How to Find the Time You Need

Cathy GassenheimerNot long ago I participated in a series of calls with school districts where we discussed what everyone agreed was a valuable practice. We also mulled over that perennial question: where do we find the time?

Ask any educator what they wished they had more of, and chances are they’d mention time. Time for team planning, time for professional learning, and time to craft new and more engaging lessons. For administrators, it is time for PLCs, time to visit classrooms, and time to help develop and support teachers.

Yet time always seems to be somehow elusive. What can we do?

Stephen Covey’s insights

Steven Covey can help us when thinking about capturing more time. In his famous Time Management Matrix (from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People), he suggested that we spend way too much time in quadrants 3 and 4, when we could be more productive if we intentionally worked more often in quadrants 2 and 1.

In a Forbes article a few years ago, business leader and former time management coach Ken Krogue described Covey’s Four Quadrant model as “very powerful.” The key, Krogue said, “is focusing proactively on Quadrant Two, important but not urgent, lessening Quadrant Three, not important but urgent, and killing Quadrant Four, not important and not urgent, by saying that all important word, ‘No.'”

Krogue also recommends the Franklin Covey book The 4 Disciplines of Execution. “Execution is getting the right things done well, day in and day out,” he explains. “The right things are those Quadrant Two actions, important but not urgent, that bring the most leverage, but are forever delayed by practicing procrastinators.”

Insights from a veteran principal

Thomas Hoerr, the emeritus head at New City School and a columnist for Educational Leadership, remembers as a principal receiving scores of emails daily and feeling the responsibility to reply to each one.

His time was often filled with responding to deadlines, meeting with a parent who stopped by his office and HAD to see him right then, addressing discipline, etc. He learned the hard way that “we need to determine which urgent demands are important and resist giving our time to those that aren’t.”

In his most recent EL column, you can see that Hoerr, too, is a Covey follower. To better manage time, Hoerr suggests that principals consider the following:

“Tak(e) the time to develop and support faculty collegiality. Principals are trained to observe teachers and give individual feedback. Although that has merit, it’s not very efficient and—especially in a large school—not realistic. Instead, principals need to view teachers as resources for one another. How can we create a school culture in which teachers grow and learn together? The time spent doing this important-but-not-urgent task will free up some time for the principal, as well as benefit everyone in the school.”

Hoerr provides other “time-capturing” activities, including:

► All or most school meetings are learning meetings (announcements, schedules, etc. can be transmitted by email);

► Teachers meeting in small groups to watch videos of great lessons and dialogue about what they saw and what they learned; and

► Teachers developing a “pedagogical challenge goal” that required learning and collaboration and was related to a real instructional issue dogging those teachers.

A resource from Rick DuFour

Another great resource for finding time is the website organized by Rick DuFour titled All Things PLC. Go there and enter “finding time” in the search box and you’ll find some useful resources such as this one, “Finding Time for Teams.”

So, next time you are getting ready to say, “I don’t have time” for something really important, but not urgent, look deeper into Covey’s quadrants, or probe the All Things PLC website for ideas. And you might take some tips from Principal Emeritus Tom Hoerr too.