Administrators: Keep Balance in Your Life!

A little over a year ago, I published a blog post on ASCD Edge about what I termed the “Administrative Tightrope”.  The post focused on the need for balance, and how it is very easy to get swept up in the work as a school administrator.  That being said, I also love my work, so working a lot is not an issue, however, from time to time, I feel as though I may be a bit out of balance and then need to “realign” myself.  I do this so that I stay healthy for myself and I also do it so that I keep a healthy perspective about my work.

After writing the blog piece, I did have a handful of people that wanted to know my thoughts about keeping that balance.  I’ve thought about it for some time now and this seems a most appropriate time to address it.  Since the start of November, my assistant principal and leadership partner has been out on leave, which has left me to oversee a school of 500 students and 120 staff members without him.  While I’ve kept up with everything, I have also been busier than I’ve been in a very long time. This period of time has given me the opportunity to identify some things I feel help a school administrator keep a sense of balance.

Here are my thoughts:

No E-mail on your Smartphone!
This is my 15th year as an administrator.  In a previous position, I had my E-mail come to my smartphone so I could keep track of them.  In retrospect, I should have either deleted the application or not used it. Businessfrau mit Smartphone E-Mail I was continually looking at my phone, it rang or buzzed all the time, and there was never an opportunity to “disconnect” from my work life. I currently have the E-mail app on my phone for school email, however, I rarely use it. I’ve resolved myself to the fact that if school or district staff really need to contact me, they have my number and will call me.  If someone has E-mailed you about something, most often, it can wait.

Managing E-mail: They keep on coming…
And speaking of E-mail, does it seem sometimes that the amount of messages you get has quadrupled over the past several years?  It is not uncommon for me to walk away from my computer with about a dozen or so E-mails unread and then when I come back several hours later, I have 70-80.  My strategy for managing E-mail messages is to answer them in short bursts of time when possible (a number of them before school, maybe a “chunk” in the middle of the day and then several afterwards).  IF I have had a very hectic day and I know I have some I haven’t answered, I MAY try to attend to them in the evening.  What I don’t do is feel guilty about not reading E-mails every night and every weekend.  Protect your time.  E-mails, as I mentioned before, can wait.

http://marketingmadeeasier.com/the-top-tips-and-tricks-for-email-marketing/
http://marketingmadeeasier.com/the-top-tips-and-tricks-for-email-marketing/

Messenger Bag as Paper Transporter
My guess is that like me, you may often take work home.  I also suspect that like me, you probably transport the same papers home with you and don’t touch them several times over.  I have some days where I work until 6pm (in my office) and then I travel home, stop to grab dinner, and by the time I cook, eat, and clean up, it is 8:30 or 9:00 at night.  If you are leaving work late and you know you have to manage other priorities, leave the work at school unless it is something you absolutely have to get done for the next day. Why make yourself feel guilty for eat, maybe spending time with family or even resting when you get home. After this school year started, I went into my bag and emptied half of what I had been transporting home each day.  You won’t feel guilty if you don’t take it home.

Hobbies and Personal Interests: Yes, they exist!
For the past 30 years, I’ve been working on researching my family history.  It’s addictive, I have to say, and sometimes, it is hard to put away.  That being said, it can also be hard to pick up when I have tons of school work to do.  Sometimes, I will purposely work on the genealogy research even when I know I have some other things to do.  I know that if I don’t make time to take a break, it could be months before I would get to it again.  The time I reallocate to working on it may only be 30 minutes to an hour, but it is enough time to keep me grounded in something I have a great interest in and that I enjoy.  Make sure that you take time to do those things you enjoy, and again, do not feel guilty that you’ve diverted what you consider to be work time to something you really like.

Shared from yalegroup.com
Shared from yalegroup.com

Family and Friends: Don’t Make Them Wait
Whether your family consists of a spouse and children, a partner, significant other, four legged “children”, extended family members, or your close circle of friends, just remember that you can never recapture the time that you can spend with them.  Work is important. It is a means to provide a living for your family and to support you, but at the end of the day, if all of your hard work means that you’ve missed the opportunity to see a child’s performance, spend time with a beloved pet, visit with an ailing relative, then you’ve missed out on opportunities you won’t be able to relive.  It is ok (give yourself permission) to leave your work in your office, not take something out of your bag, and to not respond immediately to some E-mails.  Your school will still be standing and you can always get back to the work you set aside for a short period of time.

These are just a few thoughts and ideas I have about how to keep a healthy work-life balance as a school administrator.  The time I take and the time you take to keep connected to family and interests not only keeps us balanced, it ensures that when we do return to work, we can return as a “whole” person. It also means that we need to set appropriate boundaries for work and personal lives, so that when we are in that personal life “zone”, we can enjoy it to its fullest and again, be more present when we return to our schools.

29 Comments

  1. Daryl said:

    All very good suggestions about balance. I would add time for professional and personal reading. I get up an hour early every work day and read with my cup of coffee while my mind is fresh. In addition to the mind, don’t forget to exersize the body. We installed a gym in our basement which allows us to spend an hour every other day burning off stress and strengthing our bodys.

    December 8, 2014
    • rodelio said:

      Thanks for the article for it reminds me to love myself first so I can truly love or serve others by being an administrator!

      December 20, 2014
      • Rodelio-

        You are very welcome! You are right…you must take care of yourself so that you can help serve others! That’s what helps make a great administrator!

        Thanks for responding to my post!

        Regards,
        Tom

        February 8, 2015
    • Daryl-

      I absolutely agree with you about the reading and exercise too, although, I probably do more of the reading. Great that you have a daily routine that meets your physical needs and provides well being too! Thanks for your thoughtful reply!

      Tom

      February 8, 2015
  2. Olympia said:

    Awesome article thanks for sharing especially right before the holidays:)

    December 8, 2014
    • Olympia-

      Thanks for the positive feedback! I hope you found some time to relax and decompress over the holiday break!

      Regards,
      Tom

      February 8, 2015
  3. John said:

    Great article. The irony comes from the expectation that administrators are to attend all school function to support children, then have to miss their own child’s performances as a result. I can’t even miss a board meeting to attend one my three children’s school events….Love my job, but hate the toll it takes on being dad at times.

    December 8, 2014
    • Jason said:

      John, that is so sad. I feel for you. I’m sorry they do not value you enough to allow you that time.

      December 8, 2014
    • Rob Leis said:

      I feel that is very important to place priorities on teachers as well as on myself. My priorities are Faith comes first, Family second, and being a Principal, no more than third. I have a superintendent that expects his administrators to put family first, even over a school board meeting or a school event. If my child has a sporting event, my superintendent is willing to cover my school events, music programs, etc., so that I can attend. He has even been known to move school board meetings to accommodate members. I expect the same of my teachers, family before school. I am willing to cover classes to allow them to leave early for family event. When they ask to leave early to attend their child’s sporting event, I NEVER say no. I have seen the look in my son’s eyes when he asks if I can make it to his game. I want my teachers to never feel they must choose. If you do not articulate that to you staff, they will spend hours at school, but the family suffers. Your best teachers will not be willing to leave early for the fear of letting someone down or the perception they are not doing as much as possible to be successful. Remind them, there will be a time when our children will be off leading their own lives and we will wish we had spent as much as possible with them. In the long run, if the family suffers, the school will feel the pain.

      December 11, 2014
      • Robert-

        Great points and I love that your supervisor not only covers for you, but that you do it for your teachers as well. I am sure that goes a very long way! Sounds like you’re able to keep the balance you need and provide it for others!

        Regards,
        Tom

        February 8, 2015
    • John-

      I totally can relate! I think there is an expectation that can come from the position that we be at all events, which ultimately has an impact on our own lives. My former superintendent asked that we be at all school committee meetings, which meant lots of late nights. Now, in a new district, not that much. I think you should tell your superintendent when you have family related conflicts and stress the importance of not missing your own children’s events.

      Best Regards,
      Tom

      February 8, 2015
  4. Pete said:

    Thank you for this article. I appreciate you sharing this insight with me as a principal of a middle school. I must agree that sometimes I read emails on my phone and later I forget to respond to important emails that I read on my phone. They no longer come up “unread” on my computer. I see the point you mentioned about not receiving my emails on phone. Thank you!

    December 8, 2014
    • Pete-

      You are very welcome! I have to say…not getting the email on the phone is one of the most liberating things you can do to help keep balance. You’ll find other times and ways that work as well to get your mail. Not only that…if it is so important, they will call you. I’ve also read emails on my phone and then they didn’t come up marked as unread and I’ve missed them. Another reason to stay away from the email on the phone!

      Best Regards,
      Tom

      February 8, 2015
  5. Miranda said:

    I find it interesting about the email. I think we are increasingly expected to be at everyone’s fingertips. Kudos to you! I think I will try it!

    December 9, 2014
    • Miranda-

      You are right….we live in a quick turn around society. People have unrealistic expectations on the turn around time for emails. You wont miss checking them on your phone….trust me. You’ll also find other times to read them that works better for you! Good luck!

      Regards,
      Tom

      February 8, 2015
  6. Vince said:

    I agree 100%. When I finally got a smart phone I made the conscious decision to leave my work email off the phone. One of the best decisions I ever made.

    I think the search for balance takes a constant, conscious effort.

    Thanks for the article.

    December 9, 2014
    • Vince-

      Sounds like you are well on your way to keeping a healthy balance in your life! Kudos to you! You are also right about it taking a constant and conscious effort.

      I hope you’re having a great school year thus far!

      Best Regards,
      Tom

      February 8, 2015
  7. Linda said:

    Thank you for the article. This is my ninth year as a principal and I have always kept my email off of my phone. Your comments reaffirmed to me it was the right decision for me. I find time to answer my emails and don’t need to take the time to try to read them on my phone as well. Thank you!

    December 9, 2014
    • Linda-

      I am so glad that you took away something from my post and that you don’t check on your phone for emails! Way to go! Like you, I find other times to read them and that way I am not constantly tethered to my phone for work!

      Sounds like you know how to protect your time outside of school!

      Best,
      Tom

      February 8, 2015
  8. Jodie said:

    Thank you for this timely article. As a first-year assistant principal with two teens at home, it was priceless to me to read your reminder to keep family as a priority and to take care of myself. Thank you!

    December 9, 2014
    • Jodie-

      Thanks for your positive feedback! I am glad that you found something meaningful in the writing I did and that it hopefully helps keep balance in your life! Good luck with your two teens! They need you and work will still be there when you go in each day! 🙂

      All my best,
      Tom

      February 8, 2015
  9. Irene Hannigan said:

    As a recently retired elementary school principal I’d like to add one more reason to strive for BALANCE in your work life. It also enables you to compose a happy and productive retirement that builds on important pastimes and hobbies that had to be squeezed in while you’re working. Keep squeezing them, in the name of balance while on the job, so you can also retire productively when the time seems right.

    December 9, 2014
    • Irene-

      I agree with you….balance will help you enjoy the things you like AFTER you retire, which is very important! I have another 15 years….I want to make sure I don’t run out of steam, that I stay effective, and that I enjoy interests in my retirement!

      Thanks for your feedback!

      All my best,
      Tom

      February 8, 2015
  10. Torian W. said:

    Thank you for your insights! As the demands of our individual school contexts change, there are individuals in our lives that are constant. They need our time and attention. Quite frankly, we owe it to them (and ourselves) to take care of ourselves! Who wants to reach retirement and not be able to enjoy it? I am going to try not using the Email app on my phone. Thanks again!

    December 9, 2014
    • Torian-

      Thank you for the positive feedback about my writing! Hope that the lack of email on your phone has worked. It takes time to find other ways to get email done but in the end you’ll be glad you aren’t tethered to your phone for work every second!

      Best Regards,
      Tom

      February 8, 2015
  11. Bob Goldschmidt said:

    Great article and a great point. I hope to make this a cause of mine when I retire- sharing the advice with practitioners.

    December 11, 2014
  12. Bob-

    Thanks for your positive feedback regarding my blog post! I’m hoping for the same thing….that by being wise now, I’ll have a happier retirement when I get there!

    Best,
    Tom

    February 8, 2015

Comments are closed.