A Principal’s Tip for Keeping Focused on 1 Task

For those of you that are great at time management and staying focused, there’s no need for you to read this post…

For those of you who know me, you know that I am the queen of the procrastinators club (although we haven’t met yet, because I keep putting off scheduling our first meeting) and that I have ADHD…I do my best work at the final hour, I can be completely random, scattered, lose things, etc. I have also decided that I think the principalship induces ADHD, because we are interrupted about every 4 minutes, so how could one ever become completely focused on any one task for too long?

After a wonderfully relaxing Christmas vacation I was ready to get backScreen Shot 2015-01-02 at 3.46.04 PM into a work schedule today with a quiet school building to catch up on work in the office before school officially starts.  Perfect day to catch up on EVERYTHING, right? WRONG!  Nope, no one interrupted me…except for myself.  I feel like I could rewrite the book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie to be If You Give a Principal an Email.  Left to a quiet office with a list of 7 major things to accomplish, I added at least a dozen other tasks to my list today and only because I already led myself astray to complete them and then added them to my list to cross them off.

For those of you laughing with me now (or at me), I do have a point to this post. I’ve made great efforts over the years to learn everything I can about productivity as I’ve written about in previous posts, but today one lesson came to mind that I learned from Justin Baeder in a webinar at The Principal Center:

Parkinson’s Law: Work expands to fill the available time.

Horstman’s Corollary: Work contracts to fit into the time you give it.

I’ve always said that if time stopped, I would still never catch up on everything that I have to do.  It’s just not possible. We have to make choices about what’s most important, what has to be done now, what can wait and what can be shifted elsewhere.  On days like today, I do best when I remind myself of Horstman’s Corollary.  I do this by setting a timer for myself for the one task I’m working on and try to beat the timer.  I’m currently loving the google chrome extension “1 click timer,” because it just runs up in the corner of my browser or I can expand it to see it.  It is a reminder to myself to stay focused and finish what I’m doing before I distract myself with something else.

Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 3.38.39 PM
1 Click Timer

Full disclaimer: I should have been working on something else when I wrote this blog post, but it came into my head and I had to get it out! 

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Kris

    Thanks for the one click timer extension tip!!!

  2. Melanie

    This post gives me such hope. Knowing that you face the same “can’t complete a task” issue that I do just lifted my spirits greatly. I, too, tried to work today, but even with a quiet building, still didn’t accomplish what I went to do. Instead, I spent hours on a new website!! Thanks for posting today. I feel so much better.

  3. Ninon Wilson

    OMG!!! The beginning of your post totally cracked me up. I am sure we never will meet, as I too, have ADHD- not clinical. This was supposed to be a relaxing holiday break, as my husband and I had no “real plans”. It’s now Friday and I feel stressed. Having time on my hands has led me to the following things: realizing I have not signed up for ENOUGH 30 day transformation challenges, I needed to add about 10 new blogs to read (including yours), I need to work out twice a day to figure out the challenges, there are too many boards on Pinterest, I need my own leadership blog, I have a headache going between IG, Pinterest, FB, Twitter, games on my phone, email—I NEED A VACATION.

  4. I love everything about this post and it’s so great to hear I’m not alone in my “look there’s a squirrel!” world. I just got a new phone and I have not put my email on it. I’m loving it! And I agree with what you said about never enough time, work expanding to fit the time you give it, or contracting to fit a limit. Love the timer. In 2015, I’m going to try to reward myself for being more focused and less scattered. Thank you for sharing, Jessica!

  5. Santos

    Being interrupted is in our job description! I love this post because it is so true of principals. Glad to know there are others that face the same struggle. 🙂
    I’m going to try using the timer and see if that helps me stay on task.

  6. principalj

    Thank you all for the comments…it helps to know that we’re all human! 😉

  7. Michelle

    I thought I was a loner in that world! Thanks for sharing! Funny…I use to give myself a timer to complete tasks when I was going through my graduate program. I don’t know why I don’t use that same method for work. Wishing us all the best in remaining focused in 2015!

Leave a Reply