The First of Eight: Getting Focused

Distractors, too many initiatives, misuse of time, and an overall inability to determine a small number of goals that intentionally set direction are often missing pieces of leadership practice.  Every day, you start with a plan- with a list of things to do, people to talk to, actions to take, habits to stick with to help you accomplish your goals. Before you know it, the day has slipped away.  Does this sound familiar? What happens to throw you off your game? How do you get back on track?

Time: The Struggle is Real. Acknowledge this. Say it out loud. Own it. Reflect on how you use it.  It is what it is.  Twenty-four hours. That is all that we have. Everyday, no matter what is happening, that is all we have.  Take a deep breath.  Embrace the day.  And, do the things that matter. Take action that honor your goals and plans. What you spend your time on truly defines what is important to you.

As promised, here is a snapshot of the first chapter of Leading with Intention ( titled,  Achieving Focus and Staying Intentional. positive-habits_FI-1200x520-e1494578353345Each chapter offers several opportunities to reflect and ends with an activity to cause you to plan your next steps… what can you do with eight minutes, eight weeks, eight months. In this first chapter, the conversation is really about how you set your priorities and then work to keep distractors out-of-the-way.

Have you asked others to describe what they believe your focus or priorities to be?  Can they tell from your actions? Would they respond with confusion or would it be crystal clear?  To me, this is the true test of how we spend our time.  Let’s face it, in our personal lives or our work lives, where we spend our time and what we spend it doing says everything about what we prioritize.  For example, a school principal makes decisions every day about where in the building he or she will be. During leadership coaching, I ask school leaders to think about this…are they spending time in the school where they should be? In conversation with the people who they need to be interacting with? Or are they avoiding the classrooms or the people that might be important to helping achieving goals?

To gain focus, we actually need to take the time to consider what we want to focus on. Writing down your goals can be empowering and will help you stay on course. We suggest several ways to think about how you use your time and what is distracting you from doing what you know you really should do.  Taking time to plan your day and then intentionally making sure that you are aware when you are being distracted is important. The really critical piece is when you take whatever step you need to stay the course.

How many times do you hear someone ask you, “Do you have a minute?”. You both know, it isn’t really just a minute of your time that someone wants and at that very moment, you have a decision to make.  Do you allow this distraction or do you need to find a way for the conversation to happen when it works better for you. What happens when you are working online?  Do you find yourself quickly distracted by Twitter, Instagram or Facebook?  Does it become how you spend your time despite your best intentions to focus on the right work? Believe me, I am guilty of all of the above. I have learned how easily distracted I can be every single day of my life.  I know that as a leader and as a person, the self-discipline of staying focused on my goals is a challenge.  And, it all feels very messy some of the time to me and there have been lots of times that I had to truly hit the reset button and start again.  Working and living with intentionally is a “work in progress” for me.

This chapter is the first chapter of the book for a reason.  As baseball legend Yogi Berra says, “if you don’t know where you are going, you will end up someplace else.”  School improvement requires the road map with an end goal in mind. Identifying what you will be “tight” on, your non-negotiables, includes your intentional actions.  So, think about a few priorities and set your goals.  Take the time to consider what has to happen to get you there and commit to these actions.  Consider how you will message this to others. What will this look like? Sound like to them? Stay intentional.  That is what great leaders do.  And, when you take a detour or even get off the road for awhile, remind yourself of what you want to accomplish and get back out there! Have a great week and a wonderful easter.  See you next Saturday!

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