This has been written in response to a great post I recently read written by Eric Sheninger that can be found HERE.
The post above really resonated with me. As someone beginning their educational leadership journey as a Primary School (Assistant) Principal, I have found the demands placed on me by the school and also by the system to be, almost, completely overwhelming at times. This is is no ones fault and no one is to blame. It is the nature of the job in which I work. I know that colleagues close and far also feel similar in that attempting to achieve a good ‘work/life balance’ can be extremely hard at times.
Having 4 young children myself, that ability to find a ‘balance in the force’ has certainly be challenging. It is something that is constantly on my mind and something that I am always attempting to improve. A goal that i had recently set as part of some coaching that I undertook was to to “take more time for self”. What that looked like took many forms (some of which i have shared below) and initially, those inclusions in to my life worked very well. Lately however…. not so much, therefore time to rethink and realign some of what is in place. 😉
Advice that I can share, albeit these are things that I have not yet mastered, in finding a better balance are listed below.
- DWYSYWD (Do What You Said You Would Do) – this is something I picked up from a colleague a while back. If you tell a colleague that you will do something, whether it be for them, or someone else, do it. In the hustle and bustle that is the nature of our work items can be overlooked or put on the back burner. The last thing you need to be doing is chasing your tail because you have not done things that you SAID you would do.
- Now in saying the above… learn to say NO. This can be hard, and you need to be selective in when you say no, but learn to say it. It is a skill and a hard one to master but a vital skill to have. The great thing about saying no is that it is a win/win, especially if you are strategic about how you go about it. What I mean in particular by this is “Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime”. This is a great opportunity to help build capacity in others, simply by learning to say no.
- Make a time for putting it all away. For me, it’s around 5:30pm / 6:00pm. MOST of the time and usually no matter what it is that I am doing, it’s pack up, go home. The work will still be there tomorrow, and mostly likely the day after. This is when I scoop what I need to in to the backpack, and head home. I am sure that if I chose to, I could work well in to the night, but I choose not to. And that in itself is a hard thing to do. This leads in to…
- In addition to the above, leave work at work. This is one I have found quite difficult to achieve. What I mean by this is leaving the laptop, iPad, and anything else that will cause me to do work at home, at work. Yes, the emails come through on the phone, and I do my best to ignore them, however
- Let go of the “guilts”. I used to quite often get guilty if I was not checking emails, doing things for others and going above and beyond, often at the detriment of my family and the time I spent with them. It’s not fun going to the park and attempting to push the kids on the swings all the while attempting to read an email about occupational health and safety!
- Move. I recently purchased a new garmin GPS Sports watch as I am making some attempt, albeit a poor one thus far, at getting back in to running. One great feature about this watch is that if I am sitting too long it tells me to “move”. So, I do. I go on a learning walk. I go and see what is happening in the school in which I work! Talk to the kids, parents, the chickens out the back! Just move. That is a great time to unwind, realign and often reprioritise the work to be done, and get back in to it.
- Block out a time in your week – for you. Go in to your calendar, select a time, and be strategic about it. It may back onto a recess or lunch break, it may be at the beginning of the day, however just block out a time. 1 hour. 2 hours. It’s up to you. This is sacred time for you to shit, uninterrupted, and get things done. I am not at all an advocate for school leaders who live behind closed office doors with blinds always down. I personally believe that school leaders should ALWAYS be accessible. Always. They (we) are busy people and I get that, however it is the people in your organisation that make your organisation and as the leader of that setting you need to be there for your people and those within. Now in saying this, there is also work to be done, which hopefully is work that leads to the improvement of your school on all levels, and occasionally that work needs to completed with minimal interruption – and hence setting aside this time.
- Lastly, and this is a ‘Captain Obvious’ moment, live life to its fullest. Enjoy as much as you can with family, friends, colleagues, engage in a hobby, start a new one, socialise, do whatever it is that makes you happy when you are not at work. Because at the end of the day, we need to make sure we “work to live, anot live to work”.
There you have it. My few insights and strategies and if you have not already, read Eric’s post linked above. A great insight in to the importance of finding that better balance.
As always, thanks for reading!