Time seems to pass at an astounding rate. It was just a moment ago we were starting a new school year. Expectations were high as we started a new chapter in the ongoing process of educating our next generation. Since that time we have experienced an interesting political landscape, a couple of activity seasons, an election cycle, completed negotiations for a number of groups and services, and started to build our budget for the next school year. All of these duties and activities (plus many more) take time and energy, and there are high expectations from our stakeholders. It has been my observation that more often than not those expectations are not always rational or attainable. One of my favorite sayings is, “Not only are superintendents expected to walk on water, they need to arrange for the water to be delivered!”
So how do you handle your expectations and work load? Do you take care of yourself? How do you handle the stress? Concerns always seem to peak this time of year. It can be a very difficult working climate for leaders as we build the budget as well as make staff and program decisions. Superintendents generally have expended a great deal of energy getting to this point so there is little in reserve. A successful end to the school year rests on a superintendent’s ability keep the organization focused and on its mission. Beyond that consideration…in order for the organization to be successful you need to take care of yourself both physically and emotionally.
The Mayo Clinic states that fatigue, lost time outside of work, and compromised mental and physical health are the most significant signs of a poor work-life balance. Stephen Covey might have described it best, ”Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” What can you do to improve your work-life balance?
First of all, it is ok to set limits around your work life. Manage your time, work from prioritized lists, give yourself permission to say “no,” reduce your email/text time, and perhaps most importantly leave work at work. We all are guilty of these behaviors and probably many more examples. Fight the guilt…you don’t have to attend every event. We all understand that it is difficult to step away from our real and perceived responsibilities, but in many cases leaders are far more effective when a better work-life balance is achieved.
Leaders need to care for themselves. Eating a healthy diet, exercising, and getting enough sleep are important. Take some time for things you enjoy. Also access your support system. The superintendency and other high level school positions are lonely, especially in smaller districts and organizations. When you have the opportunity, connect, and communicate with those that can understand your work and can add support in times of need. Some of the best and most refreshing times in my career have been with peers and friends comparing our experiences.
I have to admit that I am not always successful. My balance between eating well and exercising is seriously askew! Balancing time has been more successful, but I have seriously failed at leaving my work at work. But like each of you, I try to do my best each and every day.
“A time for everything: A time to relax and a time to be busy, at time to frolic and a time to labor, a time to receive and a time to give, a time to begin and a time to finish.” – J.H. Huie.
As we all enter that final stretch of the current school year, please be mindful of your work-life balance. Do your best to find a time for everything…including you!