By Lynn Ochs
In the hectic lives of school leaders today, self-management can appear to be an elusive goal. Between meetings, dealing with daily crises, managing staff, disciplining students and interfacing with parents and community, there is little time to focus on oneself. The issue is certainly not lack of advice, as that can be found in abundance in today’s media—from tips on managing personal stress to improving time management to fitting exercise into your daily routine. Why then does managing ourselves continue to be such a challenge?
Perhaps the answer lies in taking a break from attempts to adopt complex systems and processes. Instead, begin with a few simple, concrete actions that can easily fit into the crazy tempo of a school leader’s day. Short bursts of daily activity can have big impact on how we manage our time, thoughts, emotions and actions (Minarek, 2013).
Begin with these 3 simple strategies to amp up your capacity for self management:
1. Manage your Breath. That’s right, breathe! Have you ever found yourself in a stressful situation and discovered that you were holding your breath? While mindfulness has become a trend in the U.S. with plenty of researched benefits, it all begins with pausing, taking a deep breath and exhaling fully. Give it a try. Breathe in for four counts and breathe out for six counts, repeat five times. Managing your breath is a simple way to see more clearly how you can activate other areas of self-management.
Our Breathing Calm exercise in Thriving Learning Communities (TLC) classrooms is popular with staff and students. Both groups have found this breathing exercise helps them become mindful of their thoughts and feelings, allowing them to take charge of when and how they will respond to stress.
2. Activate your Strengths. Peter F. Drucker in his classic Harvard Business Review article, Managing Oneself, states “A person can perform only from strength. One cannot build performance on weakness, let alone on something one cannot do at all.” Self-management requires we know our strengths and actively consider how we deploy them. If you have not downloaded the 5 to Thrive Toolkit, take a moment to do so today. Here is what one school leader has to say about how he activates one of his own signature strengths to improve his day-to-day management skills.
“I know that creative outlets are important for me to feel balanced in my life. As an administrator my days can turn into long “to-do” lists with no time for reflection or a mental space to think differently. Knowing that “Creativity” is one of my top five strengths, I schedule time in my week, to read, write, go see a play, or just dream in a way that feels unrestrained by the day to day tasks and timelines of my life.”
– Jeff Groh, Director, The New School Montessori
3. Consider your Beliefs. J. Sterling Livingston shares in his 2013 Harvard Business Review article, Pygmalion in Management, “What managers believe about themselves subtly influences what they believe about their subordinates, what they expect of them, and how they treat them.” In other words, if you demonstrate self-confidence and maintain high expectations of yourself, it will directly impact your staff’s performance! Take a moment to reflect. What are your expectations of yourself and your organization? If they’ve taken a backseat to other priorities, try reinvigorating them by kicking them up a notch. Commit to high expectations and watch what a difference it makes.
Students in TLC classrooms are learning to apply their beliefs about their character strengths to improve their own self-management skills.
My plan: “I will use hope this week by telling myself that I can succeed. That I can do anything even if times are rough. I will also use hope to think positive thoughts instead of negative thoughts, because positive thoughts can actually make you feel better.”
How it went: “What it was like to be more hopeful this week was very calming, because saying positive things in your mind and telling yourself that you are successful can really make you happier.”
– Student, Immaculate Heart of Mary School, Cincinnati, Ohio
Taking a moment to breathe, honor your strengths and reflect on your personal beliefs can impact your ability to manage yourself, and in turn, your school environment. We believe that school leaders, by performing simple actions for 5 minutes each day, can begin a ripple effect of positive outcomes that reach far into the student and school community. What better way to start the new year than to commit to improving the quality of your day and that of others by employing these simple self-management techniques?
Click the icon below to download the 5 to Thrive 30 Day Culture Challenge Toolkit.
For more, see:
- How Two Minutes of SEL Can Change the Tone for the Day
- On Becoming More Than Preparing: 10 Tips on Developing Humans
- 12 SEL Organizations Making a Difference
This post is a part of a blog series that is part of the 5 to Thrive School Culture Challenge produced in partnership with Mayerson Academy (@MayersonAcademy). Download a free Toolkit to help get started and join the conversation on Twitter using #5toThrive or #EdLeaders.
Lynn Ochs is Senior Program Director at Mayerson Academy in Cincinnati, Ohio. Follow her on Twitter: @LTOchs.
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