24 Aug 2020
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Home Room EDU

I guess if you aren’t going to write a blog post for seven months… the next one should hopefully be hecka awesome (yes, pun intended). Journaling is something that has helped me get through these unprecedented times and bring some calm to the otherwise chaos that is. Sometimes I would write a list or a bit of gratitude. Other times a doodle. In May, I partnered with DBC Inc and launched my first ever Quarantine Journaling event with a journal prompt for every day and a # to post to. It was an amazing reaffirmation at the power journaling has to unite people, bring out their creativity, and stir up joy and thoughtful conversations. It went so well, that I wanted people to have a way to keep all of their day’s journal entries all in one spot so I did a guest post on Shake Up Learning and created a photo journal prompt template in Keynote and Google Slides

How it Came to Be

Flash forward to today and beyond all of the rambling… Carrie Baughcum and I have been hard at work to offer something like the quarantine journaling challenge again… but with a twist. One twist is that we are providing the journaling elements and the other is that there is a bit more structure to the journaling process as we wanted to make it even more accessible to students and educators. 

What It Actually Entails

As you know, I don’t like to leave you without the information that you might need so here goes:

  • Multi-week: This passion project encompasses five weeks of activities. Each week focuses on something slightly different (e.g. get to know you, goal-setting, self care/self regulation, time management/organization, learning mascots, and more).
  • Multiple Avenues: As we weren’t sure of everyone’s current reality and we wanted to meet the needs of a variety of learners, there is both an analog and a Google Slides version. So one could easily print these resources and use them in an analog journal or with an app like Notability or GoodNotes OR if one is fully digital, then Google Slides would work for that.
  • Many Ways: The cool thing about having these doodles is that it supports dual coding – using text and visuals AND these visuals are simple enough to be used to represent many different things (e.g. literal and figurative). 
  • Managing Directions: Each week reveals a new set of slides, doodles, and prompts. Each slide deck is organized with our bio info (if you want to reach out and/or tag us with some examples), step by step directions for each doodle/journal pack, and lots of visuals to get you started.

All five weeks are now packaged and available for download.

Week #1: Getting To Know You  Week 1 PDF | Week 1 Google Slides

Week #2: Goal Setting Week 2 PDF | Week 2 Google Slides

Week #3Self-Care and Self Regulation  Week 3 PDF | Week 3 Google Slides

Week #4: Organization and Time Management:  Week 4 PDF | Week 4 Google Slides

Week #5: Learning Mascots: Week 5 PDF | Week 5 Google Slides

A Little Extra

As you also know, I always love to leave you with at least one more thing… so…

Please know that this is a passion project and also a first attempt at doing something like this, so if you have thoughts and feelings about how to make it better, please reach out to either one of us. 😉


I should also mention that I have lots of additional FREE trackers and templates that could be used digitally, printed, and/or put in a journal. They can be found in the Creatively Productive Digital Downloads Doc Locker. Just sign up using the form below and you will receive a link shortly with a secret link to the site and password to nab your freebies.

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15 Sep 2019
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12 Time Management Tools for Students

Time Management is by far one of my favorite topics to discuss. I have always been fascinated with lists, life hacks, and productivity processes but over the past few years, I have really noticed that this is a skill that students desperately need support with as well. That’s why I felt so adamant and passionate about adding it as a whole chapter in my latest book, Creatively Productive. When I was asked to put together a session for students this year, I was elated for two reasons. One because I love talking about this topic and two because I love working with students.

As you know, I love curating resources as well as creating templates and goodies so I thought I would spend the rest of this blog post doing a bit of both.

Why is Time Management Important?

I always like to start with the Why. Before I put together any additional resources, I did a little more research and discovered two recent studies that both cited Time Management as one of the top 5 soft skills.

What is Time Management?

After I set the case for Time Management, I think it is important to define it, so we talk about all of the different skills and processes that are impacted by and/or are directly related to time management using this awesome article here. Some of the biggest take-aways are the ability to goal-set, prioritize, break down tasks, really know yourself, and audit and readjust.

Another fun activity is to take a quick quiz to get a feel for how one’s current time management skills measure up. Here are a few of my favorites:

What Tips and Tools Do You have for Time Management?

Tips and tools are really important as everyone schedules their time differently, so we talked about batching tasks (e.g. categorizing and grouping similar types of tasks… researching, creating, phone calls, social media rather than switching from individual task to task), and time blocking (e.g . blocking out time ahead of time to complete a task or project at a certain time of day). From there we dove into analog and digital tools.

  • Time Blocking: Time blocking is really just being aware of what needs to be done, how long you think it might take, and when in your day you will have the most energy to complete certain tasks and planning your calendar accordingly. Also, see “Time Blocking 101” and “Become a Timeblocking Champ with these Practices”.
  • Batching Tasks: Batching tasks is the idea that you take similar tasks and group them together rather than switch from one task to another. For me, I try to bundle all of my creative tasks in one chunk of time, my email in another, phone calls in yet another so I am not switching in between tasks randomly. It isn’t always possible but it is great to be at least be mindful about how your focus may drain throughout the day and plan accordingly. “How to Batch Tasks with Google Calendar to Increase Focus and Productivity”.
Digital Tools

Not gonna lie, y’all… I am more of an analog person when it comes to do lists and planners and such. I use a pairing of Google Calendar and a Passion Planner. That being said… I would never dictate or assume that one tool or type of tool is the best fit for everyone so I tend to share a variety of both analog and digital tools with students and suggest they explore, test them out, and decide what works best for them.

  1. Google Calendar: For this, we talk about time blocking and using Google calendar to set reminders (e.g. 2 days before a project is due, 1 day before a quiz, etc…)
  2. Wunderlist (now Microsoft To Do): This one is great as you can create folders, lists, star items, add sub tasks, create reminders, and add images and files.
  3. Google Keep: Google Keep is fantastic as you can label and color code notes, add drawings, have paper backgrounds (e.g. blank, square, dots, ruled), create checkboxes, utilize speech to text, and even convert images of text into text using OCR technology.
  4. Screen Time: iOS 12 released Screen Time. While this is not a to do list tool, it is great for students that need to set downtime and manage their distractions throughout the day.
  5. Forest: This is the only paid one in the list. It is like a gamified version of Screen Time. You set a timer to stay off of your phone and while you do, your tree or foliage grows. If you fail, the tree dies. If you succeed, you start building a forest. There is some altruism built into this too which I love.
  6. Self Control: I used this during my 30 Day Social Media Detox but it is really great to use anytime you just need to focus and you don’t want to rely on your own dwindling self control.
  7. Stay Focused: This is a Google Chrome Extension that works similarly to Self Control.
Analog Tools

I am a planner girl all the way. I use a blend of a bullet journal, planner, and reader’s notebook and I love exploring analog options… mainly because they force me into an environment in which I find less distractions and more focus … and somewhat because I love my Sharpie fine tip pens and washi tape. All of these ideas are shared in the time management chapter of Creatively Productive in greater detail but I wanted to summarize them here as well.

  1. Productivity Bingo: This is one of my favorites. The original idea is from lalalauren.creates. It is a gamified to do list where one places their tasks in squares and rewards oneself when they bingo. Her example here shows how you can break tasks into subtasks as well. Here is a student example and one of my examples here and one more here.
  2. MindMapped To Do Lists: Many times I need to either batch tasks by focus (e.g. creating, troubleshooting, planning, etc…) and/or include subtasks. This is a way for me to do that. (Example linked here and here).
  3. Things To Do Weekly Planner Template: This is one of my favorites. As you know, I love planners. Some of our students have them and others would prefer something simple and targeted to them so I created the custom template below. The front is fairly self-explanatory. The back includes a month display and a list of questions to support students with mindful planning. (FREE download can be found below in CP Digital Doc Locker).
  4. Project Planner: This is an idea I adapted from one of my teachers. It is really used to teach students to break down tasks and plan accordingly when they are assigned a group project. (FREE download can be found below in CP Digital Doc Locker).
  5. Time Management Forms: These have been adapted from the examples in the Overloaded and Underprepared book. It is really a way to support students with looking at how they spend their time during the evening and on weekends, what their commitments are, and how much time that will leave them for homework, sleep, etc… We have been using these at the high school level for the past 3 years or so. (Example linked here).

I had several students ask for the slide deck and I have been asked to come into another one of our CTE courses and share this lesson this week so feeling like this content resonated with them. Would love your thoughts. If you do something like this, please email me at techchef4u@gmail.com to chat and/or post in the comments.


As you know, I am a firm believer that Students Need Professional Development too. Here are a few more blog posts that detail topics and tips I share with students:


Oh, OMT… The Things to Do template and Project Planning Guide and lots more digital downloads and goodies can be found in the Creatively Productive Digital Downloads Doc Locker. Just sign up using the form below and you will receive a link shortly with a secret link to the site and password to nab your freebies.

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13 May 2019
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8 Lessons Learned From a 30 Day Social Media Detox

Well, I’m back after my 30 Day Social Media Detox. I have totally figured out my mission, have achieved work life balance, and discovered an infinite fountain of positivity and self compassion. If this sounds a little too good to be true, that’s because it is. In reality, a 30 Day Social Media Detox is not meant to solve every problem… more to allow you to go back to ground zero and really take a look at what role(s) social media plays in your life.

Since, it is May and Mental Health Awareness, I am going to be 40 this year, and because I think full transparency is necessary for authenticity and to help others. I struggle. I struggle with work life balance. I struggle with anxiety and depression. I struggle with balancing being a mom, wife, and full time educator with being an author, finding time to blog, and to share ideas with the greater edusphere. I struggle with self-worth and I don’t give myself nearly enough grace and self-compassion. Before the social media detox, I had pretty much done away with all personal social media and really only use social media in a professional capacity… to network, to learn and be inspired by others, and to share my own ideas and what I am doing.

I can also tell you that the hardest part of a 30 Day Social Media Detox is not doing it… it is coming back. Honestly, it was easy giving it up for 30 days. I regained easily 6-8 hours a week that I was spending consuming and crafting content. And it was easy to not watch everyone’s highlight reel play out in several feeds and then feel badly about myself, and the quality and/or quantity of what I do. So what now? What is the magic answer? Honestly, there isn’t one magic answer. Some people can spend hours connecting online and sharing with others. For some it energizes them. For others, while they love doing it and find purpose and value in it, it can be draining.

While I don’t have the perfect answer, I do know there are 3 things that matter to me most: 1) Alone Time: for me, I have to be alone with my thoughts from time to time. 2) Creating: I have always loved to create and this is how I make sense of things and share ideas worth implementing with my audience. 3) Respect: I truly want to create, communicate, and curate with respect and hopefully have people respect my narrative and the authenticity that it entails.

So, while I have made most of this blog post about me, I want to share some things I feel like will be useful for you. But before I do that, I want to be clear. These are my personal opinions and experiences. And everyone is different so some ideas may resonate with you and some may not… and that is totally okay. When I wrote Creatively Productive, I was clear that the strategies I shared were just that… strategies… not one size fits all magic antidotes. And the tips, tools, and tricks that may work for you today, may not work for you in another season of your life. What I can tell you… is that I never stop trying and exploring. If you aren’t looking to find a zen like balance with social media, then a 30 day detox may not be for you. And again… that is okay. For me, I was looking for a way to regain some control and balance and to clear my head and this 30 Day Social Media Detox was necessary for me to do just that. So now on to the lessons learned:

  1. You Have to Know Your Why but it Can Be Adjusted Along the Way: If you are going to embark on a 30 Day Social Media Detox, have a why. My entire Why and How is detailed in this blog post. For me, it was a way to reset, re-evaluate, refocus, and reconstruct. What I failed to remember, until a week or so in, was how busy and stressful the months of April and May are for an educator. I work full time as an Educational Technologist and I only have 24 hours like everyone else. The beauty of the 30 Day Social Media Detox was that it afforded me 6-8 extra hours a week during a time I really needed them. So if you are finding that there is a stressful month coming up, it might be a good time to consider one of these.
  2. Old Habits Are Hard to Break: While I removed access to all social media sites on my computer and deleted all social media apps from my phone (more on this process here), I quickly realized that the knee jerk reaction to refill the infinity pool of content was still there. I would randomly check my email and refresh it or go to Amazon and check my book’s rankings which were updated hourly (I know… not my finest hour… pun intended). So about two weeks in, I removed Safari, Amazon, and my email apps from my phone and found that my need to pick up my phone without purpose was slowly dissipating. I also realized I had a better work life balance because when I opened up my laptop, I could really focus on email rather than compulsively checking it, worrying about it, being distracted, and then waiting till I got to a computer to send a lengthier response. This process also allowed me to set better boundaries and be more proactive rather than reactive.
  3. You May Not Miss it As Much As You Think You Will: Sure there were times where I wanted to post a pic of my kid or share a cool idea. Instead I wrote those things down and oftentimes still shared them… just in my newsletter. The time away gave me a moment to pause and consider my purpose and relationship with social media. Now that I am back on, I am more mindful about the types of interactions I seek and the time I allot for those interactions… though this will be continually to evolve as I explore limits.
  4. You Will Discover What Your Real Relationship with Social Media is: I learned really quickly that I use social media as a cure for boredom and entertainment. And while there is nothing necessarily wrong with that… for me, entertainment is not messages I need to answer, feeds of comparisons, and the constant twitch to post content. Now please don’t misconstrue my message. I love social media and I find a lot of purpose to it but what I realized is that I can still have those interactions but if I need to relax or shut down my brain, a Netflix series, time with my bullet journal, a board game with my boys, a book in my hands, or going to bed early was better suited to my needs.
  5. Time Away Helps You Rethink Your Relationships with People Online (and IRL): A few days in I realized that many of the interactions I have with people in my social media PLN are many times surface level and ephemeral… in that they are based on quick feeds and textual conversations. It just made me realize that I wanted to connect with people on a deeper level. I immediately made a list of inspiring people in my PLN that I wanted to start connecting with more and plan on reaching out to them to do a monthly GHO or Skype. I also realized I wasn’t on my phone nearly as much at social In Real Life (IRL) events which helped me be a better listener, communicator, and more present for the people I cared about.
  6. Sometimes You Need a Visual Reminder: Towards the end of the detox, I realized I might need a visual reminder to keep me in check so I created this iPhone wallpaper (see below) to remind me of what my values are and to give me a way to check in with myself rather than aimlessly use my device. I borrowed some of the questions and phrasing from Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism and Jake Knapp’s and John Zeratsky’s Make Time.
  7. Make Sure You Have an Exit Plan: The next thing… is to have a plan… before, during, and after. My plan for before and during is detailed here. I also journaled when things came to me through the 30 days. The harder part was devising a plan for social media when the barriers were removed. I quickly learned that managing moderation is far more difficult than banning something entirely. This leads me to #8.
  8. Keep What Works: There were a few things over this month that I plan to keep in place moving forward. First, the only social media app that I reinstalled on my phone was Instagram (mainly because I love the filters and because there is no way to post on Instagram without the app unless you are using a tool like Planoly). The rest of my social media apps I plan to access via my laptop. I also am leaving the Self Control app on my Macbook and exploring setting defaults for time to use social media during the day rather than always having it at my fingertips… also because I know my self control is weak and setting defaults allows me to be more focused rather than hoping my will power will be in tact at all times. For now, I am also keeping Safari and email off of my phone. Many others have explored the idea of a Distraction Free phone and had success with it, and so far…so have I.

I can’t tell you that I have it all figured out, but what I can tell is you is that I am seeking balance. I am also hoping to draft another blog post 30-60 days out to share how this process is working and what tweaks I have made.


TechChef4u now offers a Doc Locker full of freebies and goodies that can be used in the classroom. Lots of resources and templates can be found in the Creatively Productive Digital Downloads Doc Locker. Just sign up using the form below and you will receive an email shortly with a secret link to the site and password to nab your freebies.

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03 Apr 2019
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30 Day Digital Detox/Declutter: Why and How

I have always been an observer and one that enjoys collecting and curating ideas. Lately, I have noticed some trends in books (see below… I highly recommend all 4) as well as some trends in peers’ online behavior:

I feel like these ideas and trends have led me to feel like I have permission to take a much needed break from social media for a variety of reasons. Now, you know that I don’t follow trends to follow trends… I have my own purposes too. 😉


  • What am I modeling?: My boys are getting older and as I scroll mindlessly through Instagram, I start to wonder what digital wellness habits I am modeling?
  • Why don’t I have time to create?: My core value is to create. I have to… it gives me purpose and it is the way that I process and make sense of the world. The problem is that I spend so much time either crafting social media posts or scrolling through them that I am not living up to my creative potential. While social media is vital for sharing and collecting ideas and inspirations, I feel like all I am doing is filling up on appetizers and then never having any time for the real meat of my own content creations… blog posts, printables, videos, etc…
  • Why do I feel this way?: I have lots of thoughts and feelings. Everyone does. I also struggle daily with anxiety and depression and many times mindlessly scrolling through Facebook and Instagram feeds doesn’t do me any favors. With social media, I feel like I am being constantly reactive but not really proactive in creating content that really matters in the long run. I also feel like I am in need of a priority tune-up and the only way for me to really do that is to remove the external noise so I can take a moment and figure out what control, balance, happiness, and success looks like in this season of my life.

What I Have Already Done:

  • Alarm Clock: Got an actual Alarm Clock and Charge my Phone in Another Room.
  • Light up Pen: Bought a light up pen to put on a nightstand with a pad of paper for late night ideas (rather than using my phone).
  • Screen Time: Track my Screen Time through apps like Moment and Screen Time in iOS12.
  • Unsubscribe: Use Unroll.Me to unsubscribe from unwanted emails (more on this in Email Bankruptcy).
  • Desktop Zen: Create a Custom Desktop Organizer for Desktop Zen and Focus.
  • Facebook App: Deleted FB app from my phone (this is the one that was the biggest time suck for me prior to Instagram).
  • Facebook Shortcuts: Change shortcut to Facebook in toolbar to go to my Facebook page and not my personal Facebook feed so when I go to Facebook, I go with a purpose.
  • Analog Notes: Take Analog Notes to remove my digital distractions.
  • Books: Read predominantly Paper copies of Books and started a reader’s notebook to help with retention.
  • Planner and Bullet Journal: Got planner and bullet journal to help with time management and reflection (I go deeper into planners, bullet journaling, analog notes and reader’s notebooks in my new book, Creatively Productive).

How I Plan To Do a 30 Day Social Media Digital Detox:

  • Delete Social Media Shortcuts from Computer: Delete ALL shortcuts to social media from my bookmarks bar.
  • Really Restrict Social Media from my Computer: I have self control… I do… but sometimes I get bored and sometimes the habit of typing “Facebook” or “Twitter” into my browser bar is strong. So, I downloaded the FREE Self Control app. You type in the sites you don’t want access to and then it blocks them for a specific amount of time. In my case… I just block it for 24 hours every morning.
  • Delete Social Media Apps for Phone or Tablet: Delete ALL social media apps (turn it into a “distraction free” phone) from my phone (and maybe email if need be).
  • Let People Know: Put a graphic to my blog about the detox on all of my social media accounts (something like Roni’s) so people know what is going on and how they can still connect with you (e.g. in person, text, call, GHO, Skype, email, blog, newsletter).
  • Reading Reminder: Put a graphic on my phone to remind me to read a book (see Austin Kleon’s example).
  • Book Keeping: Keep an actual book with me at all times.
  • Remove Notifications: Turn off all notifications on my phone and Macbook (except phone and text).
  • Track and Reflect: Track what I do and how I feel throughout the digital declutter (will most likely use a combination of an app like Daylio and an actual journal).

I hope this helps. I will be blogging through the process and sharing my thoughts and feelings along the way. In the interim, check out Roni’s post “After the 30-Day Social Media Ban: What Surprised Me & What I’m Changing”. And if you want to take a super deep dive into the particulars of configuring your iPhone for productivity and focus, this article is for you “How to Configure Your iPhone to Work for You, Not Against You”.


TechChef4u now offers a Doc Locker full of freebies and goodies that can be used in the classroom. Lots of resources and templates can be found in the Creatively Productive Digital Downloads Doc Locker. Just sign up using the form below and you will receive an email shortly with a secret link to the site and password to nab your freebies.

Receive Access to the Creatively Productive Digital Downloads Doc Locker

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