Reclaiming Your Day: 3 Simple Digital Efficiency Hacks For School Principals
contributed by Heather Warrell
Let’s be honest—while school leadership can be highly rewarding, it can, at times, be absolutely brutal.
From juggling district demands to tracking data to cooling down angry parents. From drowning in emails (gag) to attempting to make ‘an appearance’ at the countless number of extracurricular activities—it can be really tough.
The truth is, principal burnout is real. I can still remember going to work (in the dark) and getting home (in the dark) at 10:30 PM after my own kids had been in bed for several hours. 14-hour workday? Yes. Mom of the year? No. Those were some dark days (both literally and figuratively), but I absolutely loved being a school leader. Inspiring my teachers and students to learn/grow/ innovate, nurturing a caring school culture, calling the students’ names on graduation day—these memories still warm my heart and make me smile to this very day (tear).
So then, how can we, as school leaders, ‘work smarter not harder’ and balance a career we love and the families we love? Digital tools for the win! At my former school, I was blessed to co-pilot with a remarkable school leader, Wes Bradley, and together we sought to leverage the power of digital tools to create systems of efficiency that allowed our school to rapidly grow while giving time back to our own families.
So here’s my gift to you, school principals, 3 simple efficiency hacks using digital tools that will help you work ‘smarter not harder’ and get some of that time back for who and what you love outside of your work:
1. Create a ‘Living Calendar’ via a Google Doc and share it with your team.
By giving them editing rights, your staff members can enter in their own events instead of emailing them to you. One principal told me that this simple system gave him two hours back with his own family every Sunday night. Previously, he had synthesized his announcements into a ‘Week at a Glance’ into a document that he would then attach to an email (silo) while he watched his kids play every Sunday.
Now, the workload is distributed and ‘many hands make light work’ for this principal. A win for his team and a win for his family. His staff can get what they need on the school calendar without having to go through a ‘middle man.’
Scared to give editing rights to everyone at first? Start by just sharing it with your admin team, secretaries, food service director, library media specialist, and athletic director. I share more about ‘Living Calendars’ and teach how to create one here.
2. Create ‘Living Morning Announcements’ via Google Slides and share them with your team.
To me, morning announcements were one of the most stressful aspects of being a school leader. Why? Because before school it seems everyone needs you for something and you absolutely must try and get the announcements going on time so your teachers can make magic.
Plus, how do most people get the announcements to you? Post-its, emails, and inevitably while you’re saying the Pledge of Allegiance, someone almost always runs in and tries to whisper one in your ear. I lost years on my life because of morning announcements!
So, try this: create a slide set (of five slides-one for each day of the week) and name it ‘Morning Announcements’ and then share it with your entire staff. Now, you have to stand firm. Tell your staff that only announcements added to this slide set will be read. Building a digital culture is tough at first, but after you’ve been doing this for a year, you will thank me!
Click here to see an example of morning announcements via Google slides.
3. Create a Digital Infrastructure to pull it all together via Blogger and share an invitation for your staff to be blog authors.
Now I know this one doesn’t sound easy, but once you create all of these other systems of efficiency, you will need a place to connect them all together. Blogger is a great tool that you can lock down to only your school staff. It also allows you to create a ‘one-stop-shop’ that puts all of the items your staff needs at their fingertips. You will link both your ‘Living Calendar’ and your ‘Living Announcements’ to this blog so that your teachers aren’t fumbling around looking for these systems in their Google Drives.
Let’s face it, if it takes me more than two clicks to get what I need, I’m frustrated, and your teachers will be too! Create a simple digital infrastructure to connect this all together and voila! Your teachers stay off the frustration bus. Learn more about using Blogger as a digital infrastructure from principal Wes Bradley here and learn how to create a blog for your staff from me here.
I’ve facilitated in over 100 school districts and I can honestly say, these three efficiency hacks are by far the most popular! Reach out to me at @heatherwarrell and let me know how these systems of efficiency are impacting your work and most importantly your life!