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Mastering the New Three Rs

Most educators find themselves constantly feeling that they have too much to do and too little time. John Blaydes offers advice for mastering the three R's of resiliency, renewal, and reflection to keep you healthy and more productive. Included: Tips for working smarter.

Despite -- or because of -- all the demands on their time, educators need to take care of themselves so they can care for others and do their jobs well, according to John Blaydes, an author, motivational speaker, and former principal.

The new three R's educators need to master are resiliency, renewal, and reflection, Blaydes told educators at the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development conference.

"Educators need to keep balance in their lives," he told the audience. "We cannot take on awesome responsibilities unless we take care of ourselves."

He asked audience members to fill out a stress inventory, grading the issues that bother them most, and then asked them to discuss the survey with others in the audience.

Stressors are like rocks in your pockets, said Blaydes, whose books include Survival Skills for the Principalship and The Educator's Book of Quotes. "Try to unload some of those rocks. You can reduce stress by working smarter, not harder. Leaders don't have more time -- they just use time more efficiently."


One tip Blaydes gave for working smarter was eliminating the piles of paper that form on educators' desks.

"Piles of paper are postponed decisions," Blaydes noted. "Eighty percent of papers are never looked at. A lot of it is sent to us and a lot of it we generate."

Educators tend to keep memos and letters because they think they might need them, but if by chance something important does get tossed, a colleague likely will have a copy, he said.

"If you look at a piece of paper three times and still don't know what to do with it, throw it out or deal with it," Blaydes advised. "Each time you look at it, put a check mark on it."

Blaydes also developed a system for his secretary to keep correspondence from growing into one large pile. He color-coded files to designate the importance of each item, and asked her to put mail in the appropriate folders.

And convert as much paper information as possible to computer files. "Use your computer as a filing cabinet and back up your data."


Principals can keep themselves and their staffs invigorated with a few simple activities, Blaydes continued.

  • Create bookmarks for teachers with inspirational quotes on them.
  • Keep a file of complimentary notes and read it periodically to remind yourself of what a good job you are doing. "Some days you may need to read all of them."
  • Take a one-day vacation. Take a day off to renew yourself. It can be better than spending an ineffective day at work.
  • Keep a journal of humorous anecdotes and read it at the end-of-the-year staff meeting.
  • Periodically write down three things about your job that give you joy.

"Use humor as a way to recharge your batteries," Blaydes added.

Educators also can find time to reflect by starting every day with a plan and when possible, building in time blocks to take a breath and think.


Several educators said they were more committed to reducing stress and clutter in their lives after listening to Blaydes.

"It's good to be reminded that we are permitted to take care of ourselves," said Jenny Bivans, an educator from Zionsville, Indiana. "And it's good to be reminded about keeping a balance."

Blaydes offered valuable reminders to educators about organizing their paperwork and setting aside sufficient time for their families, their health, and themselves outside of work, said science teacher Priscilla Lutton of Rio Grande, Texas.

"I [also] liked the idea of using humor," Lutton said. "We have a lot of change going on, and it's good to have a sense of humor."

After listening to Blaydes, James Watler, an official with the Cayman Islands' Department of Education, said he wants to start keeping a journal of humorous incidents that happen at work.

"I like the whole idea of laughter as the key to keeping our sanity," Watler said. "Too often we don't keep humorous things in mind."

And he planned to take a look at his desk with an eye toward really reducing the paper piles. "My desk is cluttered," Watler admitted. "I'm saving this all for what, for when? I want to work on it every day until the pile is gone. That's my challenge."