“Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed, nothing else can be managed.” – Peter Drucker
The life of a leader is full of surprises and the balancing of competing workloads and tasks is often one of the key causes of leader stress. Furthermore, managing multiple priorities can result in important tasks being either pushed aside or attended to, too late.
Remember, you can’t do everything at once and there will be occasions where multiple priorities are on your plate. Here are a few of my “truths” that help keep me on task.
- Understand Your Limits: Knowing your limits is essential to self-growth. However, Recognising your limitations is only the first step. It is what you do next that matters.
- Focus on What You Can Do: The leader is responsible for the overall operation of the school. As we are all “time poor” it is critical to tackle those tasks that you can do well. Coming to terms with what you are capable of handling allows you to focus on what you can do, and allow others to do their tasks.
- Look for Support: There are two benefits from seeking support to help manage your priorities.
- Sharing the Load: If there is a task someone else can do for you, then delegate. Your role is to get things done but that doesn’t mean you should do everything. A great book by Todd Whitaker titled “Shifting the Monkey” makes the great point that you shouldn’t be doing anything that other people should be doing themselves.
- Getting Good Advice: Connecting with your peers helps to keep you on track. While some may call it networking, reaching out to your peers helps to gain access to information and help hone each other’s skill in leading complex organisations. Shared communication is a real asset.
- Always Be Positive: My old football coach always proclaimed “Don’t let them know you’re hurting”! No matter how things are unfolding around you, everyone needs the leader to under control. The saying that the organisation reflects the leader underpins this sentiment.
- Be Organised: Whether you use a checkbox list, online task builder or “post it” notes, an effective leader is well organised. The need to keep track of tasks is pivotal in completing them. When deciding on what priorities to add to your schedule ask (& then answer) two key questions: ‘What will happen if I do this?’ and ‘What will happen if I don’t?’. Your answers will allow you to determine priority of the tasks.
- Prioritise Tasks: Schedule time for tasks. Determine what needs immediate attention and what can wait till later. Some say you should “Eat the Frog First” and get them out of the way. Whatever works for you to keep on schedule with leading your school, keep doing it.
- Keep the Promise: In the busyness of the school day when everybody wants something from you, it is easy to say “I’ll get to that shortly”. When you do, your integrity is on the line. If you make a promise to a teacher to provide feedback, ensure you keep the promise.
- Be Kind to Yourself: Things will fail. Be cheerful!
Finding balance and strategies to help make your day run smoother is in itself a difficult task. Some success can be achieved because of your role as leader and other successes can be achieved by influencing others and there will be some things you cannot change in your school however–despite your best efforts. And at the end of those types of days be kind to yourself. Tomorrow is the start of a new day and you can begin afresh!