(reading time 4 minutes) Author: Carol Glanville
I love the dictionary tool in Google. As an arm-chair linguist, I’m fascinated by the etymology of even simple words. Take the term distract. The archaic use is to perplex & bewilder. And today it still carries a negative connotation in actual meaning. ‘Bother, disturb, divert, side-track’ There’s definitely something subversive about a distraction. Current research shows that recovering from a distraction can take 20-30 minutes. That’s a lot of lost time. And especially soul-crushing when you (or your students) would way rather be enjoying the warm evenings and lake-worthy weekends that late May / early June bring our way.
So, allow me to share a post from last year at just about this time. With a few updates.
Finish Strong (May 13, 2016)
There’s always tomorrow…until there isn’t. It’s the end of the school year folks and that means crunch time; for students and teachers. Unfortunately, as the days get warmer and sunnier, it becomes that much harder to stay motivated and focused. And as the seniors dance out the door a month earlier than the rest…it’s even worse!
So this week I’m offering a couple of tried and true tech tips that to help you stay focused, on task, and true to your priorities. That means increased productivity, which doesn’t mean more time working, rather more work done in the same time (or less!)
*”A Life of Productivity – Practical ways to get more done.” 2014. 13 May. 2016 <http://alifeofproductivity.com/
Notifications: If you’re like me, your device(s) buzz, ding and blink incessantly! And although I may not feel compelled to read or respond to every notification that appears, the mere knowledge that it’s there or the glance away to read the lead text can cost up to 25 minutes of focused work.
So, whenever you’re working on a priority task, silence all notifications. There’s really no need to know about something until you can act on it anyway, and you can’t get to it any sooner if you’re losing 25 minutes every time you get tapped. Another benefit? You’ll feel more in control; no longer at the beck and call of every email, ‘like’, tweet and text.
*2017 update: Love it!! But it does take some re-training. It’s hard to resist tools that are so well-designed to disturb. I also felt guilty at first, which has weakened to mildly guilty at times over the last year. But what I’ve gained makes it worth the effort. I’m more respectful and attentive to those around me, I engage more purposefully in even the most mundane tasks. (I actually taste food when I eat without scrolling through FB or the latest news headlines!) Also? As soon as I recognize that I’m letting distraction set in, I recognize what’s really going on, that it’s time for a break. I bring myself to a stopping point and intentionally switch things up. So I no longer spend hours watching TV or on the computer, but really doing nothing.
Reminders: Disruptive notifications don’t just appear on your device. Many times they’re hiding in your own head, way down deep and silently work their way to the surface. Ever find yourself relaxing with a book, bingeing on netflix, or grading projects and suddenly you have no idea what happened to the last 10 minutes? Or a student name abruptly reminds you of a forgotten email? It’s nice to know your subconscious has got your back, but don’t let it derail you.
Start a list in your reminder app. As soon as you notice your mind wandering, make a note of what’s there. This allows you to let go of whatever it is without worrying it will be forgotten or buried and to focus on the original activity.
I have two lists. I check my work list every morning to prioritize my day. And I check my personal list before I head home so I can stop for milk and plan my evening.
*2017 Update: I like this one too, but have to admit this one didn’t stick as well. I”m really not much of a list maker so it wasn’t a natural inclination. However, whenever I feel like things are getting overwhelming, I head back to it.
Implement: These tips are equally valuable for students. At this age,their pre-frontal cortex (which controls impulsive activity) is somewhat under-developed. Invite them to a shared experience of testing these tips out. Take 5 minutes to explain each one, then check in each day to see if it’s working and what suggestions they have. They may not all try it at first, but the repetition and discussion will draw them in.
*2017 Update: I have shared these ideas with many people. It seems the biggest obstacle is, as usual, ourselves. It’s your time. However, it is a static, finite asset. Honor those around you (and yourself!) by making the most of every moment. Even your distractions can be planned to the point that you welcome them!
You think tech is overwhelming in your position? Try being a tech director! One of the things I love most about my job is the constant renewal, learning, moving forward. But it makes it very difficult to remember all the cool little things. The annual MACUL conference is one way I not only learn lots of cool new things, but it also gives me a chance to revisit the cool old things I heard about in the past. Much of this comes from chatting with staff who attend. When I ask them about their sessions, they excitedly tell me about a few neat tips/tricks they picked up. Having been around this block a few times, those sharing moments usually result in an ‘Oh yeah’ moment for me as I’m reminded of a neat tip or trick that has fallen by the wayside for me. So, this week I’m sharing a few of my ‘Oh Yeah’s’ with a little spring break twist. Enjoy!
If This Then That: A fantastic tool is full of little apps (aka Applets — get it?) that help you live your life better. Get a notification when the International Space Station passes over your home. Or a reminder to bring your umbrella if the forecast calls for rain. Send a text to someone when you leave work. Sync SoundCloud or YouTube likes with Spotify. Sync Instagram photos to auto-post on Twitter. Ok, some of those are just fun. But there are a million applets on IFTTT that consolidate lots of the little things you do every day, or remind you to do the little things every day (hourly reminder to drink a glass of water!) Can’t find what you want? Dip your toe in the programming waters by creating your own applet. For spring break, I’m going to set up all my staycation photos to save to DropBox.
Voice texting. I actually use this simple walkie-talkie app fairly regularly, but I keep hearing about new ways to put it to use. Create an account, get your friends/family to join and goodbye annoying group texts! As communication happens, everyone in your pre-determined group is guaranteed to get the message. And if there’s a flurry of activity, nothing gets lost, you know exactly who said what when. I especially like the voice memo. It’s just easier lots of times than typing. For spring break: Set up your family and keep track of what everyone’s up to in one convenient place.
And last, but not least; .gif (Please, don’t call me Jiff!)
When a standard image doesn’t quite fit the bill, go for the animated version! You can easily copy/paste .gif images into any doc, presentation, blog post, etc. Head on over to Google images and under tools, select animated. Spend an unnecessary amount of time picking just the right one, and away you go!
Carol Glanville, M.Ed.
educator, presenter, strategist, coach, design thinker