Photo by Waldemar 

It’s February 2024 and the newly elected coalition Government has just launched its revolutionary education policy. All principals have been called to Wellington to learn about the fresh new AI derived curriculum and how it will transform their schools. Their excitement is palpable. This huge new project will dominate the next 6 months, so they will have no more than 2 hours per week to think about, or work in their schools.

“If you could only work 2 hours per week, what would you focus on?” ¹

I know this is a ridiculous question, but indulge me for just a moment and consider it – 2 hours, that’s all you have to lead your school . . . what will you do? And what will you not do?

.   .   .

There are several ways of trying to answer this, for example you could start by considering what are the very most critical things you do each week. You could make a short list of 5 things you absolutely must do and then whittle away the amount of time you spend on each.

You could choose just one.

Or, you could start at the other end and begin deleting stuff that is either unimportant or you already know is a sticky mess of procrastination and inefficiency . . .

.   .   .

I’m going to suggest applying a filter – is the piece of work leadership, or is it management?

In the spirit of Friday provocation, how about:

Management = Heck no!

  • The newsletter
  • Any fixing/unblocking/shifting stuff
  • Admin meetings
  • Minor student discipline issues
  • Tidying other people’s messes (figurative and literal)
  • Anything to do with finances
  • Attendance intervention plans
  • Board reports
  • PTA reports
  • Rosters (of any sort)

Leadership = Heck yes!

  • Connecting with staff (being visible, positive, interested)
  • Connecting with students/whanau (being visible, positive, interested)
  • Strategic thinking (which requires space and pause)

I know which list looks more fun and energising to me!

(I would also add ‘staffing’ to the critical work pile. It sits both in management and in leadership but is often the single biggest driver of both possible stress and possible happiness for all involved – you, students, other staff, whanau. We all know what happens if it goes wrong, from not having a teacher for a class, to working with unhappy team members – and the flip side is that when it is going well, everything is better.)

What do you think? Where would you put your 2 hours?

.   .   .

There’s also an interesting side effect of narrowing down your work to the absolute essentials, it raises the possibility of creating time to do other essential non-work things.

Perhaps 2 hours is too extreme. But what say we doubled it? Would 4 hours allow you to get more essentials completed?

And if 4 was still too little, how about 8? At what point would there be ‘enough’?

Is it possible that at some point, well below the mythical 40, that you cross over into spending your time and energy on things that really aren’t important (or even necessary)? I suggest the answer might be closer to ‘yes’ than many believe.


.   .   .


I said I’d share the data from responses to my last post about email – Master or Slave. Thanks to everyone (109 people) who took a moment to share. The numbers are below for your interest, and I’ve put a couple of useful tips that were shared as well.

  1. How many emails did you receive yesterday?

Most                   175

Least                   9

Average              49

  1. How many emails are sitting in your inbox?

Unread                              Most 838            Least 0                Average 36

Read (but not filed)        Most 21299        Least 0                Average 347

  1. Helpful tips:
  • “I attended a Google Certified Educator Course about 5 years ago and the guy talked about ‘zero’ inbox. I thought he was absolutely mad and this was impossible to achieve, but I now live and breath it AND encourage my staff (and anyone who will listen) to do the same. So the easy secret to share here is the ‘Snooze’ function on Gmail. Absolutely my best digital friend and I encourage all to use it as a ‘101’ for organising emails. Zero inbox is now my reality and it REALLY helps me function.”
  • “My inbox is my to-do list. I get rid of an email once actioned. Works for me.”
  • “I am a teaching principal and I have an automatic reply saying that I am only in my office on Tuesday and Friday, emails will be checked before 9am and after 3pm – this does not seem to deter anyone!!”


I’m grateful that so many of you shared and now have my own aspirational goal to get to “zero inbox”. Dave

¹ Borrowed from Tim Ferris, someone who excels in asking thought provoking questions.

Your Thoughts?