This week’s assignment and post took an absurd amount of thinking, time and energy. Why? Because I’m an overthinker and perfectionist who has difficulty getting things from the idea stage to the completed stage. This was compounded by the arrival of our shipment from Vietnam and the overwhelming sense of dread I felt when I saw just how much stuff we’d saved. Cue hysterical Reyna in panic mode who starts to unpack and then realizes she doesn’t know where to put all her clothes. Cue avoidance strategies and mindless Twitter scrolling. Why? Well, because I can’t even. So, before I talk about this week’s COETAIL task and the redesigning process I went through for that, I’ll first talk about some of the thought work I’ve started and how I hope it will impact my life and work because part of this blogging process is about reflection and self-improvement.
Unf*ck Your Brain
A few weeks ago I was chatting with a new friend and colleague about some of the bad habits I’ve been noticing within myself and how powerless I’m feeling about changing them. She listened intently and nodded her head as if she could relate to everything I was saying. Then she told me about a podcast she’d been listening to called Unf*ck Your Brain, and suggested I check it out because it had been helping her with some of the same habits. The podcast checked all of the boxes for me; grounded in research, laced with profanity and real talk, and hosted by an educated woman. Needless to say, I subscribed right away and started scrolling through past episodes until I found my preferred entry point- Episode 6: How to Get Sh*t Done.
If you don’t have time or the desire to listen to the episode, that’s okay, I’ll tell you what I got from it. For me (and people like me), tasks often seem overwhelming and can lead to procrastination, a sense of anxiety or a general feeling of stress even though I know that I’m capable and have all the things I need to succeed. In this episode, Kara discussed the likeliness of one or both of the following happening:
I don’t have a system in place to manage my workflow
I’m not actively managing my thoughts
I can say that without a doubt these are both true for me. Great, so now what? Well, I guess the first thing to do is to start developing a system that helps me organize my tasks and increase efficiency, and then I need to start coaching myself into a new mindset. More updates on this in the upcoming weeks, but in the meantime, if you have tips or advice on things that work for you, please share them!
Less is More
I’ll be honest, I took something that wasn’t all that great to begin with because I really needed an easy win this week. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), I did this week’s task last week and already shared the before and after shots of the improved sponsorship page for our upcoming tech conference. So, I dug back into the vault and found some slides from old math lessons I taught to my 4th graders last year. As you can see from the generic slide below, I hadn’t given much thought to the aesthetics or audience, which probably caused it to have far less impact than it would have if I’d applied design principles and followed some of the helpful tips offered up in the Presentation Zen article.
I have a confession to make- I love using Bitmojis in my presentations. And while sometimes it works and adds value to the content, this was not the greatest example of that. The existing visual doesn’t really aid the reader in understanding the problem any better and the amount of text is simply too much to process for second language learners or anyone who struggles with word problems. The other thing to note was that I wasn’t teaching word problems or how to decode them, I was simply looking for students to share their thinking and justify it with a math concept during a number talk.
I recently signed up to take part in a math-focused book club at school and this acted as an icebreaker for our first meeting. Revisiting this lesson with members of my book club was helpful for the feedback and redesigning stages of the task and led to something that we all agreed was better and more effective for the task, even though it’s not going to wow anyone with fancy graphics, complementary colors or a jazzy font.
What I like about this redesigned slide is that it asks kids to generate the narrative of the problem in their head and instantly becomes more accessible for students who have language needs or who have difficulty decoding so much text. The visuals used help to aid the audience in their understanding.