Getting It Done! Part 1: Building Your Personal Productivity System

When I became a principal, I became a ravenous consumer of anything related to productivity. I wanted to have a life outside of my job, so that meant learning strategies to become effective and productive. I didn’t want spending time in classrooms to mean that I would have to spend hours after school on email or other administrative tasks. I knew that there had to be strategies I could learn to manage my time and help me to get everything done effectively and efficiently.

I’m happy to report that there are strategies I learned and systems I built which made the overwhelming job of being a principal much more manageable for me. Today we’ll focus on how to get started.

The first thing I would suggest is to Build Your Personal Productivity System

I learned this concept from David Allen’s Getting Things Done, the art of stress-free productivity. Key concepts I learned in this book laid the foundation for how I work.

What did I learn?

  • You need to have a place and systems for processing your “stuff”.
  • You need to have a system to collect, process, and prioritize your thoughts.
  • Having a system is essential to managing your stress and getting things done.

How to Create a System for Processing the “Stuff”

Step 1:  Put all papers you receive from meetings that don’t have an immediate place into a “collection bucket,” that you will come back to and sort through later.

Step 2: Process the papers, and file them into a folder system based on when you will address them. I used a tickler file system. This system is basically 31 folders labeled 1-31 for each day of the month. You don’t have to know exactly when you are going to deal with the action item represented by the paper, you just need to prioritize. You will know deadlines for some papers, and placing papers in files based on when you will address the paper helps you know what to tackle first. This was HUGE for me. Previously I would file all my papers by project, idea, or just put in a “To-Do” folder. Then I would lose the paper or have messy stacks of files on my desk.

How to Create a System for collecting, processing, and prioritizing your thoughts

Step 1: Adopt the philosophy that your mind is designed to generate ideas, not store them.

Step 2: Establish a “collection bucket,”for your thoughts that you can come back to and sort through (notebooks or a binder with tabs).

I had a mini binder with different sections for:

  • Todos
  • What happened today
  • Personal PD
  • Reflection
  • Weekly email
  • Miscellaneous ideas!

Having a system is essential to managing your stress and getting things done. Once you have systems in place for how to manage the stuff and the thoughts, you plan how to attack them.

Part 2 of Getting It Done! released next Thursday, will focus on how to plan your attack.