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How can we Manage the Balance of Time in our Personal and Professional Lives?

The balance between work and personal life is a constant conflict for leaders in many fields (Friedman & Greenhaus, 2000; Pocock, 2003). Education is certainly not immune (d'Arbon, Duignan, & Duncan, 2002; Hudson, 2012; Grissom, Loeb & Mitani, 2015).  In fact, how this issue is managed and supported by schools is increasingly recognised as of strategic importance to the organisation and of significance to employees (De Cieri, Holmes, Abbott, & Pettit, 2005; Queen & Queen, 2005).

It would be thoughtless to consider that community demands on educational leaders do not cause stress and impact on where they spend their time. In fact, it is only through an examination of the effects of the culture of stress that educators can begin the process of reclaiming time, priorities and health (Queen & Queen, 2005).

In my own context, moving into a new facility with five teachers collaboratively co-teaching side by side 112 students aged 11 and 12, we as a team have identified that work/life balance is a concern. Due to this awareness, we have been intentional to address this matter, the school has employed strategies such as increased flexibility, variety in professional learning and education on intentionally creating space. Consultancy from Dr. Adam Fraser (2012, 2016) and coaching in the initial weeks have begun to see a shift towards a more ideal situation.

We have discussed how the desire for balance could get lost due to the overcrowding of curriculum, external expectations and leadership responsibilities (Goleman, 2013); however, by intentionally scheduling time, acknowledging the wins and showing gratitude to each other we have maintained an equilibrium. Research (Claessens, Eerde, van Rutte, & Roe, 2007; Grissom, et al., 2015) suggest that a leader’s personal time management may enhance their overall effectiveness and success. We can only discover the remedy to balance through the reflection on the role of self-discipline in personal routines. We often don't have balance because we have spread our resources too thin. In hindsight, over the last 12 months, my attention has been dispersed to broadly and my ability to truthfully reflect was distorted and I was externalising the problem (Fraser, 2012, Powell & Kusuma-Powell, 2015). I was only able to begin a process of growth once I internalised this realisation. As a result, I have implemented the following routines, many of which I have written about in the past; however, it was great to remind myself again of.

Scheduled Downtime
When I am planning my professional week, I schedule personal time with family, friends and activities that give me pleasure outside of work. Intentionally prioritised these elements give my life purpose. In doing so, it has allowed me extra control over changes to my schedule by offering me incentives to manage my time. Time management means those behaviors “that aim at achieving an effective use of time while performing certain goal-directed activities” (Claessens et al., 2007, p. 262).

Eliminate activities that waste time or energy.
During each holiday, I take time to review the activities that I do. This identifies of activities that did not enhance my leadership opportunities, classroom practice or personal life. As a result, when I plan out my week, I pinpoint lower priority, time-consuming responsibilities and devise more appropriate times to address these.

As a reflection, this has been one of the areas that have helped most as I came to realise, I could not do everything. To spread this capacity too thin meant that I was not able to focus on leading in a professional and personal dimension well (Leonard, 2010).

Exercise & Mindfulness
Owing to a full schedule, it was difficult to make time for exercise though it is one of my stress releases. As a result of the decisions that I was making, working out became lower on my priority list. I found myself with lower energy levels, less ability to concentrate over longer periods and an increasing level of frustration with my family. To balance this, as part of my weekly schedule I program both walks with my family, a session early in the morning to work out at home and on a daily basis a time of mindfulness and reflection which has reduced stress (Skinner & Beers, 2016). Penedo & Dahn (2005), Stroth, Hille, Spitzer & Reinhardt (2009) suggest there are many benefits to increasing fitness levels that relate to focus, attention and achievement in addition to the preventive health payoffs.   

Rules of Collaboration
To support my team’s work/life balance we created rules of collaboration to guide our own responsibilities and balance our team's commitment with each other (Garmston & Wellman, 2008). It became clear that it was essential to ensure we kept each other accountable so that the stress of leadership did not increase. This was a practical example of how the desire for greater work/life balance has had practical implications. As Queen & Queen state, Systems of social support are essential for managing stress” (2005, p.13).

Claessens, B. J. C., Eerde, W. van, Rutte, C. G., & Roe, R. A. (2007). A review of the time management literature. Personnel Review, 36(2), 255–276.
d'Arbon, T., Duignan, P., & Duncan, D. J. (2002). Planning for future leadership of schools: An Australian study. Journal of educational administration40(5), 468-485.
De Cieri, H., Holmes, B., Abbott, J., & Pettit, T. (2005). Achievements and challenges for work/life balance strategies in Australian organisations. The International Journal of Human Resource Management16(1), 90-103.
Fraser, A. (2016) The Third Space. School based professional learning workshop 20 July 2016
Fraser, A. (2012) The Third Space: Using life’s little transitions to find balance and happiness. Penguin Books, Random House Australia
Friedman, S. D., & Greenhaus, J. H. (2000). Work and family--allies or enemies?: what happens when business professionals confront life choices. Oxford University Press, USA.
Garmston, R. & Wellman, B. (2008). The adaptive school: A sourcebook for developing collaborative groups. Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon Publishers.Goleman, D. (2013). Focus: The hidden driver of excellence. New York, NY: Harper.
Grissom, J. A., Loeb, S., & Mitani, H. (2015). Principal time management skills: Explaining patterns in principals’ time use, job stress, and perceived effectiveness. Journal of Educational Administration53(6), 773-793.
Hudson, P. B. (2012). How can schools support beginning teachers? A call for timely induction and mentoring for effective teaching. Australian Journal of Teacher Education37(7), 70-84.
Leonard, J. C. (2010). Finding the time for instructional leadership: management strategies for strengthening the academic program. R&L Education.
Penedo, F. J., & Dahn, J. R. (2005). Exercise and well-being: a review of mental and physical health benefits associated with physical activity. Current opinion in psychiatry18(2), 189-193.
Pocock, B. (2003). The Work/Life Collision: What work is doing to Australians and what to do about it. Federation Press.
Powell, W., & Kusuma-Powell, O. (2015). Make the Most of Every Day: Examine your Practice to Sift out Time Wasters. Journal of Staff Development36(5), 40.
Queen, J. A., & Queen, P. S. (2005). The frazzled principal’s wellness plan: Reclaiming time, managing stress, and creating a healthy lifestyle. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
Skinner, E., & Beers, J. (2016). Mindfulness and teachers’ coping in the classroom: A developmental model of teacher stress, coping, and everyday resilience. In Handbook of Mindfulness in Education (pp. 99-118). New York, Springer.
Stroth, S., Hille, K., Spitzer, M., & Reinhardt, R. (2009). Aerobic endurance exercise benefits memory and affect in young adults. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation19(2), 223-243.

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