Last week, Eye On Education hosted its premier online conference, Eye On School Success. The conference provided teachers and school leaders with a wealth of practical ideas for their own professional development. One of our expert presenters, Pete Hall, led the popular session Motivational Leadership. In this tip, you will learn one of Pete's key strategies for professional development: prioritization.
When it comes to prioritization, we need to make a slight shift in urgency. Rather than asking, “What could I be doing?” we ask ourselves instead, “What should I be doing?” That query probes to the deepest, darkest part of our inner selves, to the cockles of our heart. It might even get us below the cockles, in the subcockle area. There we will find the driving force that generates all our professional actions, dreams, goals, and motivation.
For most of us, that driving force is the continuous improvement of the educational process to benefit hordes of individual children, so they might one day become productive, healthy, contributing members of a greater society. Our actions indicate our priorities and preferences. They help us distinguish between what we deem important and what becomes a coat rack that stands in the corner collecting dust and umbrellas.
The question, “What should I be doing?” really requires a follow-up question: “What do I really prioritize?”
With student achievement, professional growth, and healthy development as cornerstones of our professional work, the issue of prioritization is of utmost importance. In a related essay, a clever author once wrote, “You cannot conduct walkthroughs after school, but you can answer e‑mails” (Hall, 2011). That certainly speaks to the value and importance of setting aside chunks of time to engage in active instructional leadership. But what else is a whisper in your veins that sounds with every beat of your heart, rather than a Post-It note on the side of your desktop calendar? And how can you massage those priorities into your daily routines?
Quadrantize your work.
Think of every decision you have to make and every task you have to complete according to its importance (its relationship to the achievement of your mission and goals) and its urgency (how quickly you must address it). Plot these items on Stephen Covey’s (1989) Time-Management Matrix:
We need to spend as much time in quadrant II as we can. We need to make it a point to do that every day. If we need help, we can always write those responsibilities into our daily schedules, like with do with all of our inescapable quadrant III tasks.