How Do I Make the Most of my Time NAD Principals’ Handbook Excerpt
Principals know that time is a precious commodity. Once used, it cannot be recalled.
While taking care of the office duties is important, it is more important to build and nurture relationships with faculty, students, and parents.
Managing time effectively is of primary importance to a successful principal.
• Attend events where your presence makes a difference.
• Beat procrastination: “just do it!”
• Carve out time for planning, reflection, and creative thinking.
• Delegate tasks that others can do.
• Document, document, document.
• Match effort to importance of the task.
• Organize, organize, organize.
• Implement a system for efficient handling of communication and paperwork.
• Refuse to do other people’s work for them or to make their problems your own.
• Reward yourself for completing major projects.
• Use technology as a time-saver, not a time waster.
• Use your administrative assistant as a discreet “screener.”
• Vary your schedule.
• Keep your to-do list prioritized—important vs. urgent; leadership vs. management.
How to Thrive as a Principal
Murray Cooper | Associate Superintendent for Administration, Florida Conference
For many Seventh-day Adventist principals, it is all about survival as principal. This bears out in the prevailing acknowledgment that the average term of service of a principal at a given school is less than four years in the North American Division, and it is not getting better. Chapter Eight in the Principals Handbook is essential to help you move from surviving to thriving in your school and community for the betterment of all.
First, focus your attention on self-care. It is way too easy to get sucked into long hours at school, eating comfort foods at odd hours if at all, not getting enough rest, pushing exercise to the back burner or not at all, stealing time from your spouse and children to get work done. Going in this direction impacts your health and makes it increasingly difficult to attend to the myriad of responsibilities you have by being the public face for your school, attending to the needs of those working with you at the school, as well as making the right decisions. This recipe for disaster will result in you getting physically, mentally, and emotionally worn out, evidenced by missing work and not interacting with others as we should. We beat ourselves up because we know we aren’t as effective as we desire to be. We have terms for this: burnout and stress.
There are several things I’d like to challenge you about self-care as it relates to survival skills and strategies to reduce the burnout and stress that is ever-present.
I am a routines person. Daily, I get up early and take the dog for a walk, and this is a great quiet time for reflection and prayer as well as getting a little exercise. Several days per week, I head to the gym to do some cardio and weight work. This has become so ingrained that when I can’t exercise, things are just off. When I get back home, I spend some quiet time in worship by reading and studying.
At the office, I construct my day with a “to-do" list, and as I complete tasks, I mark them off, and this helps give me a sense of accomplishment. I also don’t completely fill up the schedule because unexpected things arise that must be dealt with—this is the life of a principal.
As a principal, I learned that I needed to have a firm time set to leave the building. Respecting myself and my family, by leaving the office so that I could have time with the family was critically important. This became easier as I realized that I could spend 24/7 at the school and still never be caught up—to what cost and end? I advise the principals I work with to start with picking one day per week to leave earlier than normal. The work will always be present, but you’ve at least recognized and respected your own need for personal and family time.
I have had times where my Sabbath looked pretty much like any other workday, but perhaps not in the way you think. Church duties, which are the unspoken part of your job description, are something I accept and enjoy. Currently, I play piano for a kindergarten Sabbath School class. The problem was that I allowed myself to get caught up in just checking my email to see if there was something, which quickly moved to check the news and sports scores and before I knew it, Sabbath was no different from any other day, and I was not receiving the blessing of Sabbath rest. Rest can come when you put your electronic devices in lockdown on Sabbath, allowing you to focus on all God has done for you!
Surviving and then thriving is dependent on self-care. Move towards a healthier lifestyle, setting limits on your time at school, and please, enjoy the Sabbath rest.
Essential Survival Skills
Kania Paulas | Teaching Principal,
Z.L. Sung Adventist Academy
Skills that are essential to survival as a first-year principal and by God’s grace thriving school year include; taking care of yourself spiritually, physically, socially, emotionally, and intellectually. Remember that being a principal is a career. However, it is not who you are; it is vital to ensure a balanced life—knowing that God created you a whole being and that He cares enough for you to want you to have life abundantly.
Keeping your relationship with Christ close and worship time guarded is essential to staying grounded. Helping others on their spiritual journey is always the purpose and joy of service; however, losing your soul in the process is also not God’s intention. Safeguarding your time with God and family will allow you to show up and be of service to others.
Seeking wisdom through finding a mentor will allow for information to be shared and to be supported in various aspects of the first-year journey. When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, his life became out of balance. Jethro, his father in law, was able to step in as his mentor and reminded Moses that he cannot do everything on his own and that saying, “No” can still be Christ-like.
Avoiding bumps on the road and working towards becoming better daily, including building relationships, is important. Many times, as leaders, we get caught up in tunnel vision of the day to day responsibilities that we can sometimes miss those special moments. Moments with parents, staff, students, or church members help build up and support the body of Christ.
As a teaching principal, many times, I feel as though time is not on my side. Using time wisely is essential to keeping stable and ensuring that students are learning, and teachers are supported. In the beginning, taking time out to organize surroundings, due dates, and material allow for the effective use of time throughout the day. Planning the controllable, completing essential tasks first, and following through when deadlines are approaching can help to alleviate stress and encourage productivity. Another necessary skill for survival is documentation. I have learned that there is nothing too big or too small to keep notes or information. Documentation can be helpful by allowing all stakeholders to be supported.
Another necessary skill for survival is rising to the occasion any time things do not go exactly according to plan. During this time, let go and let God’s will be done. I believe all setbacks work for God’s glory while they contribute to the resilience and continued grit needed for this journey. Being able to learn from mistakes and staying open to adjustment with a positive attitude will allow for recovery and to rise from setbacks.
Keeping the spirit of a lifelong learner by growing professionally, celebrating success, and effective communication allow those bumps in the road to go along smoother each time. Joining professional learning communities such as the National Association for Elementary School Principals will allow first-year principals to keep up to date with the latest research and information on resources. Overall staying close to God, accepting that not everything will be completed in one day and that God is ultimately in control allows leaders to be a vessel and of service to God’s work with His precious children.
Leading the Journey through Mentoring
Robert Stevenson | Principal, Sawgrass Adventist School
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to be mentored and have had the privilege to mentor others, namely teachers and new administrators. In my experience on both ends of the spectrum, I have learned a few realities that need to be unpacked.
First, as a person being mentored, you will only benefit from mentoring if you truly want the input of your coach. Second, you must trust and respect the counsel of the mentor in your life. Third, accept that we can all use a mentor in our lives. It is almost always helpful to have someone in our lives to bump ideas off of and get a fresh perspective from. Finally, you must recognize that working with a partner who “has your back” increases your potential for success.
Recognizing your need is central to success. Unfortunately, though, some people have to fall flat before asking for help. There are many times, especially at the beginning of our careers, when we think we know it all. The truth is these are often the times we need the most help. The greatest epiphany any of us can experience is that we don’t and can’t ever “know it all.” The sooner we come to grips with our individual blind spots, the sooner we can conquer them. Find someone willing to invest in improving your vision of your world.
Taking counsel may be hard sometimes, but when we have someone willing to poke at our sore spots, the sooner we can fix them. Be open to guidance and then be open to change. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification from those who are trying to help. Realize that by combining our IQ with another person’s, we are increasing our chances for success.
Seek out friends and mentors, people you can trust. Sometimes we are assigned a mentor, give them a chance to prove themselves. If someone is willing to invest time in helping you grow, respect their willingness to invest in you, and listen to what they have to say.
Having a person or group of people to mentor will only make you more effective. As an administrator, it should be our goal to empower our staff to think about and share what they see and how they would like things to go. In essence, an administrator’s success is conditional on the counsel from the team. You can also choose people to give advice or input for different situations at different times. Surround yourself with experts in various fields to guide you through your blind spots.
Have different people to go to for advice on curriculum issues, staffing concerns, or classroom management. The bigger your circle of advisors, the stronger your experience will be. When you have a group of people working with you rather than against you, your entire circle will be more successful.
I challenge the readers of this article to open up to being mentored, then as you grow, become a mentor to others. When we strive as a learning community to see and utilize the best in each other, our communities, schools, and conferences will reach their full potential.