Quit Putting Out Fires and Get To Your Powerful Purpose!
I would not be exaggerating if I said EVERYWHERE that I go educators are complaining about not having enough TIME. Here’s what it sounds like…
From the principal: I would LOOOOOVE to get into the classrooms more often, but I have so many behavioral issues that take up my time!
From the coach: I would LOOOOOVE to get in a debrief within 24 hours but I have to finish up paperwork and go to so many trainings that I often end up giving feedback to teachers a week later!
From teachers and teams: We would LOOOOOVE to spend more time prepping for those lessons, but all of the other stuff that we have to do take so much time that the preparation and planning is my last step each week and I’m exhausted by the time I get there!
What’s the common denominator? They all would LOOOOOVE to do something!
Well, here’s the deal: I LOOOOOVE to go get my nails done. In fact I did it yesterday! I love taking my book that has nothing to do with work. I love that they don’t allow cell phones so there are no rings or pings or interruptions. I love to come out of the nail salon all shiny and new. I love the choices of colors. I just love it. (I know some of you are reading this and thinking…is she REALLY going to talk manicures? Yes, she REALLY is, but she’ll get to a bigger point, so hang in there…)
And because I love it, I make sure I don’t miss my appointment.
Let’s take for example yesterday. I had an appointment at 5:00 p.m. It takes 15 minutes to drive to this particular nail place and sometimes parking is a challenge, so I knew I needed to leave at 4:30 from my house to get there in plenty of time.
So I backtracked my tasks so that I was done at 4:30 on the dot.
Because my nail appointment was important to me and I didn’t want to miss it and have it overwhelmed by everything else.
I put my phone calls on my calendar at SPECIFIC times – not just on a to-do list.
I put my email answering at a SPECIFIC time – not just on a to-do list.
I put my writing projects at SPECIFIC times – not just on a to-do list.
I even put in a couple of 15 minute breaks at SPECIFIC TIMES – not just on a to-do list.
The thing is, I LOOOOOOVE a good to-do list, but I find that when I don’t schedule my tasks out, the list gets a few things crossed off, but most of them remain at the bottom…especially the ones I don’t want to do!
So what does this have to do with putting out fires and manicures and all this mess?
If most educators site TIME as a #1 or #2 inhibitor of getting things done that they know they should get done AND we know that we aren’t going to just magically create more time, then the answer to being frenzied and out of time all the time is managing our time differently.
Managing our time, I’ve found and seen in excellent and productive educators, is the difference between running around and putting out fires and PURPOSEFUL work in our schools. Let me give you an example:
Say that you’ve SCHEDULED your prep time for 7:00 a.m. – 7:45 a.m. (of course I know you need more time than this, but this is one chunk of time you’ve scheduled). You’ve actually WRITTEN IT INTO your calendar – so it’s a date! And along comes Suzy Q and she LOOOOVES to talk…and talk…and talk. Typically you shoot the breeze with Suzy Q and when you’re done, you think, “Ugh! I just wasted all of that time and I got nothing done!”. (Does this sound at all familiar?)
You are now behind – and in “putting out fires” mode…you’re in reactionary mode because now you feel under the gun.
(On a side note: “putting out fires” and “under the gun” – -neither SOUND real fun, do they?)
So let’s rewrite this scenario:
You have scheduled time from 7:00 – 7:45 a.m. to prep for your upcoming lessons tomorrow and Wednesday. Suzy Q comes in and says, “Hey girl/guy! What’s up?” and settles in for a nice, long chat…about NOTHING!
You can now say, “Hey Suz! Whew – I’m really busy! I’ve scheduled myself for some prep right now…go grab your books and come prep with me!” or “Hey Suz! You know, my schedule is really hounding me right now…I’ve got my prep time for tomorrow and Wednesday right now – let’s sit together at lunch and get all caught up!”
It’s these kinds of conversations that not only allow US to stay on track, but put other time-wasters (people and tasks) on notice that we aren’t messing around anymore!
When we’re under the gun and pushing the envelope, we are REACTING. And oftentimes our most important tasks get pushed to the bottom of the list. And both of these things make us feel like we’re being managed, not managing.
And I don’t know about you, but I want to be THE MANAGER, not THE MANAGED!
So…what is this all about?
- It’s about taking control of the time you have and getting down to business on the things that are important to our delivery of excellent instruction
- It’s about not being in reactionary, “putting out fires” mode – because that mode means we’re not doing our best work
- It’s about organizing our environment so that we are optimized for doing our best, being our best and producing our best WITH THE TIME WE’RE GIVEN
- It’s about having a life where the bag of grading doesn’t come home with you every single night because you’ve managed time poorly
The cool thing? Time management is also contagious for your kids! They need to see it too!
So…where will you start? Leave a comment below and inspire someone else to get started NOW!