Uniting School Administrators to Create a Better World

Four Ways For School Administrators to Manage the Monster To-Do List

I had the busiest day of my administrative career the other day.

It wasn’t stressful or emotionally-draining – just busy.

My to-do list was already large to begin with, but so many other tasks seemed to appear on as the day wore on.

I learned really fast that in order to get home at a reasonable hour, I had to do something to control that list.

So I came up with some strategies that helped me with my monster to-do list .

Most experienced administrators probably already have learned to do this as a matter of habit, but for those of us who are still on our journey toward School Administration Mastery, this might be helpful.

Here are Four Ways for School Administrators to Manage the Monster To-Do List

1. Prioritize

When I sat down at my desk, I used a highlighter to highlight which tasks I needed to take care of immediately. What happened, however, was that I suddenly received news that there was a rumor of a student distributing drugs on campus, so dealing with the rumor became priority number one. I spent a lot of time investigating the rumor – time I didn’t have. Thankfully, it turned out to be some kids who were joking around with each other trying to act like tough guys. I was pretty upset with them – mainly because their joking around had eaten up a lot of valuable time. Once that situation was resolved, I turned back to my highlighted tasks and went at it.

2. Delegate

I guess I’m a bit of a control freak. I like to handle my tasks myself – even making copies or filing documents in students’ files. On that day, however, I knew that I would need help, so I asked some of the office staff to handle some of those items on my list I could delegate. I was surprised how willing to help some of the people in the office were. I think I’ll be delegating more often – maybe not.

3. Shut up and Re-focus

The most time-consuming tasks on my list were the meetings I had to conduct or participate in. Many of these, especially on that day, involved meeting with parents. It’s difficult to tell a parent to stop talking, especially when what they are saying is off the topic of the meeting. What I learned, however, was that if I keep talking, they will keep talking. They will want to respond to each of my comments. So, I forced myself to just shut up. This is not that easy for me, since I enjoy sharing my opinion (most bloggers do.) On that day, however, I could not waste valuable time shooting the breeze. I found that when I stopped talking, the parents finished talking even sooner. I also had to be quick to re-focus the discussion to the topic at hand. Some parents (and teachers) like to ramble on about other off-topic stuff like the old days when they were in school and the impact of video games on today’s youth, etc. I’ve learned that rambling is time wasted, so as administrator, I have to find respectful ways to say, “Stop rambling and let’s get back to why we’re here.”


4. Tomorrow-ize

I had to go through my list and determine which tasks could be done tomorrow or another day. It’s tough, because I like to leave the office with my to-do list all crossed off. On a super-busy day like that one – Tomorrow-ize.

Thankfully, I made it through the day, got home before dark, and left only a few unchecked tasks on my to-do list.

I was happy about that. My wife and kids were happy too, and that’s what ultimately matters.

Any other ideas on how to manage a monster to-do list?

I would love to hear what more experienced administrators have to offer.

Post a comment or send me a tweet.

Until next time,

Here’s wishing you School Administration Mastery!




  1. February 5, 2012    

    Do you use a handheld device? I have found my time management/Organization of everything I have to do each day is so much better witty using my iPad (specifically with google calendar and the app Remember the Milk). For managing the beast of paperwork in my office I have streamlined my process of tickler files from what I learned here: http://www.eduleadership.org/2011/05/03/animation-how-the-tickler-file-works/

    • Sam's Gravatar Sam
      February 5, 2012    

      Hi PrincipalJ,
      I do use my iPhone and iPad a lot. I’m going to install the “Milk” app right now. Great idea. Thanks for the link and the comment.

  2. June 23, 2012    

    Hey Sam! You know I’m going to be using these great tips in a week or so. I really like your blog/website and I’ll be checking out other articles as well. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    • Sam's Gravatar Sam
      June 23, 2012    

      Hi Bill,
      I’m sure you’re already an expert on managing to-do lists. I can probably take a lesson from you. I’m sure you’re going to have a great year. Thanks for the comment.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,552 other subscribers

Teach Happier

Teach Happier - 21 stress-reducing, joy-inspiring, burnout-avoiding strategies to help teachers love their jobs and have more success in the classroom - Sam Rangel