You’d be forgiven for thinking an article titled like this at this time of year was related to needing a constant supply of AA batteries to supply the power demands of the children’s new toys that Santa brought. However, it’s the physical batteries of our most precious commodities that require recharging the most.
I hope that like me, you have refrained from school work for the majority of your time over Christmas and have enjoyed a well-earned break with your family and loved ones. But with the rapid development of modern technology it can become too easy and tempting to check your email, reply to the odd message on your phone and even be tempted into remoting in to your desktop from the comfort of your own home to complete those tasks that simply can’t wait until you’re back at your desk!
The irresistible need to be ‘always on’ has been fuelled in recent years by advances in modern technology, enabling communication to be so much more accessible and instantaneous. In many ways this has been a significant shift in how we communicate and has increased our productivity as teams in schools and organisations monumentally. Our communication is now unrecognisable from what it was when I entered the profession only 15 years ago….but so, unfortunately, are the demands on us during our ‘out of hours time’.
Evenings and weekends are now regularly punctuated by the sound of an incoming email from school that you feel you must reply to immediately. The knowledge that everyone knows you get your emails on your phone can make you feel powerless to not reply during your special day out with your husband, wife, or children for the fear that you may be seen as not as committed to the cause as everyone else. Even when you make the stance to not reply straight away and leave it in your inbox, you sometimes get that text message saying ‘Did you not get my message’? And for some couples, what was historically marked on the weekly calendar as ‘Date Night’ has now turned into ‘Data Night’, pouring over an Excel spreadsheet rather than a movie.
As school leaders we are charged with making big decisions about the direction of our schools and those decisions require us to be fresh and in a state of mental wellbeing. Being constantly on and thinking about our schools 24/7 only makes us mentally fatigued and unable to make sound decisions. How many times have we seen poor decisions made either in our schools or on a sports field when the brains and bodies of the decisions makers are fatigued?
Although we sometimes feel that we need to keep going, ‘man up’ and tough it out; how good are we to our school or organisation if we are only ever running at 70%? Would you ever see a professional athlete constantly performing at their best without regular rest and recovery? Do they train and perform night and day, every day, still expecting the very best outcomes?
If we start to think of ourselves as the educational versions of professional athletes, the people at the cutting edge of our industry, then we might start to think about the conditions in which we can perform at our very best. Are we getting enough rest and sleep to let our body recover each day? Are we allowing our brain to switch off from the mental demands of our schools? Are we getting enough ‘down time’ away from our jobs in the company of our family and loved ones?
And if you’re not and you’re saying that you don’t have time for all that stuff due to the nature of your job…..are you really giving 100% to your school? Or are you just giving 100% of the 70% you have left in the tank?