Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, Just Get It Out of the Way

 In Administrator Resources, Climate, Leadership Development, Principal of the Year, Professional Development Opportunities

Guest Blog By Matt Clifford, January 23, 2020

The Brahma Kumaris have a saying, “A task undone remains undone in two places–at the actual location of the task, and in your head.” How many sleepless nights must one have to prove this statement true? In the early days of my principalship, even when I found time to focus on the essentials of being an educational leader, I would often catch myself drifting off and thinking about all of the other things left undone. Browsing the internet for best practice, I stumbled upon David Allen’s book titled Getting Things Done.  In the book Allen outlines his robust time management methodology. Admittedly, I never fully adopted his practice, but there were a handful of great takeaways that streamlined my practice. One of the most transformative lines for me came early in the book where he writes, “Do it. If the task will take less than 2 minutes, it should be done at the moment it is defined.”

At the time this idea seemed counterintuitive to me. Why would I start with the tiniest, most insignificant stuff when I have these other big things to focus on? However, Allen’s research had led him to understand a key point: even when you aren’t actively focused on the “less important” tasks, your subconscious still knows they are there. My to-do lists, made with the intent to help me prioritize the work, had evolved into this prison of thought that prevented me from giving my full attention to anything. I recommend Allen’s book just to hear his insights into the psychology of task management and why we feel overwhelmed all the time. Now as a general rule, my “2 minutes or less” tasks are done at the moment they present themselves. Rather than appearing on a list “to get to later”, they are out of sight and, most importantly, out of mind. As a result, my to-do lists are much tidier which allows me to focus on true priorities. I feel less overwhelmed and sleep better, too. 
Related Recommendation: If you are a person like me who prefers to take notes and/or plan by hand, I strongly encourage you to take a look at the various notebook options provided by Rocketbook. I am affiliated with the company in no way, but have nothing but positive things to say about their products. It has allowed me to seamlessly blend my preferred pencil/paper work with my digital and cloud-based organizational methods.

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