Last year, I attended one of the Peninsula Teaching School Partnership Super Saturday days led by Andy Buck titled ‘Six Secrets to Success’ and some of the ideas I picked up were incredibly useful to me, and I wanted to share and recommend his book if you are looking for something to pick up during lockdown. The day was aimed at leaders in schools, and referred to his book, ‘Leadership Matters.’ I took away some really useful concepts (and a free book) which I now apply to my daily tasks (both work and life related!) If in the future the Super Saturdays commence again, I would highly recommend attending one as the guest speakers are fantastic.


The Giraffe Concept

In his book, Buck discusses ‘the giraffe concept’: giraffes across the world all have long necks which make them successful in eating the leaves from tall trees which other animals cannot reach. However, when you look more closely, they are all unique in the way they look, presenting different patterns and colours. The markings vary according to their environment and their age as they have evolved to suit their context. Buck describes how this is applicable in schools: there are fundamental aspects which make teachers successful (the long necks) but understanding and adapting to your school and situation is imperative. Therefore, other elements of your teaching strategies will differ (the markings), but nonetheless, you can -and will -still be successful, even though you are different from the other teachers (giraffes) around you.


This was a nifty trick that I have been trialling over lockdown, with the increase of email traffic sometimes feeling overwhelming. I used to flag my emails, and then go through them but I am finding this more effective.

  • NOW – emails you need to respond to in the next few hours, definitely by the end of the day. Check this folder before you log off.
  • SOON – emails that you need to respond to over the next few days or take time to read in more detail.
  • LATER – you need to review this folder about once a week, and when you review it you tend to find that you may have completed those tasks, or the issue is resolved, or the emails need to be moved into the NOW or SOON folders because the time has come to action them.

Buck claims that using this simple-based prioritisation system, has transformed many leaders’ personal effectiveness and their ability to prioritise efficiently. You may not need anything like this, but I have found it to be a help during remote teaching when I sign off for the day and think a few hours later ‘I forgot to reply to that email!’

80: 20 Pareto

When this was first explained in the training, or when I explain it to someone else, it sounds like you are saying you only need to put 20% effort into a task and you will get the results – not quite that simple but definitely something that helped me be more efficient, less of a perfectionist and get my work done quicker so I could leave school at a sensible time and make more time for myself in the evenings/weekends.

Buck talks about the Pareto Principle, which describes how we can achieve 80% of a result from a 20% of effort. If you want to achieve the task perfectly and get 100% results, you need to put in the other 80% of effort, which is a disproportionate larger amount of time. Obviously, there are tasks in school and in life which will need that time and perfection and to be 100% right and this idea should only be roughly implemented. However, this notion really resonated with me that if you are in the habit of wanting things to be perfect and spend long periods of time of simple tasks, you could actually be making yourself less efficient that you could be. Hearing this genuinely helped me get that balance of how long I should be spending on tasks right which did not need to get 100% results, and hopefully for anyone who also can struggle with time management and being a bit of a perfectionist at times, it may help you too.

Eat the Frog

If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first. If you have to eat a live frog at all, it doesn’t pay to sit and look a it for very long!

Finally, you may have heard Brian Tracy’s famous phrase (or the year 7 team plugging on google classroom) ‘Eat that Frog’.

This notion I found very helpful for avoiding procrastination, and being more productive and motivated in my day, as explained below in the video. I had never heard the phrase before, but Buck explained the practical action in his training course and how many successful leaders (in schools and business) utilise this strategy frequently and see results.

If you are interested, you can find out more on Andy Bucks’ website

By Alice Elliott

Start typing and press Enter to search