A leash is a great and necessary tool for walking the beloved canine. Especially when Fido is easily enamored and distracted by other dogs. Or cats. Or especially …
Oh that looks like fun. Let’s chase it! Now!
The leash allows us to harness the dog’s reckless enthusiasm. It permits us to re-focus the dog so he is not given over to every whim, or free to chase every desire the instant it crosses his field of vision, or olfactory senses.
The problem is sometimes I operate as though I am on the wrong end of the leash. I forget that I am the Alpha. There has to be an Alpha when it comes to the dog, or he can be the master and I can be the pet.
Similarly, while I view my role as a teacher to be that of a servant, I still need to be the Alpha of my schedule. I need to be the master of my priorities. Otherwise, every great idea that emerges from my PLN is like ice cream that needs to be devoured before it melts. Every new insight gained from the professional books I scour is like the proverbial SQUIRREL, needing to be chased this instant.
When it comes to teaching, my problem isn’t the lack of ideas. Instead, it is the wealth of them. I have ideas to get my kids more engaged in writing. I have ideas how to help them connect more deeply in their reading. I have ideas how to improve the overall culture in our building. I have ideas for the more than 100 kids in our school run club. And also ideas for all the kids in our math club. I have ideas how the students and staff can make a difference in our community, as well as in our world.
Most of the time, I am trying to implement these ideas. Sometimes, I am juggling many of these simultaneously.
Did someone say SQUIRREL?
To be honest, I need to focus. I need to rally others to the cause. I need to delegate. I need to let go.
As Steve Jobs said: “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”
I need to say no. Hopefully a few more “no’s” will make my “yes’s” stronger.
So where can I set the boundaries? How do I insure that I am on the correct end of my schedule’s leash?
I have highlighted a couple areas to leash my schedule from a recent article by Tim Farriss- “Nine Habits You Need to Stop Now”
> Do not check email constantly.
In The Tyranny of Email, John Freeman explains:
Working at the speed of email is like trying to gain a topographic understanding of our daily landscape from a speeding train—and the consequences for us as workers are profound. Interrupted every thirty seconds or so, our attention spans are fractured into a thousand tiny fragments. The mind is denied the experience of deep flow, when creative ideas flourish and complicated thinking occurs. We become task-oriented, tetchy, terrible at listening as we try to keep up with the computer. The email inbox turns our mental to-do list into a palimpsest—there’s always something new and even more urgent erasing what we originally thought was the day’s priority. Incoming mail arrives on several different channels–via email, Facebook, Twitter, instant message–and in this era of backup we’re sure that we should keep records of our participation in all these conversations. The result is that at the end of the day we have a few hundred or even a few thousand emails still sitting in our inbox.
So why do we email all day? I think we like the attention email gives us. Email is addictive in the same way slots are — variable reinforcement. Tim calls email the “cocaine pellet dispenser.”
> Do not work more to fix being too busy.
This is really a matter of priorities. As in, you’re not making decisions. You need to say no.
Ferriss suggests defining your “one or two most important to-dos before dinner, the day before.” Work on those the first thing the next morning.
If you don’t know your real priorities, everything will seem important and urgent and that’s a recipe for disaster. The sweet spot is feeling busy but not rushed.
Work is not all of life. Your co-workers shouldn’t be your only friends. Schedule life and defend it just as you would an important business meeting. Never tell yourself “I’ll just get it done this weekend.”
Work expands to the amount of time you give it. This is Parkinson’s Law. When you give it a lot of time, it will consume that time. Give it less time and you’ll be more productive.
I’m determined to become more proactive, and less reactive as a leader. I will hold the leash, versus letting myself be pulled by it. I’ll still check email and social media, but for shorter times, and with a plan. I’ll still embrace new, creative ideas from my PLN and the books that challenge me, but will do a better job of recruiting others to join me to implement these plans. I’ll be more protective of my time, so I don’t allow my passions as a teacher to infringe on my passions as a father, husband, or child of God.
I’ll be more mindful of which end of the leash I am on.