Most sound good in theory, but don't work in practice because they require too big a change (at once) to make them succeed. I have tried a few, but like diets most just don't last, but this year one did!
The article I read early in 2015 that stood out was "How to Go From Working 60 Hours a Week to 40 By Sending 2 Emails a Week". I liked the article because
- of its simplicity, required just 2 emails per week (and I thought I could do that)
- I was working long hours (even though that seems to be normal for a deputy principal) and I wanted to try to reduce them
- "expectations are powerful". I realised that people around me, including my boss, did not know explicitly what I was trying to achieve each week.
So I started sending two emails a week to my boss
- The first email on Monday morning outlined the tasks or activities in priority order I planned to complete or work on for the coming week
- The second email at the end of the week summarised what I achieved or finished that week.
I started with the 2 emails to the principal, but after a short period I merged the two emails into one which I sent each Monday morning (and I also started to send to the other DP).
Originally I was a bit uncomfortable about sending the emails because they felt a bit try hard and silly, but after a while it become a part of my routine that I looked forward to. I have been able to send these emails for the whole year!
The benefits have been:
- making me look ahead to plan and prioritise the tasks/activities I can realistically achieve in the coming week
- setting expectations about what I will be working on (and what I will NOT be finishing)
- keeping the tasks I must complete uppermost in my mind so they don't get lost in the busyness of my job
- I have a ready-made todo list
- keeping the management team in the loop about what my week will look like, giving them
- an understanding of what I am working on
- an opportunity to add to my list at the start of the week, so I could re-prioritise early rather than having to add the task on top of my work load later in the week
- a heads up re when I will require their input or support
- reflecting each week on my achievements the previous week. I have realised it is important to celebrate success, especially with others, as too often we just move on to the next crisis
- when something unexpected comes up that requires you to drop everything and work on it (which often happens), the management team knows about the other tasks or activities that are left hanging, enabling them to add more support or resources.
One of the major benefits I have just discovered at the end of the year as I started planning for 2016 is that I now have a detailed list of tasks and activities I achieved each week throughout the year. This is helping me plan and organise my year ahead, with the aim of spreading out some of the workload around busy times of the year.
Interestingly, it did not achieve the major espoused benefit of helping me work less hours, this is still a work in progress :)