Tools, Productivity

How one simple suggestion + Google Keep completely changed my organization and productivity

I used to think I was a “do one thing at a time until it’s finished” kind of person, but since moving into a school PR role, I have discovered I am more of a “squirrel” type of worker. In school PR, we have to be able to switch gears quickly because we never know what’s going to come up. Many times I am in the middle of one project and another one gets thrown on the pile, or I am researching one topic when a new one comes up. This work environment can contribute to a lack in productivity and sometimes an increase in frustration.

Two years ago at our annual district leadership retreat, I shared this challenge with a colleague during one of our team building/reflection activities. I told him that despite my endless attempts at prioritizing and list making, I never felt like I accomplished what I needed to at the end of the day and that it was hard to really feel productive and strategic. He gave me such a simple suggestion that I had a real “DUH” moment.

Why don’t you make a list of your top 3-5 priorities for the day and tackle those tasks before you move on to anything else on your list?

THANK YOU, BMS Assistant Principal Larry Hughes!

Simple. Genius. Why didn’t I think of that?!

The very next day I set up my “Fab Five” list in Google Keep. I had been using Google Keep for years, but more for more for taking notes on the fly, not specifically for list making and task creation. It suddenly made so much sense to replace the notepad on my desk with a digital list that could be accessed from any device at any time and rearranged with a simple click and drag. (Is anyone else like me … if I have to reorder tasks on a paper list, I will just start over rather than scratch out!)

I “pin” the lists I use the most and make sure my Fab Five is the first one in the row.

I typically update my Fab Five list before I leave work in the afternoon so when I arrive the next morning, I know exactly where to start my day. I set Google Keep as one of my startup tabs in Google Chrome so it pops right up when I login each morning. I also created several secondary Google Keep lists to keep track of ideas, tools, articles, etc. that I come across.

Admittedly, this is not a perfect system and there are times when I have to deviate from my Fab Five, but this method really has changed my daily routine. It’s like having a daily dashboard that helps me stay organized and makes me feel more productive and strategic.

What methods do you use to stay organized? Do you have any tricks for productivity? Leave a comment below – I’d love to read your ideas!

Advertising, Marketing, Tools

30 second radio ads in 3 easy steps using 3 great tools

Part of my job is to script, record and schedule radio ads for our district. Last year was my first year to take on this role, as it was previously handled by a campus-based school PR liaison. Historically, the recording of our 30-second spots was outsourced to district or campus administrators; however, this year I took over in an attempt to create better quality, more strategic radio messages.

As a one-man PR office, I am always looking for quick, easy ways to produce quality content and with little (or NO!) financial investment. Now, if you are looking for sophisticated methods for producing fancy, professional quality radio ads, this post probably isn’t for you. But, if you fly solo (like me!) and need to get the job done well, for FREE, and in 5 minutes or less, read on, reader!

Step 1: Write script in Google Docs

Because we are a Google district (and I am a Google Girl), I do all of my scripts (and really everything else!) in Google Docs. I keep a Google Doc with air dates, topics, music used, and scripts for each radio spot. I love Google Docs because I can access it from anywhere, at any time and on any device. Whether I have an idea in my office, at a school function, or at a red light, I can get to my planning doc quickly and easily.

Step 2: Find ad music with FreeAdMusic

IMHO, radio ads with just voice and no music aren’t very pleasing to listen to, so I use FreeAdMusic which offers FREE, ready-to-use music for advertising. They have an awesome collections of clips that have met all of my ad music needs. Be sure to read their license terms before using (which pretty much say you can use it for works under 6 minutes for 1 year as long as it’s not to advertise or do something bad.)

Step 3: Record ad in Soundtrap

I had not used Soundtrap prior to this year, but I am SO GLAD I found it! It’s super easy to use (drag-and-drop) and FREE (for up to 5 projects at a time … I just delete and start over when I need more space). You can record voice & microphone, import audio files, and even make original music (although I do not use it for this purpose). With one click, you can download your final product as an .mp3. They also have an INCREDIBLE collection of tutorials to help you get started!

Do you have a favorite tip, tool or trick for recording radio ads? I’d love to hear it!

Tools

5 Chrome Extensions I use on a daily basis (and one to grow on!)

I love Google Chrome. It is absolutely my browser of choice. I also love Chrome extensions – little nuggets that let me customize my browser experience. These are my favorites and the ones that I pretty much use every day. The greatest thing about these extensions is that I don’t have to go anywhere or open any program or window to use them … they’re always right there in my browser ready to make my life easier!

  1. Awesome Screenshot – capture any part of your window and make annotations (love the blur tool for pictures of students or sensitive info!)
  2. ColorZilla – little eyedropper tool to grab the color from any place in your browser
  3. Page Ruler – quickly draw a ruler on any webpage to measure objects on the page
  4. Tab Scissors – split your browser window at the current tab
  5. Tab Glue – “glue” your split tabs back together

And my most favorite extension of all…

BITMOJI!

This Chrome extension absolutely, positively does not contribute in any way to my effectiveness or efficiency, BUT it brings me so much joy! I often aspire to communicate solely with Bitmojis.

In fact, my superintendent even uses Bitmoji! We’ve made some notecards for him to send to students with his avatar and they LOVE IT!

Ok – your turn! Leave me a comment with your favorite Chrome extensions. I am always looking for new ones to try out!

Tools

These 3 tools are better than a personal assistant! (Ok, not quite, but I can’t live without ’em!)

When you work in a small school district, you have to find creative ways to work smarter, not harder. There aren’t secretaries at every turn or levels of assistants for delegating tasks. We’re not “top heavy” and we all wear many hats to get the job done. (Fun fact: Even our superintendent shares his secretary!) The tools below are my staples for staying organized and completing tasks efficiently.

1. Google Calendar

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Warning: dramatic statement … I LIVE by Google Calendar. Like, really. There are times when I am walking in the hallway of a campus, hear the ding, and do an immediate about face to head in the opposite direction for a meeting that slipped my mind. Google Calendar is my TOP survival tool! Here are 3 of my favorite things about Google Calendar:

  1. It’s searchable. Can’t remember when you met with that guy last year? Do a search! I put TONS of details in my calendar events so I can search them easily later. This has saved me on several occasions!
  2. It’s a time management tool. I schedule EVERYTHING on my Google Calendar, including blocks of time to work uninterrupted on big projects. If it’s on my calendar, I know I will take the time to get the job done instead of putting it off, AND it keeps me from overbooking myself (usually!).
  3. It integrates with YouCanBook.Me. This is an AWESOME scheduling tool that I use regularly to allow teachers, principals and everyone in between book time on my Google Calendar. It’s user friendly, and the free version gives me everything I need.

2. Google Keep

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I am pretty much a “Google Girl.” I love all things Google – especially when the tools help me do my job better and keep my sanity (win-win!). Google Keep is such a powerful tool, but it’s not one of the main apps, so I think it’s underutilized. Google Keep allows you to create digital sticky notes and task lists. Here are 3 of my favorite things about Google Keep:

  1. It’s with me wherever I go. Because these digital sticky notes sync to my Google account, I can access them from anywhere and on any device. Long road trip and your mind is racing with ideas/tasks? Open up Google Keep and make a list. Check the tasks off when you get back to the office!
  2. Notes and lists are sharable. Need to brainstorm with a colleague or share tasks? No problem – just share the digital sticky note. (This works really well for tandem grocery shopping, too!)
  3. It’s a productivity tool. I use Google Keep stickies for daily priority lists and “top tasks.” I have a “Fab Five” sticky note that is pinned to the top of my Google Keep screen with the five things I must complete today. This little nugget keeps me on track (and can keep the stress at bay!).

Boomerang for Gmail

Photo by Karl Gerber on Pexels.com

If your inbox is a disaster or you are one of those “wake up at 2am and work” kind of people, you need Boomerang in your life. Boomerang does these things for you:

  1. Schedule emails to send later (like, NOT at 2am … don’t be that guy!).
  2. Temporarily archive emails and have them pop back up in your inbox at a certain time. (It’s like snooze for your email!)
  3. “Boomerang” an email back to your inbox to remind you to follow up if you haven’t gotten a response from the sender.

What tools keep you from pulling your hair out?!

Tools

The Journey Begins (Again!)

I started my first blog, EdTechChic, in 2011 as a way to connect and collaborate with other professionals, as well as share little tips and tricks I learned as an instructional technology specialist. I am a big believer in sharing content and ideas with others rather than hoarding all the good stuff for yourself. I remember seeing a post on Pinterest years ago that said something to the effect of, “Why won’t you share your idea? Are you afraid it’s the last one you’ll have?” I always told people to use anything I created and shared. I already had the glory. Pass it along. Together we’re better.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

Although I truly loved blogging, when I accepted a new role as communications director in my district in 2016, I found that I had very little to contribute. I’d been “EdTechChic” for years, but this new role was taking me in a very different direction – uncharted territory. It has taken me nearly 3 years to find my footing as a school communications practitioner and feel as though I have anything valuable to offer my professional network again. I have learned a lot along this journey, and I am excited to move from consumer to producer once again.

Every day I learn something new about public relations and communications, especially as it relates to the education industry. I look forward to sharing ideas, tips, and tricks, as well as learning and collaborating with you.

Check out the toolbox page before you leave! I will be elaborating on and adding new tools as the blog develops, so check back often. What are your favorite “work smarter, not harder” PR tools?

click here for my favorite tools