Getting It Done! Part 2: Planning Your Attack

Last week, I shared strategies which made the overwhelming job of being a principal much more manageable for me. These were all part of the Personal Productivity System I developed from what I learned in David Allen’s Getting Things Done (commonly referred to as GTD).

The main parts of this productivity system are:

  • A place and systems for processing “stuff”
  • A place and systems for collecting, processing, and prioritizing thoughts.

Once I had those two main parts, I established a daily routine for sorting through those “collection buckets” as I referred to them last week. This routine is my Workday Startup Routine. Going through the steps in my startup routine help me focus on exactly what I need to do each day and ensure that I make time for the important, not just the urgent. They are how I plan my attack.

You have to think about stuff more than you realize, but not as much as you’re afraid you might.

David Allen

Workday Startup Routine

My Workday Startup Routine is a series of steps that I do every day as soon as I get to work before I do anything else. It helps to set a positive tone and establish exactly what needs to be accomplished each day. My routine ensures I prioritize the important, so I am not just always just pulled to the urgent. Also, if I do get pulled, when I come back I know exactly what to do next. A few highlights from my routine include:

Starting the day with 3 positive notes

When I was a principal, I wrote 3 different staff members a note each day and tracked who I wrote notes to by checking their names off a list. This ensured I encouraged those in my care and started my day focused on the positive.

Positive walk

I made myself do a lap around the school after I unloaded buses and talk to at least three different staff members a day to build relationships and connect. Until I made this part of my routine, it was way too tempting to stay in the office while it was fairly quiet in order to knock items off my list and I was missing a great opportunity to build relationships.

3 MITs

This is not on the list in the picture because at the time I was setting my MITs at the end of the day in preparation for the next day, but now I do this after I read email during the Workday Startup. Some folks will say that MITs are not tasks to check off–they are areas of focus to advance your mission and vision. I used the practice of identifying the MITs to prioritize 3 items from my list of Todos. I would go through my binder and think about what absolutely HAD to get done that day. It was and still is a key part of my productivity.

To learn more about the Workday Startup Routine check out: Focus on This Podcast Episode #028 – How to Start and Stop Your Workday and Daniel Bauer’s – Better Leaders Better Schools Podcast – Episode 230 How to Have Powerful 2020.

My best advice for creating your own startup and shutdown routines is:

  • Get some background by listening to the above podcasts
  • Create your routine based on what you need to do everyday, but sometimes forget/don’t do when things get crazy 
  • Add activities that you do not do naturally, but are important
  • Start your day with something positive

The benefits of building your own productivity system extend to managing stress, not just getting more things done. That’s probably was the most powerful benefit for me. In GTD, Allen discusses how building these systems “closes loops” in your brain. He contends that a lot of he stress comes from having “open loops,” but if you have a system you aren’t worrying about what you have to do.

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