Successful school leadership is as much about managing energy – both personal and organizational energy – as it is about managing tasks and people.
Without an even flow of energy throughout the day, even routine responsibilities can feel overwhelming and create stress for leaders and for those with whom they interact.
In a popular 2012 blog post, Tony Schwartz offers a number of valuable tips related to energy management of which two, in my experience, seem particularly noteworthy: (1) “Do the most important thing first in the morning, preferably without interruption, for 60 to 90 minutes, with a clear start and stop time,” and (2) “Establish regular, scheduled times to think more long term, creatively, or strategically.”
Regarding the first suggestion, he writes, “If possible, work in a private space during this period, or with sound-reducing earphones. Finally, resist every impulse to distraction, knowing that you have a designated stopping point.”
About the value of regularly-scheduled time to think, he says, “If you don’t, you’ll constantly succumb to the tyranny of the urgent. Also, find a different environment in which to do this activity — preferably one that’s relaxed and conducive to open-ended thinking.”
Both suggestions promote leaders’ focus and clarity regarding purpose and priorities, and either one of them, implemented daily, could make a substantial difference in both the quantity and quality of leaders’ work.
I also appreciate another of Schwartz’s recommendations, one that flows from the first two and affects both personal and organizational energy – “maintain meeting discipline.” Disciplined meetings, he says, would not exceed 45 minutes in length and would begin and end precisely on time. To maintain focus, digital devices would be turned off throughout the meeting.
Taken together, these recommendations and others Schwartz makes would enable school leaders to attend to important responsibilities with a sense of energy and enthusiasm that would flow outward to fuel continuous improvement in the quality of teaching, learning, and relationships within the school community.