There are many things that we, as school leaders, can do to help with workload, but it’s especially important, I think, that all of us have an ‘off switch’; a time when being the teacher stops and being the dad/partner/friend/son/ brother starts.
If I’m honest, this is something that I’ve recently struggled with myself. Ofsted was due, we had a growing number of vulnerable students struggling to get up to speed with the new exam expectations and I could feel the anxiety building within me. It’s hard to switch off when you know there’s still so much to do to support your staff and the young people in our care.
Yet finding that downtime is vital. I was very thankful for the last series of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. Don’t shake your head at me! It let me sit with my family, at home, happily making sweeping generalisations about people we’d never met – crucially, without looking at my iPad or phone.
It doesn’t matter what causes you to stop and spend some time doing something that’s purely about escapism and entertainment. You may well be much more cultured than I am and attend a classical music concert – but however you manage it, I think it’s vital for all of us to have these moments when our work at school isn’t at the forefront of our minds.
I spent a long time talking recently with a colleague about how they could find a better balance. We created a checklist of things to try, which I’ll share with you here:
1. Turn off emails after a certain time.
2. Be efficient with the time you have – the ultimate goal is to not have to complete any work at home.
3. Stop thinking that everything has to be done now. If necessary, use your line manager to help prioritise the work you have to do and set yourself reasonable expectations for completion.
4. Get out of your workwear when you get home; the shift in mindset after having a shower and changing clothes can be surprisingly significant.
5. Stop the journey to martyrdom and say ‘no’. If you’re asked to pick up yet another task when you’re already flat out, say so. You’ll be surprised at how accepting people are.
6. Use the Pareto Principle. Find the 20% of your day when you’re at your most efficient and plan to complete 80% of what needs to be done then. The flip of this is to not try completing high intensity/importance tasks when your energy levels are low.
7. There’s no one way to get a balance that works for everyone; you need to find the way that works for you.
Vic Goddard is headteacher at Passmores Academy.