In his very readable book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown tells us what we should already know about our limited resources when it comes to focus, work, and energy.
The single best thing we can do to improve our performance and our level of happiness, he says, is to narrow our focus to just one or two things that are truly essential. In its application to education, McKeown’s idea is clearly related to the mindfulness movement and to all manner of wellness issues as they pertain to students and teachers alike. But because it is so simple, it is especially striking.
So this summer, I gave myself an essentialist gift: time to think. It’s what everyone involved in teaching and learning wants and needs due to the pace and nature of the school year, with its many deadlines, checkpoints, and requirements.
I let my mind roam. I thought about the state of the world, politics, culture. I thought about my marriage, my children, our respective health. Pretty soon, I felt able to think about my work, and what I love about it, and what more I think I can contribute. And I went further — I thought about which community service project I want to get involved with, and about getting a puppy.
I thought about a lot of other things, too. But I didn’t do a whole lot about any of it, or worry about when I would. For me, that was a significant and welcome change.
School is about to start up again. What I’m thinking about needs to shift, and fast. There are classes to plan and meetings to run, conferences to have and presentations to give. But I feel more ready than I ever have before to jump back in.
Having time to think is the reason why. I know what I am going to focus on this year, and what I am going to politely push to the back burner. I’ve asked my leadership team to do the same, so that we can be aligned in our focus — on students and what is essential for them.