Encore146: Balancing Priorities with Jen Schwanke

Thank you @JenSchwanke for the great takeaways in this encore episode! #principalmatters #edleadership

Have you ever felt overwhelmed in trying to balance priorities?

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If you’re like me, you can probably think of more than once where student discipline, parent concerns, and teacher feedback provided you more tasks than you could complete in a day.

No matter whether you are a new principal or a veteran leader, here’s a quick truth: you will never reach the point where you “have it all together.” That’s because you will always have room for growth. At the same time, how can you build strategies and good habits for better balancing priorities?

Jen Schwanke

This week, author and principal Jen Schwanke and I continue a series from her book, You’re the Principal, Now What? Strategies and Solutions for School Leaders. As we discuss ways for school leaders to balance priorities, we focus on nine helpful takeaways so that you increase your capacity to manage the demands of school leadership. These include:

1. Acknowledging your limitations.
Every leader must admit he or she has limits, and it is a healthy practice to anticipate what you will do when overwhelmed with tasks, requests, and responsiblities.

2. Refusing to be a martyr.
Tuck in your cape. You are not a super hero. And your teachers and students do not need a leader who sacrifices his or her well-being to serve.

3. Watching your attitude.
At the end of the day, you set the tone for the optimism and hope of your school. You are not in it alone, but your attitude will convey to others how they should be handling pressure.

4. Staying organized.
Yes, there are strategies, plans, and tips that can help. But these must fit your work style and personality to be effective.

5. Leaning on support.
You were made to work with others. Don’t be afraid to model humility, ask for help, and rely on others for the tasks of leading a school.

6. Connecting with colleagues.
Other principals and school leaders can provide a safety net for you. They provide perspective and support that can make the load feel lighter.

7. Putting students first.
Yes, you have a lot on your plate, but always ask yourself how your actions, words, and plans are helping students.

8. Learning the cycle of leadership.
Believe it or not, principals sometimes reach points of peace. When you have these rare moments, don’t feel guilty. Learn to draw strength from them for the next difficult moment you’ll encounter.

9. Embracing unpredictability with humor.
It will be difficult to survive leadership unless you embrace pressure as part of the journey. It’s even more satisfying when you learn to find joy and laughter even in the crazy moments.

Let’s Wrap This Up

Among these helpful takeaways, Jen and I also discuss several ways leaders can organize and prioritize tasks so that they are fulfilling their duties and honoring those whom they serve. This includes creating a scheduling system that works for you, taking time to prioritize, and keeping track of tasks and crossing them off the list. Many of these great tips can be found in Jen’s helpful book, You’re The Principal! Now What?

Now It’s Your Turn

The good news is that over time, school leadership does provide seasons of stability, where you can breathe, reflect, and re-prioritize. Good habits do lead to better results. This week, choose one good habit you may want to implement or enhance for balancing priorities. What is one step you can take today to rethink your approach to managing many responsibilities while also finding joy in the process?

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker