This one is all about why I feel the need to strike the right work life balance. I am no good to anyone if I’m burned out, exhausted and stressed out. I’m ratty, shorter with people and my family end up bearing the brunt of it. This is the one I particularly feel guilty about. The don’t see me all day, and then when I do get home I’m very grumpy and generally not very responsive.
If I don’t get the balance right, then this just gets worse and worse and worse. So I have to make sure that I take the right amount of rest. This is easier at some times of year than the others. Firstly, I have to accept that there will be busier times and times where the amount of work that I have to do, and the amount of time I have to spend in school is out of my control. Fortunately, there is usually a pattern to them, and I can plan and prepare myself for them. I can warn my family too. The other flip side of this is that I can make sure I’ve been sensible in the run up to them.
Over the years I’ve had to develop a sense of leaving things be and working out when I’ve given enough time to something. I make sure I am home to have dinner with my kids every day as much as possible. I try to leave by 1730 each day. I make no excuses for that, and I said it would be happening at my interview. Of course, things come up and it doesn’t always happen, but giving myself that cut off really helps my work life balance. I may carry on after the kids are in bed, but I may not. What it does do though, is show my priorities to my staff. I always say that family comes first, and I have to show that myself as well. Sometimes I don’t achieve it. My wife always tells me that when I don’t come to events like class assemblies for our kids. She says “Would you let of your staff go?”. The answer is yes, I would. She rightly asks me why I don’t afford myself that same right. That balance of rest and work is absolutely vital.
I always work on the things I have to do first. And I mean absolutely have to do. The things that are urgent for the next day. Once I’ve done those, I then look and see what capacity I have for other things. If this is none, then so be it. You have to know when to stop for the day, otherwise you’d be working all hours. There are always things you have to do, more you should do and countless things you could do. Working out what needs doing and making your plans accordingly is vital for your own piece of mind.
Delegating is also key. It’s easy to get into the frame of mind of you want a job doing properly… but that is dangerous. You can’t do everything. That’s why you have a team, to help share the load. No one thinks worse of you for using the team you’ve built. Giving more responsibility to others can only help them grow too – just make sure they’ve got all the tools to do the job properly.
Downtime, for me, is key. The thinking doesn’t always stop, but the screen time and the writing does. It lets ideas mature and find their own way to conclusion a lot of the time, without the pressure of having a blank screen or a form to fill in. I play computer games, I play my guitar and I get away from work. It means I come to things the next day fresh and ready. That’s good for me, and good for the rest of my team as well. Often headteachers are the last three be asked about their well-being and can out everyone else’s before their own. We have to look after ourselves and make sure we are having the time to refresh ourselves – even if this is just overnight. The day yo day is so intense, the decisions, the knocks at the door, the responsibility that you can be drained at the end of the day, so the rest each evening is vital.
Why do I rest? Because if I didn’t, everyone suffers in one way or another.