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Tech Thursday: Set Times for Tasks
Try single-tasking - no phone, no email, no side research - and see if it helps with focus and efficiency.
Multitasking is really serial task-switching, and it causes us to lose more time than it saves. Research shows that we potentially lose 40% of our productivity by trying to multitask. Not convinced? Read The Myth of Multitasking or go back all the way to this 2007 article in the Atlantic.
Here’s how it typically goes for me: I check my work email on my phone while packing my daughter’s lunch. There’s something I want to respond to, but I can’t do it from my phone - I need to hop on my computer to include a link to a resource. At my computer, I decide I really need to do some quick reading before responding, so I browse around the intranet for the policy language I want to include. As I’m doing this, I hop up several times to refill my coffee, find my daughter clean socks, and text a colleague a quick question. Sound familiar? This is how I just spent 20 minutes not packing a lunch and also not sending an email.
Sometimes there’s no way around doing several things at once. I spend plenty of time driving my children somewhere and using voice-to-text to draft out ideas at stoplights. But for times when I need truly concentrated work, I know myself well enough to know that I need to close my email program, put my phone in another room, and close all my browser tabs.
Email is my main weakness. I find that it will fill whatever amount of time I dedicate to it, and yet on days that I spend far less time reading my emails, often the issues that seem so urgent at 7:30 a.m. have simmered down (or - even better - been handled by someone else!) by 4 p.m. So here is the tech focus for today: dedicate specific times of the day to reading and responding to email, and do not open your email program outside of these times. This might seem extreme, but I find that it really does help. To ease into it, pick one hour in the morning and one hour in the late afternoon and dedicate those hours to responding to emails. I can almost promise that there is nothing that comes in after 10 a.m. but before 3 p.m. that will cause the world to end. And be honest, if there is, you probably have colleagues with your phone number to text you anyway. I will be the first to admit that I am not always good at sticking to these time frames, but on days when I do set aside email time at the very beginning and very end of my work, and then avoid reading emails outside of those times, I am much less distracted and more productive.
The same goes for any side tangent, no matter how important it may seem to the task at hand: each time you interrupt your focus on the current task to think “Oh, I really should read more about X,” write it down on your to-do list and then immediately return to the task at hand. Do not pause what you are doing to investigate that tangent. Trust that it is on the list for later.
Past Tech Thursdays
Student engagement: Climer cards / Digital exit tickets / Interactive quizzing / Online question management for classes & presentations / Wheel of Names (random name generator) / Providing audio feedback
Google: “Publish” from Google Drive / Google Classroom updates / “Make a copy” function in Google Drive / Working in shared Google docs / Collaborating in Google Slides / Turn Google Forms into a formatted document
Productivity: Finding OERs / Study Skills Videos / Keeping Notes on Students / Keyboard shortcuts / Text Expanders / Mailbird email program / Voice-to-text options / Custom URLs & QR codes / DropBox Paper for collaboration