Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Get the balance right

Q This year it seems the volume of work and scale of change in our school has reached epic proportions. I used to thrive on deadlines and enjoy working on new initiatives but as this term draws to a close I feel completely exhausted. I need to get control of my work-life balance next term or I will have a nervous breakdown. Help!

A There is no one answer to finding the perfect work-life balance, but the quest is made easier once you recognise that work-life balance is not the same as time management. It's as much about finding an emotional balance. If your job is emotionally draining - dealing with 'in your face' students and exhausted colleagues - you are going to need much more recovery time. If, however, your job gives you genuine emotional fulfilment, you will go home with energy and optimism to spare. Here are a few suggestions to help you redress your work-life balance:

  • Make a distinction between 'important' and 'urgent' work; spend most of your time on the important and delegate the urgent.

  • Evaluate success by outputs, ie work accomplished, rather than by how many hours you've put in.

  • Identify areas of stress at work and deal with these first. If you enjoy your work, you'll have more energy at the end of the day.

  • Make time for physical exercise. It rejuvenates body and soul.

  • Set the culture for others in your team and your colleagues - leave at 4pm on occasion and encourage others to do so.

There is no argument that school and college leaders work long hours. But, while workload may to some extent be beyond your control, your attitude and your example will set the tone for others around you and hopefully start to tip the scales in your favour.

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