Follow up: Follow up

Last episode, I talked about inboxing.

Once you have the list of all the things rattling around in your brain, you have to sort through it. Set aside an hour or so the first time you do it so that you’re not rushed.

The #1 rule is NOTHING GOES BACK IN THE INBOX.

This isn’t like going through Grandma’s attic where you can just put something back once you’ve touched it. If you look at an item, it gets dealt with in one of four ways.

 

DO
If it can be done in less than 2 minutes, do it right now.

DELEGATE
Can you or should you assign the task to someone else? Then, compose an email, make a call, send a text and let that person know. Record who was delegated the task and make a clear deadline with deliverables.

Example: Janine, Will you please contact Moore’s Ice Cream Parlor about providing ice cream for the Harvest Festival by Wednesday morning’s committee meeting? We will need to know how they charge and a ball park figure based on their rates for the 3 hours of the Harvest Festival. You’ll be sharing with the committee on Wednesday. Contact me if you have any further questions.

DEFER
Don’t need to do it right now? Set the due date to one week from now and check in on it again then.

DELETE
Things have changed or the deadline passed, delete the item so it’s not taking up valuable list real estate.

There you have it. How to deal with the inbox list. The first time it might take a while. However, you should spend 5-10 minutes at the end of the day reviewing your inbox and you’ll find it will go faster and faster.

In a box

Inboxing. 
Dumping all those thoughts that bang around in your head out into a place. 
It could be an analog place like a dedicated notebook (bujo anyone?) or a collection of sticky notes affixed to your desk or monitor. 
It could be a digital dumping ground like Omnifocus, Habitica, or Todoist. Maybe even the good old reminders or notes app or a cloud solution like Google tasks or keep
What matters is that you do it consistently. 

To the same place anytime you think of something. Then, you revisit that list. That is for another post though. 

Choose your weapon right now. 

Paper and pen will do. 

Write down everything rattling around in your head no matter how big or small. 

Great job. 

Now grab some hot chocolate and watch some Hulu. 

Dynamic Duo(Book)

Though the selection of text is a bit scant at the moment, this app has some serious potential.  Duobook allows you to alternate between reading a story and having it read to you.
The only real impediment to use in a classroom is that one must create an account via a phone number.  This could potentially complicate the use of the app in a K-8 classroom as I’m unsure at this point the maximum number of devices one (the teacher) can be logged into at once.  In addition, the stories have to be downloaded which could present issues for 16gb devices.
Overall, it’s a solid product that would only get better with more offerings, especially those geared toward early readers.

It’s a Setup!

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If you’re a Mac user, this is one you have to have.  The Setapp is in beta until March (read: it’s free). If you’ve ever wanted Mac apps at your fingertips at their premium versions, then it might be a worthwhile.  iMazing (a personal favorite) and Hype (another favorite) are included as well as a ton of other apps.

The concept is brilliant.  They find/pick the apps so that you don’t have to and you get the premium versions of every app picked.  You can get acquainted with a bunch of apps you probably never knew you needed without having to scour the App store.

To sign up for the Beta, click here.

So You Want To Be Digifficient: Time Is On Your Side

In the first part of this series, I talked about podcasts, systems, and Omnifocus. After that maybe you decided to start listening to a podcast or two (Cortex, perhaps?). You purchased Omnifocus or some other app in which to dump your thoughts so they aren’t occupying your brain and you started thinking about how to improve your systems.

I suggest bookmarking these posts and coming back to them from time to time for both my own shameless self-promotion and for a couple of other reasons. One reason is to ground yourself and get back to basics when things get crazy. Second, you might not be ready for the next step. Perhaps it’s been difficult getting into the habit of inboxing or remembering to capture your paper memos and put them into your cloud storage of choice. If you’re looking for a quick overview of Google Drive, check out the 60 Second Tech Tip video I made on it.

Today I want to talk about timers. As teachers, we rely heavily on them. I always struggled with buying enough of them. I was glad to have iPads for my classroom because every iOS device and probably most mobile devices come with a timer built in. You can even just type, “20-minute timer” into the Google search bar and it will give you the option of starting a timer on the search results page.

There are two timer apps in particular that I’m fond of: 30/30 and Due.

3030

30/30 is great for sticking to a routine. This can be useful if you think you waste time getting ready in the morning, you want to do HIIT at the gym or if you do rotating centers in your classroom. The app is created by Binary Hammer. Check out their website or download it and give it a try.

Due is another Grey/roommate recommendation (I’m starting to wonder if they’re just the same person). Due is actually a reminders/to-do list app, but the timers are where the power lies. You can create custom timers and when they go off, you can snooze them for a minute. At which time, they’ll pop up and remind you again.

I used to set a stopwatch to track the amount of time I did something. When I was done doing the thing, I would record the time on the stopwatch. The problem with this was I would often get distracted or forget that I set the stopwatch going in the first place. With Due, I make it a set amount of time and it’s a countdown instead of a count up. I find this helps me stay focused because I know that at the end of the countdown, I’m going to take a break (see: Pomodoro technique).

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Another app that I’ll give a quick mention to is Coffee Break. I like that Coffee Break puts my screen to sleep after a designated time. I have a tendency to keep working even though the timer goes off. Sometimes that’s good, but sometimes I forgo my break as a result which is no good for productivity and focus. Another reason I love Due, it keeps track of how long it’s been since your timer stopped. Thus, I know if I’ve spent an extra two or ten minutes working. Sometimes it’s amazing how quickly time goes by.

This whole timer thing might feel too regimented and stressful, but it goes back to reducing or eliminating resistance. If I don’t have to think about what comes next, it stresses me out a lot less.

Do you use a timer system? What systems have you tweaked or put in place in order to eliminate or reduce resistance and stress in your life? Share in the comments below.

So You Want To Be Digifficient: Pigeon Pictures & Digital Storage

Last time I talked about podcasts, one specific podcast I dig, Cortex, Omnifocus, and the importance of systems.

Systems keep you focused and eliminate resistance.

In General Purpose Problem (Cortex Episode 6), Grey said, “When something is not working well in your life just try harder is always the wrong answer. You need to figure out how to make the system better.”

One way to reduce resistance is to reduce choice. Then, practice until it happens automatically.

When you get a piece of paper at a meeting, what will you do with it? If you don’t have the habit in place, you’ll get back to your room, desk, or office, toss it on the table and it will slowly grow to an untenable monster pile that consumes your soul.

Once you decide on digital cloud storage that is accessible anywhere, commit to putting everything there. Reinforce the habit. For the one minute version of how to get started, check out the 60 Second Tech Tip on our YouTube channel (subscribe while you’re there).

If you know that the response to getting a piece of paper is to take a photo, store it in your digital storage (Google Drive, Dropbox, whatever) and then throw the paper away, that pile never comes into being and then, later on, when you’re looking for it, you can find it.

A word about flash drives:

They’re great as a redundancy, but not as a primary storage place. If the flash drive gets destroyed because you stop fast and a gallon of milk crushes it, your pbirdpiclans are gone and there’s nothing you can do about it. The same applies to saving only to your computer. Remember: Digital storage should be accessible from anywhere, not just your devices.

Practice with low-risk material first.

Take photos of pigeons and things you don’t care about. Save them to your cloud storage and then delete them later. This will be low risk enough that if you mess up, you won’t be upset if you make a mistake and lose information. That’s a good habit to get into anytime you’re trying something new. The more you’re willing to take risks and try new things the better you’ll get.

Go sign up or set up your cloud storage space. Play with it. Save some pigeons there. Pay attention to areas where you can eliminate resistance and create habits of automaticity.

So You Want to Be Digifficient: Podcasts, Systems, & Omnifocus

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.

CortexCortex 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.

Recommended: Omnifocus

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.