Avoiding Principal Burnout: How to Love the Job Again

avoiding principal burnout

In education, there’s a lot of talk about preventing teacher burnout–and for good reason. But burnout isn’t a phenomenon that’s exclusive to teachers. It happens to administrators too. With all of the pressures placed on school leaders, avoiding principal burnout isn’t easy.

Research suggests that about 50% of new principals leave their jobs within five years. Many of them leave the field altogether when they go. Between concerns about budgeting, test scores, bullying, school safety, and much more, it’s no surprise that staying motivated and inspired is a challenge.

In this post, we’ll share a few strategies you can use to avoid principal burnout and love the job again.

5 Tips for Avoiding Principal Burnout

A study published in Social Psychology of Education found that the leading causes of principal burnout are demands from parents, stress linked to poor teacher performance, and overload of administrative tasks.

Use these strategies to manage major challenges and restore the joy in school leadership.

1. Remember your “why.”

When you decided to become a principal, what was your reasoning? What did you want to accomplish? Why did you want to lead?

Once you get lost in the day-to-day challenges of school leadership, it’s easy to forget your initial motivation. That “why” was your spark and passion for this difficult work. When you lose sight of it, your chances of burning out increase greatly.

So, rediscover your “why.” Then ask yourself if your current work contributes to your inner purpose. If not, make adjustments. When you walk in your purpose, you’ll feel rejuvenated and inspired.

2. Build positive relationships with parents.

Difficult and demanding parents frequently contribute to principal burnout. So, get proactive and build positive relationships with your families.

Here’s how:

  • Establish expectations about policies and procedures upfront.
  • Keep parents in the loop. Send home a newsletter, update your school’s social media regularly, host family events, etc.
  • Avoid contacting parents only when their children are in trouble. Have positive interactions too, and encourage your teachers to do the same.
  • When parents approach you with an issue, try to listen without judgment. Acknowledge their concerns before offering suggestions. It seems simple, but active listening and empathy go a long way.

Your job runs much more smoothly when you and your parents are on the same page. For more ideas on building these important relationships, read our post on Boosting Family Engagement.

3. Hire effective educators and support their growth.

Minimize stress stemming from poor teacher performance by hiring effective educators. Start by asking these five essential questions, plus questions assessing whether the teacher is a good culture fit for your school and mission.

Next, motivate your teachers and provide them with sufficient support. Teachers are the most important factor contributing to student achievement. Investing in your teachers helps your students succeed, which helps you succeed and reduces your stress levels.

And here’s the best part: supporting your teachers doesn’t have to be hard. A few simple, yet meaningful steps include:

  • Acknowledging effort, improvement, and going above and beyond.
  • Treating teachers like professionals and giving them a voice in important decisions.
  • Creating time for collaboration, which allows teachers to support one another and share resources and best practices.
  • Providing specific, constructive feedback that guides teachers in the right direction. When offering criticism, recognize the positive and give concrete steps for improvement.
  • Listening to teacher feedback, showing that you value your teachers’ opinions. For example, place a Suggestion Box in the teacher’s lounge.

4. Manage your time.

School leaders face intimidating to-do lists that often feel overwhelming. Managing your time and maximizing your productivity reduces this feeling, making it less likely that you’ll burn out.

Be reasonable when setting your daily tasks, and prioritize. What must be done right now, and what can wait? In addition, take short breaks throughout the day to keep you refreshed.

Delegate as many tasks as possible. Some tasks can even be delegated to technology. Task management software and apps, automated emails, and calendar reminders are your friends. TUIO is here for you too! TUIO simplifies billing and payments, freeing up your time for more meaningful tasks.

For more time management strategies, read our post on 11 Essential Time Management Tips for School Leaders.

5. Practice self-care.

Last but not least, it’s important to take good care of yourself. Neglecting yourself to manage other tasks will only make you less effective, adding to your stress rather than reducing it.

Rest, eat nutritious meals, and exercise regularly. Make time for the people and hobbies that you love. As often as possible, leave school-related tasks where they belong: at school.

If you neglect self-care, you’re on the fast track to burnout. Prioritizing healthy habits and activities will help you feel rejuvenated, focused, and positive.

Final Thoughts: Avoiding Principal Burnout

As a school leader, you’re under a lot of pressure. It’s vital that you make a conscious effort to reduce issues, challenges, and stress. Otherwise, you’ll work yourself to the point of physical and mental exhaustion. When that happens, burnout is the inevitable result.

Revisit your “why” and walk in your purpose. Build strong relationships with parents and teachers, manage your time, and take good care of yourself. Remember that you’re more than a principal and that you have a life outside of school, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

Guarding against burnout isn’t selfish. It allows you to offer the best, most brilliant version of yourself to your staff, families, and students.

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