Photo by Federico Beccari

It’s Friday, and in New Zealand, the end of the first week back in a shiny new school Term. For some of you this is the first time you’ve made this milestone as a principal, for others you’ve been here literally a hundred times before.

If you pause for a moment, what do you notice? And specifically, what do you notice about your energy? Is the level in your personal fuel tank the same as it was 7 days ago?

.   .   .

We all operate in a finite resource game. In essence, being sustainable is an energy in/energy out balancing act.

And the reason I ask now, at the very beginning of Term, is that you have the opportunity to consciously create this balance so that ‘future you’ arrives at Term’s end in great shape.

.   .   .

Energy in energy out – it sounds a bit “Karate Kid”ish written like that. But there’s nothing Hollywood about the reality that if you don’t actively manage your energy across this Term (and the dozens more to come), that you’re very likely to fall into deficit – probably quicker than you’d like.

I’ve noticed a pattern in my own ‘balancing act’ over time. I usually arrive at the new Term feeling pretty good – the glide time of the Term break has meant more opportunity to do the things that make me healthier; exercise, food, family, friends, fun.

I hit the new Term and the work piles in – planned and unplanned. The usual battle to identify what matters most and to avoid the myriad of distractions starts again. But it’s fine, I just pick up the pace and get stuff done.

When I was newer, I used to attempt to keep this pace up, and try and ‘out energy’ the workload. It’s such a temptation to ignore what is happening (to you) and to push on, but experience has taught me that doing that is akin to trying to sprint a marathon – it doesn’t work . . . and it hurts.

.   .   .

So here we are, at the end of this first week and many of us will have pushed that fuel/battery level well below full, which is absolutely fine, if 1) you recognise this growing deficit, and 2) you ensure you recharge.

No one operates at 100% full all the time, that’s a fantasy and simply not attainable in our very real world, but as the energy flows out, we absolutely need to put it back in.

And just like a shiny new EV, the lower you let your level drop, the longer it will take to recharge. The strategy we recommend in the Forty Hour Project is to ‘trickle charge’ – little and often is the way to do it, and that means on the daily unless faced with an emergency.

How many of these essentials can you tick off your list?


Food (healthy)?

Friends/family (time and connection)?

Fun (what you love doing)?

Sleep (quality and quantity)?

If any were ‘missing in action’ this week, they become important and urgent by default. And as your sustainability is essential to the children and adults you lead, no excuses – add them to next week’s work plan just like you do with all the other critical stuff.


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Photo by Lê Tâ

Here in New Zealand we have just launched into Term 4 – traditionally a time of high intensity and looming deadlines. A time when things can get a little bit crazy more often than we would like. So right now is a time when you need to manage your energy.

We’ve all probably heard the story of famous comedians who, once the stage lights are off, are “flat“, even depressed. They light up for the performance then crash afterwards.

How many of us do the same?

This scenario raises an interesting question about energy – where does yours come from?

.   .   .

There are plenty of things that feed into whether you are feeling ready for the push towards Christmas. Sleep, food, exercise, workflow management . . . they all play a part, but today I want to consider this question through the lens of personality – specifically, are you an “introvert” or an “extrovert”?

There are whole psychological theories dedicated to explaining these two terms, and anyone wanting to take a deep dive in the subject will have plenty of reading to do for many years to come.

Happily, in this short post there’s only one simple part that I am dwelling on – the different ways introverts and extroverts maintain energy. Of course, no healthy person is completely one or the other. It’s not a binary condition, rather each of us have portions of both.

But we’re also very likely to tend more towards one end of the spectrum than the other and that’s useful to acknowledge, (or work out), because the research shows that each personality type recovers differently. In our energy hungry profession, knowing this could both help us recover when we have been stretched a little too far for a little too long, and then help us stay energised for longer periods of time.

“Fun fact: approximately 52 – 60% of people are considered introverted.”

So slightly more of us will be on the introverted side of the continuum. The reason why knowing where you sit is important is that each type needs different energy building strategies. In simple terms:

Extroverts gain energy from being around and interacting with other people.

Introverts are the opposite, they recover by spending time alone or quietly with well-known familiar people.

So, which are you?

Quiz – If you are serious about this question, you are going to have to invest in something like the Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator assessment or you could take a fairly lightweight short quiz like this one here just for fun .

Given that we are all somewhere on the continuum between the two extremes, it’s likely that most of us need some peace and quiet and some social recharge to find our balance, but when you’ve had a tough week, are you more likely to crave an evening in with a good book or a catch up with friends?

As the run towards the end of the year picks up pace, it will pay to deliberately schedule opportunities that you know are effective energisers for you. 

Being a sustainable leader requires smart energy management and knowing yourself can definitely help with this.


PS: If you are mainly an introvert, but you need to (or believe you need to) regularly act in an extroverted way, could this be a reason why you are often tired? 


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