How full is your bucket?

So after an absolute minefield of a year last year, 2017 was meant to go smoothly. A family bereavement, a toddler starting daycare and then getting every malady under the sun, and work issues that I can’t describe on here saw to that dream. So a lot of the goals I’d set myself have been delayed and a lot of the new stuff I wanted to do for my students hasn’t happened. No-one has been disadvantaged and deadlines are being met, but I just have this overwhelming feeling of disappointment as every time I start to get a step ahead I hit another landmine and find myself 2 steps back.

On a course recently a presenter referred to the idea of being overloaded as his “bucket being too full”. I’ve tried to find the source for this (he referred to some PPTA work) but what I found was kind of the opposite. There is a quite popular looking book which even has a ‘for kids’ version which presents the concept as someone who has more positive experiences have a more ‘full’ bucket – so the key to happiness is having regular (but not too often/many) positive experiences.

I eventually came across [comic sans warning] this presentation (CC BY-NC-SA) by Dr. Michael Cheng, Jennifer Boggett, and Marjorie Anderson.


So basically I realised the obvious: that my stress levels are high because I’m over-committed. And the solution seems obvious: reduce current commitments and limit future commitments until balanced. The problem with the former is that some commitments are hard to drop. The problem with the latter is that there are some very exciting things happening at the moment. And a lot of my commitments are filling gaps that we’ve been finding throughout the year. Luckily the resource I found (again, apologies for breaking my no Comic Sans rule) has some advice:


Tell an adult. OK, I’m going to interpret that as ‘talk to someone’. Which I did, I talked to colleagues about work stress and my wife about home stress. Which was useful, as now they know to give me space to balance things out and to not put too much on me in the near future. I actually also talked to my students about my stress (in the context of our long-term, school-wide push on wellness). And I talked to my critical friend group (which has definitely been a Good Thing) who were amazing at turning my perspective in different directions, helping me with where to go next. More advice:


No comment. Final piece of advice, and the most useful:


This one is the hardest but its helpful to force me to look at what is really important right now and what can wait. Everything seems non-negotiable until you force yourself to be really honest, maybe that thing isn’t actually crucial, maybe letting someone down is OK you’re open if it means everyone is better off in the long run.


I have too much to do and not enough time to do it. That sounds like I’m saying the same thing twice but my previous coping mechanism for too much work was to stay up really late for a few nights or head into the office on the weekend to essentially create more time for school work – but with a toddler at home and another on the way those solutions no longer exist. The path through this is difficult but manageable:

  • Be open and honest with those around me. People are understanding and generally seem to have the same issues, to different degrees.
  • Prioritise/categorise what I can and can’t do. And be realistic about it.
  • Don’t take on any new things for a while. Essentially I’m not taking on anything new until November. Unfortunately I just accepted two quite large jobs that I can’t get rid of, both of which I really want to do, and one of which is paid, but neither of these things counter the fact that I don’t really have time or focus to do them properly.

All in all if I tick of certain jobs during these school holidays I’ll be on track. But I think I might take the baskets model mentioned above with me in the future, and be much more critical of accepting big tasks.

Footnote: licensing

This is probably the topic of another post, but… I apply Creative Commons licenses to everything I create in the classroom – assessments, teaching resources, other. I find some aspects of CC licences easy to understand and apply. Others not so much.

The resource linked and reproduced in this post is licensed as BY-NC-SA. To meet the requirements I have:

  • BY – stated the authors, linked to the original document and to the license (they didn’t state a version so I went for the latest international version).
  • NC – I’m not making money of this blog in any way
  • SA – do I have to license this blog post using the same license? I haven’t applied any license to this blog because I’m not really sure of it’s purpose – partly just my own thoughts, partly meeting PTC (pdf) requirements, partly putting together material for others.

So have I followed the requirements of the original license? I think so. Maybe I will write a post to document my adventures trying to figure out how to properly apply CC licenses to different materials.



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