Photo by Christin Hume

So you’ve got a fitness device that tells you how many steps you’ve done today. Awesome.

But have you got a sitting widget that tells you how long you’ve spent on your principal butt? In fact, have you ever counted? Well maybe it’s time to start.

There’s a lot of scientific data that links your future personal misery to the amount of time that you spend enjoying the seductive embrace of the swivelly chair.

But just how long is too long?

In a large study of Australians, Kansas State University researcher, Richard Rosenkranz, (summarisedhereon ScienceDaily.com) has reviewed data from over 60 000 Australian men that shows those sitting for  more than 4 hours were significantly more likely to report having a chronic disease such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure.  The risk periods were categorized as less than four hours, four to six hours, six to eight hours, or more than eight hours. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was a direct link between the length of time spent sitting and ill health.

(There are multiple other studies (including ones that also study women!) and the conclusion is fairly simple – the longer you sit on average, the less healthy you become over time.)

.   .   .

4 hours . . . pause for a moment and add up your usual tally. Don’t forget to add; breakfast, driving to work, lunchtime, driving home, work at home, watching a bit of Shorters . . . 4 hours doesn’t actually seem that much to me.

Perhaps a more interesting question is; have your average sitting hours increased over time?

My subjective, gut feeling is that mine have. As time and career progresses, there seems to be more and more work that is linked to a computer and by default, a desk.

Even if your own reality is different, a slight increase will build up over time. We wrote a post about this before and used the compounding power of time to give a real look at what was happening to our future selves. Using time to gain clarity is part of a tactic that Tim Ferris calls  “fear setting” – you can read about it here.

So what to do?

My solution was to firstly become conscious of what was happening. Once I started to notice my usual default habits, that alone helped me make change.

Secondly, I made a couple of deliberate decisions:

  • whenever someone came into my office I stood up and if it was a short conversation, stayed standing.
  • I organised an easy standing desk option.

I confess that the standing desk idea didn’t really work the first time. I got one of those units that sit on your desk and which can be raised up or left down.

The problem was that whenever I came into the office it was usually down and so of course I just sat down in front of it. Net gain – zero.

The game changer for me was getting a second (actually third!) screen that was always up. That way when I walked into the office I just stopped at the standing screen. So easy I actually do it.

Here’s my current setup –

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When working on docs I sit down and use the two screens because it’s usually much more efficient. When I am mainly reading, I stand.

These simple tactics are making a tangible difference to me. If you have some of your own tips to share, we’d love you to add them below or over on the 40HP Facebook page.

Dave

 

 

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Emotions are there to help us understand the stuff we’re going through. But it’s not always helpful.

Emotions also help us convey to others what we are feeling. Jacinda Ardern being labeled by the Press as being “angry” about those not sticking to COVID-19 restriction expectations is a classic recent example.

Who knows if she is angry or frustrated, bemused, or simply pissed off, but the use of the word angry lets everyone else in on the “secret” of how she is feeling. And of the message that she wants to convey.

In this case it’s used as a warning, and quite possibly, a weapon.

There’s nothing really quite as easy and complicated as emotions. Easy because everyone has them. Complicated because no one really knows what everyone else is feeling. 

Often we think we know, and often it is assumed that we know.

Humans are notoriously bad at interpreting what their own emotions actually are let alone anybody else’s. No wonder, researchers have identified up to 27 different kinds of emotions. You’ve got to quietly wonder if the world was a simpler place when, in the past, researchers suggested there were only 6. 

This makes our role in Principalship and Leadership very tricky. We are expected to be experts in knowing what people are feeling and at the same time being able to suppress our own.

The first of these is a completely unreasonable expectation and we spend way too long spending energy on it. It comes well and truly in the “worry only about things that you have control over” camp of thought.

And the second, well, how healthy is it really suppressing your feelings over a long period of time?

Imagine in a school setting, for example my school. There are 360 students, and 40 adults running around on any given day. That’s 400 people within the confines of the school gates all running through 27 researched emotions every second of the day. As Principal you are essentially overseeing a mass of emotions. No wonder some days you’ve felt that you haven’t gotten it anywhere near right!

Of course the ability for you to have control over any one of those emotions that others have is highly debatable and negated by many other factors both externally and internally. And the extent to which these emotions are shown in behaviour also changes from person to person and situation to situation. Some seem to jump to extreme behaviours at the drop of a hat. Others face the same situation and you have to wonder if they’ve even got a pulse, let alone care.

In our language we talk about the two terms, emotions and feelings. So what’s the difference?

There definitely is a difference. I googled it and found a heap of useful references.  The one that I liked, from www.6seconds.org states the following;

“The short answer is: Time. Emotions come first, then feelings come after as the emotion chemicals go to work in our bodies. Then moods develop from a combination of feelings.

Emotions are chemicals released in response to our interpretation of a specific trigger.  It takes our brains about 1/4 second to identify the trigger, and about another 1/4 second to produce the chemicals.  By the way, emotion chemicals are released throughout our bodies, not just in our brains, and they form a kind of feedback loop between our brains & bodies. They last for about six seconds – hence the name of our organization.

Feelings happen as we begin to integrate the emotion, to think about it, to “let it soak in.”  In English, we use “feel” for both physical and emotional sensation — we can say we physically feel cold, but we can also emotionally feel cold.  This is a clue to the meaning of “feeling,” it’s something we sense.  Feelings are more “cognitively saturated” as the emotion chemicals are processed in our brains & bodies. Feelings are often fueled by a mix of emotions, and last for longer than emotions.”

https://www.6seconds.org/2017/05/15/emotion-feeling-mood/

I like this because it helps me understand a process that I have been working on recently.

It’s quite simple, and it might sound just a little odd. It has a technical name that at the time of writing completely eludes me – sometimes we don’t need to know the official name, but the strategy is currently working for me.

It runs a bit like this. When I have an emotion I also have a sensation. That’s normal, and that’s what I understand to be the emotion chemicals being released in my body. I guess in many ways it’s your body saying, WARNING WARNING!

This is where I PAUSE. And I go searching just for that sensation, and I let myself feel it as it waves through my body. For me it feels like it starts in my head and then builds up in my shoulders and down through my body (for some strange reason I also feel it in my ears!). I told you this was a bit weird! The key is just to concentrate on that physical feeling; on that wave. Actually feel the sensation.

I didn’t know that these waves lasted for about 6 seconds as the website says, but if I timed it then that would be about right. So, PAUSE and feel that wave. Don’t give it a feeling name like anger or frustration or one of the other countless names. When you name it you’re just giving it a language term for you to understand and then that takes you on a completely different tangent. If the wave starts again, roll with it and just concentrate on feeling that. This might happen once, or it might happen multiple times. But the key is not to name it, just physically feel it.

I used to get these waves a lot on a Sunday evening before the week was about to start, or before an important staff meeting. And to be honest, I still do, but I’ve been able to lesson the intensity of the waves over time. This has helped me pinpoint what is actually bugging me.

During my PAUSE I then give myself time to consider the trigger – e.g. thinking about the important staff meeting; thinking about starting the new week. Identifying the trigger without thinking about how that makes me feel means I can get to the source of the wave without any baggage. Yes I can tell myself, “oh, I’m feeling something about that staff meeting ….. I wonder why that is”.

And then I BREATH. Deep deep breaths, and hold them in. (Don’t forget to exhale, or you might have another problem on your hands, lol)

Now I identify the emotion or the feeling. It might not actually be the anger that you originally thought it was.

And then I SMILE. The smile at the end is important. You’re telling yourself you’ve got this.

The process might take all of 10 to 15 seconds.

You can’t do this for everyone else in your school, and let’s be honest, many will think you’re a weirdo for even mentioning it, but you can do it for yourself. 

However, this gives you time to think a bit more rationally and logically before deciding what to do next.

It’s your emotions and feelings that give you the impetus to do something. You may still feel angry, but take time to consider how angry you are and what’s the best way for everyone around you for you to show or share that you feel angry? 

This article isn’t about suppressing your feelings. It’s far from that. You can’t beat biology! It’s the same with positive feelings as well. Take time to enjoy the feeling and sensation when you’ve got those positive emotions running as well.

What I’m saying is if you give yourself a little time PAUSE BREATHE SMILE before letting your next step be dominated by a feeling or emotion then maybe, just maybe you’ll be able to save yourself the stress of dealing with extreme behaviours, especially if they’re yours!

Steve

 

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Photo by Nathália Rosa

I like Post-it notes. I like the way they let me capture a task then park it until I’m ready to take action.

Way back at the beginning, I had a principal who carried a small notebook in their top jacket pocket. Anytime you started talking to them they took it out, ready to make a note if needed.

This principal prided themselves on following up, not forgetting, doing what they promised, and in their pocket was a system to make all these things happen.

Post-it notes are my version.

Sadly, while they are an awesome fluro coloured tool, the reason they are in my thinking right now is that they’re multiplying – very quickly! And lots of notes means lots of things to remember and do.

Welcome to the end of Term 4!

This is the time each year where a myriad of tasks and looming deadlines make it very possible that your waking hours are consumed entirely by knocking off task after task. Those of you who have followed the 40 Hour Project for a while, know that this is the time when the ‘busy’ can obscure the ‘important’.

Even the students seem to unwittingly contribute. There are more plasters given out and more social interactions to manage than at any other time through the year – people are getting a bit frazzed.

I spent precious time this morning helping 3 great young boys resolve an issue that started with someone holding a door handle and ended in tears. None of them planned the debacle, and all regretted it, but it does sum up the vibe of late Term 4 – stuff  happens.

In amongst this end of year race is your opportunity to be a leader. To focus on people first, spread the calm, and to deliberately aim to finish the year with energy left over and feeling well. We have talked about this before – Madvember Doesn’t Have To Be – but this time I want to focus on the power of calm.

To impact your team positively a key is to manage perception. I like the duck analogy where they are paddling like hell under the water but up on top all looks serene. It’s the bit on top that your people will notice.

A personal strategy I use to try and spread a sense of calm, is to deliberately move slower the busier I feel. This may sound simplistic but it absolutely helps – body language is the language that people notice most and if you are moving around your site in a rush, it sends a message. So slow down and breathe. Stop to talk with kids and adults, volunteer to cover someone’s duty,  and at all times move slowly. And it’s not all acting – research shows slowing down and breathing properly changes your mental state. A win/win for you and your school.

.   .   .

Which brings me to where I started with the Post-it notes.

I realized that when they’re plastered all over my desk/laptop/office, they tell a story to all who see them. They visually create a similar effect to walking quickly everywhere with no time to pause. They create the impression that I am busy.

 

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So here is my cunning plan –  I’m not going to stop using them, I’m going to hide them.

At the very least I get great pleasure from screwing them up and chucking them in the bin when actioned. I’m not willing to forgo that goodness. All I am going to do is stick them inside a plain manila folder. The folder will sit on my desk closed. The notes live on but the story my desk tells will be different. A small, but deliberate action in the face of the run to the finish. Dare you to try it.

David

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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.

Dave

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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Photo by Natalie Daley

It’s great that we are in a Term break at last (at least for those of us in NZ). This year is proving to be anything but business as usual and the challenges just keep coming. We’re been operating in a “hoping for the best, but ready for anything” type mode. This is a tough way to live long term!

Something that has helped me stay energised and well through the ongoing adventure of 2020, has been to get very clear about what matters most. I’m coming from the perspective of a statement we often use in the 40 Hour Project –

“being a school leader is part of who we are, not all of who we are”.

From a work perspective, there will always be things that are more or less important. There will be periods when more time and energy need to be committed to particular tasks. Bearing in mind the statement above though, alongside the work requirements will be other things.  A  misalignment between these two competing needs is a common problem. And misalignment happens easily unless you have clarity.

A statement to describe this idea could be:

“People are more resilient when they are clear about what matters most.”

 

 

One of the gifts of having space to think clearly (time for a sabbatical!), is that you can really consider what matters most to you. The absolutely fundamental items will almost certainly be personal – things to do with family, health, relationships, finances . . .

As school leaders, it’s very easy to let the urgent parts of each day take priority, and maybe that’s OK short term – but if you apply a longer term lenses to what it means to work/live as you are, priorities will change.

I’d like to suggest that until you do this exercise, you will often feel tension between what you need personally and what your work requires.

For example, if you haven’t done any exercise in a month, yet you woke up this morning worrying about school data targets, you are probably confused (about what matters most) and need to create space to get things straight.

.   .   .

And it’s not rocket science! Here is what I strongly recommend you do:

  1. Find some uninterrupted space. Ideally this will be somewhere you don’t usually go and will be away from the people who you usually interact with. In duration it needs to be long enough to allow you to sense the approach of boredom. No devices at all. Zero. Zip. Nada. Somewhere naturally beautiful is ideal but a quiet corner in the back of a Library you don’t visit often will work too. Find your space.
  2. A blank piece of paper and a pen (I actually use a notebook, but start on a blank page).
  3. Now just make a list. A list of the things that really, really matter. Don’t be shy or driven at all by what others might think – this list is for you and you alone.
  4. This is the perfect time to use some “fear setting” so that you build your list past the immediate.
  5. Sort the list so that the very most important thing is at the top.

Job nearly done.

The final, crucial remaining step, is to accept that you have to work in a way that allows you to address the items at the top of your list. If you can do this consistently, you will be aligning your needs with your work and when the pressure comes on, you are now positioned to make choices that are sustainable and energising.  Just do it.

Dave

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Photo by David Holifield

 

You probably know the metaphor of “the carrot and the stick” where a stubborn donkey needs to be encouraged to move. There are two basic options (as donkeys are hard to push around). You can dangle a carrot just in front of its nose and, if hungry, the donkey will move forward. The other option is to whack it on its hind quarters with a stick (no donkeys were harmed in the creation of this metaphor). If the “stick” hurts enough, the donkey again moves forward.

However, the ultimate donkey moving tactic involves both the threat of the stick and the promise of the carrot used at the same time. It’s more likely to work than either option individually.

 

 

In the 40 Hour Project we usually focus on the good things that you can expect by making healthy leadership/lifestyle choices – the carrots.

The problem is that human nature seems to predispose us to take a short term view of any possible rewards. If the reward is immediate, we are more likely to buy in than if the reward is several months or years away.

For example, if we buy a lottery ticket each week we get the immediate thrill of possibility, but we could save the $20 and at years end have a guaranteed $1040. Not many people take option two (even though it is almost certain to be a better reward).

It’s the timeframe that stops us being smarter.

 

 

So today, I want to mention a motivation technique that’s all about the stick rather than the carrot.

This tactic is one that Tim Ferriss uses regularly to help make uncomfortable changes (he calls it fear setting).  Tim argues that if a change needs to be made, staying with the status quo is not a neutral position – it comes with a cost.

He starts by asking the tough question, “if I don’t make a change, what will it cost myself, those I’m responsible for (e.g. my school) and those who care about me?”

Some examples are health costs, financial costs, family costs, and happiness costs.

To expose the costs more, you put a timeframe on them. What will the status quo cost me in 6 months, 12 months, 3 years, 10 years?

Here’s  a simple example using a health cost:

Let’s pretend you love donuts and you regularly buy them from the awesome bakery conveniently located just down the road from your school. When you’re feeling generous (or guilty!), you buy them for your team as well. This is fun, until you visit your doctor and she  points out (annoyingly) that you’ve gained 3 kilos since she saw you last year.

We can plot the future pain using Tim’s method:

Weight change in:
6 months + 1.5kgs
12 months + 3kgs
3 years + 9kgs
10 years + 30kgs

You can see that the timeframe magnifies the reality of not making a change. 1.5kgs worth of “stick” might not be enough to move you at all, but somewhere between that and 30kgs it becomes a lot more compelling!

You can apply this method to a whole range of other areas. The only initial self-discipline needed is to ask the uncomfortable question of yourself and to plot out the “costs” so you can clearly see the situation evolving in your future.

A work example that I have used is around time spent sitting. It seems the longer I’m a school leader, the more time I spend on my butt. I’ve seen the media reports about what this means to the future me and I don’t like it!

I used this “fear” idea and worked out that I was sitting approximately 30 minutes longer each day than I did a couple of years ago. This was of course just a guess, but I then plotted it on a timeframe. You can do  the maths but it looked bad to me!

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The bit of this process that stirs some worry (the stick) is the way a negative thing amplifies over time. This little exercise has meant I’m way more conscious of how much sitting I do – I now try to stand up if someone comes in when I’m sitting down, I have an easy to use standing option on my desk, and I make sure I go for regular walks around our site ‘just because’ (which is easy to do in a school!)

Have a go, pick something that in your gut, you know is holding you back as a person (and of course as a school leader) and ask yourself that uncomfortable question – “what will it cost me/my family/my school if I don’t make a change?”

I’ve found it even more compelling when I write it down.

Dave

 

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