Ari Meisel in his book, Less Doing More Living: Making Everything in Life Easier shares how over 95% of the tasks that we do on a daily basis can be accomplished by others and only 5% represents the creative, unique work that can be done by us. I am not so sure this applies to the principalship, simply because we are a human business and well over half of a principal’s time is spent in meeting and talking with others. Although another person may be able to do this work, we are charged to facilitate these discussions, conversations and create dialogue.
Nevertheless, Meisel’s point is that we spend too much time on trivial matters: doing “stuff”, instead of being! Thinking, being creative, problem solving, and most importantly LEARNING! In fact, Meisel points out that by controlling our time, delegating, outsourcing work, automating it and optimizing what we do can maximize our learning. How many times have you said to yourself, “This book looks interesting, I will put that in this pile to read it.” AND when you are cleaning your office at holiday break or in the summer, there is your pile of books, magazines, etc. still sitting there “ready” for you to read. Likewise, when you see a conference to attend that would build your own learning, you say to yourself, “I just can’t be out of the building, I can’t focus on me, I am a servant leader and need to focus on others.”
One of the best pieces of advice as a new principal that I received from my mentor was to go to the MEMSPA conference each year, attend the Summer Institute and take the opportunity to learn for myself. Having the opportunity to network with others, learn about their frustrations and how they were solving them and getting new ideas was vital in my development as an early career principal! Guess what? The building didn’t burn down when I was gone either! Yeah, I had some mopping up to do when I returned, but I was invigorated, refreshed, had fresh eyes to look at our building, our kids, our school with new perspective, a brand new lens as a learner myself!
Many time management gurus suggest that principals actually block time in their calendar just for learning, thinking, BEING and not doing! I remember hearing Roland Barth at a professional learning session who left an impression on me as a leader with this question; “With what I am doing right now, how is it helping the learning of a child in my school?” It made me get out of my office and go look at learning happening down the hallway! It made me focus on the important work and not the trivial minutiae that bogs a principal down each day.
So what can a busy principal do for him or herself to maximize learning?
- Block time in your calendar for opportunities for thinking and reflection. What you prioritize you will make time for!
- Subscribe to a professional learning series that you can listen to in the car on your way to and from school or on your phone, tablet, etc. One service I still subscribe to is School Leadership Briefing Each monthly series is filled with relevant and pertinent learning for a busy leader that can spark thought and give you ideas to solve problems that you are encountering at your school.
- Take advantage of your MEMSPA membership! Attend conferences and professional learning offered throughout the year. Access the Main Idea that let’s Jenn David-Lang do the work and the reading of relevant and pertinent material and give you a synopsis and summary along with professional learning plans that you can use with your staff. Peruse the Marshall Memo. Each week, Kim Marshall reads over 50 different education related articles and material and collects some of the highlights and relevant material for busy leaders to stay abreast of.
- Get a Twitter account and join principals from across our state and nation and learn together on #MEMSPAchat every Thursday evening at 8pm. Mike Domagalski does a great job of facilitating the learning and it is an easy way to connect with other principal leaders, gain insight, collect ideas, and share your own thoughts with others. Here is a link to information about how to join #MEMSPAchat
- Join Debbie McFalone and me as Leadership Matters participants in cohort 7! Ask anyone who has been a part of Leadership Matters and they will tell you that it was the BEST professional learning they have ever had. It made them better leaders, more responsive, effective, more focused on the important stuff, gave them courage and made them intentional about doing the most important and right work! Here is information about Leadership Matters Cohort 7
This October as we celebrate National Principal’s Month, take time to do something just for you! Maximize your learning! AND ask yourself, “With what I am doing right now, how is it helping the learning of a child at my school?” Maybe the answer is that you need to become a learner yourself!