How Do You Maintain Balance?

Thomas C. Murray

Thomas C. Murray

2017 Education Thought Leader of the Year and "20 to Watch” by NSBA
Jessica Cabeen joins Tom for this #LeadershipMinute. I’ll start by saying I feel like a complete hypocrite writing this blog post as balance in life is something with which I struggle. There. I said it. I struggle to maintain a proper balance in life. I absolutely love the work that I’m blessed to do. Although the travel can be exhausting, there’s not a place that I go where I don’t connect with amazing people. I love our work at Future Ready Schools. I fully believe in our mission at the Alliance for Excellent Education to support traditionally underserved students while working with school and district leaders across the country. I’m also passionate about the work that I do as an author and speaker, as the opportunity to encourage and support educators is a privilege that I don’t take for granted. Simply put, educators are some of the most dynamic, selfless, loving, hard-working people on the planet. They are some of the few people in the world that dedicate their lives to other people’s children. So, working with them is something that I absolutely love doing. If I’m fully honest though, I struggle to turn work off. I struggle to not look at an email the moment it comes in. I struggle to not check Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, dozens of times a day. I struggle to not clear out my notifications when I open my eyes in the morning and close them at night. I struggle to be a good role model for my family in what it means to disconnect. I struggle, at times, being fully present. I recognize my struggles. I love the work that I get to do as I work in my passion area. But, I struggle disconnecting from it. I’m sure that many educators can relate. I recently had the opportunity to see my good friend, Jessica Cabeen at ASCD in Chicago. Not only is Jessica an incredible award-winning principal, but she’s also the co-author of Balance Like a Pirate: Going beyond Work-Life Balance to Ignite Passion and Thrive as an Educator. (As a side note, her co-authors Jessica Johnson and Sarah Johnson are incredible people as well.) As you watched in this #LeadershipMinute, I took a moment to ask Jessica how people like me can maintain a better work-life balance. Similar to any type of addiction, Jessica shares admitting the problem is the first step. So, is it just me? Or, can you relate to my personal struggles? Second, Jessica recommends “reaching out to a network to hold yourself accountable.” Okay, so I can admit my problem in disconnecting, but asking others to hold me accountable? Ugh. That’s a whole other level. Taking that step means I really want to do something about it. Like any recovery program or accountability partner at church, in the gym, or while on a diet, having someone who you need to answer to is undoubtedly a vital component of sticking to something. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s a key to making it happen. Third, Jessica points out how “our phones tend to be the primary source of our imbalance.” Bingo. You got me on that one, Jess. Whether it’s responding to emails, sharing on social media, reading the news, or connecting with friends, so much of my world, both personal and professional, goes through my phone, making it a daily struggle. Jessica shares the ideas of shutting off notifications or even turning off the phone, as simple steps that can help force yourself to disconnect. As an immediate follow-up to these steps, she points out an essential aspect of balance. It’s not only about disconnecting; it’s also about being intentional with what you’re doing during that disconnected time. For example, shutting off the phone to hop on the computer and respond to emails isn’t exactly the point. Shutting off the phone to go for a walk, play a game with the kids, or read a book as Jessica shares, can help us self-regulate our work-life balance. Can you relate? Or, is this only a struggle for me? Educators give and give and give and give. Understanding that we don’t live to work, but we work to live can help us in our fight to take care of ourselves, and our families, in the process. Maintaining a work-life balance starts with making a conscious choice. It continues by consistently making those same choices, every day. Thanks, Jessica, for being an advocate, not only for children but for educators as well. Go get it this week. …and take care of YOU, and your family, in the process. All for the kids we serve,      
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