As we wrap up the school year and head into our summer projects and preparation for fall (hopefully after taking some time off) we asked our friend and productivity techie Jenel Cavazos some questions about the kinds of tools that she favors for keeping organized, scheduling, and communicating. Here is what she had to say!
Have you always used technology to help you manage your work life? When did you start using it?
Pretty much, yes. I transitioned from a very meticulously organized Franklin Covey binder to a palm pilot pretty much as soon as they became widely available, and from that to a Blackberry. I’ve always relied on organization to help me battle anxiety. Once something is written down on a list and there’s a plan for accomplishing it, I can let it go and not worry about it anymore. So, I have always been drawn to technology that allows me to be more organized and productive.
What your top five tools you recommend to help with productivity?
Top Five. Ok, I’d say (but not necessarily in rank order):
Are there still areas of productivity that you struggle with?
Yes – actually being productive!! My husband jokes that I spend more time researching productivity apps and programs than I actually do working on the things that are on all my lists! That’s an exaggeration (usually), but I do spend quite a lot of time checking into new things. How else do you find all the cool tips and tricks though?
If you created a technology tool to help you with an area of productivity, what would it do and how would it help?
I think the market for social media aggrigators is very slim right now. Hootsuite tends to be the most popular, but it doesn’t always work smoothly. I still have to keep checking other apps for notifications, for example, and it is very VERY limited in regard to what it can do with facebook and Instagram. For people having personal accounts and work or professional accounts, we need a better way to have everything in one place.
What is/are your favorite tool(s) that you use in the classroom?
Especially for big classes, I really recommend some sort of polling/clicker program to keep students interested and assess what they’re learning. I use TopHat for a number of reasons, mostly because it’s a BYOD (bring your own device) program that allows students to text in responses, which is crucial when wifi is an issue.
I use GroupMe constantly to communicate with my GAs and TAs, and it is SO much easier than group texts or emails. You can add documents, create polls and events, and share information in a (relatively) organized fashion. It might sound silly to say, but it really brings my team closer together because we can talk so easily.
There are others, but the last one I think is really important and under-used is Calendly. This one allows you to set up an appointment type (I have a 15-minute office hours appointment type, for example), open blocks of time, and then gives you a URL to share with others. They can go to the website and sign up for any available time that matches their schedule, which eliminates all the back-and-forth “when are you free?” emails. The best part is that it syncs with your cloud-based calendars, so appointments made in Calendly just magically appear on the calendar of your choice. Also, if you add another appointment or event during a time when you’re supposed to be free, Calendly won’t allow someone to sign up for the same time. So you don’t need to constantly update your availability – it checks and adjusts for you.
Are there any tell-tale signs that a tool isn’t going to fit your needs?
That’s a great question. I think you have to find tools that fit within what you already do. If you’re already a list-maker and calendar-keeper, transitioning to a digital version of some sort probably won’t be much of a stretch. You may have to add categories and tags (if you’re into that sort of thing) more than you would have before, but the basics were already there. If the behavior isn’t at least somewhat natural, though, you’ll likely forget about it in a week. My best friend is one of the most unorganized people I know, and we actually sat down and got her set up with all the best productivity tools at least three or four times. We set up accounts, I showed her how to use them, and she was ready to go. Each time, it lasted maybe a week, and then she’d admit that she’d just stopped doing it. It’s not natural for her, so it’s not going to stick.
Dr. Jenel Cavazos is an Associate Professor and Master Teacher in the Department of Psychology at the University of Oklahoma. As the Introductory Psychology Program Coordinator, she teaches an average of 1500 students per year, supervises sections of PSY1113 taught by graduate students, and conducts a graduate mentor program for teaching. Her emphasis areas include curriculum development, the implementation of technology in the classroom, and program assessment. Her research focuses on transformative learning experiences in Introductory Psychology, with an emphasis on first-generation students. She has received several university teaching awards and was named a College of Teaching Excellence Faculty Fellow for 2017-18. She is currently serving as a member of the STP Presidential Task Force on Re-Envisioning Introductory Psychology.
You can find her at several places online. Her class has social media accounts: twitter & instagram (@psychwithdrc) and FB (Psych with Dr. C.), or she also has a personal twitter (@jenelcavazos).