Tips On Better Managing Requests

My first year as a school administrator, I was determined to be a leader who followed through on requests from teachers.


What I didn’t anticipate was how many requests I would receive in a day. After a while, I began to learn to some habits that helped manage requests more wisely. So, here are some suggestions on how to prioritize so many competing demands:

1. Give up Your’Savior’Complex

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can find the solution to every problem in your building.

During my first year, in a typical hour as I walked through hallways and classrooms, I would often be stopped two or three times with requests. I would write down each request on a legal pad I carried with me. By the end of the day, I had pages of notes. Then I would sit down that evening or the next morning to follow-up on them.

Bad idea.

What I discovered was that my list grew every day. I found myself spending hours of work just on follow-up requests. What I didn’t know then was how poorly I was modeling leadership for my teachers.

As a leader, I still needed to be consistent in communicating back to my teachers and staff, but my system was not helping me prioritize nor was I teaching them how to become problem solvers.

I was also constantly “putting out fires” instead of focusing on the most important goals for our school. Something had to change, and it began when I admitted I was not the end-all for every problem.

2. If It’s Important, Have Them Write It Down

It took me a long time to learn, but eventually I decided on more practical steps.

First, I stopped carrying a legal pad. When a team member stopped me with a concern or request, I would first decide if this was something I could coach them to handle on their own. I could tell them who to see for resources or how to talk to a parent about a struggling student, etc.

Sometimes I needed to provide immediate follow-up or support. If that was the case, I needed to help find a solution; that’s my responsibility.

If it was something that might take further consideration and was not an immediate need, I would say, “Thank you for letting me know that. If that is important to you, please follow up to me with an email about it.”

Sometimes just listening to others is what they really want. I have learned to suggest someone email me if the situation or issue is still a priority to them after our conversation. We often find solutions in the moment. With these steps, I found my to-do list of follow-up requests significantly decreasing.

3. Learn To Teach Others How to Find Their Own Solutions

It is difficult to overemphasize the importance of delegation. Here are a couple of analogies I have heard about learning to delegate or coach other to find their own soluations:

One, a coach never puts on the helmet and pads to jump in the game for his players. He coaches them. School leaders must do the same; it is not our job to jump into every crisis and create a solution; it is more important to train and coach your team members into becoming problem solvers.

Another analogy is one I have heard from Dave Ramsey called the “monkey on the shoulder” practice. When someone comes to you with a problem that jumps off his/her shoulders onto yours, expect the person to become a part of the solution; make sure he takes his monkey with him when he leaves.


As a high school principal, I find I am having to learn many of these lessons again and again. Prioritizing time and requests is ultimately about creating a school climate where students are served well. If we are unable to manage our time, students will ultimately be the ones who suffer the consequences.

So, don’t forget to give up your savior complex, encourage others to write down their requests, and learn to help others find their own solutions where possible. In the end, your teachers and students will reap the benefits.


What are some ways you have learned to manage time or requests? Do you have a favorite resource for time management? Share yours with the rest of us!

Copyright 2013 by William D. Parker, Connect through Twitter with handle @williamdp or at


  1. Wendy said:

    Thanks for this. As a new principal this post helps me clarify what I was already learning and thinking. Love the “monkey on the back” analogy.

    October 17, 2013
  2. Wendy, it also helps me to think of the school as a larger version of the classroom. Once you establish expected routines, procedures, and processess, it makes it easier to complete instruction. Sometimes it takes a little longer to teach adults those routines than it does children. 🙂 But it is possible. Best wishes on your new year!

    October 17, 2013
  3. Glenn Cooke said:

    Another key consideration is that your solution to the problem might be the approach that works for you, but it may not be the solution for the staff member/parent/student…avoid prescribing the solution-ask questions that will guide the person you’re supporting to their answer, and provide the supports/resources.

    October 17, 2013
  4. That’s a great point, Glenn. My solution may not be their best solution. We adults have our own “learning styles” just like students.

    October 17, 2013
  5. […] My first year as a school administrator, I was determined to be a leader who followed through on requests from teachers. What I didn't anticipate was how many requests I would receive in a day. Aft…  […]

    October 19, 2013
  6. Julie said:

    I have found myself inundated with trying to solve too many problems basically due to my work ethic. I am working on guiding others to solve their own problems. The process of just asking questions to staff members often leads them to solve their own issues as you pointed out. In a way, I am still solving the problem, the problem being a concern from a staff member. This time I am training the teacher to find a solution on his/her own regarding the actual concern.

    December 31, 2013
  7. That’s a great strategy, Julie. In the long run, you are helping them find a better solution than a quick-fix. Thanks for sharing!

    January 2, 2014

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