I spent the first part of this week at the Colorado Principal’s Conference and it was such a great experience. I was moved by the passion our school leaders have for their job and was a bit saddened to hear about the overwhelm they feel daily on the job. Over the course of the past several weeks, I have written much about principals being instructional leaders and the importance of investing time in this area. As I spoke at this conference, I focused on the three things I believe are the most important responsibilities for principals: school culture, instructional leadership, and relationships. I also, however, touched on how the organizational management tasks are what frequently today’s principals are consumed by, which keeps them from those three crucial roles.
I define organizational management tasks as basically anything that is not related to teaching and learning directly in classrooms. Things like budget, scheduling, personnel, facilities and physical plant, working with parents, student discipline, employee discipline, responding to emails and phone calls, and basic time management. While there is more that could be on the list, you get the point about what falls under organizational management. This is the true time suck right here folks. This is what keeps our principals from getting into classrooms, having deep conversations and coaching opportunities with teachers, and helping to move the needle with student achievement.
So – how do you manage the organizational management? You don’t have to be a Superhero to crush it in this category. You simply need a plan. Here are 5 strategies to get you moving on your own organizational management Road to Awesome.
- Create a weekly list: you know already which tasks are on your plate on a regular, repeating basis. So create a list to begin the week and array them out in a time schedule that works for you. One of my big time bandits was approving our classified employee time cards every week. This was arduous and usually took me up to 60 minutes each week. I was strategic, eventually, about how and when to set it on the calendar so I didn’t have to have it hanging over my head at other times of the week.
- Set boundaries: when you are a building principal, you could easily work 15-18 hours each day. But you have to put some guardrails in place to keep from vaporizing yourself and draining the bucket. Develop your own method of turning off the email, using the do not disturb or focus features on your phone so you aren’t distracted or pulled out of your workout time, family time, dinner, etc. If the people you lead know they can access you any time, they will do it. You probably wouldn’t call them at home late at night so don’t allow yourself to have that happen either. If you must have that availability, share it amongst your team so you’re not ‘on call’ every night.
- Schedule emails: this is actually something you can do in two ways. First, schedule time in your day to read and respond to emails. If you know you’ll spend 20 minutes at the end of your day or first thing in the morning, you’ll be less apt to open an email on your phone when you are in a classroom or at another activity. Second, to help with boundaries on your time, don’t immediately send emails when you write them. Instead, use the ‘schedule send’ feature so the email goes at 7am instead of the 4:45am when you are actually writing it.
- Empower problem solvers: if you have to solve everyone’s problems, you’ll never get to do the work you’re meant to, and want to, do. Instead of solving every problem, begin training and coaching people to bring solutions to you as well as their issues. Once they begin to follow that protocol, they will find that they can solve their own problems and will only come to you with genuine struggles. It’s fine to support and solve problems collectively. However, when you develop a culture where others know they can take the necessary steps to find solutions without you, you’ll find your time begin to free up and that you are really building a culture of problem solvers.
- Teamwork: they say that teamwork makes the dream work. In the case of managing the manageable, leverage your team members (APs, counselor, lead teacher, administrative assistants, etc) to share the load. You don’t have to do it all. You aren’t Superman, you’re the principal. Be a lot more leader and a lot less firefighter by giving responsibilities to your team members and focus on coaching them to accomplish the tasks at hand.
Managing your organizational management tasks is not the most fun part of your job. If you’re like me, you want to be in the halls, classrooms, and events with your students and teachers. Taking intentional steps to manage the manageable will help you to feel more in control of your time and more organized in your work life.
Have a #RoadToAwesome week
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