Balance. Something that sounds so incredibly easy yet feels always out of reach. Despite our best intentions, we can easily feel overwhelmed, overworked and out of balance.
Working in education can make the idea of balance seem even less attainable. The to-do lists never end, others are always needing your attention, and there never seems to be enough hours in the day.
So, what are we to do? There’s countless research on the importance of finding balance and giving time to ourselves, but how do we make that happen? And make it happen in a way that doesn’t feel like we’re just adding more to our lists?
We by no means are perfect at this. In fact, we often find ourselves having to recalibrate, but here are a few ways that help us to balance and recenter.
Prioritizing yourself is not selfish.
For years we believed if we prioritized ourselves we were being selfish. As educators and leaders we’re conditioned to continually give of ourselves to others to truly be effective. The reality is, if you don’t take care of you, you can’t take care of anyone else. Case in point: Eating lunch. We must stop wearing “I didn’t have time for lunch” as a badge of honor to show how busy we are. Will you have time for a full 30-minute lunch every day? Heck no! But even taking 5-10 minutes to yourself or eating while you push that cart to your next location are steps in the right direction of prioritizing yourself.
Find a passion not connected to education.
When we work in this field we can often find ourselves spending all of our time on things related to education. We must find things that fill our buckets that have nothing to do with our daily jobs. Whether that be hunting, yoga, painting, gardening, whatever! Find what gets your heart pumping faster and do it! And do it on the regular. Not just once a year.
Seek balance in your building.
Balance is important in the day-to-day grinding of your school day, too! What do we mean? How does this look? It’s no secret that principaling is hard, like really hard! The teacher observations, endless emails, grant writing, and paper trails can easily consume your day. If you let it, they will consume you and you will not be a happy leader. Finding balance in your school day is being intentional in your schedule. Carve out time to build relationships with both your students and staff. Pop into a teacher’s classroom during their prep to ask them about their life, how that new puppy is at home or where they plan on heading for Spring Break. Be in the halls, the cafeteria, at recess or in the classroom for that room transition. Seek out the joys in your school and build relationships with all the humans in your building!
Find your community.
This job can be lonely! Many of us give everything we have to our students, staff and school. This can leave us stressed, isolated and flat out lonely. So, FIND YOUR PEOPLE! Connect with a PLC, reach out to other principals in your region or state, or attend conferences. When you find your people ask questions, share stories, vent, collaborate and learn from others! Our community may not be in the same building as us, but there are thousands of principals in this country who are with you! Heck, that’s exactly how WE got connected!
In the end, balance is different for everyone. There isn’t one silver bullet or one-size-fits-all approach. Balance is something that must be worked at every day. Some days you’ll feel super successful while other days you’ll feel like the ultimate failure. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that balance is something we must continue working towards so we can be our best selves.
Todd Nesloney is TEPSA’s Director of Culture and Strategic Leadership. He is an award-winning educator, author and international speaker.
Ross Braun is a small town principal in Indiana helping his students chase big time dreams! He is passionate about climate and culture and making learning fun for his students and staff.