It’s surprising that more principals don't insist on comfortable, high-quality memory foam sofa beds in their office. By the time you factor in the hours spent before work and after work trying to catch up on all the work you can't do while you're...at work, your personal life can become a mere blip on the radar. But that’s not how it should be—at least not all the time. How can principals be outstanding at their job without sacrificing their entire sense of self? Three words: Effective Time Management.
In an article written for Education World, Gary Hopkins has—with the help of more than a dozen principals across the country—compiled a list of effective time management tips for principals. We’ve boiled it down to what we feel are the 5 essentials.
5 Effective Time Management Tips for Principals
- Do, Delegate, or Dump? One of the first steps in focusing your priorities is to decide what things need to be done by you, what can be delegated to someone else, or what needs to just be dumped altogether. Step back from your daily routine and habits, and see what is really working and what's detracting from productivity potential. No principal is an island, so you might even ask for input from a trusted secretary or colleague. You might be able to isolate non-essential activities that are wasting precious time.
- Keep Priorities a Focus. Once you have skimmed the unnecessary fat from your daily routine, make sure to keep priorities an overarching focus. If doing 5-minute classroom walk-thrus are a priority for you, then do them. If you receive an unexpected phone call or drop-in visitor beforehand, politely and graciously explain you have a previously scheduled engagement and let them email you to re-establish a time that will work.
- Satellite Offices. It's hard to remain visible around campus and keep up with all the in-office work you are responsible for. If you can find a way to create "satellite offices" on campus, you may be able to do both at the same time. Think of all the time you spend online. Does your campus have a computer room - or perhaps several? Pop in and use one of the school's computer's to catch up on work, visit with some students, and be available to the variety of teachers passing through. Grab a "to-do" paperwork file from your desk, find an empty classroom desk, and work in the hallway once in a while. Students will love it, teachers will stop and chat, and you can maximize the best of both worlds.
- Delegate. So this was a component of #1 but it's so important it deserves its own number. You absolutely must learn to trust others to do their job and recognize that their way is just as good as yours, even if it's different. Consider putting a "Leadership Team" together, based on volunteers (so you know they want to help) and then meet regularly to delegate work to interested and willing helpers.
- Close the Door. Visibility is important, but equally important is uninterrupted time. Set very clear, regular (so your secretary gets used to it) blocks of time where you are absolutely not to be interrupted for any non-emergency situation. Whether you need to catch up on e-mail, eat something (heaven forbid!), or return phone messages, you'll enjoy having a host of things checked off your list-of-things-to-do.
Really, it all comes down to balance. Don't jump on the cultural "do everything" bandwagon because it's impossible. Just focus on the essentials; the more you're able to cull the time wasters, the more productive and energetic you will be.