Oops I did it again. I played with my phone. Got caught up in a text…but, unfortunately, I wasn’t jamming to Britney, I was in a meeting and totally missed what my colleague was saying to me. I don’t normally have my phone out during meetings, but I felt very busy and assumed that if I could knock a few things out at once, I’d be better off. But I know better. I’ve learned that if I can take one thing at a time, and give my attention to the task at hand, each task is done at a higher quality. This is especially true when it comes to direct work with people. Relationships suffer when we don’t give them our attention and focus. The busier we get, the more present we need to be.
This is a time of year when school leaders get especially busy and distracted. Relationships and culture inevitably suffer under daunting to-do lists and seemingly endless fires, but they don’t have to. Here are a few straightforward ideas that can help you to be more organized and more present to keep those strong relationships healthy and productive.
Hide the Electronics - With notifications, reminders, alerts, flashing lights, and other ways to grab your attention, electronics are amongst the worst culprits. Hide them! Put them away until conversations and meetings are done. I find that even having a phone in my pocket is a massive distraction from being present in the conversation I’m having.
Tune Out The Interruptions - Take out the walkie-talkie earpiece. If it’s an emergency, they’ll find you anyway and, if it’s not, you don’t need to hear the message right away.
Say No - It’s okay to tell people you are in the middle of something or that you have somewhere you need to be. Just do it productively and politely. For example, you could ask them to send you an email with the information so you don’t forget or you can let them know you have somewhere to be and tell them a time when you are available to meet with them instead.
Share Your Calendar - Make sure your calendar is current and time is blocked off, including time for you to do the work you need. This can help proactively avoid some of the interruptions since people will know you are not available if your calendar is public.
Move to An Unexpected Space - If you just can’t stop the interruptions, head to a new space where people wouldn’t expect to find you. Eventually they will, but you’ll have bought yourself some time. If even just for one coaching meeting, it will be helpful for the strength of the relationship to have some time to focus on that person.
Prepare Ahead of Time - Being organized for your current meeting and any upcoming obligations allows you to focus on the moment. Rather than drifting off to what comes next, you’ll be comforted knowing you are ready to go and can instead focus all your time and energy on the people in front of you.
Leverage Relationships - Identify where your relationships are strong and ask for help when and where you are able to. This could look like delegating tasks, asking people to hold you accountable, or encouraging others to provide reminders.
Don’t let this time of year get the best of you. These strategies will help you focus your time and energy on the people who need you when they are expecting you to be present for them. Which one are you going to try?