After the-year-that-must-not-be-named, I knew I needed a reset in the productivity department. I wasn’t hard on myself for being unproductive during that year because I knew my brain was under so much stress during the peak of the pandemic. However, not being able to focus, read, create, or finish even the smallest project left me feeling depressed and financially anxious since my income now depends on these concentration skills. Once I felt ready, I decided to use the new year to start a productivity system– enter the Google Doc Checklist.
I never intended on writing about my new productivity system (this blog is for ELA teaching content only), but every time people caught a glimpse of my checklist on Instagram, I would get more questions about the list than what I was actually referring to, ha! Never mind the 200 hours you spent working on Beowulf, tell me about that cross out thingy!🤣
How to create a Google Doc checklist for productivity
This productivity checklist and system is very specific to my work as a creator, but since people are curious, I thought I would use the end of the year to share about it and do a little recap in case it helps anyone else! At the very least, learning about the new Google Doc checklist feature could be a game-changer for many!
Step 1: Read a productivity book for inspiration
I was inspired to make this monthly checklist after listening the productivity book The 12 Week Year Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months By: Michael Lennington & Brian P. Moran. I won’t lie, this book is incredibly helpful but also dense and a little boring, so if you decide to read it, definitely go with the audio version to pass the time while commuting! I recently discovered Libro.fm which allows you to support independent bookstores with your audiobook purchases!
The gist of the book is to set your year up in quarters rather than waiting until December to reflect on your new year goals. That means that you will evaluate your goals at the end of March, June, September, and December.
Step 2: Brainstorm action verbs
Though it’s a truly simple concept, another big takeaway I got from the book is to use action verbs for your goals and checklist. To set up my checklist, I brainstormed action verbs that are important to me and my work. Some of the verbs are nonnegotiable each month while others can change depending on what that month brings. For example, the verb FINISH is the most important to me. I have a ton of half-finished projects, resources, blog posts, ideas, etc., so I wanted to ensure that I FINISHED at least one thing a month.
Here’s what I FINISHED in 2021
Here’s what I WROTE in 2021
My second most important verb is WRITE. This blog is important to me because it gives me a platform to share helpful and creative ideas that save ELA teachers time while making their classroom a fun place to work and learn. While I would like to do more, my goal is to write at least one blog post a month. Here are the posts I wrote in 2021. Rather than go by month, I thought it would be fun to rank them from my most popular posts of 2021 to the least.
Creative Jamboard Templates for the ELA Classroom – This post was hot from the day I hit publish and hasn’t slowed down! It’s one of my top-ranking posts on Google. 😊
Diverse Short Stories for Spooky Season – I’m so glad that y’all found inspiration from this post! It was a banger in October, but has since slowed down for the season. But that’s the great thing about blog posts- it will pick back up next October when ELA teachers are searching for stories.
How to do a Diverse ELA Curriculum Audit – On the same wavelength, I’m thrilled that so many of you took the time to reflect on your curriculum this year!
Group Essays: Slash your grading stack with this collaborative essay hack! – Yes! I put a lot of time into this post, and it makes me happy that it has been so helpful!
Teaching Dolly Parton’s America Podcast – I think many of you were curious about how I used Dolly Parton in ELA, ha! She should have been at the top of the chart where she belongs but glad for the views she did receive!
How to plan a podcast unit for middle school and high school – I thought this one would be one of my top posts of the year, but maybe the timing was off. Regardless, I’m thrilled to have such a comprehensive post to send people who ask for podcasts in the classroom tips!
Keeping the Wonder: A Professional Development Book for Teachers – While I do wish this one was much higher on my list, I’m not mad at it because I think many of you just read the book instead of my blog post about the book haha!
Books are Magic High School ELA Classroom Décor – Awww I loved this classroom theme so much! Did you see it?
ELA Thanksgiving Activities for Middle School and High School – I barely got this post written in time, but again, it will be there next season!
Meaningful and Fun Activities for Teaching Beowulf– The timing was off on this post, but I would love for you to read it if you teach Beowulf! Lots of great ideas and I worked SO HARD on the update!
Teacher Motivation: 5 ways to mentally prepare to go back to school – LOL. I didn’t read the room.
In 2022, I’m hoping to double my blog posts each month. Would you like to guest blog for me? Fill out the application here: Guest Blog for Building Book Love
Here’s what I UPDATED in 2021
My third most important verb is UPDATE. When I started creating resources for teachers in 2014, I had NO digital design skills or EDU blogging experience. I worked hours each evening learning the technical side of things and put out content that I was proud of then, but now makes me cringe because I have learned so much more over the years. Though it is at times soul-sucking, I made a vow to update at least one TpT resource each month from now until eternity. My goal for each update is to make things more editable, inclusive, and clean (had to scale back my love of fonts). Here is what I updated this year. If you already own one of these resources, you will get the updated version FOR FREE!
All Shakespeare Finger Puppet Resources (6 total!)
Some of my flexible verbs include “present,” “organize,” or “brainstorm.” I wrote these as they came up or gave myself some flexibility depending on what I felt like working on.
Step 3: Create a Google Doc checklist.
I created my monthly productivity checklist in a Google Docs so that I have it synced to all my devices and get to use the new checklist feature (so satisfying!). All I did was insert a table, tag the months as headings, and start my check list! You can get your free copy here: Monthly Productivity Checklist or Monthly Productivity Checklist with Weekly Add on
If that link doesn’t work for you or if you want to create your own, here is the simple process:
- Open up a Google doc
- Locate the checkmark button on the toolbar
- Click it to insert the special Google doc checklist feature
- Start typing your to-do list
- Click the box when you complete the task
- Bask in the satisfying strike through your list
Step 4: Decide how many verbs you will do a month
The number of verbs you put under each month is personal. I recommend only filling out January’s verbs than reevaluating at the end of the month to see if you could do more or may need to cut back. Try to set a realistic yet aspirational number of verbs.
The most verbs I accomplished this year was 9 in October; once I hit my required number of 7, there were still days left in the month, so I kept going. On average, I was able to accomplish 7 verbs a month, but remember, this number is arbitrary and will be different for everyone depending on what the actions are!
Step 5: Decide if you want to add a weekly checklist
For me, a monthly checklist works SO MUCH better than a weekly checklist. I’m a big picture type of person and extremely detailed weekly checklists weigh me down. I also like knowing I have the flexibility to bounce around from project to project as long as I accomplish what I need to by the end of the month.
However, some people work better when they can check off small tasks that relate to a big goal. If this is you, make sure you add in a weekly checklist that goes in tandem with your monthly goals. You can get your free copy here: Monthly Productivity Checklist or Monthly Productivity Checklist with Weekly Add on
Monthly Productivity Checklist Q&A
Now that I have told you the basics, I will answer some questions that I got on Instagram
Yes, click boxes will change your life. See above.
“How do you prioritize?” “How do you decide what to do each month?”
I got several questions like this and again it’s personal to your goals, but for me, I try to choose the verbs that have the biggest impact on my business.
For example, I mentioned FINISH and UPDATE above. Both are imperative for me to do to keep growing and providing the best resources for teachers that I can.
In the course of the month, I do several other verbs related to my business, but they don’t go on the list because they don’t really move the needle. These verbs are “post” on Instagram, “answer” emails, and “get” distracted by other ideas that pop into my head! Ha! (This is why I include a brain dump section on my monthly checklist)
“How do you pace out what needs to be done and when?”
Great question because it helps me emphasize why this system has worked for me! I’m a person of many passions and hobbies. I’ve always got something going on such as workshop planning, interior design projects, community events, HGTV marathons, etc. LOL! If I have a distracting and unproductive week one month, all I have to do is make up for it the rest of the month.
If I know something is going to fall toward the end of the month, then I will make sure to work my booty off the first three weeks to get everything done before then. For example, my husband’s 40th birthday fell at the end of August, so I had my checklist completed before we left for Costa Rica.
The only time I failed at this type of flexible planning was the month of November. As I mentioned in this post, I’m not much on Thanksgiving, so I did not anticipate taking off as many days as I did, but things came up. On November 30th at 8pm I still had about 5 more hours of work to get my Canterbury Tales unit updated, and I just couldn’t make it.
I declared the next day November 31st and got it done, but let me tell you, I was SO UPSET for ruining my perfect “score” in one of the last months of the year. UGH!
Jerry Seinfeld uses the “X” method. He writes a joke every day and puts an x on the calendar. Once those x’s start adding up and creating a chain, it’s natural not to want to break the streak!
That is the case for me as well with this monthly checklist productivity method. After meeting my monthly goals all year, I so did NOT want to break the chain. It pained me to miss my self-imposed deadline so much that I think I will be extra strict about not missing my monthly deadline next year!
“How would you recommend teachers use it for classroom planning?”
Another great question! This Google Doc checklist system is so flexible that you can use it for personal goals as well as classroom goals. I recommend creating two separate docs for this though!
For classroom planning, think of the verbs that are the MOST important to you and your benchmark goals. You can scan your standard’s list and practice tests to get ideas. Here are some ELA verbs that I find the most important:
If you hit all these verbs each month, you would essentially create a type of spiral review system while ensuring students gain key ELA skills over the course of the year.
“Do you find it interesting that so many are curious about your checklist?”
Haha yes, I do!
Thank you for letting me nerd out. I’m really proud of what I was able to accomplish this year. There was a long period of time where I thought I had lost my mojo forever. I’m grateful that my brain decided to come out of a place of constant fear and stress and allow me to do the work I love to do.
I hope this post has been helpful in some way. Let me know if you give it a try! @BuildingBookLove
I’ll be back in the New Year with my regular ELA content!