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Are you a compulsive list maker, one who gains immeasurable enjoyment in the act of checking off a completed task?

Perhaps you are a casual list maker, driven to what is, for you, an unnatural act. Why? Because you set about one task, get distracted by another, and can’t recall what you began in the first place.

Or you might avoid lists all together, figuring you know what needs to be done, and resenting the limitations to your creativity and spontaneity imposed by a checklist.

Most of us fall somewhere in the range just described.

Furthermore, our list making may differ depending on whether we are charged by someone else to carry out responsibilities of critical importance, are working with a team, or are planning a day of vacation.

Normally what we do reflects what we value. That is, how we spend our time and what we accomplish reflects our priorities.

In an analogy to our work, to accomplish a plan important for your school, you must value the plan, and others must know you value the plan. In other words, the plan should be at the top of your list. The following steps can help you succeed.

  1. Explain why the plan is important for you, your school, or organization. If your goal is compelling (for example, a strategy to dramatically improve communication with parents), others will be quicker to adopt the plan.
  2. Those key to help accomplish the plan must understand their responsibility and accountability. On your personal list, you may note names of those whose help you need to accomplish a goal. In your school, include others by name or title. Be sure that they understand the items on their “list.”
  3. Establish priorities by informing your school community about the plan, why it is important, and who has responsibility. In your personal life, one strategy for helping complete an important goal is telling others what you want to accomplish and why.
  4. Set steps and timelines for accomplishing the plan. In a home building project, you acquire materials before starting to build. At school, lay out the steps and when each step must be done.
  5. Monitor progress publicly. Report to your faculty, staff, or school board. Keep everyone’s eyes on the goal and report on progress.
  6. Recognize completion and accomplishment of plans. Find a way to reinforce accomplishment of steps in the plan. Use a visual checklist. Code stages of completion with colors. Use graphs or charts.


As a leader, list making is key to communicating priorities and expectations. Besides, when you are done, you’ll have one more item to check off the list!

 This article originally appeared in an issue of our monthly publication NorthStar for Principals.

Thought for the Week

When we understand another person’s perspective, what they are thinking and feeling, we are better able to relate to them and understand their needs.

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