It’s no secret that principals have one of the toughest jobs going, but despite soaring workloads, high instances of bullying and violence, and the serious risk of total burnout, it’s a job they love.
In fact, the latest national survey into principal health and wellbeing reveals the rate of job satisfaction among school principals is much higher (74%) compared to the general population (65%).
Still, their love for the job doesn’t prevent serious health and wellbeing issues from arising, and this was noted in the aforementioned survey as something
Dr Adam Fraser is a performance coach who co-developed the Flourish Movement along with Bob Willetts, deputy president of the NSW Primary Principals Association.
He says that his research of various occupations over the last 20 years has shown that the role of a school principal is “one of the most complex, demanding and broadest jobs” he and his team have ever come across.
Because of this complexity, Dr Fraser says it's very easy for principals to get overwhelmed, overloaded and burnt out.
Below, Dr Fraser tells The Educator about some of the strategies he and his team have found in their research that can help prevent this from happening:
#1 Get clear on your strategic focus
In addition to the crazy amount of tasks that Principals have to complete on a daily basis, sometimes they also try to implement too many initiatives. Each year, you should focus on implementing 2 to 3 strategic initiatives. So, get clear, get specific but, most importantly, don’t try to do too much.
#2 Take time to recover after a stressful event
School Principals can go through some really emotionally draining and sometimes emotionally destructive interactions. The problem is, that after you’ve experienced these, you usually just move on to the next task. You don't take time to decompress and recover from that stressful interaction. So, after you've been through something stressful, take time to: get up, move your body, have a break, debrief with other people, get support or go outside. Regular practice of this will dramatically increase your longevity in the role.
#3 Each day have uninterrupted working time
Our research shows that the average School Principal is interrupted around 57 times a day. That's one interruption every eight minutes. This not only drains your energy levels and makes you feel overwhelmed, but it usually results in you feeling snowed under and unsure of which way is up.
In order to avoid this, carve out parts of your day where you have uninterrupted working time. This is time where you can sit in your office and get tasks done without people or technology interrupting you.
The most common response from Principals when we challenge them to do this is, ‘It's impossible. I can never get 2 minutes to myself’, however this is a grossly inaccurate mindset. We have worked with many School Principals who have implemented this strategy with incredible success. Here some tips on how;
a. They clearly communicate to all stakeholders why they need that uninterrupted time (a great strategy is to work with your staff to help you achieve this)
b. They hold that boundary firm when people try to interrupt them. But, once again they communicate why they're in uninterrupted time and also when they’ll be available.
If you respect your time, other people will respect it as well.
#4 Recharge your battery each day
Every night we put our phones on charge. We should be doing the same thing with ourselves so we are better prepared to face the challenges of the following day. Things that help us recharge are: deep relaxation, physical exercise, being in nature, being still, having a quality interaction with someone, laughing, being playful…The list goes on. Considering the challenges and stressful situations School Principals deal with everyday and how much of yourselves you give to your school communities. Making sure you fill up your battery each day is essential for your wellbeing and mental health.
#5 Delegate when possible
Our research shows that Principals have a block to delegation, because they feel like they're just unloading their work onto other people. But without proper delegation, you'll never get the job done. Delegating important tasks to other people, builds their capacity and actually builds connection with that person.
#6 Insert regular bright spots in your day
What's a bright spot? The part of the job that lights you up. It can be interactions with the kids, observing and coaching teachers, doing research, working on educational innovation…It is different for different people. These bright spots lift your energy and remind you of why you do the job. So sprinkle a couple of bright spots across your day.