Rafael was the school principal of a large metropolitan primary school.   

Every day Rafael would have a stream of students, parents, teachers and support staff entering his office for queries, guidance or to let off steam.  

He prided himself on his “open door policy” but the problem was while everyone elses needs were being met, Rafael was struggling to get his work done

Coming home late was a normal occurrence, and the Sunday afternoon preparation time for the week ahead was getting earlier and earlier. Most weekends these days he was working from 10am on a Sunday.  

Rafael admitted that he was feeling exhausted by his job, and worse, starting to doubt his abilities due to his inability to get “caught up”.  He thought he was on the cusp of burnout and reached out for some coaching support.  

I suggested to Rafael he establish some “protected time”.  A routine where he closes his door so he can focus on his own work and ultimately reduce his out of normal work hours’ time as a result.  

Rafael was challenged by this notion.  

But I need to be there for people” he pleaded.  “They expect me to be available to them.  

I gently started to challenge the internal stories Rafael was buying into.  

“But I’m well known for my open-door policy, I don’t want my people to think I don’t care about them.”  

I reassured Rafael that I understood his concerns and responded:

“If you are available for your people 95% of the working week, do you think it is reasonable that you take just 5% for you as protected time?”  

(2 hours in an average working week of 40 hours is 5%.  Given Rafael was averaging nearer to 60 hours the actual time he was struggling to take for himself was more like 3%.)   

Rafael exhaled.  “Well, actually when you put it like that, it doesn’t seem much.”  

“If in that two hours you write the school newsletter that you’re now doing on Sunday mornings, you will regain two hours of family time every weekend.”  

Rafael’s eyes lit up.   

Starting small like this is the best way to establish a protected time routine, particularly if it feels challenging.

Start with 1 x 2 hour block per week and build up from there if you find it works for you and those around you.

Establishing a successful protected time routine requires three things:

1) Communicating in advance to those around you of what you are doing and why
2) Being clear on the conditions in which you can be interrupted; and
3)  Holding firm to your boundaries and not sacrificing your protected time for others; or allowing others to disregard your protected time slot.

Changing a habit is always hard, but when your existing pattern of work is not serving you well there are only two choices.

1. Continue your path to burnout; or
2. Try something new.

What’s your choice?

Tanya Heaney-Voogt

Director & Principal Consultant
MBA, ICFACC, MAHRI, Dip Mgt, Dip Coaching, Prosci® Certified Change Practitioner
E: tanya@tanyaheaneyvoogt.com

Recent Blogs

The Advantages of Playing to Your Strengths

It is a cliché to ‘Know your strengths’. We see it emblazoned across LinkedIn platforms, job advertisements, newsletters and other media. Leaders use it. Sports coaches scream, ‘Play to your strengths’, and we all smile and nod as though we know what they are talking...

Why is change so hard?

I received an email recently from someone I don’t know very well directing me to do something.  Not asking, but telling.  It was curt and commanding and it made me bristle.  It also made me dig my heals in and not want to do what I was being asked.  There were no...

Seven Ways to Model Safe & Effective Leadership

Are you a safe and effective leader? Safe and Effective Leaders have a dual focus on people and outcomes.  They understand that the two have a symbiotic relationship and the needs of both must be met. Safe and Effective Leaders step up to the plate to have those...

Wellbeing Washing; All Talk, No Action

I’m sure there’s a group of creatives in a room somewhere coming up with snappy phrases for modern workplace woes - quiet quitting, well-being washing etc etc... However we want to label it, this post below by Adam Morris speaks to the crux of the matter in that if we...

“My boss’s capacity for work is extraordinary. But she seems to think that’s normal and expects us all to function in the same way.” – Workload Management Tips

“My boss’s capacity for work is extraordinary.  But she seems to think that’s normal and expects us all to function in the same way.” It’s easy to fall into this trap as a leader, and I’ve certainly been guilty of this in my early leadership career, not realizing my...

“I’m struggling with my workload. What can I do?” – Workload Management Tips

I’m struggling with my workload. When I raised concerns with my manager they said “That’s just the job. We’re all busy.”  What can I do? There’s often a waterfall effect taking place in workplaces in regard to workload.  Chances are your manager is also struggling...

“I have a team member who keeps telling me they’re bored. What can I do?” – Workload Management Tips

“I have one team member who keeps telling me they’re bored.  They still have plenty on their plate and I don’t want to give them anything more as I’m worried I’ll overload them.  What can I do?” Our ideal state of work utilisation, generally speaking, is “active”....

Can you achieve high levels of ‘mastery’ in your role? Find out!

Can you achieve high levels of ‘mastery’ in your role? Find out! We've all heard phrases such as 'master your role' or 'I've mastered my job', but what does 'mastery' really mean and how is it linked to improved job satisfaction? Mastery is a component of good work...

Anticipatory Grief & Emotional Turmoil of Supporting Ageing Parents

Today, October 10th, is World Mental Health Day. According to the World Health Organisation this day is for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma.  In recognition of the spirit of this day and particularly in the remaining...

Can A.I. Help Leaders Support Team Mental Wellbeing?

Can A.I Help Leaders Support Team Mental Wellbeing? I can't quite believe I’m writing about A.I.  I feel like I’ve only just established a semi harmonious relationship with Siri. But it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge this “thing” that whilst I’m sure has...