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Do this, Not That

The expectations of school leaders continue to grow each year. Whilst we often add more tasks to the “To Do” list we rarely delete tasks. We can end up working even longer hours and moving further away from the Nirvana of “work-life balance”. Whilst we often hear the term “work smarter, not harder”, it can be hard to put into action.

The following list from Education Week is a great tool for reflecting on how we currently use the limited time we have available.

1.) Define the job. Know your role and what you want to accomplish. Set goals based on your role and prioritize the tasks that will get you there. Don’t be distracted by interruptions that aren’t aligned with your or your school’s goals and mission.
2.) Delegate. Appoint first responders—experts to handle specific issues. A secretary can tackle communications, organize your schedule and streamline paperwork. The assistant principal or deputy (if you have one) can handle discipline and parental complaints. Now you are freer to observe classrooms, give teachers feedback and focus on instruction.
3.) Schedule what’s important. Schedule classroom observations, face-to-face time with teachers, and projects focused on learning. Unless there’s a true emergency, stick to activities that lead to better teaching and learning.
4.) Calendar everything. Create a “lesson plan” that includes what you want to get done each day. Block out time to read, check email or prepare for a school council meeting. Create a “later” list for the things you can’t get to right now but are nonetheless important.
5.) Be intentional. You ask teachers to plan for the year, do the same. Where do you want to be at the end of the school year? What do you need to do to get there? What meetings do you have to set up? Make a plan and follow it through the year. This allows you to be less reactive.
6.) Tame email. Be disciplined about email, only reading and responding at specific times. Don’t respond immediately or people will expect instant replies. Set an outgoing message that says you’re in classrooms and directs people to other staff who can help. And, the fewer emails you send, the fewer you will receive.
7.) Arrive early. If a teacher has a minor issue or concern, you can deal with it at the beginning of the school day rather than during the day when it will take a lot more time.
8.) Follow closing routine. Take time before you leave for the day to reflect and plan for meetings the following day.
9.) Have a buddy. Make sure you’ve got a colleague or group to turn to for advice, an outside perspective, or support—especially on tough days.
10.) Practice self-care. Take time to rest and recharge. Take a hike. An exhausted principal is no good to anyone. As one principal put it, Don’t forget to breathe.  “Breathing is a really good thing,” she said.
Source: Education Week interviews and research