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National Principals Month: Five Key Strategies for Time & Focus Management

October is National Principals Month, and I want to make sure all our principals and APs out there know they are seen, heard, valued, and trusted. This week’s blog focuses on a question asked recently in a post on social media. I was tagged in for my response and think it’s worthy of being shared here as well. In essence, this is a combination of time management and maintaining focus question. The author of the post wrote…

“one of the biggest challenges for me (second year as an AP) is balancing the day-to-day crises, the immediate to do list, and the long term vision and planning. How do you manage the things that come up while not losing focus on the bigger picture and planning that needs to happen?”

I love this question because it underlines who I was as a first year principal. I had no idea how to manage my time, how to balance the work of instructional leadership and organizational management. I really struggled here but so do many early career leaders. In my response to this post, I shared five important steps for leaders to balance day to day (firefighting) with long term vision (leadership). I hope they are helpful and can make a difference for you in a similar fashion to how they helped me. Here are five key strategies for time & focus management:

  1. Set up your calendar weekly: I did this prior to the beginning of the week. I made sure to put on it the things that I felt were important and I stuck to it. One of the biggest mistakes early career leaders make it allowing the time bandits to darken your door. Don’t allow people to steal your time – make it sacred!
  2. Empower your secretary: This one is big. Give your secretary (or office manager, executive assistant, etc) the power to manage your calendar, email, and run interference for you. Meet with them every day, even for just 5 minutes to ensure you’re on the same page. If they know your priorities they will help hold you to them. Lean into this person, they can and will be a life saver.
  3. Start your day away from your desk: This seems obvious, but if you start the day in the office you most likely will never make your way out. Your day will be gone before you know it and none of the work you wanted to accomplish will be complete. Starting away from the desk will increase your visibility and help you get reconnected to what you value. It also gives your staff and students the opportunity to interact with you, ask casual questions, and for you to build relationships.
  4. Schedule time to answer emails: By setting time aside for this specific task, you grant yourself permission not to answer emails right away. Choosing to operate in this fashion keeps you from being tethered to a device. Think about it, you can be focused on the task at hand rather than ‘multi-tasking’ (you know what I mean principal sitting in an ‘observation’ answering emails)…and;
  5. Get a mentor or a coach: This was a game changer for me. Having someone to be the independent view, the third-point perspective on my work was invaluable. If your district is willing to pay for a coach (for you or maybe one for your entire school leadership team) that is great, and hit me up. But even if they aren’t, find someone who’s done it before who can support you in the process. This is critical, they cannot be your boss.

Taking control of your time as the leader of your school or district is an essential element in success. The best leaders seem to always have it together, to be really focused on the work that matters. The truth is, those leaders have found the clarity they need and are intentional about how they use their time, their communication, their behaviors, and their actions. They, as leaders, are walking in their purpose!! You, can be one of those leaders too…

Have a #RoadToAwesome week


To celebrate National Principals Month, we are running a special promotion on my book Road to Awesome: The Journey of a Leader. Hit the link and use the code FOBA to get the book for only $20 and free shipping. Click here to purchase the autographed copy.

Tune in this week to “Leaning into Leadership” where my guest is Cheryl Einhorn, author of Problem Solver and founder of the AREA Method.

Need some help? Got a question? Reach out, let’s talk.

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