We’ve all felt that sense of overwhelm when we think about all the resources, activities and lesson plans we need to keep in some sort of order. And that doesn’t even take into account the absolutely endless to-do list. Why does it never go away?
I’ve changed my teaching life in the last few years by utilizing applications that help me create a sense of order in my resources and make the amount I have to do feel more manageable.
I sincerely hope that some of these productivity tools will be new for you and help you move past the chaos.
I think that the most important productivity and organization tip that I have for you is to be realistic. Although we sometimes might feel like we need to be superhuman, the fact is we are not. There are limits to what we can fit into the available time and a lot of teachers I know (myself included) have trouble recognizing (or admitting!) this.
There are so many advantages to using Dropbox…where do I begin?! Every time I save something in a Dropbox folder on my computer, it goes straight to Dropbox in the cloud (saved on the internet) as well. Dropbox syncs to all my devices and everything is stored in the cloud so I can access all of my resources no matter where I am. And I can still access and edit them offline on my computer – bliss!
I also have Dropbox set up so that when I am on a WiFi connection with my cell phone, it automatically uploads my photos. I find this to be a huge productivity win. No more finding cords or panicking that you haven’t backed up your favourite photos from your cell phone. Within a minute or two, they are right there in the cloud ready for whenever you need them.
Dropbox also has great functionality for sharing folders. You can either share a link so someone can view a document or folder or you can give someone full access so they can edit it, too. This is such an advantage for team teaching (and if you refer more people you get more storage space on Dropbox so be sure to take advantage of this).
Google just does everything, doesn’t it!?! Google Drive (more specifically, Google Docs and Google Sheets) is constantly changing and improving. Google Docs is the replacement for Microsoft Word and Google Sheets is the replacement for Microsoft Excel. With your Gmail account you can have everything easily linked together. Until recently, I preferred using Word but in the last little while the functionality of Google Docs has improved out of sight.
With Google Drive you can easily share folders and documents, synced across all devices. The real benefit is that you can have multiple people working on the same document at once and you won’t have any version control issues. Plus, it automatically saves online in your Google account, so you don’t have to stress if your computer crashes or something else goes wrong!
Evernote is an old favorite for organization and I know many people who seem to have their whole lives in Evernote. It’s easy to see why. The elephant mascot is really perfect for this company, as it never forgets a thing!
Evernote is an extremely versatile productivity tool. You can take notes (audio and text), organize photos, set reminders, upload attachments, “clip” web articles and store them to read later.
Evernote can take a while to get the hang of but it’s worth reading an article or two on how to best structure your files within it as it can really change your life. Again, it’s available on all devices so it makes it a very streamlined and multipurpose application.
This one is a bit more advanced but can bring huge rewards. I find it increasingly difficult to remember all my passwords, and the list only seems to get longer. It’s a security risk to use the same password for everything… that is where LastPass comes in! It’s a password manager that is very secure and will remember your passwords for you and generate really complex ones that are more secure.
When you visit a website, it will automatically put your username and password in the boxes and you just click and go! But make sure you remember your LastPass password, because otherwise you could lose access to everything.
Wunderlist is probably my favorite recommendation on this list. It’s a nice, clean design that does one thing really well. Wunderlist is a list app. It gives such a satisfying sound when you tick something off too!! The lists are easy to share which makes for smooth collaboration. This is perfect for team teaching – but I typically use this function to share the shopping list across family members. When someone ticks something off, it immediately updates everyone’s list. So simple and so brilliant.
No more scraps of paper for all your lists. It’s so easy to add resources on the run as well, especially since you can attach documents and other files to your lists.
My 1-3-5 List
This is a new tool that I’ve just discovered (I think it’s only been recently released) and while I love Wunderlist for making sure everything is out of my head and not on scraps of paper, it can sometimes be overwhelming as the lists can just get SO long (I’m sure you know the feeling).
My 1-3-5 list really helps me to prioritize what is essential and also be realistic about the size and number of the tasks I can achieve in a given day.
The premise is simple. You fill in every day 1 large task, 3 medium tasks and 5 smaller tasks. That’s it. But I tell you, it really does make everything seem a lot more manageable and help ensure you actually consistently tick things off the list.
At this stage I’ve been using My 1-3-5 List as a daily complement to my ongoing Wunderlist and it’s working well for me.
Clearly is a browser plug in by Evernote. You just push a button and *boom* – all the annoying distractions on a webpage are gone. It leaves behind just the text in a very easy-to-read layout, devoid of any fancy formatting or fonts.
It’s a great productivity win as it really helps you to not get distracted by shiny things! It also works seamlessly with Evernote as it’s one of their products 🙂
There are a lot of screenshot browser plugins out there, and with good reason – a good one is an invaluable productivity tool. If you want to access something offline I bet there are times you had a screenshot of a website. It’s just like taking a screenshot on your smart phone but on your desktop computer instead.
All you need to do is navigate to the webpage you want to screenshot and click the ‘take screenshot’ button in the top of your browser – done!
Feedly makes it easy to be up-to-date with all your favorite blogs on your cell phone by bringing them together all in the one place. Flick between new articles in each category, choosing which ones you want to read (with a tap) or which ones you want to save (by holding down). Feedly syncs across all devices so you can easily send an article from your desktop to your smart phone for later reading. Feedly saves so much time as you don’t have to remember to go to all your favorite blogs to check if there is a new post up. You also have the convenience of easily being able to discover new blogs. Don’t forget to add TicTacTeach!
I hope you have found these tips and tools useful and that there were some new ones to discover for you. We have a lot of balls to juggle as teachers so I’m a firm believer in using the free options at our disposal to make our lives easier. I’d love to hear what your favorite productivity and organization tools are, as well as how you find using any of the above!