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The Most Important 21st Century Skill!

The Most Important 21st Century Skill!

You arrive at work full of enthusiasm and commitment, with your ‘To Do’ list prepared and ready for action. As a passionate educator you have your goals, you are determined to move forward and make a difference in the lives of your 21st Century learners and affect change in local and international school leadership. You have big dreams!


But ……. distractions and interruptions occur throughout your day because of the technological age we live in and the collaborative nature of our work.


According to Dr. Gloria Mark, a leader in interruption science, the average knowledge worker switches tasks every three minutes, and, once distracted, a worker takes nearly a half-hour to resume the original task.


I know many school leaders who stay late in the office to complete tasks they had planned to do during the day and still leave for home thinking about all the things on their ‘To Do’ list that didn’t get done. I used to be one of these educators and it played havoc with my family time and sleep patterns. Does this happen to you?


Dr Douglas Reeves, founder of The Leadership and Learning Centre, believes that ‘Focus’ is the most important 21st Century skill. Unless you can master the skills required to focus, your day ends up out of control and you waste your precious time and energy doing things that are not important, valuable or enjoyable! Even having a PhD or international education masters degree will not make up for an inability to focus.


Interestingly, Daniel Goleman, EQ Guru, teamed up with Peter Senge, Systems Thinking Guru, in 2014 to co-author “The Triple Focus: a New Approach to Education.” In their book they outline three important types of focus for the 21st Century; inner focus, focus on others and outer focus.


As you might expect, inner focus holds the key to a purposeful life, to concentrating on the task at hand, ignoring distractions, and managing our emotions. The second kind of focus, is tuning in to other people, or empathizing and being able to understand another person’s reality and relating to her or him from their perspective, not just our own. This kind of empathy leads to the ability to learn together, live together and work together; keys to effective, connected relationships. The third focus, outer focus, is understanding the larger world, understanding the way systems interact and create webs of interdependence, whether this interaction is in a family or an organization, or the world at large.


So here’s my tip to deal with your ‘To Do’ list. It’s time to start thinking strategically and flip it all around.


Review your School’s Strategic Plan and decide on your high value priorities. Chart an annual action plan based on these priorities.  Chunk it down into 90-day time-lined tasks.  Then focus on only 5 or 6 high value tasks each week. Block these into your calendar as non-negotiable during your peak productivity times and maintain focus until completion.


Reduce your daily ‘To Do’ list to only 5-6 tasks and go home every night thinking about the tasks you did achieve and where you will roll over the ‘not yet’ completed to the next day or the next week. I can promise you that you will enjoy your evenings and your sleep patterns will improve.


Focus is a 21st Century leadership skill that we must develop in our teams, our students and ourselves as a life-long discipline if we are to succeed in life and sustain purpose and happiness.

Now go out there and lead like a Rockstar!

If you would like to learn more tools and strategies to assist you as a 21st Century Leader why not attend my next Leadership for the 21st Century workshop.

If you would prefer personalized 21st Leadership Coaching contact Maxine

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