Just as the pre-flight safety announcement on a plane asks you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others, effective leaders need to put their own wellbeing first, so they can then consistently support their team.
School can be a frenetic place to work, add the responsibilities and duties of a leader, and it can become overwhelming. So how can we address the stress?
The best place to start, is to identify tasks that have the biggest impact on your energy and wellbeing, and then build the knowledge and skills needed to be fully engaged and perform regardless of the conditions.
A lack of time - or a perceived lack of time - to get everything done, can often be the source of the greatest pressure. This is often referred to as time management, although no one can actually ‘manage’ time. A clearer way to think of this is as energy management.
We have four intelligences (factors) that affect energy levels and effectiveness:
- Body - Physical Intelligence/Quotient (PQ), at the most basic level this provides a quantity of energy which is dependent on hydration, food, exercise and sleep.
- Emotion - Emotional Intelligence/Quotient (EQ), is the quality of energy you have. Energy levels are impacted when a person feels sad, annoyed or frustrated.
- Mind - Intelligent Quotient (IQ), gives focus - being guided by a plan and prioritising work increases productivity.
- Spirit - Spiritual Intelligence/Quotient (SQ), gives energy its power - having a clear vision or purpose helps to overcome challenges and deliver outcomes.
How might we support ourselves across these four energies?
Demands on personal capacity and levels of energy change throughout the day, depending on workload, student behaviour, leaders, colleagues, satisfaction levels, deadlines, lack of flexibility and more. Recognising and understanding your energy ‘supply and demand’ and its impact on your wellbeing, can help your performance each day.
Start with the basics - we all know that looking after ourselves physically is important, ensure you eat well, hydrate regularly, exercise, take a break and get enough sleep. Often, when we are immersed in work, we think there’s no time to take a break. However, taking a quick break, having a ten minute walk, refreshing yourself with a snack and a drink, will improve your productivity and efficiency. You will actually save yourself time on tasks, compared to pushing through and ignoring your physical needs. It may be difficult, but everyone needs to take responsibility for these points, and particularly to carve out time to take on the fuel their body needs.
Here are my top five tips to help leaders manage their energy:
1. Don’t make emails the first thing you do each day. Switching on and hitting send/receive is likely to sabotage the day you had planned - instead of following your agenda, your focus is likely to be scattered (Mind) and you run the risk of generating wasted energy (Emotion), such as anger, disappointment, frustration or becoming overwhelmed as you read through your inbox.
Start your day completing your most important task(s) first. What will have the greatest impact for yourself and others and what you are trying to achieve? Then move to the next most important task.
Sometimes these may be small wins finished in limited time - by keeping focus, whatever the rest of the day brings, you have completed the most important work.
2. Prioritise your work. Start with high impact tasks that use low energy and try and complete each one before moving on, easier said than done in education! Chunk tasks together and block out time for key actions to avoid interruptions as much as possible, as these add significantly to task completion time.
Plan your visibility and share the schedule so everyone knows when you are available and when not, with the expectation that when the door is closed you should only be called upon in case of an emergency.
3. Ensure you have breaks. While it is not always easy, even short breaks will improve your performance. Make time to disengage from the challenges of the day - walk, listen to music, have a conversation, read, or even just switch tasks. You may cover duties to ensure others have breaks - if so, take time later - constant engagement throughout the day is not sustainable.
4. Focus on what you can control. Worrying about things that may or may not happen, dissipates your energy, so consider facts not perceptions and work on what you want to achieve today. At the end of each day, remember to reflect on everything you have achieved, rather than focus on the jobs that are still left to do.
5. Build an effective support team - who you hang around with really matters and has an incredible impact on your energy levels. Choose to spend time with colleagues and friends who are positive and supportive, they will give energy, while the negative ‘mood-hoovers’ will definitely drain it!
Leaders are often selfless, putting their duties to students, staff and parents, ahead of their own needs. In fact to ensure they are fit to lead effectively, they should be putting themselves first so they can then be available to help others consistently and sustainably, and consequently increase the wellbeing of those around them. Remember - put on your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs.
For further information, support and advice, please contact welbee.international