Life Balance

By IPLI Mentor Bryan A. Perry, Ph.D.

We live in a society that demands instant results. If we have to wait in line at the drive-through for our latte, we become upset rather than enjoy the peace.

School principals live this fact every day.

I talk with new and veteran principals all the time about their frustration with everyone expecting instant results or answers. I think back to my first year as a principal. I would stop what I was doing at the gym to answer an email. This is no way to have a balanced and healthy life. I began to realize over time that I had to protect my time to be effective in my position. In this IPLI blog post, I’d like to share some ideas that have worked for me and my family.

Technology can make our life easier. On the flip side, technology can take over your life. The electronic calendar is a great asset. Most phones give you the ability to feed multiple calendars to one single calendar on your phone. I use this option to color code events and separate business from my personal life. Email can often be the biggest intrusion on personal time. I have found that the email “off” button on my phone is my friend. I turn my email off after work and on weekends. I have friends who cringe at the thought, but it gives me the ability to separate myself from distraction at home. My staff and families know that I will answer an email as soon as I return on Monday. How many weekends have you ruined by checking email? I would suggest that we are more productive if we get away from work.

I often ask people to look at what they are doing and whether it is essential. I have heard it asked if we are the only ones who can do the task.   I think that is a good question to occasionally ask ourselves. Our focus must be instructional leadership in this era. We must be willing to delegate and develop teacher leadership. When we micromanage every detail, we are letting important work be left undone.

Recently I heard a young principal say “work is my hobby.” We all need passion for our profession, but we cannot neglect ourselves or family. My greatest stress reliever is running. I can get lost in nature and ensure good health as part of taking care of myself. There is nothing wrong with carving out time to enjoy hobbies or exercise. I believe you would find it makes you more productive on a daily basis.

Finally, your family should come before work. There is no good reason to miss your own children’s events. A date night with your spouse allows you to give them the attention they deserve. I have often looked back at things I should have done for my family. I won’t get those chances again. Give yourself permission to be a great parent and spouse. It won’t change your ability to lead a school. It actually might inspire those around you to pay attention to what is truly important.

Nothing I have written here is earth shattering. I have gotten used to people looking at me funny when I tell them I don’t check email all evening and weekend. I can say without a doubt that constantly reviewing my time and priorities, allows me to keep from burning out. There is a reason that research is done on the effects of staying connected to work 24/7. We owe it to ourselves, our families, and our schools to be the best we can be.