Photo by Nathália Rosa

I like Post-it notes. I like the way they let me capture a task then park it until I’m ready to take action.

Way back at the beginning, I had a principal who carried a small notebook in their top jacket pocket. Anytime you started talking to them they took it out, ready to make a note if needed.

This principal prided themselves on following up, not forgetting, doing what they promised, and in their pocket was a system to make all these things happen.

Post-it notes are my version.

Sadly, while they are an awesome fluro coloured tool, the reason they are in my thinking right now is that they’re multiplying – very quickly! And lots of notes means lots of things to remember and do.

Welcome to the end of Term 4!

This is the time each year where a myriad of tasks and looming deadlines make it very possible that your waking hours are consumed entirely by knocking off task after task. Those of you who have followed the 40 Hour Project for a while, know that this is the time when the ‘busy’ can obscure the ‘important’.

Even the students seem to unwittingly contribute. There are more plasters given out and more social interactions to manage than at any other time through the year – people are getting a bit frazzed.

I spent precious time this morning helping 3 great young boys resolve an issue that started with someone holding a door handle and ended in tears. None of them planned the debacle, and all regretted it, but it does sum up the vibe of late Term 4 – stuff  happens.

In amongst this end of year race is your opportunity to be a leader. To focus on people first, spread the calm, and to deliberately aim to finish the year with energy left over and feeling well. We have talked about this before – Madvember Doesn’t Have To Be – but this time I want to focus on the power of calm.

To impact your team positively a key is to manage perception. I like the duck analogy where they are paddling like hell under the water but up on top all looks serene. It’s the bit on top that your people will notice.

A personal strategy I use to try and spread a sense of calm, is to deliberately move slower the busier I feel. This may sound simplistic but it absolutely helps – body language is the language that people notice most and if you are moving around your site in a rush, it sends a message. So slow down and breathe. Stop to talk with kids and adults, volunteer to cover someone’s duty,  and at all times move slowly. And it’s not all acting – research shows slowing down and breathing properly changes your mental state. A win/win for you and your school.

.   .   .

Which brings me to where I started with the Post-it notes.

I realized that when they’re plastered all over my desk/laptop/office, they tell a story to all who see them. They visually create a similar effect to walking quickly everywhere with no time to pause. They create the impression that I am busy.



So here is my cunning plan –  I’m not going to stop using them, I’m going to hide them.

At the very least I get great pleasure from screwing them up and chucking them in the bin when actioned. I’m not willing to forgo that goodness. All I am going to do is stick them inside a plain manila folder. The folder will sit on my desk closed. The notes live on but the story my desk tells will be different. A small, but deliberate action in the face of the run to the finish. Dare you to try it.


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There’s something about being in lockdown that has resonated very positively with me. The other day I found myself walking through my neighbourhood during a very pleasant autumnal like, but sunny day. There were people everywhere, walking about, smiling, waving, being genuinely cheerful. All adhering strictly to the 2 metre social distancing requirements, but also obviously enjoying the moment. There was an uncanny sense of optimism in the air. 

No one was moving anywhere fast. The speed of life was just a click above sedate. It was bliss.

It occurred to me that during lockdown we’ve all experienced a sense of what life used to be like. A time when there was time and people took time and gave their time. People seemed very happy, and hence the optimism hung thick in the air. 

It reminded me of why sports shows use slow motion to such great effect. It gives people time to look at someone else do something amazing (or stupid) at a speed that captures the shear magic of what is going on. 

It’s also why athletes talk about being in the moment and literally slowing down time in their minds during their events. They are focused on one thing, and one thing only. The rest of the world slows almost to a stop, so that they can concentrate on just that one movement that will beat their opponent.

Musicians do a similar thing when they’re learning new pieces. If they’re struggling with a riff of notes they’ll slow down the action and speed of playing, only speeding up when they’ve got it under control.

There is something to be learnt here.

In contrast, I found myself at school the other day packing up IT devices to send home to families. Computer cables, ipads, packaging and cellotape strewn everywhere. I’d told the Ministry of Ed that I’d be in and out of my school in one and half hours. Time was of the essence! Speed was king.

For the first hour and fifteen minutes I enjoyed the adrenaline rush of, well, rushing. I hadn’t felt like this in a couple of weeks and I got a kick out of it. When I knew that there was no way I was going to finish in time and that I had to press on regardless, the adrenaline turned to stress and the enjoyment flowed away. It was replaced with angst, agitation, frustration and annoyance. I felt like a washing machine that couldn’t finish it’s last cycle!

I feel the same now as I type this piece. I’ve spent all day planning for Level 3, organising Bubbles, dealing with personnel issues and losing a couple of hours of work due to an IT issue. The washing machine cycle is back! I realised that my usual way of working was often at this speed and intensity. No wonder I am often shattered!

And it made me think. Yes there are times when speed is crucial, but that doesn’t need to be the norm or my usual modus operandi. What if I was to look at the way I work, like that autumnal afternoon in the sun, where I can take my time, enjoy my time, give my time and appreciate the time that I have with others.

We all need to look at what the lockdown has given us – time. We need to understand that constant speed is going to mean constant tiredness, and that the best thing we can learn to do is not speed everything up, but to slow everything down. 

I’m keen to hear how you plan to do this when you get back to work? How do you think you could change the culture of your school to embrace “having time to take your time?”




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