Photo by Kelly Sikkema

Can you remember when you were sick for a few days 5 years ago? What about a year ago? Me either. I can remember the times I broke a bone or had some sort of medical intervention, but not the times a seasonal bug flattened me for a few days. I know it happened but it’s not important.

So, what does that prove?

Firstly, we can safely assume that everything turned out OK. That urgent work was either not as urgent as we thought, or someone else dealt with it.

Secondly, the worry involved in deciding whether to stay home was a tragic waste of life energy.

Unless you are one of the tiny minority of people with bullet-proof immunity, or luck, you will sometimes become unwell. We work in very close proximity to a lot of children, and they are essentially little human Petrie dishes in the winter months.

But here you are this morning, beating yourself up about needing to stay home even though you feel like rubbish.

Perhaps you’ve got an ERO review happening (who’s feeling déjà vu at the latest version of the model?). Perhaps there’s a Board meeting tonight. Perhaps an angry parent has a twice delayed meeting scheduled . . . Pick your pain.

As leaders we operate from a position of supporting people, trusting them and setting a good example, but here we are seriously considering doing exactly the opposite, by:

  • Working at 50% capacity
  • Spreading germs to others in our schools
  • Not trusting our teams and systems to deal with our absence
  • Modelling the wrong thing to do when sick
  • Sending a message that we think we are indispensable

Don’t do it.

Message your leadership team, crank up the heater, and head back to bed. The only person standing in the way of this sensible, professional response is you.

Dave

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?

Exercise?

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.

Dave

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Today we have a guest post from Saira Boyle. Saira has wide experience in leading schools and  is currently the principal of Mt Hobson Academy based in Auckland. She shares some confronting reality about our job, but also offers solutions that just might be what you need.

 

What’s your real insurance policy?

Over the last two to three years I have observed, with a mixture of sadness and delight, the steady trickle of principals stepping away from the job. Sadness, as the sector once more takes a punch to the gut, and delight as our colleagues, our people choose LIFE!

Throughout 2021 it was reported that there was a global pattern of people in executive and CEO roles stepping away from the corporate high pressure and choosing jobs with less hours, less pressure, less stress and consequently less remuneration. It was even given a name – The Great Resignation. The two-year plus, COVID roller-coaster saw many people in such high-power roles take stock of what was important in their lives, down-tools, down-size and down-stress in order to gain some sort of balance and satisfaction in living life.

In my first year of Principalship there were many things which jumped up and shocked me, but one of the most memorable was listening to Phil Riley, who had completed some comprehensive research across Australia and New Zealand, talk about Principal wellbeing. I heard him speak twice over a short period of time. First was at the Catholic Schools conference in Wellington and then a few months later, which was my second year of Principalship, at the Beginning Principal conference. I remember the story he told was hard, bleak, and in fact stark, for the future and health of our Principal sector. The first time I heard him speak, I was 43 years old, fit, strong, healthy, a non-drinker, non-smoker, active and indestructible, or so I thought. I grumbled to other ‘young’ colleagues about the doom and gloom he presented and had the all-too-common attitude of ‘not me’.

One line that stuck with me, from his presentations, was that young principals were likely to be impacted hardest. His findings showed that the levels of stress, workhours and general pressure experienced by Principals would see ‘young’ principals work, work, work and then drop. Dead. He discussed that because of the ‘job’, (our sedentary lifestyles and high-pressure experiences), work related, silent killers would creep up on us and without warning, claim us in significant numbers.By the time I heard Phil speak the second time, a few months into my second year, at 44 years old, my attitude had adjusted. I’d had a warning and a serious one at that!

In January of 2018, I woke one morning to a pain in my leg and was diagnosed with a non-provoked blood clot. Watching the doctor snap into action as he worried it could break off and go to my lungs or brain, causing irreversible damage or death, was fairly loud as a wake-up call. I was expected to self-inject blood thinners twice a day, increase my daily activity and drink over 2L of water. The silent killer, of which Phil spoke, had decided to make an appearance and the only thing which could account for it, was stress, ongoing, daily dress. You all know about this, right?

Fast-forward and in 2020, in the middle of lockdown I noticed my right arm was experiencing pain, and my shoulder eventually locked up, unable to move the arm more than a few cm in any direction and in constant pain. I was told it was a frozen shoulder. I started to feel ‘old’ and like the decline was on its way. You may be thinking, we all have pain, we all have illness, why is she telling us this. Well, that is the point! We don’t need to at all.

On reflection, I look back and realise, even with these two health alarm bells, it was only when I experienced a huge and traumatic loss at the end of 2021, did I truly wake up and take action. So often, we miss the small signals, or we don’t stop and take them seriously. But I can assure you, they are there; in the twinge of a muscle, or the ache in your joint, in the upset stomach or the chest tightness, the small signs are there. Our bodies are performing a multitude of actions to keep us alive and well every day, connecting with our minds and inner voice and vice versa. I’ve come to believe we can do one of three things;

  1. Brush the little messages and signs away, explaining them as ‘old age’ (it doesn’t have to be this way)
  2. Numb the signs and signals with pain relief, wine, food and other indulgences (the body will win eventually – and I don’t mean in a good way)
  3. PAUSE and listen; then create a space where you can take time to reflect on the way in which you live your life and decide the small habits you can build every day to TAKE YOURSELF BACK – this is the path to FLOURISHING

I decided to learn more about my body, embark on a course of study and make it something that meant a) I was an absolute novice and b) I could eventually help others to find their own strengths. In the last year I have trained and become a certified personal trainer as well as studying towards the Diploma in Positive Psychology and Wellbeing. It was hard being the least experienced after years of being the ‘expert’. It was challenging being the least strong and oldest in the class. But it has been exhilarating studying in an area which has become a passion, and being able to combine my Growth Coaching accreditation, the PT course and education background to help people flourish is amazing!

It does not matter how long you have been in the job it is CRITICAL to prevent yourself from becoming the job. Top tips for the term break:

    • Unhook yourself from the identity of the job, you are not your job, and your school can live without you
    • Engage with a coach or take time to self-reflect to discover your true purpose and passion
    • Make a plan to climb your second mountain before it is too late

Trust me, it is the most re-vitalising thing you can do for yourself. The magic that happens while you do this is in the hearts and minds of those around you. Your children, your partner, your family, your staff, and community. When they see you being a model of wellness, they will notice, and your influence will be tangible. This is leadership.

Hearing my youngest daughter tell me, “Mum, you are thriving now” was the biggest reward I could reap from my actions of daily self-care!

In order to take the leap to discover your purpose and passion, perhaps these simple activities can help:

    • Vitality – focus on clean, nutrient dense food, drinking 2L water daily, increasing the quality and quantity of your sleep, daily movement (building muscle is the best insurance policy of all) and your energy will begin to thrive
    • Simplicity – declutter your life, from your wardrobe to your garage, your friendships to your responsibilities; if it doesn’t serve you, say goodbye
    • Curiosity – spend time getting to know YOU; listen to your body, quiet the mind; self-discovery is the most exciting part of self-care (this is the LEAST selfish thing you can do)
    • Courage – make a list of the things you have always wanted to do and then make a plan and do at least one of them, who cares what people think, it’s your life, live it in love (with yourself)
    • Wisdom – read daily – learn a new skill, learn about being human and use your experience to build upon and write your path forward; don’t leave it to chance
    • Peace – leave the ego based identity at the door, and come home; home to yourself, the real and true you because you are all powerful, perfect, whole and able to climb your second mountain of purpose and passion!

My hope is that by sharing a snippet from my story, of how I’ve gone from Principal to Personal Trainer and Mindset Growth Coach, and thus from perfectionism to peace, you will take away at least one small self-care action to apply to your life during the term break and nurture your wellbeing!

300,000 people die each day around the world and most of them wake up each day, unaware it will be their last. Principals are disproportionate in that number. We are not guaranteed another breath. If there is something you want to do with your life, go do it.

No more waiting.

Be bold.

Love deeply.

Live with purpose, passion and peace.

Saira

 

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Photo by Nicole Baster

Resilience is not singular.

I wrote this last week after a chat with some awesome Wellington principals.

We were discussing tactics that school leaders could use to make the job better and more sustainable. As we discussed deliberately recovering after periods of intense work, I could see people nodding but with some reservation. Eventually someone voiced the “but” sitting accusingly in the air.

“But, what will my team think?”

A very valid question, and for context, we were discussing Board meetings – there’s always lots of prep to do in the lead up, then at the meeting, you the operational leader, are ‘it’. Questions, opinions, justifications, pleading cases – they’re all yours to handle, and then when it eventually  comes to an end, you will have a whole new ‘to do’ list to add to the next day’s existing load – in fact, you’re likely to be the one left to turn the lights out after everyone else has gone home!  

So we were discussing the possibility of coming onsite slightly later the next morning. As a principal, you could choose to do a bit of deliberate recovery by fitting in a some exercise, sleeping in a little, or doing a home-based chore that was left undone the night before.

But where’s the fairness?

What about the staff trustee who was also at that evening meeting but who couldn’t come in any later because they had a class to teach? What would they think if you chose to take the opportunity available to you, but they couldn’t? Is this fair?

.  .   .

I believe there are two things to consider here. The first is that what is good for you (as the principal) is also good for other staff members, and secondly, that within a school people have very different jobs.

Starting with the assumption that what is good for you is also probably good for others, I believe we have an obligation to share the possibilities for working sustainably as widely as possible. Teachers, admin staff, and everyone else who works in a school, have pressure points where they sprint for a while and work in overload. Report writing would be a classic example for teachers as would audit time for the admin team.

This is where you, as the leader, can absolutely create opportunities for others to recharge and build resilience. Possible examples include letting your senior teachers know they are trusted to work remotely if they wish on release days, that hearing they had run their meeting in a coffee shop would make you happy, that you encourage them to go for a lunchtime walk if possible. For class teachers you could allocate a ‘no strings attached’ release day which they could use as they wished, there could be meeting free weeks where all were expected to leave site early – the possibilities are actually very wide.

However, this type of resilience enhancing thinking can be derailed if you worry that different people have different possibilities. It’s natural to want to be as fair as possible, but we also have to be clear that the shape of roles in our schools are very different – both the pressure and possibility of being a principal is quite different than the pressure and possibility of being a class teacher.

Which brings us back to where this post started – your own resilience is easier to build when firstly, the people around you understand what you are trying to do, and secondly, that you want it for them as well.

The best way to ensure those around you understand what you are trying to achieve is to tell them. Meet with your senior leaders and admin team and discuss what you are doing and why. Being upfront about what you are doing is the best, and I would argue only, way forward. The opposite is to half-heartedly try some changes – using the meeting tactic above, going for a lunchtime walk, etc without any context for those who see you doing it. This means they will create their own narrative about what you are doing, and you will possibly feel guilty as well – don’t do this!

The second part of the puzzle is to help the others understand that you want them to work sustainably too. This can be both through concrete actions (e.g. here is a no-strings attached release day), or through consistent messaging to staff (e.g. whanau first).

If you get these two puzzle pieces in place, the likelihood of being supported to work in a resilient and sustainable way is exponentially higher.

Dave

PS: You should never apologise for doing your job in a sustainable way – in a logical and fair world you would be celebrated for doing this. Be brave.

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“At this altitude, I can run flat out for a half-mile before my hands start shaking.” – Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity.

I’ve always loved this line from the movie, even though my personal experience of running ‘flat out’ never left me with shaking hands . . . legs, heart, lungs, etc all shaking, but not the hands (this may well be the key reason why I’ve never starred in any movies).

.   .   .

To sprint:           flat out for a short time

To jog:                a steady pace, easy to maintain

.   .   .

I don’t know how you’re going this week, but I’ve found myself operating in ‘sprint’ mode. There have been a lot of ‘big’ items to work on – Board meeting, end of year data review, strategic planning and a decent smattering of people related issues that required my full attention, energy, and time.

(And even as I write this I am a little embarrassed that any of it seems difficult, because in the back of my mind are our colleagues in The Hawke’s Bay . . . for blog readers outside NZ, a quick Google will show you why.)

Experience has taught me two things about sprinting – I’ll need to do it sometimes, and after I have, I need to recover.

Looking ahead into my calendar, I can see a solid fortnight of ‘sprint’ time in front of me and that’s only the known stuff, so some care is going to be needed if I want to avoid shaky hands.

I know right now that I need to look after the basics – food, water, exercise, sleep, family – which is a challenge because they are exactly the things that are easy to neglect with the pressure on. What helps me stay mindful of these needs are memories of the times when I haven’t been  . . . neglect them and the wobbling starts.

And after the sprint is over, I need to recover.

It’s actually urgent and important work this recovery period, as if not done, my ability to do my job is greatly lessoned, and my ability to be a functional and happy human likewise.

Recovery periods are more than the basic list detailed above, they’re not about survival, they’re about building up and filling the tank. And they absolutely can’t wait to the next Term break as that is too far away. Whatever your ‘tank filling’ actions are, there is really only one person standing in the way if they are not done. Doing this better is about taking ownership and giving permission. (Of course, creating a culture that encourages and supports you in these vital actions is the responsibility of our whole system, from the Minister of Education to your Board. It’s just that some of them don’t know this yet.)

Recovery is about sustainability – yours. And this is where ‘jogging’ is periodically necessary. By deliberately jogging after periods of high pressure, you are building up reserves for the inevitable times when the pace and pressure pick up. Jogging by design is not being lazy, it is an intentional action that makes you better at what you do and who you are over the longer term.

A practical example for me – last night I had a Board meeting and it finished late. I went home with my head full of stuff and the usual post meeting ‘to do’ list casually added to my workload. I didn’t really get to eat dinner and I certainly didn’t get to exercise or spend time with those I care about.

But this morning I have an off-site meeting at 8:30am and there lies possibility. So, I’m not calling into the Office first, and I’m not going to start on that new to do list before the meeting. Nope, what I’m going to do is go for a walk, make a leisurely coffee afterwards, and sit and chat with my kids as they head away to school. That’s what I call jogging.

Dave

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Photo by Andrew Dunstan

You’ve made it through the first week of term. Some of you are beginning Surplus Staffing processes, some of you are fending off vaccination demands, some of you are juggling bubbles in Level 3, some of you are arguing dollars in the budget cycle, and some are just finding it hard to find time to breathe!  All of us are trying to look like the swan on the water, majestic on top, but frantic under the surface!

But nonetheless, congratulations, you’ve got through one week – alive!

During the holidays I got to thinking. We’re often hard on ourselves. This is because we have huge expectations. Some would say we care too much. And because of this we’re either as hard as steel or we beat ourselves up, or some gooey substance in the middle. So I wondered if it would be useful to write a letter to myself, and put it in my top draw, to be opened on the last day of school 2021. What would it say?

.   .   .

This is what I’ve written.

Dear Steve,

I write this to you, to be read at the end of the term. I want you to know that by the time you read this you will have made it.

You will have survived.

You will have made it through a really tough term. No doubt there were times when you thought you wouldn’t, and that everything was so insanely intense that your eyeballs were about to explode. 

But they didn’t. 

The sky didn’t fall in, even though it threatened to. 

You dropped the ball during some important plays, but yet you were still there when it was time to catch the next one.

There were too many times when you forgot to smell the roses, and the daffodils, even though there was a lot on offer to smell. They’re your nectar that will get you through when you come back. 

Sometimes you let distractions guide you away from who you are and where you want to go, but then you came back to it all and you should be proud of that.

You made it, alive and kicking, to the end of the term.

You should be proud of that. Ka rawe!

So take time off and have some holidays, time away to learn to breathe again. And every now and again, if those doubts begin to linger during your break, take a read of this story by one of your 7 year olds.

“Once upon a time there was a castle in the middle of a jungle. It was heavily guarded by a dragon. It’s a fierce dragon.

The dragon looked enchanted and he was glowing. The dragon had smooth scales and lime green eyes.

One day a little girl was exploring the jungle. She saw a huge structure.

She walked closer until she saw it was a big castle guarded by a dragon!

She was brave enough to go up to the dragon.

The dragon was friendly.”

And once you’ve finished reading that, tell yourself, “There are a lot of dragons to slay, but make sure you’re not one of them.”

Have a break and then come back sword sharpened.

Be proud of what you’ve achieved, don’t dwell in the shadows. You did it, and that’s something to celebrate!

Love Steve

What would you say in a letter to yourself if you were to write it today, to be opened at the end of the term?

Steve

 

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Photo by Petar Tonchev

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Just recently I found myself talking with a colleague about the myriad of things that we end up doing in our roles. A recent example was when I found myself sweeping water out of the junior boys’ toilets for an hour or so. Lucky me! There’s nothing like sweeping water out of the junior boys’ toilets wearing your best shoes and favorite work pants. It’s almost invigorating … not!

My colleague changed the tack of the conversation slightly, like he is want to do, and told me that occasionally he gets time to help out his caretaker by getting on the ride-on mower and cutting the lawns.

This appeared like a very generous thing for my colleague to be doing. I was instantly envious. A; because we don’t have a ride-on mower at our school and B; what he was telling me reminded me of a fond memory.

When I’d been at Teachers’ College, a few moons ago now, I’d spent my holidays pruning trees in the Hanmer State Forest or mowing lawns for the Hanmer Springs/Hurunui District Council.

These jobs enabled me to see both where I was going, and where I had been almost minute to minute.

In my current role as a principal, it’s not always easy to see where I am going, or even where I have been. There is constant “noise” related to our role that gives little opportunity to stop, pause, and look, and in turn feel good about what has been accomplished. 

“You know, I don’t really want to admit this,” I said quietly to my colleague, “but there are times in this job that I’m not really sure where I am going.”

As sharp as tack he came back with, “Go where the grass is longest – that’s what you’d do if you were still mowing lawns!”.

He had a point. Actually, he had a great point. Especially as we head into the end of the Term and the school holidays are beckoning like the sweet bastion of goodness that they are! 

The point that I’m trying to make here, is that throughout our busy, hectic lives in Term time, the grass indeed grows long in those places that we don’t look after. I’m talking specifically about our own well-being here

During Term time, as we move to cram everything into our already bulging calendars, the first thing that is missed out is our well-being. Ironically it should be the first thing that we put in, and then we should build our days around this goodness and the energy that this positive move will enable.

I’m taking it though, that you’re more likely to be like me at this point of time in the Term. The grass on your well-being lawn is overgrown and your energy levels are low.

With the energy that you do have left, take a little time to consider “going where the grass is long” during your upcoming ‘non contact/holiday’ time. Make a plan to do a number of things that you like doing; enjoy doing; and have missed doing during the last ten weeks because you ran out of hours in the day to look after yourself.

And when you are making this plan, take a step forward and look into Term three and begin to formulate a long term vision for what your well-being lawn will look like. Do this now before the reality of your job and your old habits engulf your best intentions.

Go on. Write down four things that you are going to do, just for yourself in that first week of holidays. Then another four things (yes you can repeat them!) for the second week.

Then go further and commit to a well-being plan for the Term. Make sure you have something happening for you, that’ll fill your bucket, at least once a week in your plan (and I’m not talking about the weekends) through until the next holidays.

When you get to weeks seven, eight and nine of the Term plan, double your well-being dose. Weeks seven, eight and nine are notoriously “hitting the wall” times in our professional lives, so make sure that your lawn is well and truly cut then 🙂 . 

We’d love to hear what sort of things you plan to do as you “go where the grass is long”, so please feel welcome to leave a comment below, or over on The Forty Hour Facebook page.

Steve

 

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Photo by Devon Divine

Just like a song, every blog article needs a great line to pull you in right from the start. Something that’ll catch the imagination, and won’t let go. 

I’m trying to find something that’ll make the term “psychological detachment” sound enticing and thrilling. Something that’ll get your attention and not let you go until you’ve read the whole piece.

Mmmm, how about this? 

A study published in the May issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry found that people who became depressed late in life had a 70% increased risk of dementia, and those who’d been depressed since middle age were at 80% greater risk.

80%! Gulp!

Too negative? Too depressing? Mmmm maybe.

.   .   .

I don’t want this post to be one of those gloom and doom types. No,  this post should be read as a beacon of hope. Maybe my starter line to grab you all in should be; 

This is what you can do today to help you with your tomorrow!

Last year we did a brief survey of around 150 New Zealand principals in a quest to find the answer to “what strategies do principals use to effectively and quickly recover from stressful events”. It seems that some principals are able to bounce back a lot quicker than others. How do they do this?

We found that the “bounce-a-backer-ers” did four things really well.

  • Firstly they found time to exercise regularly.
  • Secondly they found time to talk to their people (confidants, people they trusted) about the crap they were going through.
  • Thirdly they found time for Me Time! … that time that was just for them, and only for them. Time to do something they loved, without interruptions.
  • And fourthly … they had a wonderful ability to rationalise the stressors that they were going through. They appreciated that bad times never last, and nor do good times. That the things that worry us are often miniscule in the big picture of things, and that ultimately they weren’t alone in dealing with these issues. Powerful stuff.

Great, perfect! Sorted!

Now all we need to do is appreciate these things and put them into place and we’ll all be as resilient and “broad shouldered” as these successful principals! 

But nothing is really that simple is it.

All of these things take practice, and need to be turned into habits … both physically and mentally. And all of these have a time element. You need to prioritise time for them to be beneficial.

And it turns out that there are a couple more key elements that also help. They’re both important for recovery, and to put it not too finely, they both need to happen daily.

Daily recovery is vital for giving us the ability to bounce back. Proper recovery allows you to take on the next day with the “vim and vigour” that your school (and you) deserve.

The alternative is known as burn out, which easily turns into depression, which in turn leads to that jaw dropping dementia statistic that grabbed you into this article!

So what are these two elements?

Internal Recovery – this is about giving yourself some respite and relief from stressful situations whilst at school/work. Switch tasks, go for a walk around the playground, take time out for yourself. These don’t have to be long times, but it’s important that you give yourself a break. In olden times this was also known as a lunch break, or morning tea!

In many work places outside of schools these breaks can even be taken off site – imagine that! The key of course is to give yourself a break regularly. Mix it up, and don’t forget to do it. Got a spare minute or two before a meeting – don’t check your emails, instead just take some time. Pause, chill, stop. For a minute or two or three.

External Recovery – this is what we do outside of our work hours. The real key here is to develop this thing called psychological detachment. Often we think that we’re well onto the road to recovery by doing things such as reading, catching up with social media or socialising. These are all good things to do. But the big key is to do these things that detach you from your work.

If you’re catching up on some reading, but it’s work related then your recovery isn’t going to be as useful. If you’re socialising with friends, but you spend the whole time talking about work – again, although initially useful to unload, over time it doesn’t have the same recovery effect. And have you ever found that watching TV full of bad news and gruesome shows doesn’t work like it used to – well, maybe it’s time to actually switch that box off so that you can detach yourself from many realities that you simply have no control over.

Psychological detachment isn’t easy though. Recently, I spent some wonderful time at Lake Tekapo in the South Island of New Zealand, but instead of just enjoying the place for what it is, I spent most of the time ruminating on a school issue. It takes some serious practice just to be in one place, and to enjoy being in that one place, without the stressors of school or your work place creeping in. 

Many who are particularly good at psychological detachment find that “attaching” themselves to other things can be useful.

In a nutshell – get a hobby.

And be passionate about it. Put your “vim and vigour” into that. In the past I’ve played sport, and at present I’m in a band. It’s very hard to do a competent job of doing a lead guitar solo that runs across the fret board, if you’re still “fretting” about school or work. The key, as I’ve said many times, is to find something that takes you daily away from being attached to workplace thoughts and concerns.

Taking time to master your recovery, every day, so that you can face the next day with the energy and enthusiasm it deserves is at the heart of beating burnout. It’s also at the heart of living for today, and not about “just getting yourself to the weekend, or just getting yourself to the next holiday break”. 

This is what you can do today to help you with your tomorrow!

(For a little bit more on this read Rajvinder Samra’s piece.)

Steve

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