Throughout my career thus far I’ve grown from being an Apple employee to managing the Apple side of an consulting group to leading IT for a growing network of schools with thousands of users. Around a year ago I lost the ability to have mental clarity about everything I was managing. My work had grown from managing a single campus with a 1:1 computing, a flat network design and Apple Airports providing wireless for 450 users to implementing the plan I’d been working on. This included:
- Scaling from 450 to 800 users
- Prepping campus #2
- Switching from Airports to Aerohive APs
- Implementing the Casper Suite
- Implementing a brand new, fully designed Cisco network infrastructure
- Building a WAN to support the JSS
- Supporting a new full-scale blended learning system
- Setting up Open Directory (and mobile home syncing) for both campuses
- Rolling over PowerSchool from year to year for the first time
- Switching from an analog phone system to an hosted PBX solution
- Imaging 900 Macs w/ evening assistance from some famous internet hipster
All of this work had to happen in less than 2 months and I was solely responsible for seeing this through to completion. What followed was the most grueling summer of my life which may have slightly burned me out.
Why do I bring all of this up? Because I learned a lesson. Well, a whole lot of lessons.
A year later and I’m preparing (/have been preparing for months) to orchestrate the opening of two new campuses and jumping from 800 to 1600 users over the course of a few months. I’ve been testing, choosing and implementing tools over the last year to take the mental management and leverage technology to keep the ship afloat and on course. Thus far I’ve implemented OmniFocus, Evernote, (live by) Google Calendar, MindMeister, Kickoff and most recently Omniplan. I now have another team member and need to be able to keep him informed on what needs done by when along with keeping other departments aware of our progress and any risks we currently or may soon have.
Utilizing these tools I’ve realized that my role has shifted to becoming the cache of my external brain(s) and tools. I have an evening ritual to prepare for the following day by looking over my calendar and looking at the my to-do lists and performing a mini-review of what I could accomplish in the time I have the next day. I often plan meetings and add tasks and milestones for weeks or months in the future and depend on these tools to act as the long term storage for my life and I just keep what I need for the short term mentally stored. This frees up my mental capacity to think through longer term plans such as our continued growth and projects of a size I’ve never been responsible for before such as this and this. Nothing I’ve implemented is perfect and I’m far from even being good at it but I’m becoming more efficient and productive every day and that’s progress.