Organization Hacks for Principals: How to Plan Your Day

Be prepared to be amazed at the content in this blog! Want to know our organizational tips? It’s this new thing called Google Calendar. JkJk. We do use Google calendar, like the rest of the Google sphere, and we also use planners, post-its and notepads…oh my! It’s less about what tools we use and more about how we use those tools. And of course, how stylish our planners look, too.

The goal of this post is to give you an idea of how we plan the meetings, observations, and other events at work. Take a peek at how we live day to day and month to month. Be sure to weigh in at the end on what system works best for you to keep you sane, successful and stylish all at the same time!

**Full Disclosure: Our brains, pre-children, were much more efficient at holding information, so some of these systems are still being tweaked as our short term memory expands back to it’s normal limits. Although some warn us it will never be the same again.

Think of this organizational system as a funnel. Start with the big picture events and time commitments that are less in your control and work down to the minutiae of what tasks and responsibilities can control.

Google Calendar–the Big Picture and Day-to-Day Time Management:

  • Schedule all non-negotiable events (both work and home) into the calendar and schedule other items around them. This requires diligence and planning. Work with your PTA, teachers, and especially your music teacher, to get all dates on the calendar for the following year before the year begins.
  • Put all of your recurring events--classroom visits/pop ins, PLCs, team meetings, PD stuff, formal observations, school-wide events, celebrations, staff motivations, etc
  • We have another blog found on our site that goes into more details on the things to think about when scheduling ahead of time in July!
  • Color code all of these events also, obvi. I use RED for any meetings at CO or with parents so I know I won’t overlook those
  • Put the mundane office work that recurs frequently on this calendar for reminders like approving classified payroll times, credit card reconciliations, substitute payroll reconciliations. I, of course, color this blue for “blah work”.

Make it a habit to check your calendar each night before leaving and each morning upon arrival to set your mind for what’s ahead and how much time you will be able to complete other tasks not on your calendar.

Handwritten Planner–my rolling to-do list:

This is where I invest the big bucks. I take myself down to the Plaza (it’s a fabulous shopping area in KCMO) and visit Paper Source. Then I find myself the most inspirational planner and invest!

I like two sections in my planner.

  1. One part where I can create weekly to-do lists
  2. One part where there is a calendar and I can brainstorm
  • Put big projects on this to-do list that should be completed in the next week or so. This is the list I check when I have a minute in my office to work on tasks (schedule that work time in your calendars, too, folks, and be sure to NOT have your email open while doing so…)
  • I get the bulk of these from things that are going to come up soon (summer school class lists, field day rotation schedule, etc) during morning or afternoon work time.
  • Use the calendar portion to plan ‘agenda items’ for upcoming team or PLC meetings
  • I meet with my lead team Thursdays. If something pops up I need to discuss I’ll jot onto the date I have scheduled for us to meet. When I go to write my agenda, I flip to that date and badda bing, agenda already made!
  • Each Friday, create a ‘upcoming events’ or bulletin for your team and use that to drive your next week’s to-do list. I copy mine over each Friday so I know if I HAVE to take work home or if it can wait.

Post-its & Random NotePads–my day MUST DOs:

  • This is where I jot myself quick notes about tasks or conversations/investigations I must complete the next day.
  • It’s the first place I look in the morning after google calendar. This helps me set up the open spaces for that day on what must be followed up on.
  • This often includes student investigations, parent contacts, meetings to set up, critical conversations I need to have with staff, etc.
  • These get thrown away at the end of the day and it’s so satisfying!

**Luckily, teachers at my building know I love office supplies, so I have yet to run out of adorable notepads and post-it holders.

Journal du Jour (Journal of the Day)–my hopes and dreams:

Okay, that sounds crazy, but how often are you thinking (especially right now), “I want to try this next year” or “I need to really hash out how that could work for us”.

  • These Journals (of which I have a plethora and am currently rocking floral) is where I keep that information
  • It’s an ongoing run on sentence of my thoughts and plans for improvement and impact
  • Quotes I love, suggestions to try, books to buy, ideas I steal from other schools/leaders all hide away in these pages
  • I pull this notebook out when I know I will be able to deep dive into my thinking without interruptions (aka early release days OR snow days if you happened to live in MO this year).

When we plan, we get back to the basics. No techy apps. No frills. Just prioritizing and finding the right methods that work for us.

Which of these tips do you already use? Which do you want to try? What advice do you have for us to improve our processes? Let us know in the comments!

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