At the end of the latest installment of Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions a participant named Judith asked Rushton and I for our productivity tips. It’s a question that I’m asked fairly regularly so I thought I’d share my productivity habits with you this week. Here are my top productivity habits (Rushton has his own, check out his newsletter for his ideas).
Can Your Comments
I find that I answer the same questions fairly often in my email. Likewise, when giving students feedback on assignments I can often use the same comment from assignment to assignment and from student to student. Therefore, I have message templates stored in my inbox and have re-usable comments stored in Google Classroom. Here’s a demo of how to create canned comments for use in Google Classroom.
Both Gmail and Outlook will let you create message templates that you can quickly use as responses to emails or as the basis of an entirely new email. This video will show you how to use Canned Responses in Gmail.
If you’re an Outlook user, you can create canned responses to use to answer frequently asked questions in your email. Here’s a good video overview of how to create and use canned responses in Outlook.
This is one of many productivity tips that I picked up while reading Cal Newport’s Deep Work. Don’t ignore your email completely. Just ignore it until you actually have time to read it and respond to it. I block out an hour a day for answering email. Outside of that block I don’t look at it unless there’s some really important information, like a copy of a Home Depot receipt while I’m making a return at the counter (a true event from last week), that I need to retrieve.
I’ve found that casually looking through my inbox when I don’t actually have time to respond to messages isn’t productive and is actually just distracting and stress-inducing. That’s why I have all inbox notifications disabled on my phone.
On a related note, use a Chrome extension like Stay Focusd (intentionally misspelled) to limit the amount of time that you allow yourself to spend on social media sites.
When it is time to tackle my inbox, I have some filters in place that help me prioritize messages landing in my inbox. This video and this video will show you show how to create filters in Gmail. Outlook users, this video is a good place for you to start to learn about using filters and folders. Outlook users should also take a look at Mike Tholfsen’s 20 Outlook Web Tips and Tricks.
Okay, not everything can be automated. Giving students constructive feedback on their essays can’t be automated even if you can use canned comments in the feedback you give to them. That said, there are many processes that we can automate. When giving a quiz, use automatic scoring in Google Forms or Microsoft Forms for multiple choice and short-answer questions. When planning your week, use email scheduling and assignment scheduling so that you don’t have to manually send messages every day (the email you’re reading right now was written on Friday).
Every popular LMS (learning management system) contains a scheduling tool that you can use to write up a list of assignments and have them distributed on a schedule over the course of a week or month. Gmail users, you can schedule messages to be sent in the future. Here’s how that’s done.
A Big Things List
As I mentioned in the webinar last week, every day I create a to-do list in my notebook. My to-do list doesn’t include little things like “take kids to school” because that’s something that has to be done and can’t be put off for “later.” My to-do list has things that could be put off, but that I’d feel unproductive if I did put them off. For example, right now I’m trying with all my might to finish a big writing project. So on my to-do list I put “write 1,000 words.” It doesn’t have to get done that day, but I feel a lot more productive when I do get it done.
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