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What Are Your Critical Few (and Trivial Many)?

It is vital that school leaders know the ‘critical few’ actions that they undertake each week that lead to the majority of their results. Whilst there are MANY things that school leaders do each week, some activities are critical and many are trivial. Identifying and protecting the critical few things that you do each week is essential to being highly effective.

The Pareto Principle (named after Italian engineer Vilfredo Pareto) states that 80% of consequences come from 20% of the causes. The Pareto Principle is often referred to as the 80 / 20 rule. Under the 80 / 20 rule, it is argued that 20 % of your tasks or activities or time, lead to 80% of your success. Accurately identifying the 20% of your work that leads to 80% of your results is the first part of the challenge.

As a Principal, I believed that the following three activities or times of the day lead to 80% of my effectiveness.

The one hour before school starts in the morning is a key time when staff come looking for a leader. Often this is for a decision on a matter that is important to them. It is vitally important that, wherever possible leaders are available to their staff for these discussions and decisions. If leaders are off site or locked away in meetings it creates a blockage for those staff members who are seeking input.

The 15 minutes at pick up time at the end of the day is an important time for visibility and availability to parents (and students). Being at the school gate as parents arrive and students leave is a great time for both the visibility of leaders and incidental conversations that can prevent a bushfire sparking by identifying potential issues early or nipping in the bud some misinformation that is circulating. If your school is currently in lockdown and providing learning remotely, what is an alternate approach for the virtual school gate?

Staff meetings are an important time for getting everyone on the same page and focused on the school’s priorities and building a united and consistent approach to the current challenges being faced. It is therefore vital that staff and team meetings are an effective use of people’s time. Investing time in being prepared and well planned for these important events is essential. One way to increase your focus on these meetings is to consider the Return On Investment (ROI) of your meetings, especially the investment of time. If you have 20 staff attending an hour long meeting then the outcomes should match the 20 man hours invested. I know I can get A LOT done in 20 hours. Are you getting that benefit from the hour long meeting of 20 staff?

The critical few activities will depend on your role with the school. From the many things that you do each week, which are the critical ones that lead to 80% of your results?

The second part of the challenge of endeavouring to harness knowledge of your critical few is to protect and utilise that time. Once you have identified your critical few, it is important to protect them and harness their power. For example, I would try to avoid committing to meetings before 8.45 am in the morning and try to make a note in my diary to get out to the school gate five minutes before pick up time. It wasn’t always possible but if I didn’t make a conscious plan it wasn’t likely to happen. What are your critical few times of the day and how can you plan to harness them?