It is almost the end of January. One month since you set those personal new year resolutions. Almost a month since you have been back to work in your school or district. Every day, you start with a plan- with a list of things to do, people to talk to, tasks to accomplish and habits to stick with to help you accomplish your goals. Self-discipline or no discipline? Which rules your world? For me, it is a little bit of both, depending on what I am working on. If it is personal health choices, the “no discipline” takes over too often. If it is work related, I am much better at being self-disciplined. What distracts me? How do you keep your focus? What happens to throw you off your game? How do you get back on track? It seems like a great time of the year to talk about getting our focus back. Here is something that might help you…
In our book, Leading with Intention, (https://www.solutiontree.com/leading-with-intention.html) Jeanne and I tackle the issue of keeping your focus in chapter one. We start with a conversation about your use of time. We know that with 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. This chapter is the first chapter of our 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 or personal improvement requires a road map with an end goal in mind.
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.
I have to admit (and my friends and family reading this will know it to be true), I have found myself in a funk the last few weeks. I have been wasting my personal time and struggling to keep my focus. I had to have a real hard look at things this past week and get some friendly coaching and stern reminders that it was time to get back on track. I actually did one of the exercises from chapter one in the book, filling out this template a couple of times to admit to myself that what I intended to do was interrupted by something else. I let distractors get in the way and when I look at the list of distractors, they were quite simply taking over my personal time.
When I work in schools and districts, leadership coaching often involves first, figuring out where time is being spent. 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?
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, like this week, that I had to truly hit the reset button and start again. Working and living with intentionally is a “work in progress” for me.
When I started writing this weekly blog on school improvement a couple of years ago, I wanted to support the work of the amazing educators that I was with each and every week. . As time has passed, I recognize that many of the practices are also really good ways to take care of ourselves as well. So whether you are reading this to improve your workplace or your personal lives, I thank you for staying with me. Hit the reset button this week if you need to. Challenge yourself to reflect on your intentionality or lack of it. There is always time to start again. Have a great week.