Mary-Jo Hill

12 Oct 2021
School communications, both internal and external, have reached the status that requires the best school business manager, school admin, and personal assistance that money can buy. But what happens if your school budget is so focused on basic and necessary delivery such as having enough adults in the room, that productivity relies heavily on the senior leadership team or the headteacher themselves? This post looks at how we manage our productivity and communications to best effect, including the use of productivity tools.

In the world of social media, and constant information to digest, interpret and then disseminate to both your internal team and all your stakeholders, we barely have time to do the day job. There is a range of digital productivity apps to use to help us organise our lives and decrease stress. It can be a bit overwhelming to choose from the lots of productivity apps out there, so the simpler you can keep it, the better. So, in this post, we are going to overview four different productivity tools you can use to help manage your professional life more effectively.

1. Todoist

With so much reactive activity at school, we can sometimes forget things that need to be done and don’t remember till that email comes into our inbox the day before a deadline. 

A hub where we put all the tasks we need to do is useful. One of the simplest digital systems that works across Windows and Apple devices is todoist. You can categorise the different areas of your life and add tasks accordingly including adding when that task is due. It’s simple, fast and easy to get an understanding of. If you are new to digital task management and want to give it a go, todoist is one of the best.

(If you are looking for something more advanced I would recommend checking out Notion, which is an all in one productivity app. It has a lot of features, but does take a lot of time to get your head around.)

2. Digital Calendar (Google/Outlook)

Google Calendar was first released with its beta version in 2006, and today it’s one of the most used digital calendar options.

One of the best ways we can use a digital calendar is to simply put in the events we have coming up in there, such as meetings or when we have an ‘event’ or something scheduled, aka where you need to be at a certain place at a certain time. The reason this is so effective is that it becomes your hub for all your life events coming up, and a simple glance at your digital calendar can give you clarity on what you have approaching. From the important meeting at work to your overdue dentist appointment.

3. Calendly

Remember those days of pinging emails back and forth trying to schedule a day and time for a meeting that will only last 30 minutes? Well, those days are over. Calendly is a scheduling tool for meetings that links directly to your digital calendar (see what I did there) and automatically sends you the meeting information if it’s a remote meeting, such as Zoom joining links and sends it to both parties. Plus, when you link it to your calendar, you can make it so that people can only schedule meetings with you within a specific time range (e.g. 9 am – 4 pm) and when you are available. You simply set it up, send someone a link to your Calendly page and they can book a time that is convenient for you both.

4. Email

Email? That’s not really a productivity tool/app, is it? Well, you are right. But, let me explain why this might be important.

Email is still the mainstay to communicate with colleagues on a regular basis and is vital in a school. But, if we have thousands of emails built up in our inbox it can be very overwhelming. What is the expected response time for staff/ and parents? What are the accepted norms on sending and responding to emails? How do we support the fact that most communications will be conducted at a time when staff and parents have the time to engage – the 9-5 no longer exists. 

So how clear are you on e-mail?  Is it FYI only. Does it require action? Does it require a response? Does it need acknowledgement? Revisiting school communications policy every year is not only important from a GDPR perspective but from a work productivity perspective. What is the school policy on the use of WhatsApp for staff? How do staff really manage the year group parent’s WhatsApp group and communications and how to not feel defensive in positioning? Navigating social media responses and engagement with parents is a big mine field and can cause a lot of headaches and unnecessary fall out and necessary pick up. Clear guidelines need annual revision.

So, here comes a technique for personal use that you might find helpful. Categorise/label (feature in Outlook and Gmail), and archive everything you no longer need to see. This is obviously down to personal judgement. But, once you no longer need to see something in your inbox, but don’t want to delete it as you may have to reference it in the future, archive it. As you can always see your archived emails. (I would recommend testing it out with unimportant emails first to get your head round it).

Having fewer emails in your inbox is a simple way to increase clarity of mind. 

What digital tools do you use in school that really helps and not hinders productivity for all?

Read more: Pupil/teacher relationship. The holy grail.

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