Tag Archive for productivity

A Principal’s Tip for Keeping Focused on 1 Task

For those of you that are great at time management and staying focused, there’s no need for you to read this post…

For those of you who know me, you know that I am the queen of the procrastinators club (although we haven’t met yet, because I keep putting off scheduling our first meeting) and that I have ADHD…I do my best work at the final hour, I can be completely random, scattered, lose things, etc. I have also decided that I think the principalship induces ADHD, because we are interrupted about every 4 minutes, so how could one ever become completely focused on any one task for too long?

After a wonderfully relaxing Christmas vacation I was ready to get backScreen Shot 2015-01-02 at 3.46.04 PM into a work schedule today with a quiet school building to catch up on work in the office before school officially starts.  Perfect day to catch up on EVERYTHING, right? WRONG!  Nope, no one interrupted me…except for myself.  I feel like I could rewrite the book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie to be If You Give a Principal an Email.  Left to a quiet office with a list of 7 major things to accomplish, I added at least a dozen other tasks to my list today and only because I already led myself astray to complete them and then added them to my list to cross them off.

For those of you laughing with me now (or at me), I do have a point to this post. I’ve made great efforts over the years to learn everything I can about productivity as I’ve written about in previous posts, but today one lesson came to mind that I learned from Justin Baeder in a webinar at The Principal Center:

Parkinson’s Law: Work expands to fill the available time.

Horstman’s Corollary: Work contracts to fit into the time you give it.

I’ve always said that if time stopped, I would still never catch up on everything that I have to do.  It’s just not possible. We have to make choices about what’s most important, what has to be done now, what can wait and what can be shifted elsewhere.  On days like today, I do best when I remind myself of Horstman’s Corollary.  I do this by setting a timer for myself for the one task I’m working on and try to beat the timer.  I’m currently loving the google chrome extension “1 click timer,” because it just runs up in the corner of my browser or I can expand it to see it.  It is a reminder to myself to stay focused and finish what I’m doing before I distract myself with something else.

Full disclaimer: I should have been working on something else when I wrote this blog post, but it came into my head and I had to get it out! 

The Email Monster

email

We all have it…that evil email monster that can clutter up our day, add to our to-do list, irritate us, and completely suck our time away from the work that we should be doing.  Conquering the email monster has been an evolving skill I have worked on over the past couple of years learning from tips in newsletters/training at The Principal Center, from David Allen’s Getting Things Done and from Curt Rees, my personal David Allen mentor.

For a tool that can expedite communication, what’s the problem with it? From what I’ve learned, in order to be productive, as you check each email you need to act on it.  You could delete it, reply to it, add to your to-do list email2of what you need to do as a result of the email and add it to your calendar, etc.  If you don’t do one of these then it clutters up your inbox (which I often find I then end up forgetting to act on later) and clutters up your mind.  Research found what is known as the Zeigarnik effect: “Uncompleted tasks and unmet goals tend to pop into one’s mind. Once the task is completed and the goal reached, however, this stream of reminders comes to a stop.” (Baumeiseter, p. 81)

What does this have to do with your email? If you read an email (even just skimming the little 1 sentence preview on your iPad) without doing something with it, it is still going to pop into your head, leaving you unable to focus on whatever else you are working on or enjoying your family time at home.

This past weekend I somehow got locked out of my school email.  It stopped working on my phone, my iPad and even logging into our email access through our school website.  I had a 3 day weekend with no email access.  What if a summer school teacher was emailing about not being able to find a substitute or some other summer school related issue?  What if my son’s baseball coach was emailing a schedule change?  Believe it or not, I got over these questions within a couple of hours and realized on Monday morning that I had the most relaxing weekend ever this summer!  Yes, I did a little bit of work at home, but the email monster had nothing on me!

I’d like to say that from now on I will never check email from home, because I already did that last night.  I will say, I’m going to make a more conscious effort to not check my emails from home unless I have the time to act on them, am waiting for an urgent response on something, and know that it won’t impact my family time.

 

Citation: Willpower: Rediscovering the greatest human strength, 2011, R. Baumeister and J. Tierney

Using the iPad to Increase my Productivity

Even though there are numerous other blog posts by principals using the iPad, I have said numerous times that my blog is a great place for me to reflect on my practice and seek the feedback of others. I have learned a great deal of iPad tips from other princpals, and I will list those blog posts/helpful sites below. I plan to use this post to explain how I am using my school issued iPad to increase my productivity and spend more time in classrooms (my ULTIMATE goal as a principal).

As basic as it sounds, the top 2 reasons I use the iPad more than anything else are to keep up with emails and my calendar. Since I spend more time out of my office than in it, I am able to quickly read emails while walking the hallway and delete, respond or file for action later. I have a busy schedule (what administrator doesn’t) so I love having my calendar right there with me. This year I am planning to switch to google calendar so that my secretary can add to my calendar during the day if I’m out and about.

When I am walking through classrooms, I have just used the Notes app on the iPad to quickly type feedback to teachers and email them. We do not have wifi throughout our building, but I could still use the email feature and have this sync when I went near the wifi hotspot. I also emailed these to myself and kept them all in a folder for teacher feedback. So here’s what you would actually see me doing when I’m making rounds-when I enter a classroom I would open up a new note and start typing “Dear Ms. Carson, When I visited your classroom…” I will either type one handed (I’m getting good at that) while in the classroom or wait until I get in the hallway if any students seem distracted by what I’m doing. Then I email the teacher the note right away. Then I open my Simple Goals app (see below) and tap on my classroom walkthroughs goal to add another one for the week. Then I go to my clipboard (here’s when I need a suggestion) to find my teacher spreadsheet and write the date of my walk through. I still do this because I like to visually see who I haven’t been to yet. I would love any app suggestions to still do this and get rid of my clipboard!

I have just begun to use Evernote in place of the Notes app. Since Evernote is a web based virtual cabinet, I love that I can access my notes on my iPad, iPod, or desktop. When typing up teacher feedback, I can also add a “tag” so it will organize my notes by teacher instead of having them all within one of my email folders. The only problem I’ve found is that when I email the note to a teacher, it goes straight to their junk mail file thanks to our web filter, so I don’t think I can use this for my walk throughs.

I keep track of my daily goals with the app “Simple Goals.” This is a simple free app that just lets you keep a running total of goals for each week. This is where I keep track of the number of classroom walkthroughs, 1:1 discussions with staff, if I leave my office with a clean desk, and if I exercise (that one is usually a low number!)

I used to be the queen of post-it notes of to-do lists each day, but I have now been using the app “Get it Done.” What I love about this app is that I can organize To Do folders and categorize them by when they’re do. It is easier on my eyes/brain to just see the list of what I need to do for the day and not my entire list of EVERYTHING! Every time I remember something I need to do, I just add it in there, put a date on it and add it to a special group/folder if I need to. Some of the group/folders I’ve had running for to-do lists include: staff evaluations, summer school preparation, To Learn, etc.

Those are the main apps I use each day, but I do also utilize the following apps:
-Twitter (only can use this at home, no twitter access at school)
-Google docs
-Google Reader
-Flipboard
-App Shopper (I love seeing when apps are down in price or FREE!)
-Various news apps
-Kindle (I also love that this syncs with the kindle reader on my iPod)
-PowerSchool shortcut (this is our student information system)

The Complete List of iPad Tips, Tricks and Tutorials

10 Ways to Work Smarter on Your iPad

iPad Resources for Administrators

Blog posts by other principals:
The 21st Century Principal

A Principal’s Reflections