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Taming the Time Bandits

One of my conversations with school leaders this week led to a fairly common challenge; continually being interrupted. As leaders, we want to serve and support but it can be difficult when we are at the mercy of others needs and wants.

I used to have about a 20 minute commute, each way, both as a principal and as a superintendent. It was nice because that windshield time for me was golden. A great opportunity to get my mind right for the day, plan out the priorities, and get focused for what would come my way. Many days I didn’t even make it an hour before my schedule, and my calendar, were derailed by someone else’s crisis or thought on their mind.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved being available to solve problems and to listen to my staff, my community, and my students. But in all honesty, stuff has to get done! The open door policy can blow up in your face pretty quickly when staring down multiple deadlines for paperwork, grant summaries, evaluations, and the like. It is ok to close the door, contrary to leadership folklore.

So, how do you take back some ownership of your time? In addition to closing the door for periods of time (time blocking here is essential) here is exercise that I find quite helpful, and you might too.

Step 1: Audit your calendar – go back over the past week, two weeks, even a month (or more) and review everything you had on the calendar. If you aren’t good at calendering, this might be a very helpful step in the right direction.

Step 2: On a piece of paper (or a fresh Google Doc if you are so inclined) list everything and everyone who interrupted you, needed you when you were working, pulled you off task, and/or derailed that great plan you had for your day (seriously, list everything and everyoneThis is just for you, so don’t worry about offending anyone.

Step 3: Review, or establish, what it is that you hold sacred, that you are looking to accomplish, and that is truly a top priority.
Now, if you are a reader of Gary Keller’s The ONE Thing, you’ll know that a priority can only be ONE thing, but let’s cut ourselves some slack and allow for maybe 3.

Step 4: On your list of interruptions, draw a line through (or use strikethrough) everything and anyone who is not directly connected to your top priority. No holds barred here folks! This will get us to where we have only the very most important things, or you only types of things that are allowed to be interruptions. (things like: the superintendent calls, the fire alarm goes off, etc)

Now, you have established the things that you will, and will not, allow to interrupt your time when working on the most important things, the top priorities. Now, follow through and hold to those priorities.

Have a #RoadToAwesome week


Tune in this week to “Leaning into Leadership” where my guest is superstar youth speaker Sam Demma.

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