As we settle into the 2021–22 school year, it is undoubtedly easy to find ourselves challenged in the area of wellness. The demands of the principalship have overrun the physical, social, mental, emotional, and spiritual goals we intended to prioritize for our wellness. An endless task list, late nights, early mornings, professional and personal responsibilities have edged out time to care for ourselves. Yet, as administrators, the need to carve out time for self-care is critical to sustainable leadership.

While the topic of wellness has risen to the forefront of conversations particularly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we still find ourselves struggling to balance and make time for personal well-being in our daily schedules. However, as leaders, we have been entrusted to care for our staff and students, but it will become more difficult for us to serve these individuals if we are not taking care of ourselves. We need to prioritize our own wellness to support our teams and those we lead.

Prioritize Time

Guiding yourself through a time audit is likely to gain some precious time back into your day. How are you spending your time? Are your notifications turned on so each email can be addressed as it hits your inbox? Do you find yourself engaging in mind-numbing activities such as incessant scrolling of your social media feeds? Take back control of your time. Consider what is most urgent and prioritize it. In your daily schedule, what is bringing the greatest value or impact? Elevate it. What is bringing the least? Delete it. Maximizing time by removing the nonessential items is a significant opportunity to gain time for truly restorative opportunities that will impact physical, social, emotional, and mental wellness.

Set Boundaries

We live in a society where we are constantly connected. However, setting boundaries to prioritize disconnection aids in our overall wellness (and that of our teachers and other stakeholders). Have you been frustrated by receiving a late-night email? Did you find yourself reluctantly responding out of obligation? Consider when you are sending and responding to emails and set boundaries for communication and connectivity. Staff will likely breathe a sigh of relief if you let them know you will not send an email past 5:00 p.m., and you will not send an email over the weekend unless it is an emergency.

Are you working through meals? Are you sacrificing sleep and rest so that you might be able to check one more thing off that never-ending to-do list? These are usually easy to sacrifice, yet the cost to our wellness can be significant.

Do you have a difficult time saying “no”? Not all requests are intended for your “yes.” Saying “no” will allow you to say “yes” to better things—those things that will further your personal and professional visions and missions.


Delegating certain tasks and responsibilities will open availability within your schedule. Consider what you can and should be delegating. What can you offload? Delegating will improve your efficiency and help you manage your time more effectively. You are not only freeing up space in your schedule but also creating opportunities for others to sharpen their leadership skills as they take on new responsibilities.

Give Attention to What You’re Thinking About

As administrators, it is easy to slide into being overly critical of the work we do. We earnestly desire to improve ourselves and those around us to improve outcomes for all, but often we are our own worst critics. What’s your inner critic saying? Do you find that you are criticizing yourself unnecessarily or blaming yourself unfairly? Rein it in. Reframing our thoughts around events of the day, circumstances, and challenges will deeply impact overall wellness. The Verywell Mind website ( suggests, “If you find yourself mentally reviewing some unpleasant event or outcome, consciously try to redirect your attention elsewhere and engage in an activity that brings you joy.”

Take Care of Yourself

We know that it is so important to take care of our bodies, minds, and souls each day. Basic self-care strategies like regularly exercising, taking time to rest when you need it, staying hydrated, eating right, practicing mindfulness, and getting enough sleep are all touchstones of self-care and can lead to greater wellness and resiliency. As you audit your day, where can you build in some of these practical self-care strategies? What is one thing you can add to your schedule? Perhaps you can subscribe to a meal delivery service or meal prep every Sunday
for the week ahead. Or find a workout or accountability partner to encourage and challenge you in these practices.

Connect With Others

Psychotherapist, writer, and teacher Dan Robertswrites in his blog post Why Humans Need Connection, “Humans are born wired for connection—it’s in our DNA, as strong a need as food, water, and warmth.” The role of administration can be lonely. Often, we are the only principal within our building, and time with other administrators in the district is often filled with meeting agendas that leave little time for genuine connection. Find your people. Connect with other like-minded colleagues. Ask them to grab a coffee or dinner with you. Then, go beyond surface-level conversation. Be vulnerable and have intentional, generative dialogue.

If you have had difficulty finding nearby connection, look to grow your PLN using social media outlets such as Twitter. Follow other administrators, organizations such as NASSP, or your state’s education association. Search hashtags such as leadLAP or #edleadership. These outlets can not only bring knowledge and insight but also can create friendship and a sense of collegiality you might be missing.

What Truly Restores You?

Recognizing what truly restores and breathes new life back into us will guide us to wellness far better than indulging, binging, or numbing ever will. What is one small thing that brings you joy? Perhaps it is an unrushed cup of coffee, being in nature, or reading a novel. The things that produce joy do not need to be extensive, costly, or time-consuming, but they do need to be scheduled. If we do not schedule them, we push toward exhaustion and burnout, and we are not the best versions of ourselves.

Schedule Wellness

What we add to our schedules or planners is often what we give time to. As you audit your schedule, consider where you can carve out 10, 20, or 30 minutes to build wellness back into your calendar. Then, schedule it. Hold it sacred, and make it happen as frequently as it is on your calendar.

Sustainable leadership and better wellness are within our reach. Considering how we spend our time, delegating, evaluating what we are continuously thinking about, and setting boundaries will give way for the opportunity to engage in self-care practices, connect with others, and do things that are restorative innature and lead to our well-being and the ability to sustain ourselves in the leadership roles in which we serve.\

Haley Street is the assistant principal at Holly Middle School in Holly, MI. She is also the 2021 Michigan Assistant Principal of the Year.