Productivity Tips for Global Higher Education 

By Aaron Andersen & Tim Munnerlyn
Aaron Andersen                        Tim Munnerlyn
Univ. of British Columbia          Amer. Comm. School – Abu Dhabi

These days, everyone is talking about ways to improve productivity and increase efficiency, but how does it all relate to YOUR JOB? Here are nine tips that can get you working more efficiently, in the college or high school office. For more tips check out the session download available at the conference resource page. 

1. Create a giant visual calendar and cross off each day you complete your chosen task. 

Daily action builds habits. It gives you practice and will make you an expert in a short time. Select a task that you want to complete for a period of time, and do it once every day.  Put a big ‘X’ on that day.  After a few days you’ll have a chain of ‘X’s. Don’t break the chain, you'll start to spot opportunities you otherwise wouldn't. Each day’s small accomplishment accumulates into a large accomplishment.

2. Clearly define office rules – And publish clearly.

Define office responsibilities and post for all to see in each office.  This will help students, parents, and other teachers.  And create efficiencies in your office.

3. Read college essays out loud

Have the kid read the essay to you aloud. You, and the student, often hear the essay differently than just reading it. Makes for a more didactic relationship.  Don’t stop at the student’s essay – read your next report, email to the director, or birthday greeting card out loud before you send it.

4. Offer a college or application kickoff session to complete difficult tasks

Have students complete Common App / Naviance Link together in a classroom session. Plus anything else that is hard to track students down for.  This extends beyond students.  Staff not completing reports or expenses? Need the team to focus energy on completing a major project or task?  Hold a group-work meeting, order muffins/sandwiches/wine: Bring everyone together and get group buy-in that all agree to work individually, in the same room, on a common task for a set period of time.  Focus group energy - - - Get it all done together. 

5. Schedule 45 minute meetings

Up to 43% of meeting time is wasted. Don’t be a slave to Outlook meeting defaults. Make 45 minutes the new standard.  Everyone will thank you.


6. Block off time for email. Ignore it the rest of the day

Set aside time each day to do email, then turn it off the rest of the day. Start with turning off all the notifications , both pop-up and sounds – humans are innately trained to respond to flashing lights.

7. Don’t have email for breakfast

Don’t open your email when you first get to the office.  Resist opening your InBox when you first turn on the computer, instead, complete an important task you want to complete that day.  You’ll be able to complete that task without distraction, and feel much better the rest of the day.

8. Use a packing list

Develop a packing list and take a photo. Use it every time you pack, and during your trip. If you are not sure about something, you don’t need it. Always update it each trip.

9. Learn how to use earplugs 

You don’t need $225 noise cancelling headphones. In the office or on the plane, earplugs can cancel up to 30db of noise, about the same or more as that expensive pair of Bose.  Block out the distractions, get better rest, live a silent productive life. But only if inserted properly. Watch this video.

What is a trick that you use in your daily office routine, travel tip, or life hack?  Something you see here that has worked here?  Please share in the comments !

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