Tag Archive for Getting things Done

The Email Monster


We all have it…that evil email monster that can clutter up our day, add to our to-do list, irritate us, and completely suck our time away from the work that we should be doing.  Conquering the email monster has been an evolving skill I have worked on over the past couple of years learning from tips in newsletters/training at The Principal Center, from David Allen’s Getting Things Done and from Curt Rees, my personal David Allen mentor.

For a tool that can expedite communication, what’s the problem with it? From what I’ve learned, in order to be productive, as you check each email you need to act on it.  You could delete it, reply to it, add to your to-do list email2of what you need to do as a result of the email and add it to your calendar, etc.  If you don’t do one of these then it clutters up your inbox (which I often find I then end up forgetting to act on later) and clutters up your mind.  Research found what is known as the Zeigarnik effect: “Uncompleted tasks and unmet goals tend to pop into one’s mind. Once the task is completed and the goal reached, however, this stream of reminders comes to a stop.” (Baumeiseter, p. 81)

What does this have to do with your email? If you read an email (even just skimming the little 1 sentence preview on your iPad) without doing something with it, it is still going to pop into your head, leaving you unable to focus on whatever else you are working on or enjoying your family time at home.

This past weekend I somehow got locked out of my school email.  It stopped working on my phone, my iPad and even logging into our email access through our school website.  I had a 3 day weekend with no email access.  What if a summer school teacher was emailing about not being able to find a substitute or some other summer school related issue?  What if my son’s baseball coach was emailing a schedule change?  Believe it or not, I got over these questions within a couple of hours and realized on Monday morning that I had the most relaxing weekend ever this summer!  Yes, I did a little bit of work at home, but the email monster had nothing on me!

I’d like to say that from now on I will never check email from home, because I already did that last night.  I will say, I’m going to make a more conscious effort to not check my emails from home unless I have the time to act on them, am waiting for an urgent response on something, and know that it won’t impact my family time.


Citation: Willpower: Rediscovering the greatest human strength, 2011, R. Baumeister and J. Tierney

Too Little Time?

I have listened to podcasts from BAM Radio Network for years now, so you can imagine my excitement when I was contacted by Rae Pica to join in on a podcast.  I have joined in on other podcasts before, but I was still nervous for this one!

Over the years I have been learning new strategies to keep myself organized and efficient with my time, while struggling to meet the many demands of the principal role so the topic of “Too Little Time?” was well needed for me.

Click HERE to listen to the podcast

While I had the chance to share a few of my thoughts, I enjoyed learning from the other podcasters as well.  Professor Zoe Chance shared the following research on time management: “when people perform very brief, random acts of kindness, helping others they can feel as though they have more time.”  Their studies found that repeatedly, people that help others, it contributes to the feeling of having more time.  She went on to share that “feelings of awe and wonder” feel that they have more time and are more productive. When you have this feeling, you feel present in the moment.

I found these findings very interesting, because even though it takes time each day for me to contribute to my Professional Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter, it has always made me feel good to share with others, because it also requires me to reflect on the ideas I am sharing.  Lisa Dabbs then pushed the idea of “unplugging” and finding balance, which is something that I am working on too!

So, how does an administrator get into that feeling of “awe and wonder” to be present in the moment?  I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, that you can learn a great deal from Getting Things Done and the productivity tips for administrators at Eduleadership.  I have found the app Remember the Milk to be an extremely helpful tool for me to manage the never ending list of everything I have to get done.  My desk used to be cluttered with post-it notes of everything I needed to do, but now everything goes into this app. If something pops into my head, I immediately put it in Remember the Milk so I can get it out of my head and focus on what task or conversation I have at hand.  Remember the Milk allows me to schedule what day I am going to complete a task, prioritize the list, add notes to each, make it a recurring to-do, and create separate lists that I can use for projects.


I’d love to hear your favorite tips to keep yourself organized and efficient with your time so that you can find that state of “awe and wonder” and be in the moment.


Office Guilt

I call this my “WKCE Cave”

We’ve just completed state testing in Wisconsin, but that doesn’t mean I’m done yet.  I’ve hardly been in classrooms the past 2 weeks due to testing (as the District Assessment Coordinator I organize testing for MS/HS too), but now I still have make-up testing and then the time consuming task of getting the tests ready to ship back.

Among all of this, I have realized that I never scheduled my #NoOfficeDay.  My point of #NoOfficeDay was to not only be in classrooms, but to also be a part of teaching in classrooms.  Unfortunately, with testing and everything else to do I’ve hardly been in classrooms at all and it gives me tremendous office guilt.
As a teacher, I never did any sort of my own work whenever there were students in the classroom, because my time with them was precious. I took this mentality with me to my role as principal and always feel like I should be out of the office during the time that students/teachers are in the building.  As much as I love that mentality, it’s just not reality with the amount of paperwork that we have to do as principals.  As much as I try to focus on people during the school day and paperwork at night, that mentality would mean midnight every night for me to catch up and I would still never catch up. I have learned this is not healthy (believe me, I’ve tried it!).

My office guilt is a wake-up call for me to put what I’ve learned from Getting Things Done and other tips learned from my GTD Gurr Admin Colleagues (Curt and Justin) back into practice that I have been letting slip as the state tests took over my life. This starts with scheduling everything in advance…blocking out big chunks of time in my calendar for classroom time (this time also includes for conversations with teachers) and blocking out office time.  When I schedule the office time, I also need to schedule what I need to accomplish during those times.  I’ve been pretty good at utilizing my “Tickler file”, however, I have been just moving stuff from day to day, not actually accomplishing much from each folder.  I am also going to think about my “open door policy” after reflecting on this post by Scott Elias. 

Finally, for my sanity, this post got me to turn off my technology for 2 Saturdays in a row. (I know… this is hard to believe that I actually did it, but I swear I did and it was WONDERFUL!!)


“Your ability to generate power is directly proportional to your ability to relax.” ~David Allen

Recently I read the book Getting Things Done by David Allen, which has dramatically impacted my work so that I can spend more time enjoying with my family.  Well, maybe not actually more time, but I’m better able to enjoy my time with them instead of thinking and stressing about all of the things I need to get done.

Anyone who knows me (or likely any other school administrator, or probably teachers for that matter) know that I am not good at relaxing.  I am the type of person that cannot just sit on the couch and watch my tv.  Even if my favorite show is on (if you’re curious, it’s The Big Bang Theory), I will have things ready to do during the commercials.

Well, this week I tried something new. There is no summer school in session for the entire week and there’s no one, but the custodians at school…a perfect time to hide in the office and catch up on work, right?  That’s what I’ve done every summer during those quiet times, but not this summer.  Nope, thanks to GTD (Getting Things Done) I’ve been becoming more efficient with my work and I took ALL of this week off.

What have I done this week? Basically nothing.

OK, I’m exaggerating, even with no work, I still can’t do nothing, but I have enjoyed time with my family–swimming, playing outside, enjoying the lake on our new boat (well, actually it was more like roasting in the heat wave on the boat), beating the heat inside with movies and monopoly and spending some lazy time reading.

So, why am I sharing this with you?  Well, for one, to make sure that you all realize that it is important to find time to relax.  David Allen’s quote, “Your ability to generate power is directly proportional to your ability to relax.” has become very important to me. My other reason for this post is, because it helps fulfill my 2nd post of the week for the 2012 Summer Blog Challenge and my brain is not ready for any deep thinking yet!