Pause: My #OneWord2019

“Dad, look how beautiful the sunrise is…”
“Look up, Dad! Look at the stars!”
These are the words of our daughter, that reverberate in my thoughts at the start and end of each day. Celebrating her 18th birthday at the end of
next month reminds me that time moves fast – too fast. In the last several
months, I’ve heard these words most often while in the car – the passenger
seat – as my little girl learned to drive. This of course, is one aspect of
becoming an independent and self-sufficient young adult. (Come to think
of it, she seems to say these words about sunrises and stars most often
before or after she was responsible for safely navigating the roads while
she controls a two-ton moving vehicle.)
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Laugh with others…and at yourself.
Carpe diem.
As a middle school principal for the last 9 years, I’ve learned many things,
about myself and my ability to impact outcomes. As part of this, I’ve l
earned the value of time and my ability to use it wisely.
Time is devoted towards “big picture” (leadership) priorities. For me,
this includes holding myself responsible to ensure the emotional safety
and academic opportunity of hundreds adolescents and their nearly
100 caretakers, each day. This, of course, doesn’t count the hours
spent and invested dreaming, worrying, hoping, and planning
towards their success beyond my time with them.
And there are “small picture” (management) priorities. These are the
daily situational decisions school leaders make on a sometimes
minute-by-minute basis.
Undoubtedly, each is important, and intertwined in the daily work
of educators.
On a “good” day, my 41 minutes, 9 periods a day, are managed with precision.
And on a more challenging day, I find myself managing my day…41 seconds at
a time. Either way, the way we choose to prioritize our time is where leadership
and management matter.
This is an important aspect of the magic of being a middle school
principal. While I’ve certainly got more grey hair on my head
than I did in 2010, I also have the honor of knowing, cherishing,
and being part of the stories of thousands of 10 to 14 year-olds,
and the adults who care for them and about them each and every
When I started as Principal, my daughter was 9 years old.
In 2019, she leaves for her freshman year of college.
Time sure does fly.
Last Spring, I read the article in Inc. magazine entitled,
based on a 2011 tweet from Randi Zuckerberg that to be successful,
that one must streamline priorities, narrowing them to no more than
Reading this article led me to draw two conclusions:
1. To be truly successful, at least according to the article, I can’t possibly
“have it all”. (Or…can I?)
2. It was time to re-evaluate my idea of work-life balance/
integration/life-fit. Reflecting on 2018, I was overworking,
under-sleeping, distracted, and not present for the most important
people in my life – my family and my friends. It was time for me to
own this outcome. To do so, it was time to make some changes.  
Following what felt like a busier-than-usual school year, I saw
through a few prior professional commitments, and determined that
summer would be a reset for me. While I wasn’t necessarily prepared
to “Pick 3”, if I had to choose, I was starting simple. My overall goal was
not to balance Zuckerberg’s five priorities. It was to begin to live a
less superficial, more purpose-driven life. I was ready to see the
sunrises every morning…and the stars, every night.
In the last six months, I commit (and, in some cases, recommit) to
honoring several personal priorities.
1. Read and Write. Every day.
2. Sweat. Every day.
3. Breathe. Every day.
4. Connect. Every day.
5. Pause. Every day.  
Fortunately, none of these commitments are completely unfamiliar to
me. They ebb and flow at different phases of my life. What I have
noticed, however, is that as soon as I become “too busy”, they’re the first
things to go, replaced by more pressing…more “important” priorities.
One of the books I read in the Summer of 2018 was
the author writes the following about how we use (and can use) an
immutable commodity that we all share: time.
“True time management is about filling our lives with things that
deserve to be there.”
This idea resonated deeply with me, leaving me to question how
often I spend time on things I could be otherwise investing time in doing.
Considering how and where I invest my time has led me to pay closer
attention to daily decisions and the impact they have on long-range goals.
Vanderkam adds:
“This is what happens when you treat your 168 hours as a blank slate.
This is what happens when you fill them up only with things that deserve
to be there. You build a life where you can really have it all.”
Much like leadership and management tasks, my five priorities are intertwined
as well. They nourish and fuel each other. But one, I find, drives all others. For
me, it’s PAUSE.  
Before, during, and after each of these other priorities, in 2019 I commit
to pause, to consider how I am prioritizing my time.
Pausing to read and write.
Pausing to exercise.
Pausing to breathe in and breath out.
Pausing to connect with those who matter most in my life.
And, pausing to check in with myself, to get on track and to stay on track.   
One thing’s for sure – some of my time in 2019 will be devoted toward pausing
to appreciate the sunrises and to appreciate the stars.  
After all, we only get 168 hours a week. Better make them count.
Read my previous #OneWord blog posts here.
#OneWord2018: Optimize

Looking forward to reading yours.

Happy New Year!