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Josh Shoulta

Resolve to be a better board member in 2020

Kentucky School Advocate
January 2020

By Josh Shoulta
KSBA Director of Communications

While you don’t need a special occasion to kick off self-improvement, the advent of a new year can provide a natural starting point. Being a better board member, spouse, parent, professional – or just a better person – doesn’t have to mean major life changes. Simply making small tweaks to our existing routines, or perhaps implementing some new routines, can have a positive cumulative impact. Here are a few friendly recommendations to help make 2020 your best year yet.

First things first
I love to scribble a to-do list each morning over a cup of coffee, itemizing everything I aspire to conquer that day. It has taken me most of my life to understand that a long to-do list does not always equate to a productive day. Too often we attack the insignificant tasks first, because they are easy and not particularly stressful. They create the illusion that we are getting a lot done. But, all of a sudden, it’s 4:45 p.m. and you haven’t even touched the most important items on your list. Instead, on your daily to-do list, try putting big red asterisks next to the hardest, most time-consuming and most time-sensitive tasks. No other project gets your attention until these monsters are 100 percent complete. You’ll finish the day feeling more accomplished because of quality work, not quantity. For a better approach to time management, try reading “Organize Tomorrow Today: 8 Ways to Retrain Your Mind to Optimize Performance at Work and in Life” by Jason Selk, Tom Bartow and Matthew Rudy. 

Are your notes noteworthy?
The benefits of notetaking are well documented. Taking notes helps you learn information, keeps you organized and promotes creativity. But don’t stop there. Use your notes. My mom, a middle school educator of more than 40 years, challenges her students to read their notes each night … twice. By reviewing what you wrote in the hours and days afterwards, you are continuing the active learning process while increasing the likelihood of retention. Reviewing notes privately after hours without life’s distractions allows for deeper focus. Don’t just take notes at your next school board meeting. Go home and read those notes again, again and again.

Mind your (body) language
Former FBI specialist Joe Navarro, considered by many to be the world’s leading expert on body language, estimates that as much as 80 percent of our interactions with other people are nonverbal. Without us even knowing it, our bodies can subconsciously communicate our feelings to those around us. Slouching in my chair with arms crossed might indicate I am closed off and disinterested. Pointing my finger aggressively can come across as overly accusatory and threatening. Even a lack of eye contact with someone speaking might convey an unwillingness to take him or her seriously. We’re not asking you to put on an Oscar-winning performance here, but be mindful of how you are conducting yourself in a board setting. Jot down a reminder in the top corner of your notebook or planner. Put a rubber band around your wrist. Practice in front of the mirror. Consider if your posture, facial expressions, eyeline and demeanor are truly representative of your elected office. 

Attitude of gratitude
It’s one thing to say, “thank you.” It’s another thing altogether to take a moment to bask in the gratitude. Why? It is scientifically proven that gratitude is good for your health. Best-selling mental strength author Amy Morin attributes practiced gratitude to less aches and pains, better sleep, increased empathy and improved self-esteem. But this takes effort and focus. For some, that’s keeping a gratitude journal, listing things one was thankful for that day. Others include reflection during meditation or prayer. You might even consider making a daily habit out of telling one person why you are grateful for him or her. You are simply putting into words what you are likely already feeling.

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