Life-Work Balance for School Leaders

Jan 20, 2017 by

The work of a building administrator is never done. But should that consume the school leader?

A principal could very easily become overwhelmed by the endless meetings, events, phone calls and students that continually need attention. In order to maintain a balance between life and work, a leader must establish non-negotiables, set limits and of course maintain their personal identity. 


There will always be tasks awaiting completion whether it is creating a staff meeting agenda, meeting with a group of students that are searching approval for an event or curriculum revisions that need the time and attention of a building principal. The first step for a principal is recognizing and accepting the reality that the list of tasks will continually evolve. It is the norm that a new list of tasks will be added for every job that was checked off the day. As many teachers leave the classroom to become building leaders it can be quite uncomfortable leaving school at the end of the day knowing there are already 4-5 new items that need attention the next day. Establishing some non-negotiables will allow the building leader to have some piece of mind when leaving the office for the evening.

These terms may differ for each administrator based on priorities and leadership philosophies. One example may be that the principal does not allow email notifications on their personal devices beginning at a set time in the evening until the next morning. As long as staff and superintendent are made aware of this standard, this allows the principal to truly have time away to recharge and prepare for the next day. Other non-negotiables may be whether emails will be responded to over the weekend or clearly established office hours in which he/she is available for meetings. Whatever the non-negotiables may be, it is important that they are clearly communicated to co-workers. Once these are established and communicated, a building leader must be consistent with adhering to the standards set. See this article for practical steps to take at work and at home.

Set Limits

It can be very easy for a building leader to quickly become submerged in the various tasks required to be successful. It is critical that clear limits be set in regards to management of time, schedules, personal commitments and technology use. In order to set these limits a leader needs to be disciplined to maintain the guidelines, he/she determines. Intentionally identifying specific timeframes for parent or teacher meetings or times in which the office closes in evening to ensure family commitments are met are crucial to maintaining life/work balance.

Setting these limits on a weekly basis and sticking to them can be difficult as there will always be a phone ringing after the office lights go out or a teacher asking for 5 minutes of time as you are walking out to make your child’s recital on time. If the lines of these limits are blurred, it will become impossible to maintain harmony among work and home. See this article for some tips on setting limits.

Lost Identity

The role of a building leader should not become the sole identity of an educational leader. The intentional practice of adhering to the non-negotiables and setting limits will allow for personal commitments to be met, the participation in healthy practices and engagement in special interests or hobbies. These facets are equally as important as work responsibilities in maintaining a continual ebb and flow of career and personal peace as a building leader. See this article on how our work should not define us and having a holistic identity.

Comment: What are some limits you set to help maintain a balance between work and life? Please share in the comments below.

Keywords: Educational Leadership, Work Life Balance, Career Identity


Mentalhealthamericanet. (2017). Mental Health America. Retrieved from:

Tulipano, R. (August 20, 2015). 5 reasons why your work Doesn’t define you. Retrieved from Career:

Uscher, J. (2011). 5 Tips for Better Work-Life Balance. Retrieved from WebMD:

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