Strategic Wellness

February can be a tough month to stay connected to our wellness. We’ve moved through the winter holiday season, but the days remain short, the weather can be dreary, and spring break feels like a long time away. All those resolutions you may have set in late December and early January have often fallen by the wayside by early February. While we can see signs of spring emerging (bulbs are starting to sprout, buds are arriving on trees), we’re not quite there yet. This period in education feels like two things are true at once: the path from early February to spring break is a long one, but it can feel like not enough time to squeeze everything in that must be done between now and then. Too long, yet too short.

 I’ve been reflecting lately on the noise in the human serving systems we work in. Yes, there’s the joyful noise of children shrieking and playing and laughing, but there’s that other noise: the noise of conflicting and never-ending demands on your time, energy, and focus. Everything all at once that feels urgent and important constantly.

One of the most common things I hear people in burnout say is some variation of feeling like they’re working excessively hard and making no progress: spinning my wheels, never enough, I have to be everything to everyone.

It’s just so noisy, isn’t it? How do we stay well with all that noise?

A few ideas that might help you find some proverbial earplugs so you can hone in on
maintaining your wellness while navigating the realities of educational leadership:


Dial Down the Noise (or use ear plugs!)

We can’t do everything. It’s just not possible. And the demands and pace of educational leadership are some of the fastest and most intense that exist. Educational leaders must find a way to run a marathon, but also sprint. The system may change slowly, but its people move fast. And to move fast, you can’t listen and respond to every single sound.

There is so much to pay attention to. But you have the skills you need. Think about being on the playground during supervision or walking through the halls at a high school between classes. It is noisy. There is much to pay attention to. But somehow you know what noise matters, and what noise is just that – noise. You’ve honed your skills to be able to pay attention and respond to what matters. How do you know what noise requires your response and what is just kids being kids?

It’s a particular kind of focus you’ve developed over time.

Can you transfer that skill to your other administrative duties? Can you find a way to shut out the noises that are just noises and pay attention to the most important noise? Remember, urgency doesn’t equal importance. Pay attention to the important noise.  The rest are just pings and dings on your dashboard.

Strategic Tactics

One of the mistakes we make when managing our work and wellness is that we focus too heavily on tactics and not enough on strategy. Or we have a sense of our destination (strategy) but no clear path to arrive there (tactics). We cannot separate the two and too much emphasis on one over the other can hold us back from achieving our goals.

We need to get strategic first: in the scope of wellness and work, where do you want to get to? Get clear on this. What are your wellness and work core values? What matters to you and why? What is the end result? Perhaps it’s a long and stable career with a full vibrant life of energy and connection. You get to decide what your long range goal is.

Then let’s figure out the tactics: What are the finite and specific activities that can be measured that help you move toward that goal? Tactics are time limited, specific, actionable, and measurable. If we focus too heavily on tactics and lose sight of our strategy, we struggle to maintain connection and commitment. Perhaps your tactics this year involve setting out wellness goals for the year and your plan to achieve them. Perhaps you have committed to a daily movement routine or a journaling practice or a weekly social connection at the pickleball court. Maybe you’re just focused on eating your lunch at lunchtime and not after the school bell goes.

Whatever your tactics are, ask yourself: do these fit in with my long-term strategy? If they don’t are they really the best use of your time and energy?

I often ask clients to take a step back and look at the ‘long game.’ Strategy is the long game – tactics are the daily choices we make to get there.


Identify the Difference that Makes the Difference

At work and in your wellness, instead of doing all the things find a way to focus on the ‘difference that makes the difference’ or the activities or focus that are most likely to help you achieve your goals. Usually, these things are smaller than we think. The things we do every day tend to be the things that make the biggest difference in our lives than the things we do occasionally. A key wellness tactic in this category is consistency over intensity. A daily commitment to caring for your body (maybe some 10-min body breaks sprinkled into your day and a nutritious lunch eaten mindfully) is more likely to have larger positive health effects over the long term than the once-in-a-while hot yoga class or intense run you go on. The difference that makes the difference. (Hint: this also applies to managing work activities too!)


Intentional Structure

With so much noise, and so many distractions, a tried-and-true method to dialing that down is to add structure. I think of structure like scaffolding or a blueprint – it’s something to offer a frame and a focus to our strategic tactics, but still flexible and adaptable. But without a bit of structure, we struggle to maintain our tactics. But without intention – intentional commitment – the structure will fail because all that noise will get in the way.


Find your strategy. Use tactics to focus on the difference that makes the difference. And build a structure that you approach with intention.

Please reach out to the BCPVPA EIP Program if you would like some support developing your strategy, tactics and intentional structure toward work and wellness.


With respect and admiration,

Darby Barnes

Rehabilitation Consultant
Humanworks Consulting Group

February 2024


The Humanworks EIP column appears in BCPVPA’s eNews the first Friday of each month.

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