My wife Dawn and I like to take walks together. I always knew when school was out, because I was actually listening to what she was saying to me and not running all of the scenarios in my head! There should definitely be a support group for significant others to help them understand the work of educational leaders. You would think after 27 years of marriage and 32 years of being in this work, Dawn and I would have it figured out. But as you know, each year produces its different set of challenges, new mandates, directives, new implementation and learning to be had.
In a survey of principals that flushed out perceived priorities versus actual priorities it was found that:
· Principals felt that ALL responsibilities of their job were important
· No matter how much principals emphasized a task, they felt like they should be doing more
· School climate was the highest priority for principals
· Principals recognized the need to improve time management
· The numerous responsibilities of principals make the job tremendously stressful
The work of a principal like that of a teacher is never finished. As a group of overachievers and perfectionists, principals have high expectations of their teachers, their schools, and themselves. Despite fewer resources, a higher focus on accountability, and much less support, principals continue to work harder to achieve perfection, and not necessarily living a well-balanced life. Principals are racing to the classroom, which is good, but feeling overtired, overburdened, and overwhelmed hiding under piles of paperwork and unable to manage everything.
How can principals be working so hard and still not achieve the expected academic achievement? In an article entitled The Big Rocks: Priority Management for Principals, Kim Marshall says that principals are afflicted with two diseases: HSPD(Hyperactive Superficial Principal Disorder and PAUT(Putting Aside Unpleasant Tasks). Time is spent on tasks considered urgent, but not important and principals put off the unpleasant tasks that leave them burdened with looming deadlines. He suggests that too much time is spent on all of the wrong things and not enough time on the right things. His suggestion is to prioritize and strategically schedule the top 2 or 3 priorities in your calendar each and every day. If job #1 of every principal is to ensure high quality teaching in every classroom, then walkthroughs, coaching, and feedback become the first priority to schedule. Motivation and organizational guru Stephen Covey said it best: “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
Ari Meisler in his book Less Doing, More Living: Make Everything in Life Easier starts by describing the Pareto principle better known as the 80/20 rule, where for many events 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Translation: 80% of the principal’s time is spent because of 20% of the students, teachers, parents, etc. He suggests further that 95% of work can be optimized, automated, or outsourced and that we are directly responsible for only 5% of the work. In the principal’s case, job one is ensuring high level teacher quality in every classroom. So the 5% is supporting, coaching, motivating, and providing resources for teachers.
I am sure that you have found it impossible to do it all and feel good about the outcome of everything that is expected. And, with it has come the cost of your own personal wellness, time for self, time with family, etc. I got better at attending to this as I gained experience, but as one parent said to me, “I tell people that you are a principal that is all in!” He is right; I was all in, for my kids, my teachers, my school and my school district, but not always for my family and me.
I was able to learn some strategies over time that helped me be more productive and work smarter. Most recently, I have done some great reading and gleaned what I think are some excellent strategies to implement that will make the job of getting to the 5% a little easier. Not perfect, but a little easier. And if you try some of these out next year, even the marathon run to the end of the next school year might not leave you so exhausted.
I hope you will join me at the MEMSPA Summer Institute for a session that I am presenting called Work Smarter, Not Harder! Manage and Reclaim Time, Manage Stress, and Create a Healthy Lifestyle! You will learn how to change the culture, set priorities, take control of your calendar, cluster work to manage Hyperactivity Principal Disorder, learn some really cool technology productivity tools that will help you digitally get organized and free your brain to do the creative thinking that you need to do in order to maximize your work output. Finally, you will learn some calming techniques that can be applied during the workday to reduce stress!
If you haven’t registered for the MEMSPA Summer Institute from Tuesday, August 5 through Wednesday, August 6 click here: MEMSPA Summer Institute I hope to see you in Bay City! Thanks for letting me share with you this year! You have helped me transition from the principalship to my current work of supporting and mentoring principals throughout the state! Enjoy this time of less doing and more being!