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29 May 2015
Comments: 2

Why I Declared Email Bankruptcy… and 11 Tips for Reclaiming Your Inbox

As educators, we all have ideas and to do lists for what we would like to accomplish for summer. Beyond keeping my boys busy with 1,000+ apps, app-tivities, and educational crafts, I always have a “few” items on my own list I intend on completing (that many times I could either not complete during the school year or am trying to complete before the new school year to ensure a smooth run.)

Email Bankruptcy Pin

Now that I have set the stage for one of my to do’s… I will divulge a deep dark secret. Mine is that I am an email hoarder – avoider. I didn’t start out with this issue in 2007 (when I opened my Gmail account… my first personal email account after my AOL Mail account – I know you are judging me now) but slowly over the years, I signed up for more and more email subscriptions and newsletters and the task of unsubscribing to them all became overwhelming. In fact, the task of even sorting through the emails and filing and archiving them became insurmountable. I would grab a beverage and throw on a movie and plan to organize them and I would make it through 200-300 and feel no relief or sense of accomplishment as I knew there were 4,000 still awaiting my review.

No Choice But Email Bankruptcy

What Prompted You to Take the Plunge?

Everyone has a defining moment – a turning point if you will. While I would make excuses for my delayed responses and missed emails and felt inept when my husband asked me, “didn’t you get that email I forwarded you?”, I still held firm that I could eventually dig myself out of the email quick sand. Yesterday I found out that my boys’ principal is leaving the district and I immediately felt distraught – she is amazing. How did I now know about this? So I texted Carl Hooker to ask him about it? And he kindly told me that that email was sent out nine days ago. I mentioned that I had 8,000 unread emails (most unactionable) and he said “delete them”… he called it “email bankruptcy“.

“What? Delete them? Can I actually do that? Do I have permission to do that? Why has the idea never crossed my mind?” – Lisa Johnson

The idea stuck with me and felt liberating just to think about. I know I would be admitting defeat – that the great big email monster had conquered one more innocent victim. But somehow there was relief in starting over and employing new organizational and discriminating tactics that clearly I did not have in my arsenal in 2007.

Pros And Cons of Email Bankruptcy

So naturally before making the decision, I created a pros and cons list. The pros were way ahead of the cons I could think of at the time.

Email Bankruptcy Pros Cons

My mind was racing with anticipation. I thought about my closet.

“Could one function with a closet they couldn’t walk in to? One that gave them anxiety every time they opened the doors? Bursting with clothes they couldn’t find? Thousands of clothes they hadn’t worn in years? ” – Lisa Johnson

The answer was was clear. I keep a very organized closet and I go through clothes every few months and even sort them in to categories with ease (e.g. summer clothes, winter clothes, work clothes, casual clothes)… so why couldn’t I apply these principles to other parts of my life?

Before taking the plunge I posted my Pro/Con list and my quandary to both my personal Facebook and my TechChef one and was met with an overwhelming positive response:

  • “There is nothing in that inbox that is required for life” – Stephanie Wallace
  • “Archive Everything! Let it go!!! Let it go!! If you let go and it needed a response, people will email you again.” – Rafranz Davis
  • “You can also just delete chunks. Like delete everything over 6 months, then when you realize you are going to live, go to 4 months, then 2 months…” – Renee Hooker

So, I pondered it for the next twelve hours. I didn’t want to act too soon but I also know if I wasn’t proactive, I might get cold feet. I even did some research:

And then I took the plunge… and archived it below to support others that might also be on the verge of this life-changing decision.

11 Steps to Email Bankruptcy

Declaring Email Bankruptcy

Yes, I ultimately admit defeat but I also vow to never let it happen again. As some of you might be in my shoes… I thought I would share my process:

Vacation Responder

  • Set Up a Vacation Setting: I did this to notify people of what I was doing as well as to provide alternate ways to communicate with me that might be more effective and even efficient. My intent is to only leave the vacation responder on for 2-4 weeks so people know I am going through a transitional period.
  • Make a List: Make a list of any actionable emails that are still on your docket. Typically ones that haven’t been answered in the past week or so and make it a priority to answer them before the bankruptcy day.
  • Remove All Labels: I Removed All labels. I was a label hoarder (e.g. I had over 30 labels –  one for every district I worked with and sometimes one for each app developer). I was like that kid that put a different label on every document rather than sorting them into overarching simplistic labels. So first I deleted all of my labels.
  • Streamline Labels: Next, I streamlined my labels into the categories I receive email in most (e.g. Personal, TechChef4u, and TechChef4u Receipts). Personal is anything from my family and school-related to my boys. TechChef4u is anything involving my blog or communications and TechChef4u Receipts are any online purchase I have made relating to the business.
  • Limit Yourself to 2-3 Stars: I go star and label happy and then I never know what they mean when I mark them on an email so I forced myself to just choose two.
  • Set a Filter for Promotional Emails: So as I mentioned I have signed up for several accounts over the years (e.g. Shutterfly, Picaboo, Starbucks, Groupon, etc…) and I actually want to receive these emails but realistically I don’t have time to review them and they tend to be very distracting… So I set a filter for these types of emails to be directly archived in to my “Email Bankruptcy” folder. If I want to look for a sale or have a little money burning in my pocket, then I can open this folder up… but at least now I want be hammered with sales on books, Groupon deals, and what new item Starbucks has decided to add to the menu for summer.
  • Delete All Drafts: I wanted to start simple and dip my toe in this process so deleting all drafts made the most sense. Clearly, if I haven’t sent the email by now, I am never going to.
  • Delete All Spam Forever: This felt good! I did it one fell swoop.
  • Disable Labs: I had multiple labs that were cluttering my workspace and were entirely distracting. Less is more so I disabled any labs or widgets that I felt took away from my productivity at large.
  • Change Email Notifications: I use several apps and services like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn,, etc… that send me notifications when someone tags me or comments on something I write. While this info is helpful, it oftentimes distracts me from the task of actually answering emails when I am in my inbox. So I made sure to turn off those notifications as the comments will still be available within Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc when I log in to those accounts.
  • Change Theme: This was the final step before I took the plunge – kind of like getting a hair cut after a break up. I changed the theme to a custom background to celebrate my acknowledgement of failure and resolve to move past it.

Email Bankruptcy Loading

Once this was complete, there was nothing to do but delete. Well, I wasn’t quite ready for that just yet. I opted for the “put all of those clothes you don’t wear in a box and put them in the attic and/or garage and then give away anything you don’t need or access in the next 6 months to a year.”

No New Mail

I felt liberating. I selected ALL, labeled them with “Email Bankruptcy” and archived the whole lot of them. Strangely, my 8,438 was actually 14,725 but tis no matter. There is no reason that I should be using 7.42 GB of my 15 GB storage cap in my Gmail account. Anything that I most likely needed was either already downloaded from the attachments or curated somewhere else as a link.

How Do You Feel?

I do say I feel lighter. I know that is strange… but I do. I will tell you that I keep refreshing my inbox like a school girl that picks up the phone to see if it is still working or if anyone has called. Other than that, I feel pretty good but only time will tell 😉

I am hoping that this will be a fresh start but know that I have to make changes as well:

  • Cancel Subscriptions: As subscriptions roll in, I am unsubscribing from most of them.
  • Better Organization: I am hoping that the streamlined labelling and star system will help me quickly navigate through incoming emails. My hope is for improved productivity and communication.

Please Share… If you or someone you know suffers from email avoidance or email hoarder syndrome, know that this is a serious and real condition but there is treatment and support. No, but seriously, if this can help others realize they aren’t alone and they can reclaim their productivity and inbox… then I have succeeded in my mission. Also, if you or someone you know is a serious 0 inboxer, I would love to hear tips and strategies for this process.


Email Bankruptcy and Inbox 0 are just two strategies that relate to a much bigger picture. This is a board I have been working on secretly… and just made public.

“I realize that in ED Tech many times it is about troubleshooting and professional development… and sometimes we forget to educate the whole teacher… including skills for productivity and organization and overall general well being that can come from appropriate use of technology…” – Lisa Johnson

So without further ado… I bring you my Life Hacking Secrets to Success board that I will continue to update with topics like creativity, stress-management, people skills, tips for organization and much more…

Secrets to Success



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Cooking Up Keynote

***Where Will TechChef Be Next?***

Miami Device PD Recap (used with Evernote) #TechChef4u #iPad #Evernote-2 copy

Contact TechChef4u to schedule Fall and Summer PD and Workshops: or request booking here.

27 May 2015
Comments: 3


I often ask myself this same question. While I do work most of June, July and much of August is spent with my two boys, age 6 and 8. If you have boys, then you know that you have to keep them busy and many times plan activities and games in advance. So thinking forward to this summer… I have started curating and preparing a few resources to support those of you that are home with your little darlings too…

1000 Summer Activities

What Can We Do with the iPad?

Many of us have iPads and rather than letting brain drain set in with Angry Birds Transformers, I have compiled a few resources to support you. Don’t get me wrong… I don’t think you have to practice sight words and multiplication tables all summer long either… but choosing times to create something with your child or expose them to critical thinking and coding apps in a 1:1 relaxed setting goes a long way to making the summer a cool experience for both of you:

Common Sense Media Summer Learning Apps

Now this section truly deserves its own bulleted list because it is out of this world. Augmented Reality is such a delightful and intriguing past time… here are some Augmented Reality resources to try at home:

Augmented Reality Books, Puzzles, and Toys

What Can We Do without the iPad?

I have said it before and I will say it again… not everything has to be done on the iPad… so… I have curated 500+ Educational Crafts and Experiments for you…

500+ Educational Crafts on Pinterest

I also happed on this board of 1,500 Science Activities for Kids that is most epic indeed.

Graphic Novels for Learning: And if you like summer reading but you want to get a leg up on some of the more important themes and topics your students will encounter… I have curated 100+ Graphic Novels for Learning, which are essentially graphic novel versions of books they will most likely read in school.

What Can I Do to Destress?

I don’t know about you… but planning all of these activities and bouncing around all day with my boys can be quite exhausting… so sometimes I need to destress. A popular trend for this is coloring therapy. Now I don’t mean grab the nearest Elmo or Frozen Coloring Book or grab a table at Macaroni Grill… I mean Adult Coloring books. I am a little obsessed with these as you can well see. I have even curated 80+ examples so you don’t have to go hunt them down on Amazon. My favorites were the Cool Cats, Steampunk Designs, and Unicorns are Jerks. 😉 

Adult Coloring 2_BeFunky blog

Hope these resources help you cook up a recipe for learning and fun this summer. If you have found other resources in these categories, please include them in the comments section. The TechChef would love to hear from you!



TechChef Techucation Gazette: Sign up to receive future issues of the monthly e-Newsletter: There are many more learning app-ortunities and professional development toolkits to come. If you don’t want to miss a morsel of this techucation feast, sign up today.

Cooking Up Keynote

***Where Will TechChef Be Next?***

Miami Device PD Recap (used with Evernote) #TechChef4u #iPad #Evernote-2 copy

Contact TechChef4u to schedule Fall and Summer PD and Workshops: or request booking here.

20 May 2015
Comments: 0

The Do’s and Don’ts of Slide Design for Students

I have spent most of educational technology career supporting secondary students. Projects and Presentations are always a plenty… but what I noticed is typically students have great presentations and poor content or great content and poor presentations.

“Rarely, are students able to deliver a compelling message in a visually stimulating and engaging way with purposeful use of media and graphics.” – Lisa Johnson

So… being Type A, a perfectionist, and someone that relies on visuals to communicate… I went a googling in order to create a comprehensive guide (and yes, I also staged a few Lego Minifigure pics in my back yard for emphasis too.)

3 Teacher Wishes for Slide Design

I’m Ravenous for Research… What Resources Do You Have For Me?

While I found several excellent articles, I didn’t want to share a list of articles and resources with students and teachers. That would be overwhelming at best and neither party has time to dig through each resource and make sense of it at this time of year (or frankly… at any time of year).

80+ Slide Design Tips and Resources


So, I combed through the 80+ articles, slide decks, and infographics curated above and condensed them in to one infographic with 7 distinct categories. My favorite resources I gleaned were:

After perusing the slide decks on presentation savvy… it became abundantly clear that it is not PPT or Keynote that is the problem… but the lack of slide design and visual acumen that plagues presentations… so I took the best tips and ideas from the pros and created a menu of Do’s and Don’ts for students and teachers alike.

Dos and Don'ts of Slide Design

What Have You Cooked Up For Us Today?

So naturally… I decided to put an end to the drama and support the visual literacy cause with the infographic below (offered as a FREE PDF download). I spent countless hours dissecting the 80+ slide decks, articles, and infographics from the pros to curate the Ultimate Guide of “Do’s and Don’ts for Slide Design for Students” which addresses theme/template,  layout and slide design, use of images, visuals, video, color, text and font.

Slide Design for Students Infographic by Lisa Johnson

Translating the Resource: Yolanda Barker, my former colleague now stationed in Qatar, asked me if I would share the graphic so it could be translated in to different languages… in her case… Arabic. If this is an interest of yours as well, please email me and I would be more than happy to share the Canva design with you so you can translate it for your students and/or teachers.

What Does This Mean for Teachers?

While I ultimately designed this resource for students… I can tell you that everyone benefits from a clear and compelling message devoid of extraneous bullet points, wonky text formatting, and awkward stock templates… Truthfully, many of these design principles can be adapted to our emails and other communications as well… so…

“the next time you send out an email communication or prepare a handout or presentation… remember a dose of design goes a long way for readability and retention…” – Lisa Johnson

My new favorite blog, “The Visual Communication Guy” posted this  MUST READ article “Why Ugly Handouts Are Bad For Teachers (and everyone else)” which not only provides a rationale for basic editing principles but a fantastic before and after pic too.

Why Ugly Handouts Are Bad

Beyond the need for clear communication, providing students with opportunities to excel at media literacy ultimately prepares students for the labor force and beyond…

Stay Tuned for The TechChef Visual Design Summer Challenge

I didn’t learn and adopt visual design principles overnight… but I will say that I have come a long way from the original presentations I created 5+ years ago. If you are looking for a summer PD challenge, dig up one of your old or particularly bad PPT or Keynote presentations and stay tuned…



HAVE YOU SEEN THE LATEST TECHCHEF GAZETTE ISSUE? Preparing for Back to School and Beyond

TechChef Techucation Gazette: Sign up to receive future issues of the monthly e-Newsletter: There are many more learning app-ortunities and professional development toolkits to come. If you don’t want to miss a morsel of this techucation feast, sign up today.

Cooking Up Keynote

***Where Will TechChef Be Next?***

Miami Device PD Recap (used with Evernote) #TechChef4u #iPad #Evernote-2 copy

Contact TechChef4u to schedule Fall and Summer PD and Workshops: or request booking here.

06 May 2015
Comments: 10

The Complete EDU Guide to the Apple Watch

In my last post, I exposed “7 Benefits of the Apple Watch 4 U to Ponder”. One week later, I thought I would highlight 4 Unexpected Benefits and 10 Questions to Ponder…

Before I dive right in to the EDU portion of this post, I thought I would share some additional insight and benefits associated with the wearable technology.

Let it be known that I receive no kickbacks of any sort blogging about the Apple Watch and that I share my reflections freely and solely to provide the edusphere with insight into the product and the possible impact it may have in education… Let it also be known that I enjoy staging my own product shots with my collection of LEGO Minifigures (see the full collection here in this Flickr album).

#AppleWatch Blog Graphics #TechChef4u #iPad #iWatch (used with blog post)

4 Unexpected Benefits of the Apple Watch…

I have to admit I originally bought the Apple Watch due to my desire to be an early adopter and explorer… BUT I soon realized that my tech accessory was ticking with unexpected benefits…

  • Longer Life of iPhone Battery: While there have been multiple posts about an increased drain on the iPhone battery, I have experienced an inverse trend. I use the Apple Watch when I need to and have far less of a need to use my iPhone (which is great… as I recently dropped it like an irresponsible teenager and the model I have also has a battery defect).
  • Less Distraction: I really thought more devices = more distraction BUT I actually found this to be quite the opposite. The Apple Watch provides quick pings and alerts so I feel connected but not distracted. I know that may sound strange but I liken it to the idea of having a work computer and a play computer. If you have two devices each devoted to a different focus than you tend to be less distracted when using that device for that purpose. I can tell you that my iPhone was super distracting. I would get a Twitter ping and then next thing I know it I would be checking my email and pinning.
  • Less Loss and Damage: As I mentioned above, I recently dropped my phone and cracked it. I can also tell you that I have misplaced it several times. As a female, I don’t typically have pockets and I don’t like carrying a purse so my iPhone is most likely in my hand or sitting on a flat surface close to me. The beauty of the watch is that it is an accessory that is attached to my wrist so the likelihood of loss or damage is greatly lessened and I am truly hands-free.
  • Fewer Missed Calls: We did away with a land line a few years ago so we really do rely on our cell phones. When I get home, I typically charge it in the kitchen or the bedroom and find myself sprinting to answer a call across the house. The ability to quickly answer calls right on my wrist saves me the occasional bashed knee cap.

Apple Watch Benefits_small

But you mentioned EDU questions to ponder, TechChef… you have me intrigued…

10 Apple Watch EDU Questions to Ponder…

With this new addition to wearable technology, comes a few intriguing questions.

  1. How Will Existing Apps Be Redesigned for the Smaller Screen? (See Article Here)
  2. How Will The Gaming Industry Design Apps for the Apple Watch? (See Article Here)
  3. Will The Length of Articles Evolve With the Smaller Screen Size? (See Article Here)
  4. What Should and Could You Do with an Apple Watch? (See Article Here: Not Appropriate for EDU but good read as it poses the question of which device is best suited for certain tasks. This Article highlights what you can do with the Apple Watch without your iPhone.)
  5. How Will the Apple Watch Be Implemented in Educational Settings? (See Article Here)
  6. What Factors Will Decide if the Apple Watch Will Triumph Google Glass? (See Article Here)
  7. What Kind Of Impact could the Apple Watch Have on People’s Health? (See Article Here)
  8. What Kind of Impact will the Apple Watch Have on Safety? (See Article Here)
  9. What Accessories Will be Designed to Support the Apple Watch? (See These Examples… Battery Straps, Unified Charging Docks, Customized Bands, Charging Dock Cases, etc…)
  10. How Will Apple Watch and Other Wearable Technologies Impact Marketing? (See Article Here)
  11. Bonus: How Kind of Impact Does Wearable Technology Have on Security? (See Article Here)

“Many students take part in maker labs, hours of code, and even write persuasive papers – these topics are very timely and interesting and if anyone can solve them or provide creative solutions for them… it is our mobile natives… the youth of today. “- Lisa Johnson

10 Apple Watch Questions

What Other Apple Watch EDU Goodies Do You Have For Us Today?

You know me oh too well… I do have a few goodies. With my slight obsession for the Apple Watch, I have happed upon a few wicked good resources. All of them are curated on my new “Apple Watch” Pinterest board

  • Clever Apple Watch Journaling: The clever Venspired on Instagram has been journaling her experiences with her new Apple Watch. I love that she recently mentioned the benefits of receiving notifications on her wrist during the movies. (The idea of advertorials and different types of writing and audiences is way to expand and strengthen our student’s writing portfolio. Journaling your experiences with a new device or even pedagogical method is such wonderful reflective learning process that obviously could be expanded to other topics beyond the Apple Watch.)

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 12.11.45 PM

Lego Watch 68

Apple Watch Dock

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 12.03.45 PM

  • Creative Musings: Many times we use setting to differentiate creative writing. For example, we take a Shakespeare play and set it in modern day New York. Consider a creative writing project that asks the question… “What If Shakespeare, Napoleon, or Lincoln Had an Apple Watch?” This idea of historical fiction infuses creative writing and critical thinking in an engaging way. Carl Hooker has a fantastic example of what this could look like in his post, “How Modern Technology Could Have Changed these Classic Movies”.

O Cursed Spite

Where Can I Learn More?

If you are a trend seeker or just interested in digging in deeper in to the impact wearable technology will have on education, you can follow my new “Apple Watch” Pinterest board that also includes user tips, research, and even more on accessibility. If you are a Twitter junkie like myself… then you can follow the #AppleWatch, #iWatch, #Wearables, #WearableTech, and #WearableTechnology

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 8.41.11 AM

HAVE YOU SEEN THE LATEST TECHCHEF GAZETTE ISSUE? Preparing for Back to School and Beyond

TechChef Techucation Gazette: Sign up to receive future issues of the monthly e-Newsletter: There are many more learning app-ortunities and professional development toolkits to come. If you don’t want to miss a morsel of this techucation feast, sign up today.

Where Will TechChef Be Next?

Miami Device PD Recap (used with Evernote) #TechChef4u #iPad #Evernote-2 copy

Contact TechChef4u to schedule Spring and Summer PD and Workshops: or request booking here.