Technology can be complex, and the students, teachers, and staff that use it can be even more so. We can spend our days putting our fires, supporting our colleagues, answering phone calls, and pulling special reports for our Superintendent, to list just a few of our responsibilities. Sometimes we get swept away by the swift current of appointments, deadlines, commitments, and “to do” lists. When this happens we feel overwhelmed and anxious. We feel like we can’t keep up and no matter how hard we work, we fall further behind. We don’t feel in control of our work, or our lives.
It’s not uncommon for us to feel like there is nothing we can do about our overwhelm. We feel like victims. I remember the Principal who spoke up at a meeting to declare,
Say what you will, no matter what I have on my personal “to do” list, once the first person shows up in the doorway to my office, I have a steady stream of people and things to take care of, until long after the last student has left for the day.”
The first thing to realize is that it is you who have created the overwhelm. It isn’t the demands of others, nor the business itself that creates your hectic schedule. It is you. It is you who says ‘yes’ to the requests, makes the commitments, the appointments, and yes… the stress. It is you who has decided to never close your door and who lets every person who casts a shadow in your office interrupt you. When you accept that you are accountable it makes it easier to change the pattern of overwhelm because all you have to do is change your own behavior.
Should be easy, right? All we have to do is say ‘No’ more often, make commitments with due dates that are reasonable, delegate more, schedule appointments only when needed, or block time on our calendars for things that are strategic.
However, like most things, there is a big difference between knowing what to do and doing it.
I like to use losing 10lbs as an example. We know how to do it. We need to skip a few of the in between meal snacks, eat better at meals, and exercise regularly. The problem is we tend to grab the cookie on the counter as we pass by, go for seconds at dinner, and drive by the gym on our way home.
What makes us say “Yes” to things when we know we should say “No”? It can vary from person to person. We may want to have an identity with others that is caring, kind, and generous; and fear that saying “No” would run counter to that image. The truth is, if we ARE caring, kind, and generous.; if we truly believe that we are, then saying “No”, when we need to say “No” won’t change our relationships with others.
Saying “No” can be uncomfortable. we have been taught to put others ahead of ourselves and it seems like a selfish thing to turn someone away so that we have time for the things we feel are important. Keeping a balance in our lives is not selfish, it is critical to our effectiveness and success. When we am balanced, our purpose, values, and beliefs align with our actions. There is room in our lives for family, friends, books, reflection, exercise, personal learning…all the things that, along with work, fuel our hearts and souls. If we do not pay attention to ourselves, we bring less and less to others.
Another way to look at this is to think about value. If we do not value ourselves, our time, and our talents, then others will not value us either. We will be taken for granted, just as we take ourselves for granted.
Knowing that we are accountable for our overwhelm and shedding the role of victim, being deliberate about the commitments we make, having the courage to say “No” when necessary, staying true to our purpose and not allowing ourselves to be distracted from it, valuing ourselves and our time, and understanding the importance of balance to our overall effectiveness as leaders…is the foundation and ground from which we create a new way of being in the world.