I recently had the privilege of working with all the leaders over at Coney Island Prep in Brooklyn, and we spent some time brainstorming about how to protect our time for focused work in the midst of a hectic school environment. I joked with the group that when I taught upper elementary school, I used to wear a purple feather boa to signal that I was working with a small reading group – and all questions, unless emergencies, should wait. You can only imagine my utter delight when Frazier (a School Operations Manager) showed up to our next class with a PURPLE FEATHER BOA.
In Frazier’s role, like so many of us, it can feel tough to find time to focus. Yet that focus is essential to put systems in place, to crank out tough data analysis, or to make tricky phone calls to vendors. I asked Frazier why she was motivated to try the feather boa strategy, and she said, “I want to help my team create a safe space to hold sacred time for their work – as well as jump in and help each other.”
Frazier and her school office team then took it a step further, and they added another set of visual signals. PS We have written about other visual cues here and here.
Frazier continues on to say, “As main office staff, it is presumed that we are available at all times. That is often not the case! My team has individual buckets that include meetings, prep time as well as time needed for tasks. The signs are in place to let the rest of the school staff know who is available to assist them. The signs include “Vacation” as well as “In a Meeting.” These are clear answers to the question of ‘Where is Mrs. Frazier?”
The goal is to create individual and team boundaries to ensure everyone has a chance for protected work time – and to signal we ARE available to others. As Frazier says, “I find it very fulfilling to know that the hard work, time and effort I put in behind-the-scenes has helped create a masterpiece. In my role, I have a hand in many parts of the school, and I want to be as successful as possible in the interest of our students.”
How about you? What are you doing to let coworkers know when you are and aren’t available to them?