Finding time to do what matters most

Robyn Jackson
Robyn Jackson

Finding The Time To Do What Matters Most
From Mindsteps Newsletter
By Robyn Jackson

One of the biggest frustrations I hear from educators all the time is that they are so busy doing all the things that are required of them, they have very little time to do the things that are most important to them.

Can you relate?

Do you find yourself wanting to learn or try a new strategy, spend more time helping students understand a key concept, or even teach things that may not be in the curriculum but are really valuable?

If you’re a school leader, do you find yourself wanting to get into classrooms more, spend more time supporting teachers, or focus on moving towards your strategic goals instead of being mired in the day-to-day details that rob you of your time and focus?

I know that I can relate. I often get frustrated with all the mundane tasks that I have to do when what I REALLY want to do is work on things that align with my BIG Why.

So this week, I’d like to share 3 strategies I use to carve out more time to work at the things that matter most:

1. Don’t check your email first thing in the morning. I received this advice years ago when I was still a classroom teacher and it continues to be one of the most powerful pieces of advice I have ever received. We are all programmed to start our day by checking email. The problem is that opening email is like opening a Pandora’s box. You get sucked in and distracted. Instead, I start the day by doing the most important thing first.

When I was a teacher, that meant that I started the day planning. When I became an administrator, it meant that I started the day connecting with teachers and students. And now, it means that I start the day writing.

Starting with the most important thing first not only allows you to give you best energy and focus to what is most important, it also allows you build momentum. You’ve only been awake a short time and you’ve already accomplished something important.

2. Focus on actions not goals. Our BIG Why demands big goals. But big goals can often be overwhelming. I find that once I’ve set a big goal, the best thing for me to do is to break that goal down into a set of actions I need to take to reach that goal. From there, I just focus on taking at least one action per day that moves me closer to my goal.

So, if I want to increase test scores for my students, I ask myself every day what is one thing I can do that day to improve students’ understanding of the standards? If my goal is to give better feedback, I try to get into at least one classroom per day, no matter what. If my goal is to write a book, then I decide that I must write for at least one hour each day.

Rather than get overwhelmed by the bigness of my goal, I try to break it down into one tiny action I can take each day. Over time, those tiny little actions add up and before I know it, I’ve more than hit my goal.

3. Clear the Clutter. Over the last year, I’ve been really focused on ridding as much clutter from my life as I can. That means everything from my bloated email inbox, to my desk, to my closets, to my briefcase, to how I spend my time. I started by deciding to throw or give away one thing per day. That gave me a little momentum and then I started clearing out one area of my life per week.

Although I am not entirely clutter free yet, I have made HUGE progress over the last year and I can tell you, it makes a HUGE difference. I am not only more focused, because I’m not constantly weeding through clutter, I also have found more time and space in my day to do the things that matter most to me. We don’t realize how much clutter sucks time and focus from our days.

So, if you find that you have a hard time focusing, getting things done, or finding time to do what’s important, clutter is probably the sneaky culprit. Start chipping away at the clutter and you will free up time and energy to focus on what really matters.