priorities and boundaries in the new year: 


Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you were able to unplug over this winter break and recharge so you can tackle the last semester of the school year. Since the start of a new year is the perfect time to hit the reset button, I really wanted to start the year off by assessing where you are in life, what your priorities are, and the types of boundaries you should have.

During today’s episode, I want to introduce you to what it means to be living in your current season and how to honor that with your priorities and boundaries. Different seasons require different things from us, so it’s important to find ways to make it through based on what your needs are and what matters in your life during your current season.

One of the best ways to do that is by naming your priorities and defining boundaries. Your priorities filter through every decision you make during that time, which is why being selective with what matters most is so essential. Additionally, I discuss how to choose certain boundaries that align with your priority and that serve whoever is involved or connected to your priority.

I want you to remember that seasons aren’t forever, and it’s going to require you to pick and choose or give and take during certain moments of your life. But by naming your priorities and defining your boundaries, you can make it through your current season. So, I want to encourage you to assess where you’re at so you can have a fresh start in this new year and end the school year strong! 

Topics Discussed:

  • What it means to live in your current season
  • How to name your priority (yes, just one!) and define your boundaries based on that priority
  • Finding ways to keep you accountable during your current season
  • A reminder that seasons aren’t forever and require different things from you during different seasons
  • Preview of the next few episodes on how to optimize your time with minimal time and energy during your current season

Resources Mentioned:

Related Episodes and Blog Posts:

Connect with Rebecca:

More about Secondary Science Simplified: 

Secondary Science Simplified is a podcast specifically for high school science teachers that will help you to engage your students AND simplify your life as a secondary science educator. Each week Rebecca, from It’s Not Rocket Science, and her guests will share practical and easy-to-implement strategies for decreasing your workload so that you can stop working overtime and start focusing your energy doing what you love – actually teaching!

Teaching doesn’t have to be rocket science, and you’ll learn exactly what you need to do to simplify your secondary science teaching life so that you can enjoy your life outside of school even more. Head to itsnotrocketscienceclassroom.com/challenge to grab your FREE Classroom Reset Challenge.

Rebecca 0:00
Happy New Year teacher friends, I don’t know about you, but I just love the energy that a new year brings. And something I’ve always loved about being a teacher is that we kind of get two fresh starts, we get one in August or you know, whenever you go back to school, and then we get another one right now at the New Year in the middle of the year. And I know you might be thinking well, but like I’m on. I’m not on a semester block class. I’m on a traditional schedule, I have, you know, the same students and the same classes all year. So how is this a fresh start? And what does that look like? For me, it doesn’t feel like a fresh start at all. But I want to tell you that this is the perfect time to kind of hit the reset button in your classroom. Even if you have the same student as you did prior to this last break you’ve been on. You know, this is such a good time to really reassess where you are in your life in this season and what your priorities need to be, and then what your boundaries should be from that. And so we are going to be doing that in this episode, we are going to assess your season, your priorities, and your boundaries so that we can really optimize this fresh start in this new year, so that you can end the school year strong. Let’s get into it. This is secondary science simplified a podcast for secondary science teachers who want to engage their students and simplify their lives. I’m Rebecca joiner from it’s not rocket science. As a high school science teacher turned curriculum writer, I am passionate about helping other science teachers love their jobs, serve their students, and do it all in only 40 hours a week. Are you ready to rock the time you spend in your classroom and actually have a life outside of it? You are in the right place teacher friend. Let’s get to today’s episode

Rebecca 1:57
Okay, so if you’ve been around my corner and the Internet long, then you know Hi love the lazy genius or better known as in real life, the actual human Kendra Dachi. But she has this account called the lazy genius. And her whole motto is being a genius about the things that matter and lazy about the things that don’t. And I will link in the show notes. Her website, she has a podcast, she has two books, I love them all. I own them all, huge fan. But one of the things that I’ve really learned from following Kendra, the lazy genius is this idea of living in your current season, it’s something I’ve really taken to heart from following her. And so that’s the first thing I want you to do, as you’re listening to this episode, and you’re kind of assessing where you are this year in the middle of the school year, consider your current season. And this idea of seasons is really important. And it’s a very intentional word choice here. Because seasons are not forever. Okay. And that’s what’s so important. If you’re anything like me, you get really locked into thinking that this is how it’s going to be forever. Like, if I get this stomach bug, I’m so emo for that 48 hours, that’s a bug, I literally think in my brain that I will never enjoy a cheeseburger again. Because I cannot think past, you know what I’m in. And it seems so permanent. And so this is really hard for me to really hold things more open handed, and be okay with kind of settling in a sense in some areas, you know, not being able to do everything exactly how I want to do it because of the season I’m in. But I think it’s a really, really important practice. Because seasons are not forever and different seasons require different things from us. And that’s where priorities will come in, in just a second. But first things first, I want you to consider your current season, as you’re listening to this, maybe you are pregnant, and you’re gonna go on maternity leave in the next couple of weeks or months. Or maybe you’re just coming back from maternity leave from last semester. Or, you know, maybe you have a nine month old that’s going through a sleep regression and you’re not sleeping right now. Or you know, maybe you have a partner who just started a brand new job and you’re adjusting or you’re in the middle of a move or considering a move or you’re living in your parents basement as you’re building a house or, you know, speaking of parents, maybe you have an aging parent or a parent that’s not well that’s now living with you. And you’ve gone into this caretaker role that maybe you didn’t anticipate. Or you know, maybe you have older kids and you’re listening in this is your last semester with a senior who’s about to go off to college or go off to military or go off to a gap year studying abroad or whatever they may be doing. But they’re, they’re leaving your house at the end of the semester. Or maybe you know your middle school students or your high school students that live with you like your kids are playing spring sports. So you’re gearing up for like every night at the baseball field or on the soccer field or maybe you’re coaching a spring support. And so you know that your nights are now over, they no longer belong to you, you know, because you’re living in the dugout. Or maybe you teach an AP class. And so you know that the spring semester just demands so much more from you than the fall because you’re gearing up for this AP exam. So it doesn’t matter what your season is, you know, maybe some of those examples resonated with you, maybe they didn’t, the important thing is that you name your season, and then you follow it up by honoring it with your priorities and your boundaries. Okay, so that’s the second thing we’re gonna do, we’re gonna talk about your priorities, you need to name your priorities. Or as Kendra, the lazy genius says, You need to name what matters most to you, in this current season. Now, the most important thing here is that word priorities, again, intentional word choice. In order for something to truly be a priority, there cannot be like 10 of them, you cannot have 10 priorities. You know, I’ll never forget this past fall, my husband taught a class at our church all about coming up with core values for your family. And the idea was that you have three to five core values, that these are the things that you’re really going to be so we’re intentional about teaching your kids like you want them to leave your house. And these three to five things have become the DNA of who they are. And of course, there’s 50 things we all want for our kids, right? You know, but the idea is that you’re going to really zoom in on three to five. And we laugh so hard, because one of my dear friends took the class with her husband, and they kept coming to the class with 10. They’re like, these are 10 priorities. And my husband was like doing that literally just contradicts like, you can’t truly prioritize 10 things, I mean, even think about it, if you’re focusing on these, you’re only gonna be able to focus on like, one a month, every year, and then you’re not going to really be able to circle back to it till the next year. Whereas if you only have three core values, then you know, every, for every quarter, you’re going to be hitting those, you know, so it was just, it was a really interesting, we laughed a lot about it, and we they really push back on it, but we really were like, You need to narrow this down. Now for you, not just thinking about your kids, but just for life right now, in this season. If you’re listening, I want you to truly pick one thing, what is your number one priority in this season. And just because I love you, I’m gonna let you pick a second priority. But this is going to be take the backseat. Okay, your number one priority is the filter through which every decision we’re going to make in this next upcoming season is going to be based on this number one priority. And then if you have some flexibility and some wiggle room, as you’re making decisions, you can bring in and consider that second priority. But number one is going to be number one. Okay? Here’s what I mean by that. So let me give you an example, the last quarter of the year of 2023. So I’m talking October, November, December, I made the decision that my number one priority in work and in life was finishing the it’s not rocket science chemistry curriculum. I was like I’ve been working on this 18 months, I have to move on, I need to get this done for the teachers who on Semester block are using this, like I need to be able to start I need to be able to unplug for Christmas and enjoy the holidays, my family and not have this hanging over me. And I need to be able to start 2020 for fresh, and not with like more stuff on this project plan. And this giant to do list that I need to chip away at like I want to be able to dream and like come up with new product ideas. And what do I want next for it’s not rocket science and for this podcast, like I wanted that capacity. And so in order to do that, I said number one priority in my work. And as it infiltrates into my life is going to be the chemistry curriculum. Number two priority from there is going to be which is going to sound terrible, but it’s going to be celebrating the holidays in my family. Now again, that sounds really bad that I’m putting my family behind chemistry. But like I’ve said, I knew that this was just for a season, I knew that I’m just looking at putting the pedal to the metal for three months. And if I can get through this, then things will really eat up again. And so that really helps me especially if you feel guilt. I know if you’re if anyone here is listening who’s a parent, like I just I’ve just kind of decided that having guilt is just always gonna be a part of being a parent. I don’t know if that’s something I’ll ever overcome some amount of guilt, but it helps me to manage that knowing this is a really limited season. Okay, so I named those priorities and I’ll kind of talk as we move forward. Okay, well look, what does that look like practically? But first again, you need to consider your current season. What is it? So for me last quarter, my current season was you know, I have my oldest is in kindergarten, my other two are little they’re still in preschool only part time so I only really have childcare, which I’ve childcare like nine hours a week, but if I include nap times I get between 15 and 20 hours of work time a week. And then also the current season of The Last quarter was a holiday season. You know, in the last quarter, we had Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas or holidays that my family celebrates, and years. But that’s not really a big one to me. So those were the things I was considering. And then when I named my priorities, I said, okay, in within the context of this season, number one priority, finishing chemistry, number two is celebrating these holidays with my kids and being able to really unplug and enjoy them with my kids. Okay, which leads us into part three of what we need to do now you have your season, you have your priority, I’m going to make that singular, and then you’re going to define your boundaries. Now boundaries is definitely plural, because you’re going to need a lot of these. But the boundaries are so important for you to set so that you can honor the current season you’re in and not overcommit yourself and overwork yourself, and actually be able to accomplish the priorities you have, again, for this short term season. Now, you may be looking at this season as the rest of the school year, and that’s totally fine. I tend to like to narrow it down a little bit more to maybe quarters. So they may look at just getting through this next quarter of school. And then we can look at the one that follows. But you know, there’s no rules here. It’s whatever serves you best, but let’s define some boundaries. Okay, so I’ll start by giving you some examples of boundaries I had to make in the fourth quarter of 2023. So that I could achieve my priorities of finishing can mystery number one secondary, celebrating the holidays have my family completely unplugged. Okay, so boundaries. I didn’t have playdates, okay? It’s sad, I know. But like, basically, I did not have a playdate at all for like three months, unless it was in the evening time. And like my husband was working late. And I had another friend who you know, had their kids home still, you know, we’re just trying to kill time till dinner. I did a playdate, then why? Because I never work. After I pick my kid up from kindergarten from like three to five. I’m never working on my computer, then because I have all my kids at home during that time. So that’s not a time that I work. So I just didn’t have playdates. Another boundary I set is I didn’t have any coffee dates or anything like that with a friend. You know, sometimes, I would take my kids to preschool and then a friend would want to meet for coffee after drop off and you know, catch up, and then I’d go end up coming back here and working. Nope, not for three months. And it was hard. People would reach out and be like, Hey, we haven’t caught up or you know, girls that are my Bible study that I’m leaving, like, Hey, I’d really love to grab coffee and just like, run some things by you. And I had to say no, because it wasn’t in priority number one, and it wasn’t in secondary priority number two. Now, I didn’t just like completely abandon people, I would try to find times where I was already doing other things. So for example, I don’t work on my computer on Friday mornings, that’s kind of Friday mornings, I don’t have any childcare. So I have the kids with me. And so we kind of do a lot of house things, we get groceries, we clean. And I could say, Hey, we’re gonna go on a walk during this time, but I’m gonna have all my kids do you want to come walk with me with the kids or I’d say, hey, just send me like 10 One minute voice memos. And I’ll listen to them as I can. I’ll get back to me. And so bounce ideas off of each other. I had to get more creative. But I did not use a single minute of my preschool time or my childcare time or my afternoon nap time where my kids are napping, and I’m working. None of it went to friends, or family or anything other than working. I protected that. So hardcore. I moved doctor’s appointments around that I would normally do during that so that I could protect that time. And then another boundary I set to was, I started working at night again, which I hate doing. You know, after my second was born, I used to work nights all the time. But when my second was around six months old, honestly, she was really around seven or eight months old and COVID hit. And that’s where I was like, I can’t do nights anymore. I was just getting exhausted, being home all day with the kids, and then having to work after their bedtime. It was exhausting. And it was just draining me. And so something that I changed though I hate working at night, but I said you know what, so that I can finish this chemistry curriculum. And I can unplug and enjoy time with my family for the holidays. I’m going to work nights to make this happen and to create more margin for myself. And so I made sure that every week, I had two to three nights, were after bedtime. So from like seven or 7:30pm Until you know 10 or 1030. I didn’t have any plans. Okay, so, for example, you know, my husband, I tried to go on a date night once a week. But you know, if we have a social event like a we had a wedding one weekend, we’re not going to go on a date night too, because I’m going to need that extra night to be working or, you know, a lot of times we like to hang out at night we like to watch sports documentaries aren’t about you. But that’s like our thing. We love a good sports documentary. We love the Beckham documentary. We love the Wrexham documentary, like we will have to watch those. And I would just have to be like, Hey, I can’t like we’re going to be behind for a couple weeks because I’m gonna have to work the next few nights and I really blocked that off and again, I was able to do this mentally and persevere through something I hate doing, which is working at night, because I knew this is just a season, this is just a season that I’m currently in, and if I can push through will be done by the holidays. And I knew if I hold to these goals and hold to these boundaries, then I will be able to take off, you know, three days for Thanksgiving, and I will be able to take off two weeks around Christmas and just completely unplug with my family. And that’s kind of meet that second priority. And so that’s why we set boundaries. Okay, boundaries are so hard to set and they’re not fun. But they serve you and they serve your family. And they serve whoever’s involved and connected to your priorities. Okay, that’s who they serve. So I want to give you some other examples of boundaries that I’ve set in the past that may help you as you’re assessing your current season, and you’re naming your priorities and you’re trying to figure out, okay, what boundaries do I need to set in order to achieve these priorities? Okay, so one example could be no new recipes during the school week. Like, again, if you’re coaching or teaching AP, you got all these extra things going on. Like you don’t need to be trying out new recipes, you just need to have your, your know your old faithful recipes, you’re gonna do pasta Monday, Taco Tuesday, you know, Trader Joe’s frozen dinner meal Wednesday, like you’re just gonna plug and chug on the cooking meals. And if cooking fun, new food is like something that you really enjoy, save that for the weekend, not during the school week. Okay? Other boundaries I set in the past, you know, we used to have a life group or a church we did at nights, we stopped doing that. And I do a women’s Bible study a different time, my husband does a D group, he does one by himself. But we don’t have one together. Because we were like, while we saw little kids who have an early bedtime, we can’t be paying for a babysitter during this time. And then also trying to go on a date and like prioritize our alone time. So that’s a boundary, we said, my husband’s no longer coaching. He coached lacrosse for probably six or seven years, when we were first married. And now with little kids, just not the season, you know, maybe there’ll be another time when when he can coach again, I used to coach dance team loved it so much. I even have a friend right now as coaching cheer and asked me to do some choreography for them. And I had to say no, you know, love it. And I It pains me to say no, because it’d be so fun for me, but not in this season. I stopped blogging last year, I told you all that that was another boundary I had to set. Maybe in the classroom, you’re not going to do lab reports throughout the school year, or you’re not going to try and do demos. Or maybe you’re going to stop coming up with lesson plans from scratch. And you’re just going to plug and chug things you already have or buy premade things that you can use that someone else has already thought through for you. Maybe you’re going to stop exercising at the gym, and you’re just going to make it work at home. Or maybe this is a season where you’re not going to do it at home anymore. And you are going to go to the gym, I just joined a gym, maybe six months ago for the first time in six years. Okay, because for six years, it wasn’t the season for me, I didn’t have the capacity or the extra time just to even drive somewhere and go, and it wasn’t one of my priorities, it may be one of yours, you know, maybe that’s your central Community. Maybe this is really how you unplug and recharge from the school year, or you know, from your school day. And so that’s why you need to go to the gym. I’m so happy for you. But that’s where again, there’s no right or wrong here. It’s just saying, What’s my season? What’s my priorities. From there, we have to set some boundaries. I’m so thrilled to be at the gym. Now, these last six months, it’s been so fun. For me, it’s been such a great challenge. But I did not have the capacity for that in the previous six years. Okay, I had to work out at home because I had all these little kids and I worked from home. And it was the only way to make it work. And even now, we’re having to be really strategic about when I go and I have to bring my kids with me 90% of the time they’re there with me at the gym. Because I again, I’m not using my work time to do it. And so that’s just the season, there will be a future season of my life where I can work out in a gym, and not have to push a kid in a stroller while I’m running a 500 meter. Okay, that’s not this season. And that’s okay, because seasons are temporary, right? And that’s my final thing I want to leave you with. Remember, this isn’t forever. That is why it’s called a season, you will have to pick and choose here. That’s why we’re calling it priorities, you’re gonna have to give and take. You cannot do everything a plus effort, you can pick one or two things and hit them hard a plus effort. Everything else can be a c minus, okay? It’s okay. That’s part of what this season is all about. And I want to encourage you in this as you’re listening in, you’re thinking through your season and your priorities and your boundaries. And I really want to encourage you to ask your spouse or ask a friend or ask a co worker to hold you accountable to remembering this. Okay, I had to look at my husband I looked at him and I looked at my best friend and I said you guys need to help me because I go doomsday they know this and you know this if you’ve listened for a while, like I said with the you know, when I get the stomach bug I get super down in the dumps and like cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. Okay, I need You guys help me? First of all, let me tell you my decision, what my priority is. You tell me if you feel like this is reasonable and a good idea which they both affirmed, because again, it’s not like I was saying, I’m gonna make this decision for six months, I was like, No, this is just like a three month push here. I’m trying to make the both affirm that they felt like it was wise. And then I said, Okay, I need you to help me remember to hold these boundaries, because it matters. And I’ve made this decision that this is a priority. So when it’s hard when I’m having FOMO, because I missed that park playdate, or you know, when I’m bummed because I’m not watching the new season of selling sunset, because I’m working at night and all my friends are talking about selling sunset, or the golden bachelor, whatever their show, they’re watching, I’m not watching it, because I’m not watching TV in this season, they can remind me, you’ve chosen this priority, you’ve made these boundaries for a reason. And the end of the season is coming. Like you’re gonna see this through and be so happy you made these decisions. And I’m so grateful for that it was so centering to have my best friend to help my husband that I could call and talk to my best girlfriend and say, Hey, am I right here and talk to him? And be like, Okay, do I need to wiggle on this? Or do I need to hold that on this. And they just really, really supported me in this, I want to encourage you to find those people for you as well. So that you can really not just get through this season, but get to the end of whatever season you’re in and not feel guilty about it and not feel like you didn’t accomplish anything or you did everything halfway. Okay, we’re naming these priorities so that at the end of whatever season you’re in, you can feel really good and confident that like I did this one thing I chose really, really well. Maybe everything else was bad. But I did this one thing really, really well. And maybe for you, your priority in this season is your family and your life outside of school period. And so, anything at work, you’re going to totally reevaluate how you do this job. So that your number one priority is getting home as quickly as possible to be with a new baby to be with your husband, you just went through third surgery, you know, to be with your mom who just had to move in and you’re caring for her, or whatever it may be. And that’s okay, it’s 150% Oh, K. And we wanted to set these boundaries and name these parties so that at the end of the year, when you look back and you’re like, wow, I didn’t grade as many papers as they wanted. Or I didn’t come up with as many like snazzy labs as I normally do. But you know what I did? Do, I needed a priority about getting home and I did it. And you know, the kids survived. I survived and we’re all doing fine. And that’s another thing I want to encourage you to when it comes to some of these boundaries. I hope you’re naming at school. And I hope you’re setting at school. This isn’t forever. Okay? Just try, just try to do things differently. set a boundary, go home early grade half the stuff you normally grade, and just see what happens because it’s just a season and it isn’t forever. Okay, so that’s your take home challenge this week. If you haven’t, as you’ve been listening, decided, I want you this week before you come back and listen to next week’s episode, I want you to identify your current season, name, your number one priority, and maybe a secondary priority, because I love you. And I want to give you that grace, define some serious boundaries you’re gonna hold in order for you to do this priority. And then find an accountability partner who will remind you that this isn’t forever and help you hold fast to these goals here. Okay, and then come back next week, make sure if you’re not already following the podcast you do so you don’t miss the next two weeks episodes. Because what we’re going to do is, I specifically want to speak to those of you in seasons, where you have really minimal time and energy. And we’re going to talk through how to optimize that in your home when you get home. And all you want to do is lay on the couch, and then how to optimize this in school. So if when you feel that middle if you’re in a minimal energy season, these next two weeks episodes are going to be really intentionally written for you. So come back and stay tuned for those. And if you want to grab those links to the lazy genius stuff that I mentioned, you can find them in the show notes at it’s an awkward science classroom.com/episode 111 That’s episode 111. And hey, leave a review today if you haven’t already if you’re a semester block teacher and so this whole idea of starting a new with fresh cloth is like this is you you’re ready to start fresh and have new priorities and you know new boundaries and all that if that’s you. Leave a review today.

Rebecca 24:15
All right, teacher friends. That wraps up today’s episode. If you’re looking for an easy way to start simplifying your life as a secondary science teacher, head to It’s not rocket science classroom.com/challenge to grab your classroom reset challenge. And guess what? It’s totally free. Thanks so much for tuning in, and I’ll see you here next week. Until then, I’ll be really free teacher friend.


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