Three Simple #Productivity Tips

At my school, to support teacher professional development on campus, we are given time to meet cross-divisionally in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). For the past year, I have been working with a group of colleagues in the Productivity Hacks PLC. One of our primary goals in this PLC is to think about not only what we are doing to boost personal productivity but, very importantly, the message we are sending students and how we are helping them manage work and stay organized.

For the month of January, we spent time in our Advisory program talking about Seeking Balance. I had the chance to share some of the research and strategies we have been talking about in our Productivity Hacks PLC with students & our wider community of teachers as one of the advisory activities. I chose to keep things simple with the following —

#1: Close Tabs to Avoid Distraction

You have 5 projects going on and more websites to keep track of than you can possibly keep track of. You don’t want to forget any of those potentially helpful websites, so you leave the page open and navigate to a new tab. 50 tabs in, and you start wondering how many tabs you can even open at the same time in Chrome? We’ve all been there.

Use a Bookmarks Folder

One of the reasons I recommend using a Bookmarks Folder is that when you right click the folder, you’ll have the option to open all websites within that folder with just the click of a button!

To see this option, you’ll want to make sure that you have your bookmark bar showing:

In case you need some guidance getting started:

#2: Turn Off Notifications

Click the notification center icon at the top right of your screen and then swipe down to reveal the Do Not Disturb option. Toggle it on or off.

When your Mac is in Do Not Disturb mode, the notification center icon will appear gray instead of black:

Shortcut tip: hold down the option key & click the notification center icon and you’ll automatically toggle Do Not Disturb mode on/off

Click the Action Center icon on the taskbar and turn on Quiet hours:

Right now, these quiet hours cannot be customized and are set from midnight to 6am. However, the next update of Windows 10 will allow you to customize your quiet hours.

#3: Use a Pomodoro Timer to Set Focused Work Time

The Pomodoro Technique is a very popular productivity method invented by developer, entrepreneur, and author Francesco Cirillo. The idea is simple: focus for 25 minute time intervals (called “Pomodoros”), followed by a short break (5–10 minutes). This trains your brain to focus deeply for short periods of time and can improve attention span & concentration.

TL;DR Go here: Press start. Stay focused. Get stuff done! Take a (short or long) break. Repeat…

Teacher tip: I really like using Tip #1 — Using a Bookmarks Folder — to keep information for my various classes separate. When I have multiple websites that I want to reference in a class period, I save them all to a bookmarks folder and then close the tabs until I get to class. When I get to class, I just right click and choose open all tabs. That way, I’m not distracted by those websites at other times in the day.

I also use different desktops to easily shift between classes. If you’re interested in a more detailed tip on using multiple desktops, let me know.

I thought I might additionally share some research supporting why I chose some of these topics —

On the topic of turning off notifications:

  • Studies have shown that every time we are interrupted by events like an email notification, it takes us 90 seconds to recover (regardless of the email’s importance!) and return to the task at hand. Considering that the average person manages over 100 emails per day, this really adds up! What’s more, 40% of the time when we are interrupted, we fail to complete the interrupted task.
  • Being distracted by incoming calls or emails can lower employees’ IQ by as much 10 points!
  • The McKinsey Global Institute found that an average employee spends 13 hours a week reading and responding to email. That’s by far the most time-consuming work activity at 28% of our work time. This equates to 650 hours a year spent on completely reactive, low-value work.
  • Research out of UC Irvine found that study participants without access to email switched windows an average of 18 times per hour, while those with access to email did so an average of 37 times per hour.

On the topic of productivity methods such as the Pomodoro technique:

  • Trying to focus on more than one thing at a time reduces your productivity by as much as 40%.
  • Three scientifically proven ways to make a habit stick
  • 1) Break your plan down into manageable parts
  • 2) Use if-then planning
  • 3) Build the best environment for your new routine

On the topic of closing tabs:

  • Why Single-Tasking is Your Greatest Competitive Advantage
  • Turn off notifications.
  • Only keep one tab open at time.
  • Use separate desktop spaces.
  • Schedule your email time.
  • Making a single-tasking plan you’ll actually stick to.
  • During the day, you should never have to ask yourself the question “What should I work on next?”. Be intentional about how you will plan your planning time. (increases productivity, reduces decision fatigue)

Obviously, productivity preferences and approaches can be very individual. (And you may be interested in this article if you think productivity tips just are not your thing.) What peaks my interest and works for me may not necessarily work for you. But I hope that you enjoy something in the above!