Monday, March 24, 2008

Four Steps to More Time Continued...

Effective time management helps to liberate your day. We are hired to push our schools towards best practice and to increase student learning. In our last post we discussed the joys of four simple time saving measures. Let's look at three more: appointments with Mr. Doe, color-coded note cards, and the wonders of delegation.

Appointments with Mr. Doe
Many principals come to the realization that much of their time is taken up with unplanned events. You settle into your desk ready to dive into some important issue requiring planning and thought and low and behold at your door is a teacher who has a concern that needs to be dealt with quickly. Being an open-door collaborative leader you of course make the time to hear their concern. These chronic interruptions are par for the course and necessary. Closing the door and barricading yourself in the office may help in the short run but overtime they lead to organizational dysfunction.

What if you could carve out a three to four hour chunk each week that could help you stay current on all your paperwork and ahead with planning? Think about the joy of recapturing your Saturday mornings for personal and family time. There is a way. And the way is called appointments with Mr. Doe. Here's how it works.

1. Find an isolated empty office somewhere in your building. A back out of the way conference room or an unused classroom will do just fine. You'll want to make sure you have a phone and internet access of course.
2. Have your secretary pencil into your schedule a four hour block or two two hour blocks at different times of the week. When people come looking for you she can say you are in a meeting at the moment. No disruptions = efficiency.
3. Use the time to catch up on all the exciting paper pushing that goes with being an instructional leader.
4. You can even put your coat on and grab your briefcase - giving the illusion that you are on your way to an important meeting.
5. You are present. If anyone needs you for a legitimate crisis that can't wait you are only an office or so away.

The Joys of Color Coded Notecards
On any given day a principal will have over 200 conversations or interactions with different people. Through the course of these conversations many tasks evolve. Keeping them all strait is an impossible task. An easy way to remember what you've agreed and promised to do is to keep color coded notecards in your shirt pocket. Use one color for people to contact, one for tasks, and one for reminders. When you make it back to your office just sort them into your 43 folders and into your to call / email box and newsletter / staff memo items. This way when it comes time to write the weekly memo or return email you will be on top of all the tasks that await. You will look like a nerd but remember most of our students will be working for nerds anyway.

Another useful tool is to use the free service "Jott". Jott allows you to call a number and leave a voice message that is then transcribed into text and emailed to you or whoever you designate along with a voice message. You can even manage groups. Jott is a great way for coaches to contact their teams with changing practice and game information and for teachers to relay homework assignments. And best of all it is free.

The Wonders of Delegation
Many people want to unload problems onto us. As the principal the problems should role down hill. Don't let other people unload their work or issues onto you. The work flow should flow from top to bottom. To accomplish this principals need to delegate, delegate, delegate. How many principals sped two hours over lunch doing cafeteria duty or spend hours in the summer and spring working on the master schedule? What a colossal waste of time. If someone else can do it - require them to. Teachers can cover the lunchroom and a good counseling staff can make the schedule. You are hired to be an instructional leader not the food hall monitor or schedule tinkerer.

With every task or job that comes up the question is, "Who can I give this to?" not "When will I make time for this?" If you are used to micromanaging this is a hard thing to do. Remember you are surrounded by competent willing people. Let them do the jobs they are paid to do. If the staff is to thin add more help. The Catholic model often seems to pile as many hats upon one person and expect great results. Nowhere else is this practiced so the idea that it will be successful in a Catholic school is crazy.

At the end of our days most of us will not have regrets about that Saturday of paperwork we blew off to spend time playing catch with our son or making breakfast for the family. Take the time - it's yours and you and they deserve it!


John Everett said...

Thanks for the post. I'll definitely be implementing many of the above steps. Another secret i like is having angry constituents wait twenty four hours before being granted an appointment. We don't tell them this we just schedule it for a day later. It gives them a time to calm down and leads to more pleasant meetings.

chad craghead said...

Your latest blogs are right on time. They sound as if they were taking
right out of my management classes from college. However, it never
hurts a leader to get his/her "hands dirty" every now and again, i.e
lunch room duty or teaching a class or two as a guest instructor, Coming
down from the ivory from time to time works. These things build respect
with a staff. Perception is reality. If they don't see you, they
will think you a not "working." I know it sounds crazy but so are most
staffs. Fickle they are. Also, delegation is a great idea but its
tricky. What's important is what you delegate and to whom you are delegating
it to. Keep in mind the person has to have the skill set, knowledge,
time, and the right attitude for the task or tasks at hand. Alway's a
good idea to present to that person their new tasks positively and
describe it as chance for a challenge, a "learning experience", and a
chance for personal and/or professional growth.

Chad Craghead

Anonymous said...

I appreciated your comment on Beyond School about Ice Hockey. My son is a player and I would love some blog interaction about this sport that is so addictive but costly

Dan Tully said...

As my tenth grade English teacher often told us, "Organization is the key to success." These posts demonstrate this adage's continued importance. The new tools we have at our disposal though have the ability to influence our productivity in positive and negative ways. Though we are much more accessible through e-mail and telephone messages, we also can be slowed down in our need to respond to every message. I think the importance of setting aside time to respond to messages rather than responding continuously all day as messages arrive is one of the most sound pieces of advice I have received.