Getting off the treadmill

I was pretty excited when at the age of 55 years old I was sitting in a session with Mark Treadwell and he said that age 55 - 60 were the most productive years in a person’s life. I decided then and there to make the most of this period of time and be as productive as possible. I also really liked what he said about things falling out of your head being a sign of great intelligence; because if that is the case, then I am incredibly intelligent. Things like spelling, homophones and possessive apostrophes are definitely falling out – and I have always been pedantic about these things. You might notice this at some point in my posts. Please do not judge me.

Well, recently I turned 58 years old and I wonder whether, in spite of my vow, I really have been as productive as possible. Life and overwhelming busyness somehow seem to have got in the way. Schools are very busy places; principalship even more so. This was brought home to me when an associate principal, who was doing my job for a few days, bemoaned the fact that she did not get anything on her list done in that time. She had thought she was busy as an associate principal, but could not believe the constant interruptions that required her immediate attention when she sat in my chair. The work we do during the day is necessary, but not necessarily productive or always positive as we react to everything that is thrown at us.

That is why I have to work early in the morning or even through the night – to try to get the sense of being productive and having control over my time and workload. I love working within the cloak of darkness, when the rest of the house is still and silent. I feel short changed when someone else gets up early and patters around the house. My bubble has been broken and life imposes itself once again. People think I am mad because I work in the night, but in my busy life, that is when I am most productive and get the most joy from what I do. It allows me to reset, gain perspective and approach the future with confidence and the right attitude.

Fortunately as you grow older, it seems you do not need as much sleep as you once did. However, I know this is not a particularly healthy way to live a life – especially when you then go on to do a big day of work and family living and there is no respite. I am tired.

For years, the Board Chair and my mentors/coaches have been encouraging me to do more of my work offsite to find the time to focus and get in flow; and as much as I have wanted to do this, it has never quite seemed doable or the right time.

“So the urgent drives out the important; the future goes largely unexplored; and the capacity to act, rather than the capacity to think and imagine, becomes the sole measure of leadership” (Competing for the Future, Hamel & Prahalad, 1994, p. 5).

However, towards the end of last year, my coach and long-time mentor, Dr Jan Robertson, challenged me to make 2017 the year when I finally did what the Board Chair has been encouraging me to do - step back a little, work off site more, and take time to think, imagine, and write.

So here I am, on a beautiful, calm, early autumnal day, with time and space to think and imagine, explore the past, present and future and be productive (in a less manic way!). It is the right time for me – my two youngest children have both left home for university this year. While family always places demands on parents, I am now freer than I have ever been since my eldest child was born in 1984. It is also the right time for Amesbury School. Staff are more than ready for increased leadership and are more than capable of running the school and responding to the daily challenges that present themselves. This is an opportunity for them to grow and develop; and is essential for succession planning.

I plan to share my journey - the thoughts, feelings, revelations and imaginings, particularly in relation to leadership and education (my great passion) but from time-to-time on life in general - on this Blog, with the hope that it might just make things better for someone in some small way.