In case of emergency fit your oxygen mask first before assisting others

If you manage, own or run a nursery, pre-school or other type of Early Years Setting, I can tell you three things about you:

  1. You love children – they make your heart warm and fuzzy, you love the sound of their laughter, you can tell at 50 paces if they need the bathroom, you know exactly what makes each of your children (in your family, and at work) roll around in hysterics, how to comfort them when they fall over, and what their favourite thing is in the world right now.
  2. You love people – your family, your friends, your team, the children in your setting, and their families and parents. Of course they get frustrating, can be demanding, and want your attention, but deep down, you want the best for people and you want them to shine.
  3. You want to learn, grow and develop – in fact you have to in order to survive. Most of the time it is a positive, empowering thing to be constantly learning, and it is extremely satisfying to see other people, both small and grown up people, also learn, develop and grow as a result of your actions. But there are times when it feels like you are constantly being buffeted by new ideas, legislation and other demands.

When things are running well or ticking along nicely, it’s easy to love what you do, and love the people you do it with, and that you do it for.

There are going to be moments when it is hard to love people, hard to Enjoy your job and hard to feel positive about learning, growing and developing.

And there are going to be times when it feels impossible.

All of us have had, are having or will have all of these moments.

We’re all human, and one of the things that caring, empathetic and lovely people like you and me have in common is we are caring, empathetic and loving.

So….  sometimes it’s really draining and hard work to look after everybody else, and you end up being at the bottom of your list of people to care about and look after.

You don’t need me to spell out why you need to fit your own oxygen mask first… but I will 😉

Take care of your own needs first, and make sure that you are OK. Or even better, feeling fabulous.

You know what a massive impact you have on your team and the people you lead and manage.

When you feel great, you hold your head up high, you greet everybody with a smile, you praise and appreciate everybody’s efforts, and you radiate positivity, energy and a “can-do” attitude.

If you are stressed, irritable, snappy or distracted, then guess what – your team will be too.

Our attitude and the way we treat others really does come back at us in bucketloads.

But more than just looking after yourself so you can help others, it’s vital to “Sharpen the Saw”.

This phrase comes from Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, but it is based on an old story of a woodcutter, or a lumberjack, or someone like that.

Here is my version of the story:

A young girl was skipping through the woods one day, looking for pine cones, twigs and other open-ended resources to put in her treasure basket at school.

Suddenly, up ahead of her she heard a faint scraping sound, and a lot of wheezing. She decided to investigate (don’t worry, it’s not THAT type of story!).

She found a very muscular, fit young man sitting collapsed against a huge tree trunk, with a massive saw stuck halfway into the trunk. He could not catch his breath – in fact he could barely move, so exhausted was he.

She immediately ran up to him to help and gave him a drink of water from her water bottle.

“Oh my gosh, are you OK?” she asked.

“Yes”, gasped the young muscle mountain, “I’m fine” because of course, he did not wish to appear weak in front of the young girl.

“What are you doing?” she asked, peering at the tree and the huge saw.

He sighed wearily and began his tale:

“I’m cutting down this tree, of course.

“I trained for many long, hard, sweaty years to build all these muscles… I worked hard at my job for years to pay for the most expensive, biggest and shiniest saw in the shop…  I gathered a team of the best tree cutters to help me… and I have been here for three weeks now…

“But to be honest, I’m f-ing knackered, and I don’t seem to be getting anywhere.

“It started off great. I arrived fresh, willing and happy with my team. We were all singing, chatting, having a laugh… we would merely nudge the saw and it cut through the wood like a knife through butter… It sounded so smooth and sharp.

“I was sailing in at 10:00, having a long, leisurely lunch, then working till 3:00 so I could pick my son up from school…

“But then things started slowing down.

“I started staying later and later, not leaving until we shut at 6:30pm so I could get everything done. But honestly, that didn’t feel like it was having much of an impact.

“So I started getting in earlier and earlier, at 7:00am, and told my team that I would open up and start us off so they didn’t have to. I thought I was making life easier for them and that they would appreciate how much I was doing on their behalf.

“My team left two and a half weeks ago, muttering about having lives to get on with, and how I wasn’t any fun to be around any more. Ungrateful people 😦

“I tried pushing the saw from the opposite side on my own, but it kept sticking and I kept falling against the tree and bruising myself.

“So for the last two weeks I  have been working flat out 7:00am till 6:30pm Monday to Friday, then staying at weekends too to get a bit more done….

“And now here I am: I’m exhausted, I have no team, my family haven’t seen me for days, and the saw hasn’t moved even an inch further along than it was last week!!!!”

The young girl looked at the muscular man, with his fine saw, and his crushed and defeated attitude and she could feel his frustration and his loss of hope.

“Look,” she said, “it’s going to sound really, really, simple, and I am only a young, inexperienced child, but, have you thought of…”

“Yes?” asked the keen muscly man…

“Have you thought of stopping to sharpen the saw?” 🙂

So yes, it’s obvious, but not when you are stuck in that cycle of being exhausted, run off your feet, worn out and fed up.

Stop to sharpen your saw. That doesn’t mean just drop it, run away for a wild weekend, come back, pick it up and try to carry on where you left off.

It means work out how to refresh your saw (I mean you by the way. The saw is you!). How to polish it so it is gleaming. How to get the sharp edge back so that it is easy to be you again, and so you can do what you need to do with ease, with comfort and with style.

For me, it’s about making time to enjoy being with my family and friends. It’s about having late night discussions putting the world to rights. It’s about gratitude, and appreciating other people. It’s about reading a book, blog or facebook post that gives me a new way of looking at an old problem. It’s about keeping  fresh, keen and sharp.

If you want to keep yourself sharp and up to date, sign up to my mailing list. It’s free, I will not share your information with anyone else, and you can unsubscribe at any time 😊

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  1. Thank you for this post, this is just what I needed to read and perfect !! Thank you – I am now most certainly be following!


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