In my first School leadership insights newsletter of 2018, I recommended Focusing on YOU if you want to make 2018 GREAT! Now that we are in the final term of the year it is timely to revisit the recommended strategies.
School leaders are generally selfless. They are forever thinking about others and endeavouring to make things even better for their students, staff and school community. Often this can be to the leader’s own detriment.
Check your progress on my 15 recommendations.
Are you taking responsibility for your own personal well-being?
Many educators put themselves last! They work long hours and tirelessly try to be all things, to all people. Looking after your own well-being needs to be a priority. People rely on you. You can’t help others and be there for them if you are burnt out and exhausted.
Have you undertaken a thorough health appraisal this year?
Early detection is often better than pursuing a cure. It is important to commit to a full health appraisal on an annual basis. Don’t wait for the alarm bells to ring. Take a proactive approach and undertake a full health appraisal, including blood screening on an annual basis.
Are you focusing on work-life satisfaction instead of work-life balance?
‘Balance’ can be very difficult to achieve. Our work in schools takes up a significant amount of our awake hours. It is important that we get satisfaction from our work as well as the other aspects of our lives. Instead of aspiring for work-life balance, aim to get satisfaction from your work as well as the other roles that make up your life.
Have you set boundaries on your work hours?
There is always more that can be done. Your IN tray is never empty; your IN box refills with emails, reports that need to be written and research that should be read. No matter how many hours you work, there is always more that could be done. It is vital to set boundaries to stop work overtaking and having an impact on the other aspects of your life. Which day of the week could you leave school at 3.30 pm and do something for you?
Are you monitoring your self-talk?
It is vital that we monitor that little voice inside our heads and ensure that our expectations of ourselves are fair and realistic.
Have you made is clear that harassment and violence are NOT tolerated?
It is a sad reflection on our society that many public hospitals now display “Zero Tolerance to Abuse” signs clearly communicating that harassment and violence towards staff will not be tolerated. This message can also be communicated through newsletters.
Are your expectations of yourself realistic?
At times educators can be our own harshest critic. At the end of each day, we should reflect on what we have achieved and not be too harsh on ourselves if there are tasks that are still left to do on our TO DO list. We don’t get to sit, uninterrupted in an office, working our way through a TO DO list. Our days in school are unpredictable. Unexpected events often happen, requiring us to adjust our priorities.
Seek expert help if feeling over-whelmed
Working in schools is complex. We deal with all sorts of people, confront many stressful situations that occur within our society and are relied upon by so many. If you are feeling over-whelmed, seek professional support. It is not a sign of weakness but a recognition of the real complexity of the role we play.
Have you booked an end of year holiday?
School years are intense and draining. It is vital that we take some time at the end of each year to rest and recharge. A holiday doesn’t have to be extravagant. A change of scenery and break from the demands of our role are beneficial. The anticipation of the holiday can be almost as good as the holiday itself. Where would you like to go next break? Book a holiday now and gain the benefits throughout the term.
Have you committed to an exercise routine?
We know the benefits of exercise on both our physical and mental health. Establishing an exercise routine is one of the most powerful actions you can take. Choose an exercise that works for you – walking the dog, gym, playing sport, cycling, yoga, swimming etc. Establish regular exercise as part of your routine. Make sure you schedule it in! Make it a priority, and you’ll find the time! Commit to the program for three weeks, and it starts to become a habit.
Often when we get busy and stressed, the first thing many people who work in schools stop doing is exercising. Yet exercising is the best thing they could do for their well-being. Don’t make that mistake.
Are you ruthless at prioritising and playing gate keeper?
Time is one of the most precious resources we have. It is vital that we use it well. Ask yourself often, “Is this the most important thing I could be doing with the time I have available?”
A good way to feel that you are moving ahead and gaining traction is to identify at the beginning of each day, one task, activity or conversation that we need to make sure is completed that day, for the day to feel successful.
Playing gate keeper by learning to say NO and being ruthless about the number of priorities we take on is essential to being effective. Try to make your standard response to requests for further tasks, “I’ll give it some thought and get back to you!”
Are you stopping for lunch?
We know eating well is important to looking after our health but we often skip lunch, eat on the run or at our desk. Take at least 15 minutes away from your desk to stop and eat lunch. If you get energy from mixing with people, then go to the staffroom. If you need quiet time away from people to re-energise, then find a quiet space (away from your desk).
Are you drinking 2 Litres of water per day?
We should drink at least 2 litres of water per day. This equates to about 8 glasses of water. Take regular breaks, stretch and drink at least two water bottles per day.
Are you spending some time each day interacting with students in classrooms and the school grounds?
Spending time interacting with students allows us to reconnect with why we chose this career. Whether it is taking on students at handball during the lunch break, sharing a joke or coaching a sporting team, interacting with students adds energy to our day.
Do you need to allocate school resources to administrative support?
It is essential that we value and respect ourselves as leaders. We should NOT feel guilty about allocating some school resources for completing lower level administrative tasks. This is essential in enabling us, as leaders to function and operate at a high level.