These “Good to Know” articles are published on the first day of every month, so this one is a little more special, since it’s the first article of the new calendar year.

This is also the time that most of us make some sort of “New Year’s” resolution – to lose weight, to exercise more or take better care of ourselves so that our health and energy improves.  Then, we joke that we only had the discipline to have that resolution last for a couple of weeks – if not for a couple of days – before we regress back into our old habits.

So here’s a challenge for this year – think differently.

We like things that are linear, and that are process oriented.  We set agendas for the day, where we list what we’re going to do, and then usually follow that list in the order that it was written down.  Here’s an example of how ineffective that is.

The next time you go to the grocery store with your list, get the items in the manner which you listed them on your list.  If you’re like most people, you’ll run around the store a good number of times, rather than grouping those items as you’re walking down the respective aisle for those products.  In other words, if you’ve got milk, butter and eggs on your list, chances are you’ll scan your list to get them while you’re in the dairy section, rather than pick up milk, then go get paper towels, then come back for butter, then go and find coffee, and then return to the dairy section to get the eggs.

So do that with your daily “do” list.

Make a list of all the things to do for the day, then, “Redo the Do” into a list that makes more sense to help you feel a greater sense of accomplishment.

Here’s the other reason why this is difficult.

We’re told by numerous individuals that we need to take care of our “big rocks” in the jar.  This is the tale that’s told of the professor who brought a jar into a classroom, and filled it with some big rocks, then asked his class if they thought the jar was full.  They agreed that it was.  Then he put smaller rocks in the jar and shook the jar so that the smaller rocks took up the spaces left by the big rocks, then asked his class if they thought the jar was full now.  They all agreed that it was.  The process continued with gravel, sand and finally water, showing that the jar wasn’t really full…even though the members of the class thought it was after each additional element.

The lesson was that we need to take care of the big rocks first, because if we fill the jar with the little rocks of our life there will be no room for the big rocks.

And this is a three-fold lesson.  The first is that this example applies to leadership and long-term thinking.  The second is that this lesson does not apply to task prioritization for short-term motivation and productivity.  The third is that both of these concepts must be used in concert with each other strategically.

And this is why systems thinking is difficult.

Because it’s difficult, we’d rather just go back to thinking linearly, or thinking in terms of process.  If we do that, we’ll never make progress.

In your school, think of it this way – if you’re always “putting out fires,” and everything is an emergency, then you’re not putting the big rocks in the jar first.  At this time of year, the thinking needs to shift to the next school year (if it hasn’t shifted already).  Many administrators I know return to school after the mid-year/Christmas/Holiday break to prepare for some type of special event in January or February, and then start looking at the budget for the following year in March when budgeting starts, and financial aid applications are submitted in April.  By May, everyone is thinking about the summer, and really not paying attention to the fact that enrollment has not be solidified for the coming school year which is then only a couple of months away.

This year, make a resolution to start focusing on next year as soon as you return to school.  Solidify your current enrollment.  It will help you to create your budget for next year.  Use a need-based aid/cost-based tuition mindset to create a “sustainability-based” tuition approach. Inquiries for following-year enrollment should have started when school began, since that’s when most parents have school as a “top of mind” item, and start investigating their options for children who are starting school.

Bottom line: make a resolution to be more proactive than reactive.  It will require discipline, especially since we seem to be continue to be living in a “perpetual beta” society, where everything is constantly changing.  The fact of the matter is that is IS – we’ve just never really noticed it.  But, it was sung about in 1967 in a song by The Rascals:

“How can I be sure in a world that’s constantly changing?”

“How Can I Be Sure?” turned 45 years old in 2022 – that makes it a “Baby Boomer” song – one not necessarily embraced by Generation X, the Millennials, and Generation Z/the Digitals.

Indeed, it’s a new year, and, as the one who is seated on the throne states in Revelations (21:5),  “Behold, I am making all things new.”  It’s a new day – let’s think new thoughts by changing our thinking, and thinking differently.  Truthfully, that’s the message of Advent.  It’s a time to “repent,” which actually means, “to rethink.”