Frogs and posteriorties (part 2a)
For term, I had been reaping the benefits of a 4:45am start. Gained time from a shortened commute, health benefits from a daily 5 key run, a more conscious diet, improved sleep cycle,whilst enjoying the beauty and solace of the sunrise over Devil’s Punchbowl.
David Rogers (DHT and trusted colleague) often discuss the “state of the profession.” Workload, professional and personal responsibilities and personal effectiveness. During on exchange, we talked about “eating that frog,” the notion that you do the one thing you least want to do – first.
The one you are most likely to procrastinate on, that slows you down, that you may worry about. The one that, ironically and probably will have the greatest positive impact on your life / work / relationships. Who knows this may in fact be a leadership threshold concept.
It is not that different to the Marine tale of “making-your-bed-as-the-first-thing-you-do.” Even if you have a bad day… you will always return to a neatly made bed, (acknowledgement here to Brodie Permaine assembly).
I had previously read the book, I was already planning my morning my work, however it was a gift, so I re-read it.
Frogs for breakfast
It is a relative concise guide on how to improve your personal productivity, hence it lacks depth (you can not have both). Somewhat of a ‘smorgasbord’ of time management advice, a “pass-it-on” kind of book. Here are the refreshed points that I have adopted, adapted and discarded.
Firstly, and importantly, my morning now was very different. I was ready for the day. It was beautifully quiet in the office (no interruptions) and sixty minutes had become seventy – time gained from the commute.
Let’s start with the first two rules.
If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.
If you have to eat a live frog at all, it doesn’t pay to sit and look at it for very long.
As far as personal productivity is concerned. There can be no real arguments here. What I will say is, I have learnt that getting up early, means you feel you are invested. I am/was therefore less inclined to fritter away time from there on in. I create time by redirecting it to what matter most.
Next – we are advised to:
Set the table – “Think on paper.”
In my case, a whiteboard and this blog. Writing helps me think and make my thinking concrete. Having a board for my todo list has always been a feature of my work space.
Plan every day in advance
Much like Jacko Willink – Tracy directs you to plan you day, the night before. That didn’t materialise. I selected my frog in the mornings. Most comingly, in the role I was fulfilling at the time of writing, it was the extensive reporting that was required; weekly, termly and yearly. My weekly, termly, yearly to do plan, my version of planning ahead.
- Weekly report (Wed for Friday)
- Weekly SLT meeting (Thursday for Tuesday)
- Termly Trust report (2nd, 4th week and then post assessment weeks.)
- Updating the SEF. (Penultimate week.)
Setting an earlier deadline meant I rarely missed a deadline. Second, I very quickly learnt that it is not the amount of time I have to do the task but the quality and amount of the time that mattered.
Apply the 80/20 Rule to Everything
I found this chapter less applicable to education leadership however I am clear what makes a difference to staff, students and parents.
- Visibility and accessibility (since starting this post in Dec, I wrote a post about the ‘small things’ that matter to staff. Repeated reminded that it is the accumulation of all the ‘small things,’ that make a difference in one-to-one professional relationships, visibility and accessibility enable these to happen)
- Quality of, and communication of, decision making
- Impactful strategic planning: efficient and compassionate change management
I acknowledge that it is very important to resist the temptation to clear up ‘small things‘ first, however to be clear, these are quite different, operational, task, ‘small things’ covered above). Quick wins feel positive however they are not frogs. False positives.
Consider the consequences
I think Tracy’s advice to consider the consequences of both “doing or not doing this task?” is useful. I would add that you should attempt to consider the unintended consequences. What may happens as a result of actioning a task, from each perspective or layer of the organisation. On forward planning and change management – ADKAR® – is worth reviewing .
The Law of Forced Efficiency
There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the most important thing.
Given that visibility is one of the most important priorities for school leaders – the early start affords me the opportunity to be on gate duty, to be walking the schools (accessible to staff), to visit lessons. With a clear line of sight and a clear head – I felt I was more able to be present in the conversations I did have.
Practice creative procrastination
Set posteriorities? At this point, I didn’t know what a posteriority was.
A priority is something that you do more of and sooner, while a posteriority is something that you do less of and later, if at all.
In all my years of leading, I have only ever had one lengthy coaching conversation where a colleague defined their posteriorties. Given the regular workload conversations ringing around education, we should be having more. This point resonants with the movement towards essentialism that I encountered of Gayle Allen’s blog.
As short detour. Curious Minds makes for excellent drive-time listening. I have been driving to work with Gayle Allen since 2016 and it is the only podcast I recommend to other leaders. With reference to personal effectiveness, my commute is doubled-down. I drive to and work and I get to learn.
Use the ABCDE method continually
Start with a list. Everything you have to do for the coming day. Place an A, B, C, D, or E next to each item on your list before you begin the first task.”
A – something that is very important, something that you must do. (In old money – important and urgent)
B – a task that you should do. (In old money – important but not urgent)
Never do a B task when an A task is left undone. Fair enough.
C – something that would be nice to do but for which there are no consequences at all, whether you do it or not. (In old money – neither important or urgent)
D – something you can delegate to someone else.
E – something that you can eliminate altogether, and it won’t make any real difference. (Not important and not urgent).
ABCDE – useful and worth reporting. I have little to say on the matter.
Focus on key result areas
Your weakest key result area sets the height at which you can use all your other skills and abilities.
Ask yourself “What one skill, if I developed and did it in an excellent fashion, would have the greatest positive impact on my career?”
This is an important question. One that will change and evolve for any number of reasons. In the spirit of writing opening, I am investing in a ILM Level 5 Coaching and Mentoring Qualification to further develop and refine my listening skills and my ability, as a Head Teacher, to develop the leadership of others.
Apply the Law of Three
It is the quality of time at work that counts and the quantity of time at home that matters.I am beginning to align with this viewpoint. You?
On the smorgasbord, that is ‘Eat that Frog,’ chapters regularly overlap. What three core tasks contribute the most value to your work? Contribute familiar thinking and by default, conclusions.
Visibility and accessibility, quality of, and communication of, decision making and impactful strategic planning: efficient and compassionate change management
Prepare thoroughly before you begin
- Get everything you need at hand before you begin. Interruptions reduce efficiency.
- Brian Tracy adds – “Get it 80 percent right and then correct it later.”
Measure twice, cut one. I get that. 80% done then correct it later? I was less confident about this piece of advice.
Take it one oil barrel at a time
Much of leadership evangelism is recycled, whether it barrels, elephants, chasm or axes, be measured. Take action. The story of a 500 mile crossing of the Sahara Desert in a Land Rover is helpful. Oil barrels 5 kilometers apart signpost the crossing. Keep two barrels in sight, the one you just passed, and the one ahead of you.
With that in mind, we are half-way. Chapter 10 of 20.