September 8, 2018

So You Want to be a School Admin...The 80/20 Rule...

Tim Ferriss (one of my favorite authors and podcaster), talks about this concept called Pareto's Principle. According to Brian Tracy, leadership blogger, Pareto's Principle was named after its founder, Vilfredo Pareto back in the late 19th century.

Simply put...

20% of your time (or resources, or money, etc) result in 80% of the outcome. So conversely that means 80% of what you do only results in 20% of the outcome. It works in sports, business, money etc. In case you want to see that in action, check out this article from Forbes.

Borrowed diagram from

Think about that in your everyday life and see if it applies. How many times do we spend 80% of our time on something that only has a 20% affect on our lives or workplace.

Both Ferriss and Tracy talk about looking at your to do lists. If you have 10 things on your list, chances are only 2 of them are really worthy of spending a large amount of time. Your daily routine can become more efficient by really focusing on those things that deserve the majority of your time.

As a school leader (especially when I was a principal) I found that a GREAT DEAL of my time was spent putting out fires, dealing with paperwork, sitting in meetings, etc. I can promise you that I was not always efficient. Just because I was busy, did not mean that what I was doing was effective or had the most impact for my school.

Sound familiar?

Many times we equate being busy with productivity but I bet if we examine ourselves using the Pareto Principle, we may realize that is not necessarily accurate.

So what do we do?

1. Keep a simple activity log just for one week just to see what you are actually doing. I am almost afraid to do this because I am sure I will be mad at myself when I see how much time I spend on email.

2. Prioritize your "to-do" lists. Keep the 80/20 rule in mind and really focus on those top few. That doesn't mean ignore everything else but make you spend time on what is going to have the biggest impact.

3. Recognize that you will NEVER get everything done. The list will always grow. In my experiences I have always received satisfaction from marking things off of my list. But, I found myself adding things to my list just so I could mark them off easily. I know, weird right?

4. Learn to say no to some things.  This is a hard one for me too. It is ok to say no. It is not rude, disrespectful or a sign you are not a team player. Sometimes you can get really bogged down in other people's priorities. Therefore your priorities suffer.

5. Avoid negativity like the plague. Negativity can easily slow down your progress. It can also creep in and become 80% of your day. Do you know people who have a negativity cloud around them 80% of the day, or more? Ugh....

Using the 80/20 rule can be beneficial to some, others it may drive them crazy. The key is, every leader has to determine what works for them.

Stay tuned for more tips for your journey to becoming a school administrator.


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