Thomas Edison once said, “Time is the only thing we can’t afford to lose.” As a school principal you don’t need a famous inventor to tell you that.
You already know your time is pulled in directions between different types of tasks:
- Important And Urgent
- Important But Not Urgent
- Not Important And Urgent
- Not Important But Not Urgent
…but mostly for principals, everything comes at you as if it were urgent!
Here are 5 tips to help you think about your tasks and the time management strategies already in your toolkit!
Tip #1: The Delegation Rule
In a recent survey of first year principals, the number one challenge faced was time management (2017 Research, Time Management for Principals.)
Delegation is the quickest way to increase your available time.
If a task takes 30 minutes or more for you to complete, then it’s worth investing 5-10 minutes with someone, empowering them to do the task, and gaining the net difference back into your time for the day.
Plus, delegation creates an engaged culture, if you follow the delegation rule.
The delegation rule is simple: If someone can do a task at least 80% as good as you can, then it’s your responsibility as a leader to invest time into empowering them to do the task.
The key here is investing time into the person…not just handing off your work.
Tip #2: It’s Okay to Close Your Door
Yes, it’s okay. This tip allows you to schedule office time throughout the week. This is an uninterrupted time to focus on priority tasks. Whether you use this time to make important relationship building phone calls within your district or time to refocus on your priorities, it’s important to have time to slow down during the day.
You don’t have to work until 7pm each night. You can complete some office work during school hours.
Tip #3: Prioritize Tasks
Start each week by time blocking your tasks. Push the important tasks toward the front of the week. Then fill in the gaps with your urgent tasks based on due dates.
Pushing your priorities forward ensures they get your attention when you are the freshest. This will allow you to complete tasks faster and with better attention to the details.
Your available time toward the end of the week can be used for lesser important and nonurgent tasks – or they’ll likely get bumped to the following week after you attend to all those unplanned jobs that come your way throughout the week.
Tip #4: Learn When To Say No
A “maybe” is a polite no, but often leads to frustration. A “yes” that isn’t followed through leads to distrust and ill-will. The best route is to learn when to say “no”.
When should you say no to a new idea, a new task, or anything that can drain your time?
Here’s a simple litmus test:
- Does it have a significant impact on our ability to move closer to our mission and vision?
- Would it be better if delegated to someone else?
- Does it align with our current OKRs? (Read more on OKRs for Schools)
Asking yourself these three questions can help free your time from tasks that do not represent sound investments of your time.
Tip #5: Leverage Technology Tools
There are so many technology tools that can help a principal manage time.
A few at the top of the list are:
- Asana. This is a free project management tool.
When to use: coordinating testing, back to school, major events, new initiatives.
- Buffer. Communication and social media managed in one location.
When to use: scheduling all your social posts, newsletters, information about school events.
- IFTTT. This is a tool that automates emails, calendars, and pretty much everything.
When to use: always. Check it out.
- OneNote. A central hub for file sharing, meeting notes, and collaboration.
When to use: save time with documents and files with simple search and sharing features.
There are too many tools to list here, but these three are some of the heavy lifters. Of course, a shared calendar on Google or Outlook is a must-have for your school to receive reminders and notifications about events and meetings.
Now is your moment to take back your time!
Matt Foster is an educational creator and consultant who creates personalized learning experiences for students, teachers, and school leaders. He holds a Master of Education in Education Administration and a Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction, has 15 years of K-12 experience in public education, and 4 years of experience in educational services.