student engagement

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

Getting Things Done: Helpful Productivity Tweaks

This piece originally appeared here.

A little while ago I had had the privilege of interviewing productivity guru and author of Getting Things Done (GTD) David Allen.

Getting things done feels amazing! It builds your confidence and momentum, especially when you’re starting a fresh new year. Unfortunately, many of us find that the to-do list is often much longer than the days in which we have to complete them. As you face the bright new year, here are a few productivity tips to get you off to a positive start with good productivity habits!

Brain dump” your to do list then prioritise

Do you start your day by writing a long to-do list? I love lists,  this is step one. Planning your day and your to-dos is a key part of getting things done, and more importantly, getting the right things done.

Your morning “brain dump” gets everything out of your head and onto a sheet of paper or a screen. Once you get it all out of your head, you can look at each task objectively and decide where to schedule them in your week. Creating a prioritised to-do list will help you to manage your time and energy rather than driving blind through a snowstorm of tasks.

Learning how to prioritise: Evaluate the value of each task

You took the time to read this so why not take the time to EVALUATE where you’re putting your energy. One of the best ways to do this is to use a system like the Eisenhower Decision Matrix. This matrix provides four categories under which all your tasks will fall:

Important AND Urgent: Just do it
Important but Not Urgent: Schedule it
Not Important but Urgent: Push Back
Not Important AND Not Urgent: Avoid

Eisenhower decision matrix

eisenhower decision matrix

Does everything feel urgent AND important all the time? This may indicate that you either have too much pressure in your life OR you’re rubbish at prioritising. If you have too much pressure, you need to make some serious changes in your life because you’re on track for a burn-out – just saying.

But… before you make any drastic changes, let’s just do a little experiment together. Sort your to-do list into the four quadrants of the Eisenhower decision matrix. Consider which tasks produce results that you want and start to prioritise these over the Not important items. You may be getting things done quickly, but are you spending all your energy on doing the right things?

Getting things done with deadlines

When a client or your boss ask you to do something, make a habit of asking the question: “When would you like that by?” This will help your client or superior articulate their expectations and help you to prioritise the work. If they’ve asked for 20 things today, you can follow up by asking: “Which of these tasks/projects are most important this week?”.

Creating deadlines helps to manage the other party’s expectations and your own. When you work without clear deadlines, you tend to focus on getting the easiest tasks on your to-do list done, which may feel satisfying, but doesn’t always pay off.

Manage your mood and stress

When you’re happy and calm you are more productive. You work smarter, you think more clearly and you can work for longer. Schedule activities and establish habits in your day that reduce stress and boost your mood. READER BEWARE. These items will always feel like your lowest priority, but if you make them your #1 priority you’ll be better at getting things done.

  • Exercise – I hate exercise. I complain before doing it, while I’m doing it, after I’ve done it. But I know that I’m sharper, happier and more effective when I get it done. Choose an activity (walking, jogging, HIIT, weight training, swimming, etc) you can learn to love and do it. Start with 20mins three times/week and build it up from there.
  • Drink HEAPS of water – I’m talking litres. Start from the minute you wake up and keep sipping until you go to bed. I love coffee, but I limit it to one/day and aim to drink 2.5Litres+ of water/day.
  • Make time for peace – Stare out of the window, breathe deeply, read a good book, pray, stretch, take a stroll. Whatever it looks like for you, make a little space to relax.
  • Choose your meals wisely – Treat your body to good healthy food and it’ll reward you with good vibes.
  • Reflect on your day – Write down your thoughts at the end of each day. Consider what went well in the day and what you would like to do better next time. If something’s bothering you, it should come up in this reflection time. Decide to either let it go or work out a way to resolve the issue and move forward.

Commit to your tools

Do you have about 15 different productivity apps or tools that you’ve “tried out” over the years? Time to quit fooling around and make a commitment. You can become more efficient and effective when you choose just one or two tools for getting things done.

This may take a few days or weeks, but move everything from all your various apps, notepads, pieces of paper into one place. And while you’re at it get your calendar in order. Putting everything in one place will simplify your process and ensure that you don’t miss anything.

Review

Not many people take the time to review how they are performing or how well their tools and systems are working. Schedule time once a month and once a quarter to review how things are going. This is a great time to celebrate your wins and give yourself a pat on the back for what you’ve achieved. It’s also a great time to address those niggling little issues that keep coming up.

If you’ve been getting some negative feedback from others about some area of your work or how you work, make time to consider what the contributing factors might be. Do you need some training or mentoring? Is organisation an issue for you? Could a holiday help? There’s no point in beating yourself up! Approach your challenges with a focus on solutions and you’ll find a way through.

Taking the time to review will ensure that all your hard work is going into the right things.


What about you, do you have any productivity tips for getting things done?

 

Posted by Mathew Green on January 10, 2017  /   Posted in Uncategorized

What engages your students?

As a teacher you have a responsibility to find the thing that engages and motivates the children in your class. In my first year on kindergarten I had a particularly challenging child. He was from a country that had been through horrific civil war, and was continuing to work through some of the worst cases of human rights violations that I have ever heard of. The story of his past brought me to tears when I heard it for the first time. His mother had fled their home country while pregnant with my student. On the way to a refugee camp her entire family was murdered, but somehow she managed to escape with her unborn child. The child was born in a refugee camp and I can barely imagine the type of things that he was exposed to in the early years of his life. Somehow he and his mother made it to Australian shores and received refugee status.

When this child arrived at school he, as you would expect, displayed very challenging behaviour. He would punch other students to get his way and he stole items from the school that he liked. The student simply could not appropriately settle into the school environment. I didn’t know how to cope with this child, how to manage his behaviour or how to get him to relate to other students. My supervisor at the time advised me to design an Individual Learning Plan (ILP) for him so that I could find out the things that he would respond to best. After weeks of trying different approaches and behaviour management strategies I began to feel frustrated that I would never find the thing that engaged him.

Then one day we were doing a lesson using instruments and talking about beat and rhythm in songs. Out of nowhere the student began dancing and performing his own responses to music. He smiled for the first time in my class and I learnt that he, just like all of the other students in my class, had talent that was waiting to be discovered.

This story highlights the importance of individualising your lessons and the power in finding the things that motivate and engage each and every student in your class. As an educator you have the responsibility and privilege of creating stimulating and engaging learning environments for your class. Every single student in your class has talents and has the capacity to excel in a number of areas.

Posted by Mathew Green on January 23, 2014  /   Posted in Uncategorized
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.
^ Back to Top