Productive and Fun!

The flaw in cash registers and impulse sales is that there is a certain breed of people who get anxiety over the idea of holding up a line. This group may miss out on many pleasures like keychain dolls, witty magnets, or Arizona branded gum sticks. However, it was during one specific anxious tumult at the bookstore that I spotted a gem I could not resist.

So, what is it that came through the eye of the anxiety storm? It was a small notepad that read “Productive AF!” on it. I yearn to be “Productive” and “Fun,” so it was an easy sell for me.

I am on a permanent quest to be efficient and productive. Over time, I have integrated systems and plans into my daily and weekly routine to help reduce productivity inefficiencies. I wouldn’t say I have novel approaches to organization. I try to color code and label as much as I can in my physical classroom, and I use technology to help me maintain and auto-sort my emails…   But teachers juggle so many varied responsibilities every day, and inevitably I misplace, or forget something more often than I’d like. So, when a new system was in my eye-line, I made the purchase (simultaneously, I spotted a succulent-looking pencil sharpener that I lament not purchasing – but remember: the anxiety cyclone was upon me, and there was no time for frivolity!).  

Admittedly, this pad of paper looks like a creamsicle and is a gimmick, but it delineates several unique tasks into columns: “Do These Things,” “Contact These People,” “Buy This Stuff.”  It gives you nice check-boxes on each line to confirm for yourself you are staying productive and fun. The novelty also has a graph you can color in as you complete tasks so you have a visual of just how awesome and organized you’ve been in any given time frame. In short: the pad is obviously a gag gift for someone to share with a notoriously unorganized coworker. I am both the gift giver as well as the disheveled colleague in this scenario.

I think the first column (“Do These Things”) speaks for itself, and it gives me a clear place to keep track of the ever-growing list of things we as teachers must tackle on any given week. If you want an example of another teacher’s weekly to-do list, check out this blog post by Amethyst Hinton Sainz: My To-Do List…  Another straightforward column would be the third. It came labeled as “Buy This Stuff” but I just mentally re-coded that column to “Grade These Things.” Keeping personal and professional responsibilities on one side of the paper and the items my students are waiting on on the other helps me prioritize both demands.

January has actually ran smoother, and a big part of that has been the middle column (“Contact These People”) which helps me focus on my communication. I doubt I am alone in the following conundrum. Throughout my work day, my inbox and cell phone will flood with messages. I keep an eye on them because vital and timely information may pop up; however, most of the messages require more time to respond than I may have at that moment. This is where things have got bumpy for me in the past. I have tried to grab post-its or scrap paper to write myself physical reminders; even that hassle is too much when class is in session (at least for my brain, which never enjoys a delay…see above). It took this orange stratagem to make me realize that I should dedicate I specific place just to note who needs a return call, email, or text. I have made a habit to not leave work without going down the list and replying or contacting anyone on the list that I can at that time.

And wow- separating the information and tasks I have to perform daily or even weekly is a colossal help to my turbulent processing pattern. Of course, there is no magic to the pad itself. Anyone can choose to organize thoughts or tasks in meaningful ways and get similar results. But, honestly, I wasn’t doing that, and this $4 purchase gave me a whole new way to stay on track.

I hope I keep using tools like this to keep me “Productive AF” for a long time to come.

My point is this: Identify where you need help, and when you see the tool you need, buy it (if you can) – even if the person behind you in line is tapping their foot.


What specific organization tips, tricks, or hacks do you have that you think can help other teachers? Share in the comments below!



James King

My favorite words are “dapper” and “adventure.” With an unkempt proclivity, I manage to exemplify only one of these words into my classroom every day. The reason I chose English is simple: adventure lives in books. I get to take students wading into the Mediterranean, strolling along the Mississippi, or hiking the Himalayas without leaving their desks.

I teach at my alma mater, after using 12 years to explore the world – beyond the verse, poetry, and prose I adore. I spent time traveling Central, and North America, The Caribbean, and Europe. I worked at Walt Disney World for many years, ultimately overseeing training for 50,000 employees. Entertaining and serving guests from all around the world, I also trained and managed international employees.

I was a substitute teacher in the nation’s third-largest school district for 4 years and graduated from the University of Central Florida. My education degree emphasized English, Communication, and Commerce; this assisted me in obtaining English Language Arts and Career and Technical teaching certifications here in Arizona.

Aside from grading, reading, tweeting (@PhxJayKing), and blogging, I also sponsor a surprising popular Book Club on campus, and you might find me playing sand volleyball any given night of the week.

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