With issues such as these to wrestle with, it's obviously very hard for school leaders to relax. You can turn the BlackBerry off, throw the iPad under the sofa and unplug the computer, but the problems don't evaporate. For a lot of people, it's better just to keep plugging away, letting the flow of information continue to flood over you as you slowly try to tackle one matter after another.
Of course, the holiday work is just a continuation or an overspill from the routine workload during term time. This talk of work-life balance is all very well, but there isn't much of a distinction in practice: school life is all-consuming and ever-present. I find that within a few minutes of arriving home I'm thinking about how soon I can get to the computer, when really I should be engaging with my family, eating and perhaps watching a bit of television, just to change gear and try to have a life. But the to-do list is always nagging away at the back of my mind.
Strategies for staying sane
So how can school leaders keep their heads above water? My way of reducing the workload to something manageable is deciding what I'm not going to do. Corners simply have to be cut. I don't go to all the meetings I'm supposed to: they're never-ending. And with 900 student reports to read and comment on each year, isn't it reasonable that they are not quite as personal as the parents might have liked? Other things just fall by the wayside. The email follow-up rule is a way of life for me: if people are really bothered, they will chase it up; if not, time will pass and the issue will fix itself. The trick is to be relaxed about this, to accept it.
My other strategy is to block out time for key tasks. Very occasionally, I create a "leave early" event in Outlook and do what my diary tells me.
Last summer, I dropped my BlackBerry in a river. My wife was delighted and we had a much better holiday than we otherwise would have done. I can see a similar "accident" happening this Christmas - perhaps that's the only way to switch off.
Tom Sherrington is headteacher of King Edward VI Grammar School in Chelmsford, England.