Making Time

How do you plan for your strategic use of time?

In a culture that seems to take some kind of pride in talking about how busy we all are, it seems even more important that we purposefully plan for our time, so that we can ensure that we focus as much as possible on the essential and strategic. That is, if we are truly striving to do significant work and intentionally make a difference.

In the past, I’ve written about my approach to this strategic planning for use of my time…

During the last days of 2014, I created my first prototype for my 2015 schedule paradigm.

For me, I create this schedule paradigm by engaging in some reflection about how I spent my time in the previous two semesters, and I calibrate those data and insights with how I perceive I need to spend my time relative to our strategic goals and objectives as a school.

Then, I ask for feedback…

Dear All:

I don’t mean to interrupt your break. I’m simply getting something into your inboxes for when you return to work. (Happy New Year!)

I’m sharing my “schedule paradigm” prototype for semester two, 2014-15. And I have two requests of each of you, which I hope will only take 5-15 minutes max.

1. Because you are the people with whom I work most closely, I want you to be aware that this is my current thinking about how I plan to structure my recurrent time for second semester. [Most of you know that I do this every August and January to “put the big rocks in the jar first.” Here’s a 2011 blog post, if you’re interested, where I first explain this practice of mine.]

*2. I’d love any of your thoughts, comments, questions, and feedback on how I’ve structured my time plan (which I call a “schedule paradigm”).

Some of the questions I already know I have:

  • As I try to ramp up my CLIO time, how might I get back into weekly work with Preschool, Lower School, and Middle School? Is there a regular weekly/monthly way for me to get re-involved with the other divisions? What do Kelly, Shelley, and Chip + Katie and Nicole see as those opportunities?
  • How might Mary and I return to regular meet-ups to strategically work on DT across divisions and curricula? How might we include Jim?
  • How can I best support Meghan in the development of iDiploma’s big picture, as well as with the on-the-ground work this semester?
  • How can I best support Kristyn with the (i)Project development and future framework?
  • What support/co-labor do the other US SLT members need that I am not providing them?
  • How might I stay focused on the Progress Monitoring System work across divisions, and especially in Upper School this semester?
  • How do I best ensure that I am in classrooms at least 8-10 hours per week?
  • Is there enough white space for people to come get me, drop in, schedule time for all the things that I don’t know yet will come up but that always seem to?
  • How do I best prioritize #fuse15 ramp up?
  • How do I best do my share of the leadership and heavy lifting for the intensive work that MVIFI needs?



The feedback I receive from my peer and colleagues is invaluable. From their questions and ideas, I’m already adjusting parts of the schedule so that my plans for strategic time allocation align and synergize with theirs.

As you do your work to lead a school, classroom, project, venture, company, or other endeavor, how do you make time? I’d love to learn from you via comments and links you might leave here.


This post first appeared on It’s About Learning 1.10.2015

Two Questions On My Mind – How We Spend Our School Time

For some time, I’ve been contemplating more than a couple of questions. Yet these two keep emerging for me in the past few days and weeks…

  1. If most life is project-based, is it too much to devote ~10% wk in project-origin in school? (3.5 of 35 hrs.) 2.5 hrs is pass time! ON TWITTER
  2. Interesting to visit schools July-Aug, and on Sat/Sun. Lots of sports practices. I wonder… why we feel we cannot “practice” academics too ON TWITTER

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If time is money, then how are you investing yours as a school leader?

Time is money.

Over my lifetime, I’ve heard that phrase countless times. As a teacher in the field of economics, I certainly tried to help student learners see the power of time in their investments and savings.

To oversimplify things, you can approach monetary saving and investing from one of two approaches. As you get your paycheck:

  1. you can instantly commit a certain dollar amount or percentage to savings and investments, before you ever spend a dime on any other living expenses; or
  2. you can spend, spend, spend and wait until the end of the month to see how much you have left over for savings and investments.

Which approach do you think actually ends up with more deposits in the bank?

So, if time is (like) money, then how are you investing your time as a school leader?

Do you earmark certain amounts or percentages of time to the big investments you want to make for the long-term development of your school? And do you instantly “pay your calendar” those savings and investments, so that you know time will be devoted to those all-too-important accounts?

Or do you spend your time on all of the things that happen to come your way, only to realize at the end of a week or month that you don’t have a lot (of time) left for the critical investments for the future of your school?

A Case Study of Time Investment: Me

For about five years, I’ve disciplined myself to create what I call a “scheduling paradigm.” It’s one way that I take my monthly time paycheck and make my saving-and-investment commitments first. In past years, I’ve written about this under titles such as “Big Rocks First.”

This year, much of my first semester at Mount Vernon was devoted to an advanced ethnography plan. (That needs to be an entire other set of leadership-practice posts!) Now that I’m shifting into another phase of my work, I used a number of insights from the observations and engagements first semester to build a prototype of my second semester scheduling paradigm.

As part of the prototype testing, I sent the following email to about ten colleagues for feedback:

Dear All:

I’d really appreciate some feedback, coaching and advice from you all. I hope it will take 10 minutes or less.

I’ve attached version one of my scheduling paradigm, and I would so appreciate your eye on it. It reflects some of what I learned S1, as well as what I anticipate in S2.

  • What regularly scheduled happenings in your division/department do you want/need me a part of?
  • If you were me, how would you spend your time – what would you focus on and prioritize?
  • What do you expect from me – from your CLIO – that I might not yet be delivering on? What do you want me to keep/continue doing?

Creating a paradigm like this is a relatively long-standing practice of mine. (You can read about it here, if you are interested.) By no means does this rigidly lock me into a predetermined schedule. Rather it helps me make sure that I intentionally create space for importance. The current schedule does not reflect the impromptu talks, the project work like ATLK12DC, MVIFI & fuse14, iDiploma, etc. that we know will be a part of S2.

Thank you! I want to ensure I am serving you and the school best!


Part of my decision to seek feedback was influenced by a recent leadership podcast from Andy Stanley (hat tip to Shelley Clifford). The November and December episodes focused on “The Art of Inviting Feedback,” and Stanley’s suggestion to ask, “If you were me, what would you do?” seemed a perfect combination with my developing habit of creating a scheduling paradigm.

Well, the feedback has been amazing. Seven of the ten colleagues have provided me with very specific information about what to continue, what to add or change, and what I might drop. Earlier this week, I met with two of my co-leaders who had also created similar scheduling paradigms for themselves, and we were able to trade notes and exchange ideas about what we saw and how our time investments might synergize and complement each other’s plans.

Now, it’s time to ship the idea – something akin to an MVP (minimum viable product) – and learn from the actual commitment to the time investments.

As a school and education leader that looks for wisdom in the practice of other school and education leaders – and leaders from multiple industries, sectors, and walks of life – I thought I would share my own practice here. If any of you find even a smidgen of wisdom in the idea, then I hope you’ll make it your own and make it better. I don’t much care for the verb we often use in educational leadership – “steal.” We often hear educators say, “Oh, I like that. May I steal that idea?” Well, I offer this one freely. And I hope you’ll let me know if you have a practice that works for you in terms of devoting intentional time to the investments that matter most in our schools.

As for me, I’ve learned that time can get away from us as school leaders. So, I set aside a portion of my time paycheck at the beginning to ensure that my long-term accounts are deposited with savings and investments first.

Tracking Time to Learn from Our Patterns – a Lesson from My New World

At my new company, we track our time. I imagine many companies track how time is spent. For me, in these two weeks, during an 8-9 hour day, I probably spend 3 minutes total going through the exercise of tracking my time. So, it’s easy. The software we use makes it easy. There are pre-poulated pull-down menus and sub-menus. There are wonderfully granular levels of such activity as “research.” There are text fields so that I can add commentary, too. Then, I can look at reports of how I am spending my time. Of course, my coaches can also view how I spend my time, and I totally and completely trust them to do so.

What if we teachers tracked our time like this? Recently, at lunch with a colleague, I mentioned how surprised I was to learn that I am loving my self-tracking of time. Because I have spent 20 years in schools, and because I love to integrate most of what I am learning with school life, I could imagine us teachers tracking our time. I could imagine content-oriented pull-down menus and sub-menus. I could imagine skill-oriented pull-down menus and sub-menus. I could imagine methodology and pedagogy menus and sub-menus. I could imagine running a report after two weeks and seeing for myself, “Wow. I spent 78% of my teaching time this week lecturing. Is that a good thing? How might I re-balance my methodology and approaches given my SMART goal and desired outcome for the year?”

Of course, I also imagined students tracking their time. In the spirit of making education “more pull, than push,” I would love for a student to share with me in an individual conference how he or she had spent his/her learning time during the week or two-week period. I could imagine doing this with advisees, so that I could discover with them how they are exploring their interests and spending time in their structured school-learning environments. I could imagine seeing the cross-polinations and synergies among class-content time recordings and self-directed time recordings.

In many ways, I see my time tracking as related to the tips shared in an article that a colleague sent to me about 11 secrets of leadership. My time tracking allows me to record reality in short bits, and then I can study my time to be more proactive about how I structure my days to further leadership and learning.

Time is a valuable resource. In fact, time may be the most valuable resource. I am thrilled to have a better handle on how I spend my time so that I can be purposeful, intentional, and strategic about making the most of my opportunities to create impact and to make a difference.

How are you spending your time…your time learning…your time teaching…your time working?

[Interestingly, after talking about this with my friend at lunch, he sent me a link to Lesson Note, a digital tool for tracking class activity, particularly as it relates to “lesson study,” an action research collaboration in learning communities for which I am a strong and dedicated advocate. However, the kind of time tracking that I am sharing above is very different and only distantly related to Lesson Note tracking. The type of time tracking I am discussing feels more self-initiated and self-directed. Of course, Lesson Note could be used in very positive and powerful ways, too, if a team decided to employ such a digital resource to advance their work and understanding about their teaching.]

CHANGEd: What if we slowed down and let strong bonds form? 60-60-60 #44

Has the new American greeting become, “Did you get my email?” Have we unintentionally resolved that “Busy” is the standard response to “How are you?” Have agendas become more driving than relationships? Is the working lunch the result of crowding time at the margins? Do five minute pass times really allow people to shift gears and catch their breaths? Is it healthy for a student to have a 7:00 a.m. meeting and remain at school until 7:00 p.m., or later, on a regular basis?

What if we slowed down? What if we gradually and purposefully replaced some quantity with quality? What if we served fewer items from the buffet to our plates, but what if we served more of fewer items? Would we stop and talk to each other more? Would we look each other in the eyes rather than walking by with that “I gotta get somewhere fast” gaze on our smartphone screen?

What if we offered fewer “subjects” because we understood that they are all connected and integrated anyway? What if we realized that the BIG issues in the world will not be solved through one siloed discipline…and what if we realized that they will ALL be solved through empathy and relationship?

CHANGEd: What if…60-60-60 Project Explained