Tip 49: Focus on What You Know

“Focus on what you do know. That seems obvious, but every day I hear my colleagues voice concerns about what they don’t know and how it may surprise them and undermine their prospects of reappointment or promotion. To prove that they are team players, and that the well-being of the institution matters greatly to them, they sign up for committees and throw themselves into work that someone else can do better. And then they find they are always playing catch-up, trying to learn budget processes, master the nuances of enrollment management, or understand the subtleties of strategic planning.”

from Chris Fauske in the CHE article How Ignorance Came to My Rescue – Do Your Job Better

This point is one that I and a few of my colleagues/friends need to think about. Our job does not include budget or management (unless we are chair), but teaching, mentoring, and scholarship. When we get off track pursuing the “good,” things that are fine on their own but not related to our work, we miss the “best,” things that are integral to our work and important to our focus.

One colleague was told by the chair, “Stop doing so much stuff. You are an amazing teacher and mentor. Focus on that. Let that one article slide until next year so that you can use it for tenure.” She has been trying to do too much. Now she’s trying to do less, so that what she does she can do well.

Sometimes we do need to do something that is not integral to our work (like the QEP on critical thinking) because we need the money or think that is the right direction for our school. But if we are often focusing on those things that are not integral, we lose the focus on our teaching, mentoring, learning, and scholarship.

First Things First by Covey, Merrill, and Merrill presents this as the difference between urgent and important.

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