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How to Be Creatively Productive This School Year

March 10, 2019

What does it look like to be productive, creatively? Making the most of both digital and analog tools can be a challenge for learners of all ages. Finding your flow, staying on task, and making sure you have everything you need for a successful school year is easier said than done.

So I’m very excited to spotlight this new resource. It can help you and your students be your very best this school year. Lisa Johnson is a fellow Apple Distinguished Educator and the author of a new book. It’s titled, Creatively Productive: Essential Skills for Tackling Time Wasters, Clearing the Clutter, and Succeeding in School—and Life! You may be familiar with Lisa’s first book Cultivating Communication in the Classroom. I also featured this title on my blog back in 2017.

A Creatively Productive School Year

As an educator who wears many hats (blogger, adjunct professor, professional development facilitator, etc.) I was certainly interested in learning about Lisa’s productivity tips. I receive questions all the time about my own workflow and favorite online resources. Lisa provides a fantastic set of resources you can also bring straight to your classroom. Lisa and I chatted about some of our favorites during TCEA. We even shared some tips on a Facebook Live too, which you can watch here.

Productivity Tips for Teachers

In Lisa’s book Creatively Productive, you’ll find reproducibles, graphic organizers and lots of resources to use right away. Her book includes favorite tools, strategies, and lots of action items for students and educators alike. In this blog post, Lisa shares more about her book and journey as an educator. You’ll also find ways to stay connected to her work this year.

What motivated you to write a book on this topic?

This book felt very serendipitous. At the time I pitched the idea, I was exploring bullet journaling, analog note-taking, mindfulness, and creating a reader’s notebook. At the same time, I was observing the needs and pitfalls that arose for our students at the secondary level. With a focus on social-emotional learning and soft skills, I started to look at the needs of our students and certain educational and professional trends that were happening all over the nation. And productivity, self-regulation, and time management were at the forefront of many of those trends. I have also been very invested in teaching college and career ready skills.

In my first book Cultivating Communication in the Classroom, I tackled college and career ready communication skills and how they could be fostered in today’s classrooms through cooperative learning, visual literacy and presentation skills, social media, curation, and more.

For this book, I was still very focused on college and career ready skills, but I wanted to focus on self-management skills like digital organization, time management, note-taking, goal-setting, personal and academic reflective practices, and much more. After interviewing 23 professionals in a variety of professions all over the nation and gleaning their insights, tips, and best practices, I knew I was onto something that resonated with adults and students alike… and that was the birth of Creatively Productive.

Is this book for educators or their students?

Both. I should mention that there is a duality to the book. Every tool, strategy, and tip is meant to be used with students but can also be used personally and professionally with adults. Two words I kept at the forefront of my mind for this book were “useful” and “working.” Every idea is something I or someone else has used and found to be useful. This book is also intended to be a future-ready guide, so I not only share a compilation of tips, ideas, and best practices from my own work with students and adult learners but also ideas that work for fellow colleagues and their classroom. And I also included a plethora of ideas and best practices from a wide range of professionals and careers as well… I called this section of the book “Working Wisdoms.”

How can educators make just one or two tweaks to be more productive this year?

Becoming more productive takes a little creativity. And it can be overwhelming if one doesn’t start small. If I could only choose three things to do to be more productive, I would choose the following:

Values Audit

I would start with a values audit before you goal set. Too often we set personal and professional goals that are not aligned to our values. And then we become frustrated when we don’t reach those goals. And typically, the reason those goals aren’t reached has to do with the fact that they aren’t really in tune with who we are and what we really want at our core. So, I highly advise a values audit before anything else. If you are interested in doing your own Values Audit, check out this blog post. (If you have a Mac or an iPad, the blog post also includes a FREE downloadable file to do your own values audit. Here is the Google Slides version.)

Producvitiy tips for teachers and students can help you have the best year yet! Lisa Johnson shares her new book Creatively Productive in this blog post.

To Do Lists, Planners, and Habit Trackers

Once you discover your values, the next thing to do is set goals that are in line with those values and make those goals visible. I also think goals should be visual. Here is an example. The next phase is to determine how you will incrementally track the things that move you closer to your goals. For me, I keep my goals in my bullet journal, and then I use a habit tracker to track things I want to do more of and less of. Here is an example.

Determining Buckets

If you are drowning in decision fatigue, the thing that works for me is creating buckets of sorts. I try to think about everything I need a folder, notebook, or app for. For example, I have a notebook for notes I take in professional development. I have a reader’s notebook where I list all of the books I plan on reading, have read, and my notes on each. I use Pinterest to curate all of my web links.

When my life starts getting cluttered, it is typically because I don’t have a bucket or process for whatever is happening or piling up. So think about all of the resources you have (e.g., personally and professionally), think about where you put each of those and think about how you could streamline any of those processes, or if you need another bucket. This blog post details this idea (within the context of notes) and also gives more examples for how you can audit this process.

In your book, you discuss lots of different resources and strategies. Is there a particular resource or strategy you think a teacher should explore first?

Reader’s Notebooks: One of my favorite things I have started doing over the past 2-3 years is keeping a reader’s notebook. Many of the pages are posted on my Instagram account. It is amazing how much more I remember and how I am able to absorb the ideas, tools, research, and best practices gleaned from these books into my personal and professional practice. This process is detailed further in Chapter 6 of Creatively Productive. If you would like a sneak peek, check out this blog post that highlights my process and shares some examples.

Do you have advice for an educator who wants to host a book club for your book?

The complete companion site for Creatively Productive will go live in March 2019 and can be found here. Additionally, there is a Creatively Productive weekly newsletter that offers tips, articles, and tools that could be highlighted and discussed further in a book study (you can sign up here). AND… each chapter of the book has a special icon and an Awesome Amulet checklist at the end too. The checklist is written like standards so once you or your students master (or show mastery of) the contents of the checklist, you can use the icon to badge… you, your book group, or your staff.

I’m excited to join you at LearnFestATX this June, what other live or virtual events can folks find you at this year?

  • 3/3: #OrEdChat (10:00-10:30pm CST)
  • 4/7: #OklaEd (8:00-9:00pm CST)
  • .EDU (March 27th-28th)
  • LearnFestATX (June 11th-13th)

Learn more about Lisa’s book by heading over to her website or straight to Amazon. Creatively Productive: Essential Skills for Tackling Time Wasters, Clearing the Clutter, and Succeeding in School—and Life! is available in paperback and ebook format too!

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Dr. Monica Burns is a former classroom teacher, Author, Speaker, and Curriculum & EdTech Consultant. Visit her site ClassTechTips.com for more ideas on how to become a tech-savvy teacher.

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