What great fun we had last week in Greenwich at the International House DOS (Directors of Studies) conference! Thanks to everyone at IHWO for being so wonderful.

As promised, here are the resources I mentioned during my presentation  – Sorry for the delay in getting them posted –

Tip 1 – Set up a Tickler File!

Tip 2 – Write Everything Down – Decide on your three Most Important Tasks – Do a Weekly Review
Tip 3 – Learn to Say NO!
Tip 4 – Learn to Apologise
Tip 5 – Make respecting the school’s values as important as classroom performance
Tip 6  – It’s Your Ship!
  • Be Positive – Give Positive Feedback – Create a Recognition list and check it every week
  • Fight for your Team – Remove obstacles – Keep Things Simple – Keep them focused
  • Show them you care – Set up a blog – Give them Cake! – one-to-ones
  • Watch what you say
  • Enoy it!


The video might be posted on the IHWO web soon…

Do you want to get organised? Do you want to be successful? Do you want to be both those things whilst actually working less? Do you want to do all those things with the help of zombies and Oreo ice-cream cake? Well Stever Robbins is at hand with a great new book – Get-it-Done Guy’s 9 steps to Work Less and Do More

You might know Stever Robbins as the Get-it-Done guy from the Quick and Dirty tips Podcast. His book, Get-It-Done Guy’s 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More,  is a playful, yet serious guide to working less and doing more. In other words, creating a more productive life. It lays out nine skills that apply anywhere you want to get greater results with less work.

Stever was kind enough to agree to do an interview for this blog – Hope you enjoy it – Don’t forget to subscribe to Stever’s great podcast at http://getitdone.quickanddirtytips.com/

…and why not buy all of your friends a copy of Stever’s book for Christmas? Why not buy each of your friends 10 copies?…Stever asked me to say that. I’m not on commission…honest.


Welcome to the blog, Stever – Just in case there’s anyone out there who hasn’t come across you yet, could you give us a brief description of who you are and what you’re passionate about?

I’m a serial entrepreneur and self-professed personal organization geek who helps people get things done with humor and fun. At the moment, I help people streamline their lives and increase their personal productivity. What I really do is help them become better at creating the whole life they want, not just at work.
I’m currently working on my 10th startup, which is oriented around helping people create a life that works for them.
My fantasy career involves more communications work. I’m quite good at making complex things simple to understand and communicating them well. My favorite side project is a one-man musical based on my book, which I’m co-writing for me to perform. It will have all the information, tips, and excitement of a normal business keynote, but with singing, drama, zombies, and Oreo ice cream cake.

Book me tickets for the Milan show! Your Get-It-Done-Guy podcast has really helped me work less and do more – which of the many episodes are you most proud of?

For some reason, I’m extremely fond of one of my first episodes, “How to Say No.”It’s a skill I’m not very good at, and I had a woman who’s a master at the skill do a demo. I still listen to that episode so I can practice the skill myself.

Now, as well as the podcast you have a new book out – The Get-It-Done Guy’s 9 Steps To Work Less and Do More. What’s in there to help make life easier for people – like me – working in educational management?

The nine steps are designed to cover the major areas I’ve seen people work without getting results. Working on Purpose is good for keeping your work oriented towards what’s most important. Step 5: Staying Organized is probably especially helpful in education management since you have events that repeat and are coordinating programs that may involve hundreds of students, instructors, and classes all having similar issues. It covers how to organize your thinking and keep straight lots of little details. I wrote it when working at Babson College and several of the tips in it came from systems I developed to help manage student teams. Step 7: Optimize is also especially well-suited for educational management, since it details how to create systems that learn as you use them.

That sounds great. Stever, I know how much you love meetings… – any tips for anyone out there struggling to run effective meetings?

Think long and hard about what a given meeting is trying to accomplish: share information, make decisions, build morale, etc. Then brainstorm for any other way to accomplish the same goal. If you must have a meeting, have a clear goal, an agenda, a time keeper, and a “parking lot” for issues that come up that are tangential but should be addressed later. Then stick to the agenda as if your life depended on it. End promptly at the stated finishing time.

Just one last question – This blog is for people working in education – Who have you learnt most from in your life?

My book is dedicated to seven people who have taught me life-changing lessons, whether through lifelong relationships or through one-time comments that were exactly what I needed to hear at pivotal moments in my life. Three have been ongoing influences in my life. First and foremost is my college professor, field study advisor, boss, friend, and now President of Babson College, Len Schlesinger. He’s one of the sharpest business minds I’ve ever met, as well as one of the most approachable. He also dreams big. Very, very big. I like that. Other big influences include Richard Bandler, who taught me ways of understanding interpersonal behavior, and my friend Tamin Pechet, who is one of the best brainstorming partners I’ve had; I can barely keep up with his good ideas and insights.

I’d like to thank Stever for taking the time to do the interview – I’m sure you’ll all buy the book – http://www.steverrobbins.com/the-book/ I’d love to know which tips you find most useful – please leave a comment!

It’s a well-known fact that Julius Caesar was a bit of a dab hand with the pithy quip  -‘I came, I saw, I conquered’ just one of a range of classics. In 49BC he stood with his army on the banks of the Rubicon river which served as the boundary between Gaul and Italy. Roman law forbade Roman generals from popping across the river with their armies. Such behaviour was viewed as an act of open war against the Republic. Not good form for any self-respecting republican general – unless, of course, your objective was to take over the joint.  Ambitious Caesar was not to be humbled by the fear of sparking a civil war – he took his chaps across and  – presumably for the tabloid journalists in tow – he shrugged his shoulders and declared ‘the die is cast’ as his horse drip-dried on the other side of the river. Pretty cool.

It’s not a well-known fact, however, that in a past life I was a Roman centurion. Now, I’ve learnt to keep this to myself. When I bring it up in the pub people tend to smile and then quietly slip away. Anyway, I happened to be with Caesar the night he reached the Rubicon and set up camp. Quite frankly the lads were a bit nervous – we mostly fancied heading back to the South of France. As I couldn’t sleep I had gone for a walk and heard some muttering coming from a tent. I popped my head in and there was Caesar himself – sitting on the floor sipping some cocoa.

‘Where did you get that?” I asked.


“The Cocoa. We don’t get that in Europe for another 1500 years.”

“Whoops,” he replied, hiding the cup behind his toga and giving me a sheepish look. Then his eyes misted over and he started talking to himself – “Mmm, the river. The river. To cross or not to cross, that is the question, Mike…’  He paused for a second and looked at me suspiciously. ‘Funny name that?…Are you sure you’re a Roman?”

“Oh, yes, yes, yes,” I replied trying not to look sheepish myself.

He carried on – “What if it goes wrong? What if we cross the river and we all DIE!?! Oh, my. This is tough. Really tough! It’s nice on this side of the river. Lovely polenta. And Rome? Who wants to take over Rome? I mean – what’s so special about Rome? Let’s go back. But then again, the lads…oh the lads’ll be disappointed to have come all this way for nothing. Oh my. Where’s Brutus when you need him? Is it bath time? Nice bathie. With my little plastic …err wooden…duckie.”

I walked over and slapped Julius Caesar hard across the face. “Pull yourself together, man.”

That did the trick and the whole history of the planet was changed the very next day as we crossed the Rubicon with a nonchalent shrug and pithy remark.

Nobody wants an indecisive leader. And that’s as true for managers as it is for Roman generals and despots. We all have our late night cocoa moments – those moments of decision. But you’ve got to get over it. You’ve got to take your pick – make your choice –  and convince everyone else you know what you’re doing (even if you don’t).

Caesar could easily have ducked his moment of history – he would be nothing but a footnote now.

So the tip is simple – Managers, be decisive! Don’t keep toying with the die – roll it and cross the Rubicon – preferably with a smile and a bit of pith to gee up the troops. It’s your job to make decisions. You may as well do it in style.

Any comments?

43 Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website that focuses on finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Merlin’s ideas are heavily influenced by David Allen’s Getting Things Done productivity approach.

The articles are fun and informal and contain lots of productivity tips such as how to get your email in-box to zero!

Merlin Mann also has a podcast that you can subscribe to via iTunes.

43 Folders

Podcasts are a great resource for management development.

For ‘quick and dirty tips on how to work less and do more’ look no further than Stever Robbins’s Get-It-Done Guy



The podcasts are short, funny and full of good advice. Recent topics include –

  • How to be assertive
  • How to write better emails
  • How to start a project

You can download the podcasts from iTunes

Let me know what you think

Issue: Saying No

April 2, 2010

I meet a lot of DoSes and I’m always amazed at how busy everyone is.

DoSes who do fifteen hours of teaching.

DoSes who put in more than fifty office hours a week.

DoSes involved in marketing. DoSes involved in sales. DoSes involved in finance.

I meet a lot of DoSes – and quite frankly we’re a  fairly knackered bunch!

It seems we just can’t say ‘no’. Let’s imagine the director comes in and says ‘hey, as it’s a quiet period I was just thinking that you could take on a bit more teaching – starting with these five hours here.’

Now let’s imagine your response – You look the director in the eyes, smile and say ‘You know, it’s a shame as I’m sure I’d be perfect fo those lessons, but with the fifteen other projects I’ve got going on I just don’t think I’d have the time to commit to that.’ Can you imagine?

Is it guilt that stops us from doing this? Is it just that we don’t like letting people down. Are we scared that people might start questioning our commitment? (I suspect that we secretly enjoy the status of being ‘superbusy’ or the ‘only one who works around here’…therein lies the path to madness…)

It doesn’t help that there’s quite a lot of mystery involved in the role of the DoS – I suspect a lot of colleagues have no idea just how much work we do! This leads to many a raised eyebrow when we do refuse to do something. This guy’s just the DoS. He spends all day on YouTube and having coffee with students…Of course he’s got time to do this…

However, for the sake of our own sanity and for the good of our schools we have to learn to say ‘no’.

It helps to have a really clear idea of what projects need our attention. It helps to plan out each week in advance so we can see at a glance just how much time we have available. That way you can assess each request and decide if it’s important enough to do and if you have the time to do it.

There’s only so much you can do. So the next time the director comes into the office and suggests you take on another five hours teaching you know what to say.

  • Be polite
  • Explain why you feel unable to accept their kind offer of more work
  • Suggest an alternative
  • If you really can’t say ‘no’, ask what projects you should stop doing in order to find the time for the new one.

There’s lots of online advice on saying no



William Ury, author of the book ‘The Power of a Positive No’ (mentioned in the Time article) has his own website – http://www.williamury.com He offers a free tip sheet on saying no – http://www.williamury.com/files/PositiveNoTips.pdf

Do you find it difficult to say no? Please leave your comments.

I love the TV show The West Wing. Martin Sheen plays fictional President of the United States Jed Bartlet.

I want to be Jed Bartlet.

Advisors – dealing with 101 major problems – race into the Oval Office, Jed listens to all points of view, he pauses for a second, makes a decision and then asks ‘What’s next?’ He’s really got it going on – just like that in a few seconds – this is a man who gets things done.


One of the things I found most difficult when I became DoS was getting things done. Which is a bit unfortunate as I’m paid to, well, get things done.

There were just so many long-term projects, so many requests from students, teachers, marketing people and the school director, so many last-minute problems to resolve that I seemed to be busy for ten hours a day and yet still get very little done. Long-term projects sat on ominous to-do-lists and I was even beginning to turn up late for matches at The English Football Pub. Something had to be done.

The best piece of advice I had about time management was very simple – Plan The Week.

I was told to have a look at Stephen R. Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.



Thanks to that book, I’ve discovered the world’s greatest time-management tool – a diary that displays the week with the days arranged in columns.

I can’t overestimate how useful this tool has been. Instead of seeing time in blocks of days, I now think in terms of weeks. Of course the diary’s not much use to you if it’s left blank.

  • Every Sunday sit down and block off any fixed appointments you have.
  • Look at your to-do list and make appointments with yourself for the most important tasks
  • Leave space every day for the pleasant surprises that make our jobs so exciting
  • Make time at the end of the week to review how your projects are progressing.

You can find a lot more details (and some great tips on how to prioritise your tasks) in Stephen R. Covey’s book. Another resource that you might find useful is David Allen’s book Getting Things Done.


Now, unfortunately it hasn’t turned me into Martin Sheen, but taking the time to plan my week has meant I feel much more in control of what I’m doing. I also feel I’m spending much more time doing things with long-term benefits rather than just responding to a constant stream of emergencies. It requires a bit of discipline (you have to keep those appointments you make with yourself) but it really does work.

I would love to know your time management tips, so please leave a comment.