Letting things go: Focusing on less, so we can accomplish more.

Author: Monica Smith, Elementary Principal, Floydada CISD

Fall is upon us. Football, fireplaces, sweater weather, crisp air, beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and my favorite part of fall, the changing colors of the leaves. I recently saw a quote that resonated with me. It said, “The trees are about to show us how lovely it can be to let things go.” How often do we try to do it all, and feel like we accomplish nothing? What can we let go of, so we have time to focus on what matters most?

One of the most important principles to productivity is Pareto’s Principle, which is also known as the 80/20 Rule. According to the principle, of all the tasks that you need to accomplish, 20% of them will give you 80% of results. These are the tasks that you should work on first. If you are not intentional with your time, what is urgent will trump what is important.

Leverage Leadership, by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo, outlines a process for setting a weekly schedule. Below is a modified progression:

  1. Determine your leader-to-teacher ratio. How many teachers are in your school and how many leaders do you have? Work with any other leaders to determine your caseloads.
  2. Block out student culture times. What times of the day are important for you to be present, both because of its impact on school culture and because crises and challenges are most likely to happen during these times? Likely times are arrival, dismissal, lunch, transition times, and school assemblies. Block off these times in your schedule.
  3. Lock in your meetings. Schedule your regular meetings, including faculty meetings, leadership team meetings, PLC, professional development, etc.
  4. Block off time for meetings with individual teachers. Reserve chunks of time to meet with individual teachers.
  5. Schedule your observations. Block off time for observations. Avoid scheduling observations back-to-back and try blocking off more time than you will need for the observation so that you will have some time saved up to type up notes or draft feedback.
  6. Build in time to be present. Reserve time in your schedule to visit classrooms, check in informally with staff, and build connections with teachers and students.
  7. Build in time for bigger projects. Likely you only have about 3-5 hours each week to focus on big picture work, but reserve the time on your schedule.

I spent time this summer creating my schedule using this progression. There are still days, despite my best effort, that I am guilty of letting what is urgent trump what is important, but I am learning to be more intentional with my time. I am learning that I don’t have to take the phone call immediately. It is ok to have my secretary take a message and return the call at a later time, so I can focus on the important work. I am learning to leverage the help of my colleagues. I am learning to let go, so I can be present, and it is lovely!

References:
Bambrick-Santoyo, P. (2012). Leverage Leadership: A practical guide to building exceptional schools. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

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