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3 Time Management Hacks You Were Never Taught

Exhausted, overwhelmed, living life under water. That is probably a common theme when asking early career leaders how things are progressing in their job. You learn a lot about leadership theory in masters and doctoral programs, but I learned nothing, I mean NOTHING, about time management in either program. For some reason, and maybe your experience was different than mine, it seems leaders are just expected to know how to be excellent managers of their time. Do you struggle with managing your time? If you do, you’re not alone. As a school leader, especially early in my career, this was a difficult task. In fact, it led me to focus my dissertation research around principal perceptions of their own skill sets. I wrote in my dissertation, a “theme that emerged was time management and balancing the duties of being a principal. As one principal commented, ‘ensuring that all the things you have to get done are done on time and done to the best of your ability. There is a lot more that a principal has to do than some ever realize.'” How, then, do you manage all those demands you’re faced with each day and ensure you are doing the best of your abilities to both manage and lead your school?

For this week’s post, let me share 3 Time Management Hacks you probably were never taught that will help you close the gap between exhausted and successful.

1. Get clarity of YOUR purpose – if you have no clarity around what it is you value, what you find important, and where you believe your most powerful levers of action are, you will always struggle to manage the time you are given. Stick with me on this one – a top step in nearly all time saving steps is to prioritize your work. How can you possibly prioritize if you aren’t sure what is the most important thing, second most, etc.? Take the time to lay it all out, categorize all that it is you do daily/weekly/monthly. Once you’ve completed this, start circling/highlighting the things you know are crucial and move the needle on both student outcomes and school culture. It is from here that you will actually begin to prioritize where you should be spending your time.

2. Delegate, delegate, delegate – Once you’ve identified where you must spend the bulk of your time, begin to delegate much of the remaining work. Often leaders will think they must do it all or be everything to everyone. This is simply false. In order to be an effective leader, you have to spend your time doing the most impactful work. If you are fortunate to have an assistant principal (or multiple APs), add tasks to their duties that are important but not in your top priorities. This will give the AP a chance to make impact in the school and to do important work while developing their own leadership style. Maybe the best delegation strategy is to emp0wer others to solve their own problems. When those you lead believe they know how to solve a problem and have the support and backing to do so, it takes a lot off your plate and builds positive culture.

3. Empower your secretary – this might be your office manager, secretary, administrative assistant, or some other title. One of the biggest steps for me in becoming so much better with my time (I won’t say I had it mastered) was activating my secretary. I learned how to do this from my executive leadership coach. The truth is, you have to ensure that your secretary is empowered to make decisions, give direction, and manage much of your time. Give them access to your email so they can filter out 90% of the things not needed to make it to you. Coach them on how to dig into what phone calls are really about so they can forward them to the right people. So often, you’ll get dozens of calls each week that you’ll delegate to someone else. If your secretary already knows the protocol, let them do it for you. If you haven’t yet given your secretary full access to your calendar (I mean editing capability here folks), that is a must! My secretary and I had a system in place where, if people needed to visit with me and stopped me in the hallway, I would ask them to email Marilyn (my secretary) and she’d get them on the calendar. My staff loved this because they didn’t feel the need anymore to chase me through the halls when I was on my way to the next stop in my day.

My research (mentioned above) revealed a need for structured support and professional development for principals focused on time management. Principals cited repeatedly their struggles with managing their time and feeling overwhelmed with the duties of their role. One principal stated, “I feel inadequate in my ability to balance my time and responsibilities. Look, it’s a long school year, and the work you do is super important. Give yourself permission to focus on that really impactful stuff and surround yourself with empower, problem-solving individuals. You got this!!

Have a #RoadToAwesome week


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Tune into our podcast “Leaning into Leadership” available everywhere you get your podcast fix. This week’s guest is Dr. Chris Hobbs, Director of Institutional Advancement at Second Baptist School, and former National High School AD of the Year.

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