It’s that time again. Back to school. While parents might be posting photos of them frozen in a joyous pose next to their miserable children, teachers are gearing up to run the gauntlet.
One key to success and maintaining sanity for both teachers and the self-employed (because teachers are pretty much entrepreneurs, but that’s another post), are systems. We have systems in our classrooms for our students, but don’t extend that kind of care and thought to our own work.
I’ve posted before about my bullet journal and a few of the tools I use in my workflow. That has since expanded and explosively so since focusing on working for myself and my roommate introducing me to an amazing podcast.
Cortex is a podcast on Relay FM. For those unfamiliar with podcasts, they’re like radio shows for the modern age. You can download them in a variety of places including iTunes. My podcast app of choice is Overcast. Another introduction my roommate made for me ages ago. Overcast is great because it skips over silences so it moves the podcast along without speeding up the hosts and you can share links to specific points in the podcast and listen to them via the browser.
Podcasts are also a great way to build your knowledge of a topic or find new things to bring into your classroom or systems. Here at Intelligent Hoodlums we’re big fans of bringing in work and strategies from other areas (see: Design Thinking, advertising, marketing, etc). You can listen to them in the car like books on tape and make the most of a long commute. The Quick and Dirty Tips network was a favorite of mine for a long time.
Back to Cortex…
Cortex is a podcast hosted by Myke Hurley, one of the co-creators of Relay FM, and CGP Grey, a former physics teacher, and current YouTuber. One of the things that drew me to this podcast, aside from my roommate’s recommendation, was that Grey used to be a teacher. I was curious, being someone who is working on transitioning from teaching to freelancing, how he made the transition and what systems he uses to keep his fantastically produced videos on track.
Also, I thought about a conversation I had with the first year teacher I mentored last year. At the end of the year, I asked her what was her biggest challenge and she said keeping track of everything – forms, dates, times, lessons, kids, all of it.
Systems automate. They take the decision out of it and, one of the things Grey said in an early episode that really stuck with me, they eliminate (or at least reduce) resistance.
As a teacher and freelancer, I feel like I always have 1,000 things rattling around in my head, “Did I turn in that form?,” “What’s the deadline for that conference application?,” “When is my doctor’s appointment?,” “Get index cards at the office store,” and always, “Did I forget something?” I’ve looked at a lot of productivity strategies and one that I’ve really stuck with comes from GTD, Getting Things Done.
Have a place to dump your thoughts.
Some people call it inboxing. Whatever you call it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that as soon as you have a thought like, “I need to make an appointment for the dog at the vet,” you have a place to put it.
Let me get out of the way that it’s $40 which is the most I’ve ever paid for any app, but for the peace of mind it gives me, it’s WELL worth it. My roommate does too. He swears by it and, as you’ve noticed, his recommendations tend to be pretty good (this is how I spent 3 weeks on the side tangent of binge watching Southland because we watched a clip from the movie End of Watch because we were talking about how Michael Peña is the best). I’ve used A LOT of to do apps – wunderlist, errands, any.do, todoist, handle, remember the milk, reminders, Google keep, glass planner, pendo, Evernote…
As I’ve used them more and more, I add to the list of features I want. Omnifocus has all the features I’m looking for and it can be as basic or complex as you want. You can add context to tasks so if it’s something you have to do at school, you can just look at that list, if it’s something you need at the store, you can just look at those things. It makes adding items and shifting dates SO easy.
For now, I’m going to stop. Go listen to episode 1 of Cortex and check out Omnifocus. Omnifocus can seem overwhelming at first. Take the time to read through the pre-loaded tasks that walk you through the app. If you’re interested, I can go into more detail or make a walkthrough video on the Hoodlums YouTube channel of how Omnifocus can help keep a teacher organized. Really take stock over the next week of what systems you can put into place for yourself to eliminate resistance.