As the school leader, you are the person who is counted on to bring the universe around you into balance. You can’t have favorites so you need to balance your work with faculty and staff. You need to balance the tasks that you have in your job. Both of these balance points are critical.
There isn’t a balance point that is more important for you to get right as a leader and a person than the one we examine this week.
How well do you balance your time between school and home? Are you meeting a healthy balance between the time and energy you give to your job and the time and energy you give to those who love you at home?
This is a conundrum. You aren’t going to be successful as a principal without working hard, giving of yourself to your school and spending long hours in doing so. That’s just the truth.
The question is, “at what cost?” You need to do those things at school to succeed, but if you get your school/home relationship out of balance it will negatively impact all parts of your life.
All of us who work in these positions face this puzzle. How do we have it all? How do we take the limited resources of time and energy and distribute them between our work and our home in a manner that leads to success, fulfillment, good results and great relationships?
I’ve said it before and will admit it again here: I don’t think I was either the best or the worst at this, but I have learned some things I gladly share, not necessarily as an expert but as an experienced learner. Here are some things I’ve learned, some gleaned from personal experience, others from observation and also some from conversations with colleagues. These ideas may help you figure out how to get your life/work balance more balanced.
Notes On A Better Life/Work Balance
- Schedule Time and Make Your Appointments: Save time for the people who love you at home and honor it just like you would an appointment with someone else. Do it regularly; do it weekly. Unless extreme emergencies occur, keep your “appointments” with loved ones and family.
- Balance Is Daily and Weekly, Not Just Annually: We all can fall into the notion that we can make up for not being around a lot by spending a lot of time together when school is out on vacations. Those times can be great and make lifelong memories, but life is in the little moments that come along unexpectedly and in the flow of things. It’s easy when we’re working hard to lead a school to want to “make up” for lost time, but it really doesn’t work that way. Balance is an ongoing endeavor.
- Make Your Work A Family Affair: When your family is a “team” and you connect and collide on things at school together, you are able to create experiences and memories there too. Being together in your work is great and can make it all matter more. Sharing the importance of the work can make a difference too. If everyone in the family knows the importance of the work that you’re doing, and also how important they are to you, the life/work balance has a different angle. If your family gets to celebrate the successes of the school with you, it makes for a better dynamic.
- Don’t Miss The Individual Time and Attention: If you have a houseful of people who love and support you, congratulations! That’s a good thing. It will, however, require you to plan out your time. You want to spend time as a unit, but you also want to spend time individually with the people in your family. Make sure you are making memories, sharing time, and getting to everyone.
- Never Forget What’s Really Most Important: When you leave your position as principal, they will get another one. With the exception of those individuals in charge when a school has been closed, everyone else who has left the position has had a replacement. Your job matters, but someone else will do it eventually. Your role as friend, spouse, parent, relative: that isn’t something that is so easily replaced. Now, don’t forget: your work is also a way to love and support your family. It allows you to support them financially. It also gives your family a good space to grow up in. Your job isn’t an enemy unless you let it take you over. Remember who matters the most. You have pictures of your family in your office, not pics of your office at home. Make sure they know they are most important. They know that your job is going to require more time than most people who have “normal” jobs, but what they don’t want to feel is unimportant. This is one of the most important actions you can take to balance life/work. Tell them how you feel about them. Take time with them and make sure they know how important they are to you.
There’s no playbook to getting your life/work balance to be balanced, but the first step is to give it your attention. It’s one of the most important challenges you’l take on.
This is an installment of our Sunday series about balance. Getting balance right as the school leader is one of your most critical challenges. Please take a look at the whole series under the category of “Balance” here at Principal Matters!
Examining balance and getting it right means that you look not just what you do at work, but who you are as the whole leader. That examination means that you look at yourself and your performance in several areas, including the following:
- How you relate to others in your school “universe”;
- How you perform and accomplish the tasks necessary in your job;
- How you relate to those important to you in your life away from school;
- How you interact with the world separate from your school and your home;
- How you are developing habits that promote short-term and long-term health and energy;
- How you are growing professionally and personally; and
- How happy, joyful, and fulfilled you are.
It’s important that you learn to balance within each of these areas, as well as balance all seven together.