learning

Digital Decluttering for the chronically distracted

My brain has too many tabs open!

Lest you mistake me for some kind of magical decluttering unicorn, I feel it necessary to expose the ugly truth about my digital life.

I am a digital, media and information addict. I took stock last month and I had folders full of the beginnings of blog posts. My Evernote was overflowing clippings. I was working on my Google calendar + my hardcopy calendars + my day planner – let’s just say they were not synced. (Sorry if I missed our brunch or if you copped an eyeful of my unshaven ankles!)

I had three and a half overwhelming inboxes (don’t ask) and about 20-35 (I didn’t count) tabs open across several web browsers. My desktop was intense and I got a little carried away and downloaded about 15 unnecessary apps on my iPhone last month – damn you Apple App Store you sexy timesuck and promiser of productive tools!

I’m not proud of it, but this is my life and yeah it’s been a little overwhelming! I share this all with you because I know for a fact that most of you experience the same thing. It’s called being a business owner in the 21stCentury.

The new human condition

When you’re running a business just about everything feels like a priority. You need to keep existing clients happy while prospecting for new clients. You have to come up with fresh content for your blog, your website needs updating, your social media channels are lacklustre and you haven’t engaged in meaningful ways with anyone.

Maybe you’re like me and sometimes you want to give it all up. But the technology and the information is not the enemy. These are beautiful, powerful tools designed to make our lives easier, better. Our problem is a lack of discipline and systems. We have to learn to live in the digital space with intention and purpose.

Today, I’m not speaking to you as your guru or digital spirit guide in this subject. I’m speaking as one for whom #thestruggleisreal. One who is still trying to hack the tension between productivity and distraction-free digital engagement.

How digital clutter affects our brains

So it’s time to get honest about our digital lives. Are you living with digital clutter that is slowly stripping you of any semblance of sanity that you have?

A study by the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute into the impact of physical clutter shows that our ability to focus is restricted when our spaces are cluttered. Clutter is not only distracting, but it makes it difficult to assimilate information.*

Being distractible is a trait of creative personality types, but being constantly distracted is exhausting and devastating to productivity.

Digital clutter is even more pervasive than physical clutter, we are almost blind to it, until we get stuck in a wormhole of files or blog posts or social media for several hours. Your computer, your phone, your devices are your workstations, and these need as much attention as your physical environment.

The Princeton research shows that you will be less irritable, more productive, distracted less often, and able to process information better when your spaces are uncluttered and organised.

The places we hoard digital clutter

decluttering project woman at computer with clutter

There are FOUR key areas of our digital lives that tend to become hoarders’ dens.

Your personal computer – Of course. The desktop is covered with docs, downloads, photos, screen grabs and the icons of all your fave programs. Your folder hierarchies make no sense – or you’re like folder hierarchies??!! LOL!!! [insert cryface]

Do I need to bring up your email inbox? I knew a woman who had 10,000+ emails in her inbox. Just… No. That makes my fingernails hurt. I can’t.

Social Media – I get it. You’re grinding, building your business and you need to get your brand out there. But maybe you were a little zealous with the volume of social channels you signed up to and then did nothing with? Also are you following TOO MANY people but connecting with no one?

Phone – Arguably the greatest tool for productivity and procrastination in our lives. Our phones have become an extension of ourselves. It makes sense that the chaos of our minds finds the greatest expression in our most intimate device.

Subscriptions – Subscription-based services have become a core part of this brave new world. From digital storage to entertainment, from business networks to education and training – we’re all racking up subscriptions like they’re striped casual T-shirts. It’s easy for these $5/$10/$20/$40 per month subscriptions to tick away in the background without our even noticing it.

Taking stock of your subscriptions and making decisions as to whether you really need them is a great way to make space and save some money too.

How to start you digital declutter

Before you tackle the clutter. Make one promise to yourself… I WILL LET GO OF THIS SUPERFLUOUS CRAP!

Now you have a big life, I get that. The Atomic Bomb Strategy of a digital purge would be amazing – few days of intense deleting, prioritising, organising and TA DA! If you don’t have that kind of time, you may want to work with a One Bite At a Time Strategy.

Whichever way you do it, the key is to commit to continuous improvement. You can tidy as you go, and/ or schedule the labour into a 1 or 2 hour project every month.

I created my Monthly Digital Declutter printable to stay top of the clutter and stay accountable to myself.

Digital Declutter Checklist

 

Decluttering projects get you started:

  1. Your documents
    • Delete old or unnecessary documents
    • Refresh your document folder system and sort docs accordingly
    • Archive anything that you don’t need on hand
    • Remove as many icons from your desktop as possible. I have two folders on there, one called Reference and one called To read. Be ruthless.
    • Close all the browser tabs
    • Empty your trash can
  1. Tame your inbox
    • Action, sort, delete emails in your inbox. Aim for Inbox Zero at the end of every week or month.
    • Cull unhelpful email subscriptions
  2. Social media
    • Unfriend/unfollow/cull
  3. Software
    • Uninstall unused software, apps
    • If you have updates pending, update them already
  4. Photos
    • Update photo folders
    • Delete unusable photos
  5. Phone
    • Delete unusable and backed up photos
    • Delete unused Apps
    • Switch off all notifications
    • Close all the browser tabs
  6. Subscriptions
    • Take inventory of your paid subscriptions
    • Unsubscribe to anything that you don’t use
  1. Digital goal setting
    • Set 3 or 4 digital goals to curb or bring awareness to your digital consumption.
    • One of my weekly goals is to reset to zero – email, web browsers, smart phone web browsers, desktop. I want to treat it like a meditation to finish every week.

I created my Digital Declutter printable to stay on top of my own digital madness. If you want to join me in taming your clutter, sign up, download it for free – and let me know how you go!

Posted by Mathew Green on April 29, 2017  /   Posted in Organisation

Oh, the wonder of holidays!

Congratulations on getting to the end of another term. It has been a term full of assessments, reports and most recently, parent teacher interviews. It is also the middle of winter, a time where doonas and hot chocolate are a teacher’s best friend.  So far it has been an interesting year, new National Professional Standards for Teachers, the looming National Curriculum and immense changes in school funding and resource allocation.

Each school term is different; Term 1 tends to be optimistic, midway through summer, spirits are high and there’s a buzz in the staffroom. No matter what time of the year it is, it’s important to remember why we do what we do. It is all about the children that we interact with. School politics, Departmental expectations, new syllabus outcomes and new legislation comes and goes, but the only lasting thing is the impression that you leave on your students.

Thank you for your ongoing support through I’m a New Teacher, it has been so wonderful to see the new teacher community grow and to see many recent graduates feel supported. As many of you know, I’ve released a FREE ebook ‘Avoiding Accreditation Disasters’ that has been received by so many new teachers all around the country.

I hope that you relax and get refreshed over the holidays, you deserve the break!

Posted by Mathew Green on April 13, 2017  /   Posted in Rest

The joy of learning something new everyday.

My wife and I are HUGE nerds. We love reading, discovering new things and discussing ideas. We have more books (both physical, electronic and audio ones) than we will every read in a lifetime. Our evenings are often spent sharing the latest news or information we’ve picked up or the newest productivity hacks we want to try out. We love outlining the premise of articles or books that have challenged or inspired us.

We often laugh at how intense and exhilarating our “nerd chats” can get! We’re learners and it’s probably why we’re so compatible despite being polar opposites in every other personality trait!

I’ve found that most passionate teachers are first passionate learners! They actually enjoy learning with their students, which is why their classes are always the most fun to be a part of. They view the world as a wonderfully complex and multifaceted place, they find opportunities to learn in every experience.

If you want to create an engaging environment that encourages your students to learn, you need to stoke the flames of your learner spirit. Here’s how:

Start fresh each day.

Each day is new beginning, a fresh start which presents a myriad of opportunities. Try to approach each day with fresh anticipation. Think from the perspective of a student. The day is filled with interesting things, sometimes you just have listen and open your eyes.

Keep an open mind

Being open-minded means that you enter into conversations and interactions as one who doesn’t know-it-all! Instead, think of yourself as a learner; one who is always trying to ask more questions rather than trying to dish out all the answers. When you enter a conversation from a position of humility you’ll find that you do in fact learn something new. You don’t have to agree with everything you learn, but you can be grateful for the information as it may help you somewhere down the track!

Listening attentively to others 

Active listening is hard, very hard. It’s hard to maintain focus on the person and not think about all the other places you have to be. The hardest part is to listen to someone without formulating a response or rebuttal to his or her comment.  As challenging as it is, active listening is essential when working with students and colleagues. Next time you find yourself in a conversation, whether with a student, a fellow teacher or a supervisor, instead of trying to get your opinion across why not practice asking more questions to ensure you understand what they are trying to communicate.

Make time for personal reflection

This year I wanted to focus on reflecting on what happens in my day-to-day life. This has meant developing a daily journaling habit. To help with this, I started using the journaling software DayOne. Each day I answer three questions:

1) What thing(s) did I do well today?
2) What thing(s) could I have done better?
3) What interesting thing did I read?
It’s quick and simple, but it forces me to pause and review each day. Over time I can start to see what really matters to me, what challenges come up again and again and what changes I need to get serious about if I want to move forward.

There is so much joy in learning something new each day. It is important for your personal life and your professional life to be someone who models self-reflection and a teachable attitude.

For those that are interested here are some of this week’s ‘nerd finds.’

20 Really Cool Google Features You Probably Don’t Know About

Why the Problem with Learning Is Unlearning

What motivates us to work? by behavioral economist Dan Ariely

10 Sites to Learn Something New in 10 Minutes a Day

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman an animated book review

What will you do this week to fuel the learner in you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the commnents below.

 

Posted by Mathew Green on February 27, 2017  /   Posted in student engagement, working with others
Whether you’re a casual teacher, permanently employed, working as a support teacher or on a temporary contract with your school, you are directly involved in educating, training and shaping some of the greatest minds that this world is yet to see.
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