Administrators: What’s In Your Time-Management Toolbox?


Canter-c120x148Let’s face it, as administrators (and all educators for that matter) we have very limited time. Every second counts. So, how do we make the most of our time? This week alone, I have learned some very valuable resources administrators use to manage their time and I thought I’d share a few. More than that, I want to hear from YOU! What works? What doesn’t? This is a great time for those of you who have some strategies that work to help the rest of us fill our toolboxes.

Some strategies I have heard are…

One administrator uses an online stopwatch. She determines that she will work on discipline files for 20 minutes, already built into her day. She starts the online stopwatch and begins (of course, you could use a real stopwatch). When the stopwatch dings, she moves the discipline files aside and works on her next task. She said this helps her not get too bogged in one thing but still have time to devote to it.

I personally have become attached to my i-Products (iPad, iPhone). I set all my Outlook calendars to sync. I have personal and work calendars in both. Luckily, I can connect my iPad and iPhone to the wireless server in the building. I set my reminders at 15–30 minutes out so that I don’t miss appointments. I have found it to be very helpful.

One administrator does all of her discipline in the morning. Referrals to be considered the next day are due by 1:30 p.m. At 1:30 she begins reading her discipline referrals and determines if the student will serve time in the opportunity room or have another consequence. She e-mails the teachers to have those students report at 8:00 a.m., 8:05 a.m., etc., to speak and possibly plead their case. She is usually done with discipline by 8:30 a.m. or so. She also doesn’t allow “drive-by” discipline (students dropped off at her office) unless it is an extreme situation, such as a fight. She says this helps her keep up on discipline and get it done in a timely manner.

So, what ideas do you have? Please share so that we can all benefit.


  1. I find the planners (and planning advice!) put together by Charlie Gilkey to be extremely helpful. Charlie’s objective is to help people keep up with the daily tasks that need to get done without losing sight of their long-term goals. You can get samples of his planners and LOTS of great advice at

  2. What works for me? Tickler files for managing paperwork. NEVER keeping a to-do list (because to-do’s don’t get done)- I turn what would be to-do’s into appointments with myself on my calendar (a project that will take an hour isn’t listed as a to-do, it’s given a blocked-out hour on my calendar on a specific date & time). Maximizing my use of Outlook calendar, email, etc. Working closely with my secretary to help manage my time & my day. I’d strongly encourage administrators who can get there to try to attend a two-day session with The Breakthrough Coach ( It’s not cheap, and you may not agree with everything he says… but even taking into account half of what he presents can revolutionize the way you spend your professional time.

  3. I love the Things app for i- as well as a To Do list it allows you to break projects down into manageable chunks and then schedule them so they appear on your To Do list as required. This can help keeping projects moving forward in bite sized pieces
    I also try to block out 60 minutes per day (but in reality usually only managed 30 minutes) spent in classrooms with teachers and students. As we are always busy this can be one of the first things to fall off our schedule but should be a priority. Often my best days are where I have spent time in classrooms – on my worst days I didn’t!
    It really is management by walking around, maintains a high profile and ensures that we are kept well informed and close to the “chalkface”, where the action is.
    Steve Francis

  4. This is a great thread. I recommend following Peter Drucker’s advice that everyone have a “to stop” list. We just can’t keep putting more on our plates and expect that we will do a high quality job in every area. Many areas where each of us in education work is actually a “legacy area” that we need to put aside for more important things. Develop your own “to stop” list and you will have more time and energy for those things that are important to you today.
    Herb Rubenstein, Lead Author, Leadership Development for Educators, (Rowman and Littlefield, December, 2009, U.S. Publication; Overleaf Publishing, March, 2010, India Publication)

  5. I recently heard some great advice about starting your day with what is most important to you as an administrator – visiting classrooms, planning interventions, etc. I had been starting the day with discipline referrals and then realized that I wasn’t getting to the things that were truly important to me. Since I’ve changed how I start my day, I’m feeling much better about the quality of the things I’m accomplishing.

  6. We have two new administrators at my school. One bit of advice I give them is to try to carve out a niche or develop a project about which they have passionate feelings and that they could not accomplish as teachers. It brings some balance.
    Rank tasks: Priority one: things that ultimately educate kids; Priority none: things that serve no purpose other than to justify somebody else’s paycheck.
    Most of the paper you get is sent by somebody who is trying to prove that they are worthy of receiving a paycheck. About 80% expires after a few weeks in a pile and nobody even notices that you ignored it.
    Keep no binders. Binders are graveyards of ideas that never happened
    ditto: filing cabinets (stuff that I actually use, I turn into pdfs and store in an iBook collection on my iPad
    Know when to go home. Your family needs you and taking care of your kid is more important than taking care of everybody else’s kid.
    Have some fun, teach some teachers stuff that you know about, teach some kids stuff that you know about.
    Use common sense rather than policy and procedure if at all possible. (if common sense were so common, you’d think you would see more of it around)
    Have some fun – you’re in a position to do some good and help other people enjoy Education too.
    J. Petersen
    Ass’t Principal

  7. I agree with Jeanette about using tickler files. They have kept my desk clean and kept the right papers re-surfacing at the right time for 30 years.
    I stay focused by identifying the “Fab 5” every day, the 5 things I want to make sure get done even if my day gets turned upside down.
    Many of the tasks we perform keep coming around every week, month, or year. I use the recurring task feature in Outlook so that I never have to re-think any of those tasks.

  8. I LOVE all of these ideas. The FAB 5 is something I am going to start next week, actually, due to this blog. What a GREAT IDEA! I also like the paradigm of making “to-do’s” appointments. If they aren’t appointments, they are relagated to “When I have time”….and when does that actually happen?
    Finally…the idea about going home on time and seeing your family: So true! When I was a retail manager, my former district manager used to tell us to “Be Here Now” wherever we were. If we were at work, be there now….but then at home…be THERE now. It’s all about a work-life balance, which is so vital.
    Thanks for all of your thoughts so far. Keep them coming!


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