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A method that I have found that works well is the idea of touching every paper that comes across my desk once. This could work in conjunction with the 43 file method or which ever organizational system you have in place. This idea has broken me of the "little piles" habit that I had before. Paper shuffling is ineffective and you always lose something. When I process things immediately, I know that the desk black hole will not eat anything.

Everything should be digital anyway!

Kelly Christopherson

I really like the time blocking idea. It is one I will definitely adopt. One of my tips is to deal with email and other electronic items only three times a day. I look in the morning before school - with my coffee I go through my email - answer those that need answers, forwarding, filing or deleting the rest. Any ones with due dates, I put the date and the item to be done in my PDA. At about 12:35 I look again - process the same way. I will then do this after school. If someone needs an urgent answer, they call.

Another tip, I started a wiki for our staff information. Our calendar of events, memo items, upcoming events and various other items are all there. Each teacher is required to post events on the calendar so that it can be checked from anywhere. We've found that this improves communication of events and keeps all staff informed of what is happening.

A third thing I do is track all phone calls, who called, the subject, the time, the discussion and the outcome. If I then need to refer to a conversation, I can find it. It has been a very useful resource during my time as administrator.


Great reminder-I've used the acronym OHIO to help me remember to do this (Only Handle It Once).

A colleague of mine puts a dot in the top right hand corner of every piece of paper she handles. If for some reason, she has 3 dots on it, she knows she's been delaying a decision on this and then stops and decides what to do.

Easy to do, hard to implement (for me) consistently!

Learning to Lead

I was just pondering this topic yesterday, so thank you for this post. This interning year is giving me the opportunity to watch other ways of dealing with the immense amount of information each day.

I'm in a district with extremely active parents, who are often upset at their child or the school's strategies with their child. One principal has the standing rule that all parent meetings happen before school opens for the day. This way she is not in meetings in the office during the day when she really wants to be in the classrooms and interacting with the teachers and children.

Richard Smart

Thanks for this post. I am interning this semester and beginning to realize that time management is at the heart of the administrators job. I love the idea of the 43 binders and blocking out time to observe teachers. I want to be a presence in classrooms, but it seems to be something that administrators find it hard to do. It is good to know that there are administrators out there that have been able to do this.


I read manuscripts for Bob Sickles, CEO of Eye on Education. I want you all to keep your eye out next month for a book that Frank Buck wrote on the subject of this post. It's a "rubber hits the road" book using technology to decrease the amount of time on administrivia and increase the the amount of time you have for instructional leadership. It totally blew me away!


I love the 43 folders idea. I am a new administrator and I can see, from the first two weeks of school, how easy it is to get bogged down with items. I was going home each night trying not to forget priority items and waking in the middle of the night with my mind very busy and alert, thus missing some important zzz's. Using the folders have given me peace of mind. I leave everyday, since learning of this great idea, feeling free and able to rest at night. Knowing that priority items for tomorrow will be there when I get there is extremely helpful.

Another way I manage my e-mail is to use the acronym TRAF (which are folders in the inbox) "T" stands for Trash - for items I no longer need. "R" stands for Read - for items I can read later, even print and take home. "A" stands for Action - for items that need immediate attention. "F" stands for File - for items that can be filed later in their own designated file folder. Now my inbox is empty and I do not feel overwhelmed with the numerous e-mails that come hourly.

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