Time for time

A neighbour once asked Kathleen what her Mom did for a living and she replied, “My Mom’s a traveler.” This week alone I flew to Philadelphia (to develop a partnership with TABS) and Montreal (to meet the Board at Hebrew Foundation School), and this was a four day week…. When I find myself doing this kind of travel, I often try to justify the time away, especially when it means time away from family.

So on my flight home today, I made a list of how I spent my days, hour by hour. I was inspired to think like a lawyer, in terms of billable hours, by Richard Light, author of Making the Most of College and a Harvard professor. Light spent over ten years researching why some students do better in college than others. He found that one key factor was time: “Sophomores who had a great first year typically talked about realizing, when they got to college, that they had to think about how to spend their time. They mentioned time management, and time allocation, and time as a scarce resource.”

I’m trying to be more reflective about how to better use my time, and what better time than the beginning of a brand new year?  To be clear, my goal is not to maximize efficiency, but rather to become more strategic. David Hadden, retired Head of Lakefield, challenged the Leadership Institute attendees as well as the first year SEAL Canada Heads to “Do what only you can do.” (watch the speech here). This got me thinking about how we spend time, and I think it inspires some great questions for schools:

  • How do Heads divide their time between hanging out with students, dining with donors, observing classes, greeting parents, attending PD, engaging alum, blogging, meeting prospective families, or reflecting on the above?
  • How do teachers balance their time between classroom teaching, keeping up with the latest research, getting to know their students beyond the classroom, returning calls to parents, running co-curricular activities or leading interesting lives?

Individual time is not the only point of reflection; it is great when schools also look at how collective time is spent. How much time at Board meetings is spent on listening, discussing, debating, and deciding?  How do assemblies support the mission and vision of the school? How much of every staff meeting is dedicated to teaching and learning and kids? What I like about our accreditation process is that it forces this kind of intentional reflection.

Here is what I learned from my exercise this morning on the plane:

Good use of time

  • All efforts to communicate with members
  • Face-to-face meetings with potential strategic partners
  • To-do lists
  • Playing Angry Birds with my kids

Ways to improve

  • Shut down blackberry when trying to write and edit
  • Focus on strategic plan priorities first
  • Spend time on flights writing blogs
  • Not playing Angry Birds alone when I would benefit more from an extra hour of sleep (although I am apparently not alone according to the New York Times, but still….)

Happy New Year and have a good time… taking time to think about time….

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