The one thing every school leader must do right now…
Let’s face it - life seems out of control right now. As leaders we are accustomed to a certain level of control that allows us to plan and inspire our teams. We thrive on our ability to foresee possible hiccups and mysteriously make it all work out for our students and staff. We relish in the way we pull everyone together around a common goal and map out the journey to positively impact the lives of students and everyone we serve. It’s just what we do. Traditionally, this time of year is when many of us are excited - even giddy about the new theme for the year and the many possibilities that come with it. We teeter between down time to refresh and planning mania as we anticipate the year ahead.
The 2020 - 2021 school year is anything but traditional. Rather than the giddy excitement, many of us are grieving the loss of “control” and routines, sinking in the land of what-ifs, and bathing in the pool of uncertainty. Instead of refreshing and reflecting, we are enduring sleepless nights as we are subsumed in a level of stress that is simply not a part of our seasonal routine. You see as educational leaders there is something ceremonial about how we work through the summer and prepare for the coming year. We also constantly worry about those we serve. Be it at work or at home. Be it the adults or students. It’s what we do. And when we are stuck in a whirlwind of uncertainty, we tend to fight harder, stress harder, and “go” harder to make things work. In addition to the assumed and accepted natural loads of stress we carry (given our roles) we now have THIS - the convoluted details of reopening school plans amid a pandemic that refuses to dissipate. So many questions - I know. So now what…
There is ONE thing we must do as leaders. It is the ONE thing we absolutely CAN control right now. It’s actually the ONE thing we can control at any time during the school year. We can commit to one daily “must do” to take care of ourselves. No, it’s not a magic pill - however if you commit, it can act as one. What do I mean you ask? Let me tell you. Now is the perfect time to jump start your self-care as a school leader. Yes, I know… we talk about it, but do you actually commit to one thing every day for you? We push it on our teachers - but do we walk the talk? Do we model this for our teachers? Here’s the thing - you need to. Based on research - it actually is a life or death decision to take care of you, particularly in high-stress or extremely demanding roles such as the principalship. What works for you may not work for me. It depends on the best fit for your present season of life. Below are a few ideas. While certainly not an exhaustive list, I hope it inspires some doable ideas for you. Some are bite-sized starters and others require a bigger commitment. What ONE thing will you commit to in order to jump start your self-care this school year?
Give yourself permission to commit to regular self-care - This isn’t the “wait for holiday break” kind of self-care. It’s a daily act that fits within your life right now. Only YOU can make this decision. It is something you can actually control.
Close the office door for 10 minutes every day at a determined time - Yes, this IS actually doable. Unless the building is on fire - you can and should schedule this 10 minutes into your day. Make it a daily meeting on your calendar. It’s a meeting with yourself. To get YOU together. You are worth at least 10 minutes - don’t you think?
Get up 15 minutes before everyone else in your household to meditate, pray, or read - (and not email either) - Some quiet time for you can make all the difference in how you start your day.
Commit to not checking email for the first 30 minutes after you wake up - How you start your day matters. Fill your mind with something positive before diving into work. Take a walk, read a motivational message, savor that cup of coffee or do whatever fills your cup BEFORE diving in. Keep the commitment. Your staff will “learn” that you don’t respond before (insert time) and that might be a good thing. You may inspire them to do the same.
Write an affirmation and commit to repeating it at least 3 times per day - It’s amazing what positive self-talk can do for your stress level. Words are powerful!
Commit to leaving the office at the end of the “normal” school day at least one day a week - Go home or go wherever you want and soak in some personal time.
Eat lunch seated at a table or your desk - work-free at least twice per week (even if it’s just 20 minutes - Close your door so that it is uninterrupted. - This too is possible if you choose to make it possible.
Write yourself a thank you note at the end of each week (or day if you can make it work) - Self-appreciation is important and has many psychological benefits.
Commit to no school work after a certain time each day - That’s right - force yourself to shut it down! It could be after dinner for you. It could be after a specific time (say 7:00 PM) - You deserve this one and so does your family.
You need it now more than ever. Let’s take this journey on together. Share your one thing in the comments.