Work-Life Balance Continued…….Sending/Receiving E-mails

Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well. Then youth will be delightful, old age will bring few regrets, and life become a beautiful success, in spite of poverty.

~Louisa May Alcott (From Little Women)~


Yesterday’s  post seemed to spark quite a bit of interest.  It is amazing how much this topic comes up…how often we actually talk about it but how little we put it into practice.  Detriment to our health or any other drastic life event, should not be the impetus that gets us to make these crucial changes to our working life.  It is time to implement these changes now……it really could save your life……it will definitely save your sanity.

So, I told you that I leave at least two times a week by 3:45, to make sure that I am home when my children are dropped off after school.  That is one of my rules that I now keep steadfast to.  There are some other guidelines that I try to adhere to as well…

Sending and receiving e-mails can take up a large majority of time during your day.  Often, we can be tied to our computers or our phones and constantly at the beckon call of anyone trying to get in touch with us.  Why have we allowed this to happen?  Quickly, we have ended up in a place where there actually seems to be no clear divide between work and home.  This is dangerous.

I have worked with some colleagues who never use e-mail, to those who send e-mails at every hour of the day.  I log off my e-mail when I leave work and try to limit looking at it again.  I also make sure that I only log-in to my e-mail at certain points in the day because as a head you could end up sitting at your computer all day responding/sending e-mails.  So much time can be drained by doing this.  Therefore, I have particular times during the day in which I sit down and focus just on clearing my e-mail accounts.  I also try to make sure that I never send e-mails to colleagues outside of school hours.  My rule of thumb is that an e-mail should not be sent to a teacher if it requires action by the following day.  This requires a conversation.

Nothing should become so urgent that an e-mail must be sent in the evening to teachers regarding the following day’s activities.  If I had to do this, I would then question how clear my channels of communication were in my school.  If an e-mail is sent from a senior leader to a fellow teacher, that ‘fellow teacher,’ if they happen to see the e-mail that same evening, feel obliged to answer immediately.  Very often an e-mail conversation ensues.  When teachers are home away from school, we should not put them in this position.

Again, it is about modelling effective work/life balance…..sending e-mails, but further actually expecting teachers to have read them the same evening we have sent them, is inappropriate.  I cannot tell you how many times I have debated this issue with those (in SLT positions!) who do expect people to check and act upon e-mail every evening!  This ethos must be changed…..however, very often it is only you who can change it.  Turn off your e-mail at a certain time……My husband said I should begin responding to e-mails the day after they had been sent so that people begin expecting me not to reply immediately…I have to say that this was a fantastic trick! So often you get tied into an e-mail conversation that could have been quicker with a phone call!  It helps as well if you have been sent an e-mail that stirs up emotion (anger, excitement, etc), to allow a day to compose your reply clearly and calmly.

Think about your e-mail habits….are you always connected?  Do you expect responses to your e-mails immediately?

How can you change your e-mail habits so that you stop wasting time sifting through all of your e-mails?

Turn your e-mail off and give yourself a moment to ‘switch off’ from it all……

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