Do, delegate, dump

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I’ll say right now that I hope this never happens to you but, let’s imagine….

You’re heading to work as normal. The Today programme is blithering on in the background and you’re already thinking about what you’ve got coming up at school. In fact, you’ve been thinking about what you’ve got to do at work since about three seconds after you opened your eyes this morning. There’s a performance management meeting; the Wahlia’s are coming in this afternoon and you need to prepare for what could be a difficult conversation about their son; next week’s assessments need to be prepared; and the pastoral care board could do with refreshing; then there’s Daisy Mae, what is wrong with her at the moment?

And suddenly the air gets knocked out of you, the loudest sound that you’ve ever heard explodes in your ears and everything goes black.

When you open your eyes and try to move your very tender head, it is immediately obvious that you’re in a hospital. Some time later you try the same trick again but for longer now and someone in a white coat lets you know that you’re going to be alright, your family are outside and you won’t be going to work for a few weeks.

Suddenly the ‘To do’ list gets ruthlessly refined. When you are up to it you immediately pick out who is going to have to do what to fill in for you, and what can be left for now.

One of the chief reasons for the never ending ‘to do’ list is a fallacious assumption of being invaluable. The long list may be painful but it is implicit evidence that the place just couldn’t run without you. It is what some psychologists call a comfortable pain; that is, the painful situation or experience serves to reinforce a sense of status that, ultimately, is more important than removing the discomfort.

In a crisis situation school leaders are very adept at knowing what to do, what to delegate and what to dump. That is effective time and task management. When there is no crisis the comfortable pain situation kicks in and, until it is examined as the ego boost that it can be, all of the time management techniques in the world won’t make more than a temporary difference.

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