Ask Anna – The End of the Summer

Dear Anna, I love my job as an SBM, but I absolutely hate going back after the summer holiday. It’s got so bad that again this year I know I will I spend the whole last week of the summer feeling anxious and worrying about all the work I’ve got to do when we start back, all the catching up I need to do and all the emails waiting for me to answer. Is there a way of stopping this from happening every year? Tina Termtime

Hi Tina,

Fundamentally, we SBMs are creatures of routine and habit, and this personality trait is one of the reasons we are so good at our jobs. We are able to manage the weekly, monthly and annual cycles involved in the school business functions, we are excellent at prioritising when curve balls are thrown our way, we can manage and lead our teams through inevitable conflicting demands and our brains are capable of seeing the way through the change process. However, a downside to all this is that if you switch it all off  for a while our brain begins to panic that it might never find a way back.

Believe me, you are not alone in this.

In my first few years as an SBM I experienced exactly what you are going through. I got to the point that I would actually avoid taking time off because I was so worried I would forget how to do my job. This is not the answer. Every SBM needs some downtime. Sometimes it is enforced with a term time only contract, others have holiday entitlement. It is important that you take it. Not only for your own wellbeing but also to set a good example to your team. It is also, I think, not good to encourage an expectation that you are always going to be there!

Eventually, I decided that I needed some proper tools to help me through this;

  1. Keep reminding yourself that you love your job and you are damn good at it. Put a sticker on your fridge, a screensaver on your phone or write it in big letters in your notebook.
  2. Find ways of distracting yourself from worrying about it if you know the last week is difficult. Book a holiday, arrange to meet friends, plan a family outing or just save for a shopping trip. If you have something that you are looking forward to at the end of that last week you can use it as a focus for positivity.
  3. Don’t neglect the usual wellbeing tools, get lots of sleep, exercise, eat well, practice mindfulness. Again if you concentrate on this you won’t be worrying about Monday morning.
  4. On the first day back plan to be extra gentle with yourself. This one works especially well for me and I use it after most breaks that are longer than a weekend. I find that if I accept that I’m going to break myself in gently, not expect to do a lot of work, but just potter for the first few hours and see where the day takes me, I end up settling in much more quickly. Have a wander around the site, say hello to colleagues, sit at your desk, shuffle paper, drink coffee, whatever works for you. The work, emails, backlog, meeting arrangements and demands on your time will still be there when you are back up to full speed.
  5. Finally, remember how you felt on the last week of term before the summer. You were energised, enthusiastic, inspired, creative and professional. In a few short hours you will feel like that again. It’s inevitable. You are an SBM.

You’ve got this.

If you’d like to ‘Ask Anna’ please email All emails will be read and I hope to be able to answer some of them via this blog.

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