As you already know, being the head teacher of a school is tough. It’s often hard to find balance and be a well-rounded human being when you’re always the one that is giving. Many a time, it can feel as though if you’re not physically seen to be helping and solving problems, then others will wonder what on earth it is that you are doing with your time!
With the ever-increasing pressures and demands that are made upon school leaders, it is hardly surprising that sometimes your head can feel so full of other people’s voices, concerns and worries that it can feel impossible to think straight.
The pressures of life as a Head teacher can sometimes mean that it can be incredibly difficult to carve out the necessary time that you need to be alone; time that will enable you to focus, think, plan strategically and further develop the necessary plans for moving your school forward.
As a result, you are often faced with what you perceive to be conflicting choices; spending time with yourself or spending time with others. Usually, it is the pressure to meet others’ needs, wants and demands that wins.
But .. it doesn’t have to be this way
Numerous leadership authors and researchers have highlighted the fact that it is those individuals who take time out for themselves, that not only perform better but also function better as figureheads for their organisations. As when you stop and take essential time out for yourself you allow four key things to happen:
1. You stop operating on auto-pilot.While it is good to be able to operate on auto pilot for some aspects of your working life, doing so for pro-longed periods of time, weakens your ability to be reflective and to discover new ways of both being and doing.
2. You gain perspective and gain clarity: When you stop, when you give time to yourself, you allow yourself the opportunity to see issues and problems from different perspectives. Thereby allowing you to make choices, decisions etc. that are more in line with who you are and how you wish to be seen by others.
If only for 5 minutes at the start and the end of each school day, you learn to stop, pause and reflect. In those rare quiet moments, if you allow yourself, you can gain greater clarity, re-set your goals and help bring yourself back to a state of equilibrium.
3. You learn to pay attention to the sound of your own voice: As a school leader, your days are often punctuated by the voices of others (Pupils, parents, teachers, governors the DfES etc.) When all of these voices are going around in your head, it can be very hard to distinguish one voice from another, let alone your own!
When you allow yourself to stop, you can turn down the volume of the other voices and become more attuned to the sound of your own voice and what it is telling you to do. Nine times out of ten, this is the voice that you need to listen to!
4. You become more self-aware – We all know that being a Head requires you to take centre stage and to put on the best performance of your life, Monday-Friday. However, for your own sanity, there must be times when you can walk off the stage and just be yourself! If you don’t, it can begin to feel as though your life is just one great act and the dividing lines between personal and professional self can become increasingly blurred.
When you are intentional in creating protected and undisturbed times for yourself, you can reflect and gain deeper levels of self-awareness and understanding, about who you are and the values and principles that you wish to be characteristic of you as a leader.
So, if you want to get back to a place of being real with yourself, then make a commitment today to give yourself some “me” time. It may not be easy to begin with. Old habits die hard. But give it time and patience and you and all those that you lead and manage will reap the benefits.
It’s incredibly easy to lose yourself in the role of being a Head, to the point that your private life simply drops off the schedule as you work on autopilot, just getting through the day. But this is dangerous, not only for your health and your relationships, but for your school life too.
As when we begin to neglect our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs, our ability to meet the needs of others can also be affected and we can find leadership begins to feel (if not become) unsustainable.
Particularly, given the challenges of school leadership today, I believe it is therefore vital our leaders devote equal time and care into their personal lives and their professional lives, and establish a work-life balance that works for them and allows them to continue to lead and inspire in their schools.
That’s why I’ve decided to make our Complete Guide to Work-Life Balance for School Leaders free to download to support Headteachers and senior leaders to find greater balance in their roles, as they seek to deliver the best possible outcomes for our children…