Creating space in your day as an insurance policy for retention podcast blog header

Creating space in your day as an insurance policy for retention [Podcast]

This week on The Preschool Podcast, we welcomed back Chanie Wilschanski, CEO of Schools of Excellence. We discuss how to create space in your day as an insurance policy for retention, growth, and maintaining a positive mental state.

Leadership, culture, and retention are core skills to building a legacy with your center. Focusing on large concepts that disrupt your thinking and you don’t typically hear in the childcare industry can lead to such positive change. When you take action on them, your life completely transforms. You can enjoy the journey of growth and development.

Over 90 percent of childcare owners and directors are parents themselves and therefore value family. So, approaching your role from a corporate hustle perspective does not work.

You can have everything you want, just not all at the same time.”

Understand the discipline and priorities you have to set to push off certain goals until you have solidified others. Many leaders have a hard time saying no. If you feel overwhelmed, you don’t have space to allow for the opportunity to grow. You don’t have time to pause and reflect. For example, rest is a huge part of being a performing athlete. Rest means you are not working. It is rare in our field. Think about your days. When do you reflect, pause, or reset? You likely just run and run until you run out of gas. And you don’t choose when you run out of gas, it often comes at the worst times.

Values guide your decision-making of what is important. Reflect on if they are able to filter decision-making at your center. There are infinite opportunities you can say yes to. You have to decide where you spend your time, resources, money, and energy. Take a week and track where your time goes. Then look at what percent is maintenance (what you have to do to keep your center functioning) and what can be dedicated to new projects and visionary work. Block this time out in your calendar. Discipline yourself to wait until you have bandwidth and space before you say yes to a new opportunity.

Another tip from Chanie is to ensure you leave space to deal with requests and problems at the beginning of the back-to-school season. Creating space in your calendar is an insurance policy that when someone needs you, you can give them some time.

The best ideas do not come in the hustle, they come in the space.”

Start by blocking out 15 minutes in your calendar each day for a meeting with yourself. When you sit with yourself you will learn what is important to you!

Chanie’s recommended resources

Podcast episode transcript

Chanie WILSCHANSKI:

When you have space, you are a different leader. You respond differently. You respond with calm confidence; you respond with wisdom and discernment. And your people feel the calmness of your energy. And that is powerful.

Ron SPREEUWENBERG: 

Chanie, welcome back to the Preschool Podcast!

WILSCHANSKI:

Thanks for having me, Ron. I’m really happy to be here!

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Always delighted to have on our show Chanie Wilschanski. She’s the CEO of Schools Of Excellence. And we’re going to talk to her today about a really great topic: creating a space in your day. And in particular from the perspective of an insurance policy for retention, something that I’m sure will resonate with a lot of our listeners today.

Welcome back to the Preschool Podcast. It’s been a while since we’ve had you. Great to have you back. For those of our listeners who don’t know you, Chanie, can you tell them a little bit about yourself and your background and what you’re doing with Schools Of Excellence?

WILSCHANSKI:

Yeah, so I am a mom of four little kids. My kids range between the ages of 4 and 12. I am a former New Yorker. I lived in New York for 19 years and then we moved to Florida in August of 2020. So, we love the Sunshine State. We like our pool, we like our beaches. And it’s been really nice.

I started Schools Of Excellence in 2017, late 2016. And we started the company because we saw a need in the market to really work on leadership, culture and retention. And really understanding how these are core skills to the sustainability and profitability of the school, but also a lot in what it takes to build a legacy.

And so a lot of what we’ve been focusing on recently with our podcasts, our events and just the different ways that we show up into the world of early-childhood is really focusing on big concepts and philosophies that disrupt your thinking in a way that you won’t hear at your typical early-childhood conference or childcare event.

These are concepts that, when we internalize them and we process them and then we start to take action on them, our lives completely transform. And that’s what I’m really looking for. I really want leaders to enjoy the journey of growth and development that they’re building and not hustle their way through it.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

And what inspired you to focus on this?

WILSCHANSKI:

Yeah, so I feel like we’ve kind of ebbed and flowed through some different core areas that we focus on. But I think the main area, why I’m so committed to talking about this concept of creating space, is because we need to create some new metrics for success. I find that over 90% of childcare owners and directors are parents themselves. I think the percentage is actually a little bit higher, the last time I looked at some of the stats that we have on our own and some of the national stats.

But if the vast majority of people are parents and value family and marriage and relationships, then we’re going about building the childcare space all wrong. We’re approaching it from a very corporate, C-suite mindset around, “Hustle, get the next promotion, move, grow, grow, grow, build, expand, double profits, triple profits, 5X the business, 20X the business, 40X the business.”

But we’re forgetting that there’s other ambitions in life besides for growth of the business. There’s ambitions with raising our family, with building and cultivating our bearages and our friendships and our community. And a lot of people really want that. And that’s the audience that I really serve.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Cool. So, we’re talking about creating space. What does that mean to you? What does that look like for some of the folks that you work with, in terms of what you’re seeing before having that conversation about creating space? And what does that look like after, in terms of some of the changes that you’ve seen folks make and sort of change their working day and working lives?

WILSCHANSKI:

Yeah, so I always tell my clients, “You can have everything that you want, just not all at the same time.” And I think that that is what really traps people and ultimately sends them into burnout, overwhelm and then shut down. We want everything yesterday. We want to own five locations yesterday; we want a massive school and retention and brand equity and relationships with parents and long-term relationships with staff. And we want everything today.

And when I talk about this concept of creating space, it’s understanding the discipline and the priorities that you have to set and how you have to intentionally push off certain goals until you’ve solidified certain things. And many leaders have a hard time with us. They have a very hard time saying No to projects. They have a hard time saying No to these really great ideas. And I’m like, “I’m not saying no forever. It’s no for the next three months until you figure this part out.”

But there’s a lot of failure feeling associated with letting go of a specific project. And the reason that I talk about this a lot is because if you’re listening to us and feeling overcommitted, underperforming, overwhelmed; just feel like there’s so much that’s on your plate; you’re like, “I don’t know what to do first,” that is a clear indication that you don’t have space. You don’t have space. Every moment in your calendar is blocked and you’re working every single second.

That doesn’t allow space and opportunity for real, compounded growth because you don’t have time to pause and reflect. I often talk about the analogy between athletes. An athlete isn’t always playing. There’s training, there’s learning, there’s rest days, there’s restoration. Then they go back on the field, then they watch the game film. Then they train again, they rest their bodies. Rest is a huge component of being a peak performing athlete.

And yet, as childcare leaders, you can ask people all the time. Like, “Isaiah, go ask the crowd, when was the last time you took a real rest?” Not a nap. A nap is not rest. Rest means you’re not working. You’re not running around the place, you’re not working. It’s rare. Well, if you’re always in execution mode, when do you reflect? When do you pause? When do you rest? When do you reset? When do you re-anchor? Never. So, you run and run and run. And the engine runs out of gas at a certain point. And you don’t get to decide where it runs out of gas. And it’s usually not at the best time in your life.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

So, a lot of folks are overbooked. You mentioned specifically something you’ve heard before or seen before, in terms of, “I don’t know what to do first.” And so I think that’s part of the challenge, is sort of the sequencing. There’s lots of things that folks want to do. But how do you think about prioritizing?

WILSCHANSKI:

Oh, that’s such a good question. So, we talk about this all the time, priorities reset and how do I choose what’s really important and what’s not important. The first thing you have to understand is, what are the company values that are going to guide the decision making of what’s important? And by company values really meaning, okay, how do you really solidify? Do these values that you’ve created, whether you created them last year or five years ago, whatever, are these values able to filter decision making – meaning if someone on the team has to make a decision and you’re not available, can they use the values as a guide to make a decision? If they can’t, then you don’t have the right values on your team.

So, the number one step in choosing your priorities is actually understanding, “What are my values? What’s really important?” One of the values at Schools Of Excellence is legendary service. And so when my team has to make decisions or when I have to make decisions about, “What do we focus on? Where do we spend money? Where do we put our advertising dollars? Where do we put our money where we spend money for events? Where do we put our time? Where do we put our resources? What kind of people should we hire?”

All of that gets filtered through legendary service. Our company provides legendary service for our clients. And so if this decision isn’t an anchor with legendary service, then it’s not a priority. Is it a good idea? Of course. Is it a best practice? Absolutely. Is everyone else in the industry doing it? Yes. Doesn’t matter. Our values are legendary service and this thing doesn’t align with it.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

So, you set your values, which is kind of like your guiding light towards making these decisions. Is there sort of a next layer to that that folks can think about?

WILSCHANSKI:

Yeah, so if you have a value that’s growth or you have a value of future or you have a value of service or whatever it is, then you want to ask yourself, “Okay, we have…” Because here’s the other thing that I need to do, just an expectation reset for everyone who’s listening. There are infinite projects that you can work on. There are infinite ideas, infinite projects, infinite amount of opportunities that you can say Yes to. There truly, truly, truly is.

And so you have to really decide, where are you going to be spending your time and your money and your resources and your energy? So, if you have a company value of growth, then you’re going to ask yourself, “Okay, is this project of what we want to do aligned with growth? Yes, it is.” Okay, great. Yeah, but there’s also these eight other projects that are also aligned with growth. Okay, well, what do you have bandwidth for? What does the team actually have space to do? Bearing in mind that this isn’t the first thing that you asked them to do. They have 70 other things already on their to-do list.

So, this is the other part where people get mixed up with priorities. And an action step that you want to take is, you actually want to take a week or ten days where you track your time. And you actually see, “Where is my time going? What am I doing every single day for ten days?” After ten days, you’re going to take a highlighter and you’re going to highlight in blue, what are the maintenance projects, meaning what are the things that you have to do every single day just to keep the center functioning?

And how much time does maintenance take? Every day you have to open the building; every Friday you’ve got to do payroll; every other week you have to do licensing. I don’t know, whatever it is. So, let’s say you work 40 hours a week and 25 hours a week is just maintaining the building. Okay, so now you have 15 hours that you can dedicate towards new projects. Great. Look at your project list and ask yourself, “If I only have 15 hours, which one I doing?”

The issue is, is that people say Yes to priorities without auditing what they actually have time for. So, they think they have time for everything. And then what happens is, it goes into, “Hey honey, I’m so sorry, I’m going to have to cancel date night; Hey, I can’t do this with our kids; Hey, we can’t go on vacation; Hey, I’m missing dinner again; Hey, I can’t show up to that baseball game.” And then it starts filtering into the other buckets of your life.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Yeah, 100%. And you mentioned there about looking at your calendar schedule to see where you’re spending your time. What’s your general recommendation on using calendars or other tools to manage your time?

WILSCHANSKI:

Yeah, so the calendar is there to tell you a story. It’s not there to help you manage your time. So, my calendar is color-coded. And so my calendar tells me a story of where my time is going. So, if my company values – one of them is legendary service – the way that I as the CEO show up in legendary service is I show up to do coaching calls for our clients. Well, coaching calls are in yellow. And so I can look at my calendar and right away see, “Am I practicing company values? Is there yellow on my calendar this week?” And I have committed that I want to make sure that I’m dedicating around 3 to 5 hours a week on this concept. Great, in a second I can see if I’m honoring my values.

Now, as the CEO, I’m also the visionary. Okay, well, then I need time to do visionary work. What color is visionary work? I look at my calendar and I ask myself, “Is there visionary work on my calendar?” If there isn’t, there’s something that messed up. I messed up somewhere in my planning process. So, the calendar is there to tell you a story. Are you honoring your values? Are you doing what you said you were supposed to do? Are you doing the projects that you want to be focusing on?

So, the way that I would use your calendar is actually from a percentages standpoint. So, if you’re an owner and you’re listening to this, you want to ask yourself, “How much percent of my time that I dedicate to towards my school,” – 20, 30, 40, whatever hours you work a week – is dedicated to visionary work. Color code it, block it out in your calendar. It becomes untouchable. A parent wants to meet with you? Sure, 10:00. “Can I meet at 9:30?” “That’s my visionary time.” You don’t actually have to tell that to the parent. You tell it to the person who’s booking your calendar. It’s untouchable; it’s untouchable.

And so the issue is, is that we get a good idea. Opportunity comes knocking on our door. We get an email and we’re like, “Oh, this is such a great idea. We should go do this.” Yes, you could. But do you need to do it today? Do you need to do it next week? Or could you do it in three months from now? Nine out of ten times, you could do it in three months from now. You’re just so excited. Discipline yourself. Discipline yourself to say, “Great idea. We’re going to do it in three months from now because that’s when we have bandwidth and space.”

SPREEUWENBERG: 

So, when we started this call about creating space in your day, we talked about it in the context of retention. How does retention come into play?

WILSCHANSKI:

Sure, let’s talk about it. So, in the beginning of the school year, okay, no matter how much you plan, no matter how amazing your SOP’s [standard operating procedures] are or your systems or your processes or software or whatever you have. Let’s say you have infinite amount of money to make the best systems, handbooks and software on the planet. Here is one thing you will never be able to eliminate in the beginning of the school year: people coming with requests.

No matter how many documented processes you have, you will still has a parent who says, “Where do I drop off my child? Where do I need to go? Where’s my son’s classroom? What time is pick-up?” You’re going to have a teacher say, “Where’s the bathroom? I don’t know where the supply closet is.” That is part of the course of the beginning of the school year. You’re going to have people asking you questions. You’re going to have more people that need some hand-holding. It’s the beginning of the school year. You’re going to have new staff, you’re going to have new families.

So, you can be the person who says, “Yeah, that’s in the handbook, go read the handbook.” Or you can be the person that answers and says, “We’d love to remind you to please also check out our handbook.”  But you want to take the time to actually answer the parent. Guess what? If you have 200 parents and at least 5% of them have a question, do you know how many hours that is? A lot. You need space in your calendar to field requests in the beginning of the school year.

And here’s where the biggest mistake happens at the beginning of the school year: you block out your calendar with back-to-back meetings and projects and all these great ideas that you want to start in the beginning of the school year. And then you don’t have any space for these types of problems. So, problems come to you. You either ignore them or you answer them in four seconds. Or you give them the time of day but then you have all this other work. And so every day you come home and you bring your work home with you because you’re not done yet.

And so what happens is – and why space is an insurance policy – is because, just like you pay for car insurance every single month and life insurance and house insurance, but every month goes by that you didn’t get into a car accident. Is that a waste that you paid for car insurance? Every month that your house doesn’t blow up, is it a waste that you paid for your house insurance? Every month that you’re still alive, is it a waste that you bought life insurance? No, it’s an insurance policy.

Creating space on your calendar, not overbooking yourself, is an insurance policy that when someone needs you, when a teacher needs an extra 5 minutes or a parent needs to come in and needs to take your time, you have the space to give them the time of day. You have the mental capacity to do that. That is an insurance policy because when you’re booked up back-to-back, you’ve got no leverage. You have no coverage, you have no leverage, you’ve got nothing. You’re choking. And the people feel that. Tell me if that makes sense to you, Ron, because this is how I interpret it, this is how I coach it. But I would love to hear how you’re hearing that.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Yeah, it makes a ton of sense. I mean, I’ve had those days when I’m back-to-back. And it’s like you said, there’s always things that come up. So, then what happens is that means I have to skip out on family time or I’m up too late and it cuts into my sleep, which cuts into my energy levels, which makes me less effective. All the stuff.

WILSCHANSKI:

There you go, the whole ripple effect right there, Ron. The whole thing, yeah.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

So, a key takeaway is, how you say insurance policy is, you have to expect the unexpected and plan for that by having space in your day because you know it’s going to happen, right?

WILSCHANSKI:

Exactly. I remember I was talking with an owner. There was a minor leak in one of the bathrooms and she had to come down with towels. And it ended up taking up like half of her day. But her response to it, she responded to it so differently from a different owner who had a similar situation. And the responses were vastly different from one simple reason: one of them had space in their day to deal with it, and the other one did not.

And so their response was, the way that they viewed the problem – the leak and the need to clean it up – was vastly different. One of them was so annoyed and bothered and the rest of the week was a disaster. Now she was just playing catch-up all week and being curt with everyone. “Every get out of my way, I was backed up.” And the other person was like, “It was fine, it was totally fine.”

And I see this again and again. I could tell you stories ‘til the cows come home of how when you have space, you are a different leader. You respond differently. You respond with calm confidence, you respond with wisdom and discernment. And your people feel the calmness of your energy. And that is powerful.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Yeah, and I know there’s a lot of the most… I don’t know if “successful” is the word, but people who have achieved a lot in their lives, this is oftentimes something that you’ll hear that they do, is give themselves space to think, whether that’s a certain amount of time a day. Sometimes there’s people who take a week and just disappear and spend time to get away from things and think. And there’s certainly a lot of real-life data points out there that suggest, absolutely, that is very important.

WILSCHANSKI:

Yeah, and until we learn to value space, you’re always going to look at it as a waste of time. When there’s an hour time block, you’re like, “What should I do? Oh my god, I have a whole hour. Like, what do I do?” No, you don’t need to do anything. You need to not do anything. You need to sit still and not do anything and let your brain quiet down and rest and then see what happens on the other end of that hour. So, I think that’s where it gets hard.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Yeah, and I think what made it harder, too, is technology and the pace that we move at today. Like, just the idea of if you see somebody sitting there staring out the window, it’s such a an odd thing now because you expect somebody to be on their phone, on their computer, doing something productive. But actually just sitting and thinking can be very productive, the most productive thing you could be doing.

WILSCHANSKI:

Exactly. So, we value efficiency and productivity so much. We have over-engineered on productivity and efficiency and we have forgotten that rest and quiet and space are truly the greatest catapults of massive success. Because the best ideas don’t come in the hustle – the best ideas come in the pause, in the space, in the quiet.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Yeah, it’s like the thing about how lots of people have good ideas that come to them when they’re in the shower or whatever it is. Those are the times, the very few moments in a day when you actually…

WILSCHANSKI:

You’re not on your phone, yes. So, I value my space so much. I have so much quiet time, so much quiet time, so much open space, so much white space, so much time that there’s nothing booked. And I’m telling you, the more that I do that, the more my business grows. The more that I do that, the more I’m able to show up better for my team and for my clients because I’m not bogged down into all the minutia of what’s happening.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Yeah, actually, one of the people that comes to mind to me on that one is actually one of the richest people in the world, Warren Buffett, shared his calendar openly and it was empty because part of his point of view as well, which is true, is if your calendar is full of things, usually it’s because you’re responding to a request from somebody to meet you or help you with something or do something. And his point of view is, “I should be spending my time doing what I think is most important,” which he’s totally leaving his space open to do what is most important at any moment in time.

WILSCHANSKI:

Yeah, I love that. And again, I’m not anti-hustle. I think that I work really hard. When I’m working, I work really hard. I put a ton of effort and time and energy and high quality and standards into the work that we do in the world and in our business. And I also really value the rest and restoration because I can work way harder when I’ve rested. And I love hard work. I really enjoy what I do.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Yeah, and I think we’ve all been there where you spend an hour or two hours doing work very unproductively because you’re burnt out or overwhelmed.

WILSCHANSKI:

Your brain’s foggy, it’s mush. You’re just trying to power through. And your brain’s like, “Stop, stop, stop, stop,” yeah.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

You’re better off to just take the break.

WILSCHANSKI:

Exactly, exactly, yeah.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

So, lots of great information and tips there. What about resources? Any resources that come to mind for our listeners to check out to learn more about this very fascinating subject?

WILSCHANSKI:

Yeah, I want to share one more thing before we go into a specific resource because I think this concept is very hard to understand and then even harder to implement. So, I want to just give one really practical way to get started. And that is, is you can block out 15 minutes a day on your calendar to have a meeting with yourself.

So, I know that it’s maybe difficult for you to say, “I need space,” or “I need to just sit still,” or “I need to just look out the window,” book a meeting with yourself. Put it on your calendar, reoccurring meeting. It’s called Meeting With Ron. Every day you’re just meeting with him. And wherever you want to meet with him, do you want to meet with him in the shower? Do you want to meet with him outside? You want to meet with him in the pool? Do you want to meet with him on the basketball court? Where do you want to have the meeting? Totally up to you.

But it’s every day for 15 minutes and here’s why: When you learn how to sit with yourself, without your phone, with your own thoughts, with whatever comes up, you really start to understand what’s important to you. Not from all the noise on social media and from all the noise of what other people tell you is important to you. You know what’s important to you. Your body knows what’s important to you. You know, you’re smart, you’re wise. You have the answers inside of you.

The issue is, is that is so cover with everyone else’s opinions. And if you can take 15 minutes a day to talk to yourself, you will actually learn who you are and what it is that you want. So, if I could just give that one just very practical way to get started. Just meet with yourself every day.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Yeah, and when you think about it, 15 minutes isn’t a lot in a day.

WILSCHANSKI:

It’s really not. And I’m telling you, it is so impactful. That is how I started. And then eventually I’ve turned into full days and full weeks that I give to myself. But it started with 15 minutes a day that I talk. It’s Meeting With Chanie every day.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Great, yeah. Where do you usually meet yourself?

WILSCHANSKI:

So, when it’s the winter here, I usually like to go outside to the back by the lake because it’s really nice outside. But in the summer, when it’s brutal outside, I’ll usually just sit on the couch with a cold drink and just look out the window. Palm trees are always soothing, so that’s where I’ll usually just take some time to meet with myself.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Cool. And resources?

WILSCHANSKI:

Yes, so some great resources. I actually have a podcast episode called “15 Minute Meeting With Yourself” on our podcast, the Schools Of Excellence podcast. You could definitely go check that out where I break down exactly how to have that meeting with yourself. Our podcast is a phenomenal resource to go learn more about space, to go learn more about leadership.

We are releasing an exciting series. We just released an exciting series on “You’re Not The Only One”, which is all about finding community and knowing that you’re not alone in what it takes to build a childcare business in the early-childhood space. So, I would say that that’s the best place to go learn more, is our podcast.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Cool. I actually read a book recently that’s pretty good, too, which I’ll share with you and others, which is called A Minute to Think [Reclaim Creativity, Conquer Busyness, and Do Your Best Work], by Juliet Funt. And it’s about this concept and she uses a word to describe it as well: white space. So, that 15 minutes a day would be a white space to just step back.

WILSCHANSKI:

Yeah. I also love the book. I love the book. Procrastinate on Purpose [5 Permissions to Multiply Your Time], by Rory Vaden]. That’s another one of my favorite books. Again, talking about the concept of space. So, that’s a really great book, as well, one of my favorites when it comes to teaching this concept.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Cool, awesome. Alright, and if folks want to get in touch with you or learn more about your work with Schools Of Excellence, how can they go about doing that, Chanie?

WILSCHANSKI:

Yeah, so they can check us out on our podcast or our website, www.SchoolsOfExcellence.com. We can send over those links and everything. But that’s really the hub of where everything is at.

And I just really want to thank you for having me again, Ron. I love these conversations. I always appreciate talking to the early-childhood leaders. And if you’re listening, I just want to remind you: you’re strong, you’re courageous, you have everything inside of you. Believe that you know what the next step is. Trust that you know the process. You will get there. And trust that there’s so many resources. HiMama, there’s just there’s a wealth of knowledge out there for you. So, hang tight, you got this.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Yeah, some great words of wisdom. Chanie, a pleasure as always. Thanks for joining us!

WILSCHANSKI:

Thanks so much for having me, Ron!

Christie White

Christie is a Senior Content Marketing Specialist at HiMama. She is passionate about children's development, parenting, and supporting the child care industry. She has been working to support child care centers with their events and marketing for almost a decade. In her personal life, Christie lives in Stouffville, ON with her husband Kyle and dog Tucker. She enjoys going for walks, baking, cooking, and watching reality tv!

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