Old Thinking

New Thinking

How many things can I accomplish in a day? How can I best spend my time to maximize results?
Efficient meant getting things done quickly. Efficient means spending time on things that matter.
Focus on short term accomplishments. Focus on the long term.


How often do you feel something like this?


Most of us are guilty of inefficient use of our time. But do we always have the healthiest, most productive outlook on what it means to use our time efficiently? Maybe we are looking at it from the wrong angle.

Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time says this in a recent Washington Post article entitled Why Being Busy Makes Us Feel Good:

“Somewhere around the end of the 20th century, busyness became not just a way of life but a badge of honor.”

She adds and quotes Ann Burnett, researcher on busyness:

“People compete over being busy; it’s about showing status. ‘If you’re busy, you’re important. You’re leading a full and worthy life,’ Burnett says. Keeping up with the Joneses used to be about money, cars and homes. Now, she explains, ‘if you’re not as busy as the Joneses, you’d better get cracking.’”

 But studies are finding that our harried lifestyles are making us less productive.

“The compulsion to multitask is making us as stupid as if we were stoned.”

What impact does this trend have on our kids, teachers and on learning? Many schools, especially urban charter schools have posted signs everywhere that say “URGENCY”. While we believe that most of us could definitely use our time more wisely, we caution against a frenzied pace that lacks constant and thoughtful questioning of what matters most and what actions will yield the greatest impact.

There are counter movements brewing up with best sellers such as The Power of Now which emphasizes mindfulness, the art of slowing down and paying attention to the present moment, doing one thing at a time and turning off the part of the brain that is always planning for the future. Studies are finding that mindfulness improves both physical and mental health and is a key factor in happiness.

Another counter to busyness comes from best selling authors like Tim Ferris of The Four Hour Workweek. He suggests a “low information diet” to save time and space in our brains for what’s most important. Tips include:

– unsubscribing from almost all email group lists

– checking email or internet searching at designated times during the day (not constantly as most of us do)

How can we apply this new way of thinking about efficiency to our schools?

1) Everyone seems to agree that thoughtful routines are important in both the old and new way of thinking about efficiency.

2) Become conscious of a typical day and question each part of it. Find out where your thinking might be stuck in the past.

3) Become conscious of thinking that “busyness = important”. Fight that urge to brag about how busy you are or check email as if you were an on-call emergency room physician.

It takes practice to undo our habits of mind but this is one area where the payoff will be so worth it.