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 as well.
The truth is as much as we may treat our work lives and personal lives are separate, when one suffers, it is rare for the other to go on completely unaffected.
Therefore, if leaders are to stay at their best, they need to find a balance and devote the same care to both, both for the well-being and for the sake of their own personal efficacy.
No matter how much you might not want to admit it sometimes, you’re a person in a role, not a robot. This means that you have all of the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs that people have, including that of work life balance.
So many Heads just assume that stepping into this role means an end to their work life balance. They put their heads down, get through day after day hoping to make it to retirement, and end up totally incapacitating themselves.
If you’re currently in “Robo-Head” mode, don’t wait for a crisis to force you to re-evaluate. Instead, bring some consciousness into your work life balance. Look at how things are now, what’s working and what’s not working. If you find yourself saying a lot of “Yeah, buts” — as in, “Yeah I should spend more time on myself, but…” then ask yourself, “What does it cost me, my family, my friends etc, to keep making these excuses?”
Creating a plan for your personal life
When you started in your position as Head, you set some goals and developed a plan of action steps to take you towards them. You would never dream of simply showing up at work without a plan, seeing what happens, and hoping for the best. But if you’re like most Heads, that’s exactly what you’re doing with your personal life. If that’s the case, is it any wonder that your work life balance isn’t as it should be?
So try creating a plan for your personal life the same way that you would for your school life, and — this is the important bit — treat both plans equally.
You have to follow your personal plan with just as much dedication as your work plan, or you’ll end up right back where you started.
In order to make this work, you’ll need to do the following 6 things…
1. Recognise that it’s important
The idea of having good work life balance as a Head can seem laughable, but it’s absolutely critical for your wellbeing, your relationships, and your career, so you should take it seriously.
2. Seek out the things that bring you joy
There’s no point in creating time for a life outside of school and then spending it bored out of your mind doing nothing. Instead, think about those things that you really enjoy doing, the things that replenish your sense of self, and actively incorporate them into your life.
3. Recognise that there will come a time when you won’t be a Head anymore
When you’re in the middle of Headship it can feel like you’ll never do anything else, but there will be a time after this job, and if you put your life on hold until then the transition will be very difficult. The more you do things outside of school while you’re still in the role, the better.
4. Think about your family
Ask yourself what kind of memories do you want your partner or your children to have of you, and whether the way that you’re working now will allow for those memories to be made. This will help give you the motivation to make out of school time a priority.
5. Make good use of your senior leadership team
They’re there to help you lead the school — if you could do everything yourself, you wouldn’t have them! So ask yourself, are you making the best use of them? If there are problems in the team, don’t ignore them, because this will only add to your work load. Find the right support to help address the challenges and develop your team, so that leading feels more of a shared responsibility.
6. Communicate with your Governors
It’s your Governors’ job to oversee your wellbeing, but they can’t do that properly if you don’t communicate your needs to them. Find some time to have a proper conversation with them about the benefits that proper support will bring to the school, and work on getting measures put in place that allow for reflection, coaching, and personal development, that you and all those who aspire to greatness need.
For many, School leadership has become a 60+ hour job, one that can consume their whole life, at the expense of their personal lives & their well-being.
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.
It is an issue that has become more and more pressing in our profession, with growing numbers of School leaders struggling with burn-out or other stress-related issues. As a result, we’ve seen more and more great Heads being signed off or leaving the profession.
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…