Saturday, August 10, 2013

Making the Most of Our Moments

cc flickr photo by azjd
Yesterday is gone.  Tomorrow has not yet come.  We have only today.  Let us begin.  ~ Mother Teresa
Moments.  Our days are filled with them, yet we often fall victim to foresight -- missing the opportunities that pop up, right in front of us.  It is easy to spend a day, or even a lifetime, looking ahead, wishing time away, and failing to take advantage of the small moments we are granted to be difference makers.  Zig Ziglar had it right when he said: "You never know when a moment, and few sincere words, can have an impact on a life."

Peter Bregman recently wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review, entitled A Question That Can Change Your Life.  The question that he encourages his readers to ask is: what can I do, right now, that would be the most powerful use of this moment?  According to Bregman:
"We're already spending a certain amount of time doing things -- in meetings, managing businesses, writing emails, making decisions.  If we could just make a higher impact during that time, it's all upside with no cost."
So true.  As a school administrator, I can't begin to count the times I have sat through meetings, participated in professional development, supervised activities, or worked on any number of mundane tasks -- a bit mind numb, passing time until I am able to get on with "more important" things.  But, as Bregman suggests, being mindful of these moments, and actively searching for opportunities to make a difference can pay significant dividends.

For me, a perfect example is lunch duty.  At our school, we rotate cafeteria supervision, and Friday is my assigned day.  It's my favorite day of the week.  Not because it is the prelude to a weekend, but because I have the opportunity (during a two hour time period) to interact with many of our nine hundred junior high students.  I use the time to learn names, encourage, visit about what is going on in the lives of the kids, and build connections.  On most Friday's I have many other things to do, but none are as important, or have as much potential for impact as lunch duty.  On Friday's at noon, lunch duty is definitely the most powerful use of the moment.

Be intentional with your moments -- aware of the potential to make a difference.


  1. Hey Pal,

    First, thanks for this reminder. If I can always look for the power in the moment, I can make a difference. I needed that.

    Second, I'd LOVE to work for a principal who pushed this approach with their teachers -- who openly stated that looking for the power in the moment mattered and who was ready to let us push back against the crap that leaves us buried half the time.

    An example: I lost a whole class period on Friday to a silly requirement that the twelve digit serial number for every single lock on my 140 student learning team be typed into a spreadsheet by a certain deadline.

    That deadline -- and the silly requirement to begin with -- became more important than my teaching and the instructional day was lost.

    Principals need to protect teachers from that kind of stuff -- and need to encourage us to call them out when paperwork gets in the way of the power of the moment.

    Rock on,

    1. Very true Bill. I find myself increasingly frustrated with the tasks I take on that have very little to do with supporting instruction, or meeting the needs of students. As an administrator, I expect some of that, but those activities make it difficult to find the "power" in the moment. Maybe the next time I find myself in a "going nowhere" meeting I should get up and walk out. Suppose I can fall back on, "it was the most powerful thing I could do at the moment?" :)