Archive of ‘productivity’ category

on “lesson planning” a meeting

By Kristina

In addition to my math teaching, I also co-lead grade team meetings. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to make meetings more interactive and more useful for fellow staff. I sometimes feel awkward when meetings become talking “at” staff rather than active, working time where staff are engaged.

When I’m in a really good group exercise class, I sometimes think about the lesson planning that must have gone into it. In those really good group exercise classes, we’re spectators in that we are not conversing or verbally sharing ideas, but we are working our butts off. I think we’ve all had classes where we know we can phone it in because the instructor doesn’t vary the workouts, the energy in the room is low, or we don’t understand what we are supposed to be doing.

So how do we move the meetings away from spectating and more to doing?

From this article:

2. Keep meetings as small as possible.
Jobs had a disdain for meetings that had too many people. He wanted people to be working, not passively sitting in a boardroom. If people didn’t have a lot to contribute, they’re better off spending time somewhere else.

During a weekly meeting with Apple’s ad agency, Jobs surveyed the room and found someone that did not normally attend. After asking who she was, he curtly replied, “I don’t think we need you in this meeting” then went back to his agenda without skipping a beat. But he also applied this standard to himself when faced with overpopulated meetings. Invited by President Obama to a meeting with other tech luminaries, Jobs famously declined because he felt that the invitation list had grown too long.

He had zero tolerance for spectators, even if that spectator was himself. Everyone in the meeting has to be an essential participant who can add value.


no more bag lady: the Lo & Sons OMG

By Kristina

When I started teaching, I used to lug around a Precalculus teacher’s edition, a calculator, a pencil case, cell phone, wallet, keys, and folders full of grading in a North Face backpack. I often added a lunch bag and a gym bag. No wonder I was cranky…I was hauling way too much! I also looked like a high school kid with that backpack, so I upgraded to a more professional look with a black Lo & Sons OMG back in December 2011. That bag lasted through numerous work commutes, domestic travel, and international travel. This purchase helped put me on a bag diet: cutting down to one work bag + one lunch bag (a pink Whole Foods Medford soft-sided insulated bag).

Over the course of the past two+ years, wear and tear took a toll on my poor bag. First the shoulder strap gave out, followed by the zipper to the passport/wallet compartment. Those two things I could deal with since the bag has two straps and the compartment is covered by another zipper. However, when the shoe compartment zipper broke, that interfered with my gym-going. Luckily, the kind folk at Lo & Sons sent me a replacement bag after I explained what had gone wrong with my old one. I really appreciated that level of customer service!

What I Love About the Bag
– The classic look. It’s sleek and simple. It looks at home on a business trip, on vacation, and at the gym.
– The durability. Boston weather does not play. Unexpected rain or snow can wreck all of one’s papers and books in a bag that is leather, canvas, or open-top (not to mention that it can wreck the bag). This bag can also stand up to being used as a gym bag.
– The sleeve for placing the bag on top of one’s rolly cart when traveling. It makes running through the airport much easier.
– The key holder. I like not having to dig around for my keys, especially when I’m hauling groceries or other things.
– The shoe compartment. This is a godsend for keeping gym shoes or sweaty gym clothes separate from everything else in your bag.
– The pockets. There’s a place for your phone, your pens, your wallet, your laptop, and your papers.

The Laptop Caveat
I have never understood how people can carry laptops in thin-strapped shoulder bags or totes such as the Longchamp Le Pliage or Louis Vuitton Neverfull. I thought that the Lo & Sons OMG might finally make the “easy breezy shoulder bag for laptop” functionality happen for me, but no such luck. I’ve carried my 13″ MacBook Pro or my 13″ work MacBook in my Lo & Sons OMG, and it’s so uncomfortable if I have to carry it on a T commute rather than driving somewhere. If using the OMG, I prefer to carry no electronics heavier than my iPad (sticking to my Wheelmen & Company Babylon backpack for laptops).


What’s in My Bag
This is what it looks like for a work day followed by a spin class.
Truffle case with iPhone charger, pens, headphones, tic tacs, hand sanitizer, extra contact lenses, and lip balm. I adore these cases now. Though the OMG has many pockets, I like being able to see through the clear plastic of the Truffle cases and move my stuff from OMG to backpack if needed.
– wallet (with cell phone pocket)
– keys on a KeySmart and UVA lanyard. I keep just the KeySmart in my pants pocket (on lanyard if wearing a dress) so that I can keep my bag, wallet, and phone locked up in a cabinet when at school.
– card case with all my membership, loyalty, and punch cards
– *one* folder with school work (not pictured)
– iPad (if doing any lesson planning via Evernote after school)
– Moleskine (Squared Notebook) Bullet Journal + a Uni-ball Signo 207 gel pen (influence of Louis from Suits + my fiance) + a pink pen for grading
bkr water bottle
– gym clothes (tank, sports bra, crops, socks) + extra change of clothes
spin shoes
Truffle case with shower stuff + makeup

Other Things for Non-Spin Days
Those spin shoes take up a lot of precious bag space. If I’m going to Btone, I only need a gym outfit and if going to Exhale or Pure Barre, I only need a pair of barre socks. That makes more room for my lunch bag, my various knitting projects, or books.

I would definitely recommend the OMG (or its slightly larger cousin the OG) for fellow T-commuting, gym-going teachers. It is pricey for a teacher budget, but that ends up being worth it when calculating cost per use, considering the quality of the bags, and considering their functionality/organization. These bags will last through the long haul, and Lo & Sons also provides impeccable customer service if your bag does happen to break. I’ll stand by my splurging philosophy on good teaching shoes and good teaching bags!

Check out Lo & Sons!
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Self Control

By Kristina

I may be tardy to the party, but I must share my love for Self Control, which blocks you from websites of your choosing for a time period of your choosing.

Goodbye for now, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Bloglovin.


january THP recap

By Kristina

How’d I do?

January’s Happiness Project:
Go to sleep earlier.
Exercise better.
Toss, restore, organize.
Tackle a nagging task.
Act more energetic.

Go to sleep earlier
– I ended up not using the cute vintage alarm clock that I bought because my fiance made some DIY adaptations to our nightstands. He added small reading lamps (not seen in the picture) and drilled holes in the sides of the nightstand so that our phone chargers could be hidden in the shallow drawers instead of being on top of the nightstands. I found that this helped me fight the temptation to look at my phone at night. I am also proud to say that I have resisted downloading the latest viral game, FlappyBird.

photo (5)

– The sleep mask is great. I have been using the pink one so far, a la Blair Waldorf. I like it a lot; it also serves as a deterrent to getting up and reading emails or playing phone games. My Jawbone Up also tracked my sleep, so I was able to look at my sleep data and see a more concrete connection between less sleep and crankiness.

Blair-Waldorf-sleep-maskPhoto Credit: Real Style Network

Exercise better
– Overall, using my Jawbone Up helped me streamline my exercise. Instead of focusing on making it to more classes, I aimed to add more walking during the day through walks to and from the T, errand walks, and walking in the school.
– Using MyFitnessPal and Withings helped so much in assessing trends and making small but effective changes to my food and exercise choices. I don’t want to fall into the self-destructive habit of focusing only on calorie counts and the weight on the scale, so I may back off the tracking a bit in the coming months. I am happy to be better informed about the calories and nutrients in various foods. I definitely incorporate more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and have developed consistent habits for making breakfast, packing lunch, and stocking my kitchen to be able to cook quick + healthy dinners.

Toss, restore, organize
– I only did one major scanning and shredding session, and didn’t rip a single DVD. However, I feel way more organized in the kitchen and with my routines (packing lunch, preparing outfits and bag the night before, cooking dinner).

Tackle a nagging task
– Loving the Bullet Journal now! I carry it in my purse and like its simplicity. I’m still using Evernote to collect ideas.
– I started the month banning myself from going on personal email or gchat until I finished the lesson plan for the next day. I started to slack on this at the end of the month so I’m going to refocus on it now.

Act more energetic
– This has impacted my teaching and running of meetings. Instead of focusing on having the perfect lesson plans or project ideas, I channel more energy into assessing and reacting to how my students are handling the material. More patience and a calm demeanor pay off way more than snazzy technology piloted by CrankyMe. I also am focusing on being more patient in team leading and IB coordinating, and the atmosphere just *feels* better.

prioritize tasks

By Kristina

Last Wednesday, I kept putting off turning my unit test (version A & version B) into computerized versions in Word. It was easy to pick out example IB exam questions and modify them by hand, but the process of writing out symbolic form for different types of compound propositions (and, or, etc) and making truth tables seemed like such a pain to me. So I kept working on other items for the following faculty meetings instead of finishing the tests first.

12:45 p.m. – 1:15 p.m. Grade Team Meeting
1:15 p.m. – 2:20 p.m. Math Team Meeting
2:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. IB Coordinator Meeting with Generation Citizen

However, I didn’t leave any room in the schedule for transitions or unexpected changes. It ended up looking more like this:

12:46 p.m. – 1:25 p.m. because we started one minute later and had extra announcements from the nurse and myself
1:35 p.m. – 2:20 p.m. because it took ten minutes to get over to our other building and then get in because we were locked out
2:35 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. because we had to find all the headmasters and guests, and then it ran later than 30 minutes

And that’s why I ended taking my laptop to my 4:15 p.m. Pure Barre class and typing a test before class started, then finishing it at Starbucks after class.

It pays to tackle the most challenging tasks first.

evernote + google spreadsheet = reimbursement

By Kristina

After coaching debate, advising prom, and coaching Running Club, I’ve streamlined my reimbursement documentation and submission to make it easier for me, for the Boston Debate League, our school secretary, and anyone else I might need to get reimbursements from.

1) Create Evernote notebook for your receipts.
2) For each receipt, take a photo of receipt in a note using the app on your smartphone.
3) Title Note with “Description – Date – Amount”

Screen shot 2014-02-01 at 8.34.42 PM
4) Log the receipt amounts in a Google spreadsheet
5) Link to the Evernote notebook in the Google spreadsheet

Screen shot 2014-02-01 at 8.33.00 PM

6) Share the spreadsheet.
I set it so that anyone who has the link can view and then link to it in an email. Voila!
Screen shot 2014-02-01 at 8.36.28 PM

the play list

By Kristina

My friend Rebecca posted this great article on Facebook the other day. I like this “play list” idea for my overarching resolution theme of: “use time meaningfully.” I have often overscheduled my calendar, even back when I used a paper planner. I wanted to fill every blank space with an activity so that I’d feel accomplished, and I didn’t realize that I should allow buffer time between activities and rest time for recharging. I still overestimate how much running or barre I can do. I schedule out a ton of workouts and then realize that I have to cancel them.


Create a play list. Write down three activities you could do for hours on end. Mine are reading, editing photos on my computer and playing Ping-Pong with my family.

Now carve out time on your calendar. Even when I’m busiest, I schedule unstructured time. It’s important to protect playtime the way you protect work, church or PTA meetings.

Play well with others. When my husband and kids made their own play lists, we realized that our usual vacations, which involved sightseeing, weren’t really anyone’s idea of play. So now we go places where we can hike, swim and play cards—things that make us all our most silly, creative and free-spirited selves.”

My Play List

1) Reading.
Library books (physical ones or downloaded to the iPad via Overdrive).

2) Doing jigsaw puzzles.
Some of my favorite vacations have been New Hampshire cabin “staycations” with my fiance. We buy lots of food, drink, and firewood for the staycations and spend most of our time doing a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle next to a roaring fire with our latest tv series of interest (e.g., House of Cards, Scandal) on in the background.

3) Knitting. 
I don’t know how to knit well enough to make a project yet, but I imagine that my love for jigsaw puzzles will transfer over to knitting. After I take a basics class and develop some skills, I’ll happily make scarves, coffee cozies, and mason jar cozies!

toss/restore/organize: the emails

By Kristina

Screen shot 2014-01-02 at 3.12.01 PM

After seeing several Facebook friends posting about, I gave it a shot. I’d already started using Scoop to gather all my subscription emails so I could have a cleaner inbox, but I ended up deleting most of them anyway (and sometimes missed important emails that got scooped). I’ve “unrolled” my main Gmail and my junk Gmail, and am now going through the newsletters that still somehow make it through to unsubscribe individually. It feels good to have a streamlined inbox!


happiness project: it’s so hard to let go of the #FOMO

By Kristina

giselejump @giseleofficial jumping on the Commonwealth Avenue Mall

It being school vacation, I decided to cancel my 8:20 a.m. Pure Barre class in favor of sleeping in and making some French press coffee before the 10:40 a.m. class. Upon arrival, I ran into one of my favorite teachers at the front desk. She said “guess who you just missed?” I thought it was another Pure Barre buddy who had just left the 9:30 class, but no…it was supermodel Gisele Bundchen in the 8:20 a.m. class!

I wondered immediately if it was already on Facebook (it is, posted by several lucky classgoers to the teacher’s timeline)…but it’s not like having Facebook on my phone would have gotten me any closer to the supermodeliciousness that is Gisele.

I will be hauling my behind to Pure Barre tomorrow in hopes of a celebrity spotting!

let’s knit

By Kristina

Before my trip to China, Thailand, and Korea last summer, I asked my friend Josie to teach me how to knit. I wanted to She’s a self-taught knitter who can probably knit an awesome cowl during an episode of Scandal. She also teaches 8th graders, so I knew she’d have patience with me! We met at Gather Here in Cambridge to pick out some yarn and needles. I picked out some lovely pink and orange yarn and a pair of bamboo needles. We then sat down to knit at Dwelltime. Josie taught me how to cast on, then had me practice it several times while she watched and helped me correct my technique. She then taught me the knit stitch and purl stitch. I realized that I should have picked up some larger needles and thicker yarn, because I kept making mistakes with the more delicate pink yarn. Josie lent me the thick gray yarn that she’d brought to demonstrate with, and it was much easier to work with and develop a knitting groove! I appreciated that she also helped me fix my knitting when I dropped a stitch or somehow got into a mess. That’s where I can’t be a self-taught YouTube learner; I need a teacher’s attention to help me fix mistakes.

A few days later, I picked up some thicker yarn and another pair of needles at Michael’s (pro tip: there’s a teacher discount) and brought them on the plane with me. This was pre-“lifting of the electronics at takeoff” ban, so my fiance was a bit jealous that I could stay happily busy while he couldn’t turn his iPad or laptop on. He also knitted several rows–he’d learned in 7th grade and never forgot! During our flights, I ended up knitting a somewhat lopsided rectangle. I’d forgotten how to purl so I did all knit stitch, and didn’t feel confident in dealing with dropped stitches. I also didn’t know how to bind off, so the rectangle still sits on its needle (and got paraded around by me to some girlfriends at our New Year’s Eve party).

In keeping with my Happiness Project single-tasking and removing of mindless apps, I would like to develop my knitting habit further. Instead of just focusing on the “don’t” aspect of removing the apps, I’m aiming to purse more positive and productive activities. My first goal: knit a coffee cozy.

My friend Rebecca posted this great article about developing sustained success. It emphasizes deciding the type of person you want to be and proving it to yourself with small wins. So instead of starting with a huge blanket or a complicated infinity scarf, I’m going to start with this simple pattern and leverage the support of skilled knitting friends.

coffeecozybeginner Photo Credit: Whirly Bird Blog

I would like to graduate to these cool cable knit patterns next.

Fotor0102141354Gray: Maru Wool on Etsy Pink: Wayside Violet on Etsy Yellow: Heather Rhoads on Ravelry

A LivingSocial deal for Stitch House in Dorchester appeared in my email today, but I opted not to do it. I’ve been interested in going to Stitch House for a while, but I also realized that I need to set myself up for success by making it almost idiot-proof to get to knitting class. I could just see myself wasting the LivingSocial deal because of the distance from home on weekends or being tired after work on the weekdays. I signed up for a Gather Here knitting basics class on January 29 and will be planning a knitting party with girlfriends shortly after!

1 2