- School Leadership ReimaginedHow to Procrastinate #LikeABuilder

​How to Procrastinate #LikeABuilder

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You're listening to the School Leadership Reimagined Podcast, episode number thirty-three.

Welcome to the School Leadership Reimagined podcast...

where we rethink what's possible to transform your school. If you're tired of settling for small wins and incremental improvement, then stay tuned to discover powerful and practical strategies for getting every teacher in your school moving towards excellence. Now, here's your host, Robyn Jackson.

Hey Builders!

Welcome to episode 33 of School Leadership Reimagined. I’m your host Robyn Jackson and today’s episode is one that I’ve been putting off for a while, which seems kinda appropriate since today we’re going to talk about procrastination.

You may be wondering why we’re talking about procrastination. After all, isn’t procrastination a bad thing?

Well, procrastination can be a bad thing if you are procrastinating something because you’re afraid to do it, or you don’t feel like doing it. That kind of procrastination is bad.

But there is another kind of procrastination and it can be a powerful tool you can use to make sure you are doing the right work at the right time.

This is the kind of procrastination that Builders use and it helps them stay laser-focused on doing the right work and they put off everything else.

And today, we’re going to discover how they do that when they are facing the same interruptions as leaders.

And no, it’s not by using “time management” techniques or striving for “work-life balance” or any of the other strategies with which you may be familiar.

Builders do something radically different.

Instead of seeing procrastination as a bad thing, Builders see procrastination as one of the most powerful tools in their toolkit.

In fact, instead of avoiding procrastination, Builders procrastinate on purpose.

Now before I dive in,

I want to spend a little more time talking about the BAD kind of procrastination.

You know the kind where you know for sure that you should be doing something but you put it off.

Take coming to Builder’s Lab for instance. You KNOW that you should be at Builder’s Lab. You KNOW that being at Builder’s Lab can be a complete game changer in your work in schools.

So why are you putting it off?

This is NOT the time to procrastinate.

That’s because tickets to Builder’s Lab are going fast. I mean people are buying BLOCKS of tickets and bringing their entire teams to Builder’s Lab.

The good news is that it’s not too late.

You still have time to get your tickets to one of the upcoming Builders’ Labs taking place this summer.

If you have goals for your school, and you want to get everyone on board and working towards those goals, this is the Builders’ Lab for you. The focus of Builder’s Lab is the 4 disciplines of Buildership which are feedback, support, accountability, and culture.

But here’s the deal ya’ll. Builder’s Lab is really about how to achieve the goals you want for your school here’s the thing -- with the people you have.

You don’t have to wait until you get rid of some teachers or hire better teachers before you move your school. Builder’s Lab shows you how to get ALL your teachers moving in the right direction. That teacher who is causing all kinds of trouble in your culture, that teacher who is struggling and you aren’t sure where to start, that teacher who blames the students or the parents instead of taking ownership, that teacher who seems to have just checked out and is phoning it in each day, and that teacher who just don’t seem to get it or have any real passion for the work?

I’m always amazed when people come to Builder’s Lab with these very same issues, learn the 4 disciplines, and then go back to their schools and turn their schools around WITH THE SAME GROUP OF TEACHERS!

So you don’t have to wait. You can move your school right now. Come to Builder’s Lab and learn how.

So, we’ve got two builder’s labs coming up this summer. The first is Builder’s Lab I happening June 24-26, 2019 in Palm Springs, California. If you’re a principal, assistant principal, or district leader, this is the one for you.

If you’re an instructional coach, then we have a special Builder’s Lab just for you. It’s Builder’s Lab - the Coaches Edition. It’s happening right outside of Washington, DC in Arlington, VA July 15-17, 2019.

To register for one or both intensives, go to mindstepsinc.com/builders-lab.

Okay, I can’t put this off any longer (haha, see what I did there?).

It’s time to talk about procrastination. 

As I mentioned, there are good and bad ways to procrastinate.

Bosses typically procrastinate anything that requires them to leave their office.

Leaders like their procrastination with a little dose of guilt. So leaders put off what they know they really should be doing, but they always have a great excuse for doing so.

Like leaders know they should be getting into classrooms more, but they put it off because something more urgent came up.

Or leaders know they need to spend time working on the vision, mission, and core values of the school and they really mean to, right after they finish testing or maybe next year at the beginning the school year when there’s more time.

The bottom line is that if you look for it, you can always find a “good” excuse for putting off the work that you really should be doing.

But at the heart of all this procrastination that leaders do is something else. Leaders procrastinate out of fear…

...Fear that they will disappoint some one, or fear that they will get in trouble, or fear that the work they want to do is too hard or too impossible.

Fear-driven procrastination is really destructive. It leaves you with a sense of guilt and a sense of failure. You really WANT to get to that other stuff, that more important stuff like vision, mission, and core values. You WANT to spend more time in classrooms. You WANT to spend more time giving teachers feedback and support. You really WANT to do the hard work of repairing and building a positive school culture…

But…

And there is always a but.

And that’s the seductive danger of this kind of procrastination.There is always a but.. And a lot of times, that excuse feels really valid. Discipline problems DO happen. Parents do stop by and demand to see you right away. The district DOES make demands.

But here’s the problem. If you let them, you can allow all these interruptions to dictate how you spend your time. When you do that, when you allow the interruptions and the competing demands on your time make you procrastinate your most important activities by consciously or unconsciously allowing your attention to shift to less important (but potentially more urgent) tasks, you never work on things that are the real priorities for your school.

Now I can hear the gasping right now. “But, I can’t just IGNORE the interruptions!”

Yeah, I’ve heard that.



I read a book a few years ago that completely changed the way that I viewed time. The book is called Procrastinate on Purpose: 5 Permissions to Multiply Your Time by Rory Vaden. I think I even featured it on one of our summer reading lists a few years back.

The book is really about a different way of thinking about time. Vaden argues that instead of managing your time or even doing a better job at how you spend your time, you really should be focused on multiplying your time.

And one of the most powerful ways to mulitply your time is to procrastinate on purpose.

And that’s what Builder’s Do. They put off the things that take up a lot of their time to focus on doing the things that are of the greatest value to the school and that will actually multiply time later on.

So instead of saying things like...

If we can just get more efficient at doing our existing work, we can create more time to do the work that we really want and need to be doing.

Or if I can just get through all these discipline issues, I could get into classes more.

Or I can just get through all these IEP meetings, I could spend more time developing a bigger vision, mission, and core values for my school.

Or I could just get through all these teacher and union issues, I could spend more time working on my school culture.

Or I could just get through all this paperwork, I could spend more time supporting teachers who need it.

Builders take a good look at what work they can do today that will create even more time tomorrow.



By now, we’ve all heard the big rocks talk right? People take a glass container and fill it with sand and pebbles and put the big rocks in last and they don’t fit. But, when you put the big rocks in first, everything else manages to fit in the jar.

So the moral of the story is put the big rocks in first and everything else will manage to fit.

Here’s the problem with that story. We never stop to question whether the little rocks belong in the jar at all.

Time management is about making everything fit.

Builders don’t try to make everything fit.

More hours or more efficiency will not solve your time problem.

If you got more hours and still filled them the same way, you’re just working harder longer.

If you got more efficient and managed to fit more stuff into the time that you have, you’re just working harder harder.

It’s a never-ending treadmill that goes faster and faster to nowhere.

Get off!

You can’t manage time. You can only manage yourself.

Juggling time also doesn’t work. With juggline, you really only have two choices -- juggle more balls, or juggle the balls that you have faster.


Urgency is How soon does this matter?
Importance is how much does this matter?
Significance is how long is this going to matter?

For example, let’s say that your school vision is that 100% of your students will be reading at or above grade level by second grade and will maintain at or above grade level status through 5th grade.

Now let’s say you have two choices for how to spend your time today:

You can visit classrooms and give teachers feedback on the level of rigor of their literacy instruction.
You can go through the data and flag students who are behind for additional remediation.

If you only consider what is most urgent, then it’s obvious that you would choose

If you focused on remediating students, you would serve a lot of students today, but if instruction continues the way that it always has, you will always have students in need of remediation.

It become a vicious cycle.

But, if you consider urgency and significance, then you work on the quality of instruction in the classroom. Sure, you’ll get fewer short-term gains, but if you improve the quality of the literacy instruction happening in the classroom, then you can impact students who are currently struggling AND prevent students from struggling in the future.

Focusing on remediation helps a few students now.

Focusing on improving instruction helps exponentially more students now and later.

Leaders focus on what matters now.

Builders focus on what matters now and later.

Builders understand something important about time. You multiply your time by spending time on the things today that will give you more time tomorrow.

Whenever I teach people how to establish real core values at Builder’s Lab, people always ask me why they should spend so much time 2-3 months working on core values with their staff when they are already swamped as it is and have much bigger priorities?

Why should they dedicate their staff meetings and PLC’s to talking about vision and mission when they have kids failing, or there is toxicity in the culture, or they are swamped with discipline issues and the state test is coming up and they still have too many students failing?

And here’s my answer. If you focus on what feels urgent right now, you will always be putting out fires. If you focus on what is significant right now, you will prevent fires.

Builders are always asking, how can I spend my time today that will give me more time tomorrow?

How can I spend my time today that will make tomorrow easier?

How can I spend my time today that will eliminate the things that can become urgent tomorrow?

And that’s where healthy procrastination comes in. Healthy procrastination is not about whether you should be doing say discipline or emails or parent phone calls or all the other things that feel important enough to interrupt your work. Procrastination is about whether you should be doing those things right now.

As the saying goes, timing is everything.

You see, sometimes it’s not that the work you’re doing is the wrong work, it’s that you’re doing the wrong work at the wrong time.

When you are faced with work to complete and only you can do it, the question you need to ask yourself is, do I need to do this right now or can it wait?

When you are tempted to check email, can it wait?

When someone calls and wants to speak to you but you are heading out into classrooms, can it wait?

When someone wants to meet with you but you need to finish your post-observation write up, can it wait?

When something, anything demands your attention, can it wait?

The reason that procrastination has gotten such a bad rap is because we typically procrastinate when there is something that we DON’T want to do but we know that we HAVE to do it.

Builders don’t do that kind of procrastination.

If they are putting something off because they don’t really want to do it, they examine whether or not it’s something they SHOULD be doing in the first place. If it isn’t, then they eliminate, automate, or delegate it to someone else.

If it IS something that they have to do, then they determine whether or not it’s something they have to do right now or can it wait until later.

Most of us are worry worts. We are so programmed to treat everything as if it were urgent, and to be totally available to anyone who wants us, that we feel this unrealistic pressure to always act now.

When everything is urgent and important, nothing is.

Even if you manage to deal with everything that comes your when at the moment it comes your way, you may get more done but you will feel less and less in control.

You know that feeling you get when the moment you walk through the door and everyone is waiting for you with a new problem for you to solve, a new deadline for you to meet, a new demand on your time and energy.

It’s called the tyranny of the urgent and if you’re not careful, it will burn you out.

Not everything is urgent. You can wait. You don’t have to take care of everything right now and if you put some things off, the world will not come to an end.

You need to procrastinate.

Here are 5 things you can procrastinate right now with little or no negative outcomes.

You can procrastinate your email. You do not have to reply to every email you get the moment you get it. In fact, I’ve turned off the notifications on my phone and computer for email completely. I only check email a few times per day when it makes sense for me.
You can procrastinate returning phone calls. You don’t have to be available every second of every day for every phone message. In fact, when I was an administrator, I let ALL my calls roll over to voice mail. Then I would set aside time a few times per day to check my voice mail and return calls.
You can procrastinate paperwork. Let me give you another example. You have a TON of paperwork to plow through but you really need to be getting into classrooms.
One of the best inventions in the world in my estimation is a tickler file. A tickler file is a file folder that has 31 divisions for the days of the month, and 12 divisions for the months of the year.
If you have some paperwork that you have to get done, does it sit there on your desk mocking you in a pile until you can’t take it any more? Put it in the tickler file instead. So, if you have a form that is due on the 13th of the month and you know it is going to take you 15 minutes to complete it, put it in the tickler file for the 12th and don’t even think about it until the 12th. If you have
You can procrastinate discipline. If a student has been referred to the office for a disciplinary issue, the longer they wait in your office, the longer they are out of class. Is there a way to get them back to learning productively and deal with the disciplinary issue later?
You can procrastinate making certain snap decisions. If you’re not at least 75% sure of the right decision, then you’re not ready to make one. Whenever I tell my coaching clients this, they immediately worry that they will look like a weak leader if they don’t act decisively immediately. But you know what looks like a weak leader? Making bad, poorly considered decisions. So, when people demand an answer right away, it’s okay to say, I need to think about this first. I’ll get back to you next week with my final answer.
You can procrastinate great ideas: I suffer from too many great ideas. I have 7 of them before I even open my eyes in the morning. If I read a book or listen to a podcast, I am going to come in with a great idea or 5 that I want to pursue right away. You know what? That drives my team crazy. They can’t execute on one great idea before I’ve come in with 17 more. It’s called shiny object syndrome and I have seen so many school leaders who like me, get caught up in chasing the latest and greatest new idea so much so that they never seem to get anything done. So, over the years, I’ve learn to procrastinate my great ideas. We have something called the hopper. Every meeting we review our core values, mission, and vision and look at our 90-day plan. I can have all the great ideas I want, but if they do not directly serve our vision, mission, and core values I have to let them go. If they do serve our mission, vision, and core values, but will take us off course for our 90-day plan, then I write them down in the hopper file and we save them for later.

Now if something is leaking, exploding, or bleeding, you’ll need to triage it right away, but that doesn’t mean that you have to solve it right away. But for the most part, Builders use procrastination to temporarily ignore the small stuff so that they can concentrate on the big stuff.




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And that’s important because if you get in the habit of dealing with everything right now, if you don’t selectively procrastinate, then you leave yourself very little room to concentrate on the work that is really important.

You know, someone once said to me that whatever you choose to spend your time doing at any given moment is your priority at that moment.

Think about that. Whether you mean to or not, the thing you are doing at this moment by default is your priority.

To put it another way, whenever you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else.

When you say “yes” to checking email, you are saying “no” to getting into classrooms.
When you say “yes” to sitting in on a meeting you really aren’t required to be at just to make someone else feel better, you are saying “no” to doing the work ONLY you can do in the building.
If you are not consciously saying “no” to things that don’t matter, then you are unconsciously saying “No” to things that do.

So what Builders do is that they are disciplined about focusing on the right work. And, until they accomplish their most significant priority, until they accomplish the things that will have the biggest impact on your school now and in the future, EVERYTHING else is gets put off.

Stop trading the things you know you should be doing for the things someone else wants you to do.

Don’t give into the pressure because you are afraid of letting other people down.

We don’t want to seem mean so we agree to things that aren’t right for us or for our school. We don’t want to seem resistant to new ideas so we go along with decisions that we know aren’t quite right. We don’t want to be seen as slacking so we fill our days with busyness. We do’nt want to be seen as indecisive or weak, so we make decisions before we’re ready. We don’t want to be seen as selfish so we ignore our priorities and focus on theirs.

We keep doing the same mindless things over and over again because it’s convenient, it makes us feel like we’re doing something, or we’ve allowed someone else’s priorities to overrule our own

Instead, focus on spending the majority of your time today on things that will create more time and more value tomorrow.

Now of course there will be times when you will have to drop everything and focus on putting out a fire that is raging in your building at the moment. Things will come up that require your immediate attention.

But, when you practice healthy procrastination, you can put off the seemingly urgent until a better time and spend the majority of your time each day on the THE most important work.

That’s how you procrastinate #LikeABuilder.

Now, before we go, 

don’t forget to get your ticket to Builder’s Lab. If you want to find out how to get your people on board and moving so that you can have a successful school year next year, even the resistant nay-sayers or the people who are just plain stuck, then you need to come to Builder’s Lab. Just go to www.mindstepsinc.com/builders-lab and get your ticket now. 

And then the second thing is so many of you have connected with me on LinkedIn and you have already given me feedback. If you have a question about anything that you want to hear on this podcast, just reach out to me via LinkedIn and tell me your challenge and we'll see about making it into another upcoming show.

And then finally, if this has been helpful to you, if any episode has been helpful to you, would you mind doing two things? 

One is to write a review and if you're not sure how to write a review, just go to the show notes on schoolleadershipreimagined.com/episode33 and we have a link that walks you through how to write a review. That's a great way to give me feedback.

The other way, and it's probably the easier way, is to just share this podcast with somebody else who you think might benefit from it - even if it's not this episode. If you've had any episode that you really love, would you mind sharing it because we want to get the word out to as many people as we can so that we can support as many people as we can.

I would count it as a personal favor if you do that for me. So would you mind sharing the podcast with someone this week? I would really appreciate it. 

Next week...

Now let’s talk about next time. For the next four episodes, I’m going to spend ome time talking about the 4 disciplines of Buildership -- Feedback, Support, Accountability, and Culture. And because culture is so foundational to the work we do in schools, we’re going to start with culture.

So join me next time where you’re going to discover how to build a healthy school culture #LikeABuilder.

Bye for now. See you next time. 

Thank you for listening to the School Leadership Reimagined podcast for show notes and free downloads visit https://schoolleadershipreimagined.com/

School Leadership Reimagined is brought to you by Mindsteps Inc, where we build master teachers.