PMP152: Maintaining Balance and Staying Focused on What Matters

We just celebrated Mother’s Day. This time of year is a good reminder that our families play such an important role in our lives outside of school.

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No matter how many principals I visit, one conversation comes up often: how to maintain balance and stay focused on what matters even while leading a school. Although I think it is naïve to believe you can achieve perfect balance, I do believe you can take time to reflect and focus on important areas of your life – other than just your leadership – that lead to healthier self-growth and stronger care for others.

This week, co-host Jen Schwanke and I jump into a conversation on maintaining balance. School leadership is something you do with your heart, not just your mind. When you pour your heart out at school, how can you also have heart left for caring for your family, your health, and other life priorities? The answers are not easy, but just paying attention to your need for self-care is the first step.

As you reflect, remember you’re not alone. People in all professions face struggles in keeping healthy priorities, but principals are often like first-responders: managing situations that are often intense and emotionally draining. Consider these 10 tips for self-care we discuss in this week’s podcast episode (next week, we’ll cover even more):

10 Tips for Reflecting on Your Own Self-Care

  1. Put family first. Whatever your family looks like, make sure the ones you love don’t only get the “leftovers” of your time and attention. Give them priority with your time and attention because they are the ones who need to be there when work no longer exits.
  2. Stay connected to colleagues. Even if you are often working alone as a principal, you can still avoid loneliness but staying connected to others. Find what supports and uplifts you in your work, and take time for that connection. Maybe that means getting out of the office to spend more time in classrooms. Perhaps it’s taking a few minutes to eat lunch with others and stop eating while reading emails. You need others.
  3. Exercise. Your body was made to move, not just consume energy-drinks. Yes, staying active is a commitment, but when you take time to exercise, you will actually find more energy, not less, for your work.
  4. Drink coffee. Ok, this is my own personal indulgence. Whether it’s tea, coffee, or a smoothie, little rewards are okay and can boost your day and help provide boosts of energy. Plus, my wife tells me I’m a better husband and dad when I’m caffeinated!
  5. Find activities outside of school you enjoy. A few weeks ago, I met Principal Ian White at Freeport Intermediate who is building his own paddle board after school. I love podcasting, which is something I did while leading a school because it gave me a creative outlet for sharing about my school’s success. Whatever it is you love to do, find time to enjoy those activities too. 
  6. Balance technology. Learn to turn off technology and have face-to-face conversations, or go for a walk. Or use technology in a healthy way rather than a way that depletes your energy.
  7. Don’t eat like you work in a school. In other words, commit to good nutrition. Yes, your grandmother was correct: healthy food and lots of water makes you feel better.
  8. Sleep. It is not weakness to rest. And research has confirmed this. You need good sleep for your overall health and peace-of-mind.
  9. Make regularly scheduled sacred time. Whether that is a Sabbath rest, a designated time for something you love, or a vacation-time with your family – protect these sacred times to not do work and recharge your batteries.
  10. Give yourself grace. No matter what season you are in, you may feel overwhelmed by the ups and downs of your leadership. So, give yourself a break. Accept you won’t manage life perfectly. So start each day fresh and give yourself the kind of grace you should afford others who are managing lots of responsibilities. 

Let’s Wrap This Up

For those of you finishing up the school year, this time of year may be the worst time to think about self-care. But as you look at your day, week, and the weeks ahead, remember that taking care of your mental, physical, social, or even spiritual growth will give you more strength for caring for others. In the end, give yourself grace, and keep growing – you deserve good self-care and so do the people whom you serve.

Now It’s Your Turn

In next week’s podcast episode, Jen and I will touch on several other reminders for protecting your own health. What is one action you can take today to focus on something you love that can help your own self-care? What is a something that brings you joy? Take time today to invest in that part of your life. Stay strong as you wrap up this season of your school year!

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker