Why do some people seem like they’re rocking it, making big things happen in their schools, while other principals can barely manage the day-to-day?
The basic answer is, of course, productivity. High-performance leaders can simply accomplish more in the same amount of time.
But we don’t want to just speed up; we want to do better and more impactful work.
And that takes thinking. Better work comes from better ideas.
Setting Yourself Up for Brilliance
As school leaders, we make an enormous number of important (and unimportant) decisions every day. Our brains stay busy.
How can we set ourselves up to have great ideas and turn them into action?
The same way an Ivy League university recruits its student body: attractiveness and selectivity.
Or as Nobel laureate Linus Pauling put it:
The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas, and throw the bad ones away.
Sometimes we attract good ideas, and sometimes we don’t. When the day is a frantic blur, we don’t have good ideas, because we’re not prepared for them.
I find that great ideas pop into my head the more I:
- Prepare for what’s going to happen that day
- Build physical activity into my day
- Read widely and talk with other people (especially my brilliant wife, Dr. Amy Baeder) about what I’m reading
- Write down all of my ideas
This last point—writing down all of your ideas—is one of the most powerful recommendations I can make.
But where do you write them down, and what do you do with them?
To Do, and Not To Do
I write my ideas down in my to-do list inbox. A lot of people are surprised when they hear that modern to-do list apps, such as ToDoist, have an inbox, since that’s something we associate with email.
The inbox is essential, because it allows us to implement Pauling’s second step: throwing away the bad ideas. When I write something down, I’m essentially brainstorming. We can’t—and shouldn’t—act on every idea that ever pops into our heads.
From the inbox, we can process each idea, just like we’d process email: We can delegate it, defer it, do it, or delete it.
Many of my ideas go on an “ideas” list within my to-do app, so they’re not deleted, but they’re not mixed in with my current action items.
From there, it’s a matter of planning projects to turn the good ideas into action.
Write down ideas, and separate the good from the bad. That’s the Brilliance Two-Step.