Study a Process to Become a Streamlining Superstar

Study a Process to Become a Streamlining Superstar

There aren’t many things in your life that you only do once. However, most of us don’t take the time to consider how we might streamline routine activities. For instance, how often do you:

  1. Sort the mail
  2. Do the laundry
  3. Go grocery shopping
  4. Pay bills
  5. Pack your bag for the next day’s activities

These activities are only the tip of the iceberg. Research shows that on average people spend one hour a day looking for stuff. Those little frustrations add up, and make the difference between a settled or scattered day.

We know there’s a better way, but we feel so overwhelmed by the magnitude of the little issues to solve, that we decide to ignore them. Or, we shrug our shoulders and figure this is just the way things are. We have no vision for how our days might go differently.

Now, imagine that you worked for Disneyland, and you were assigned to do a routine activity, such as help people board a ride, serve people lunch, or remove litter from the sidewalk. Would you do your job differently each time? Absolutely not. Not only would you have a system, you and your supervisor would have given thought to how you could not only make the task efficient and manageable, but you’d consider how you could add a little “magic.”

What if you used this approach in your daily life? What if you asked yourself: “How could I not only sort the mail more efficiently, but with a little magic?”

Try this:

  1. Choose one routine task you’d like to revise. Give yourself permission to choose one, even though you’re sure to have a number of options. Start with one, and use your success to move on to the next.
  2. Seek out an inspiring process to study. Many times, unusual connections can yield helpful results here. Rather than trying to find someone else who has the perfect mail-sorting routine, you might find inspiration in the way a Kindergarten teacher helps students organize take-home papers, or in the way a librarian sorts returned books.
  3. Identify the key steps of the process. If you’re a visual thinker, consider drawing a diagram.
  4. Consider why the process works. How might you apply the success of the process to your own task?
  5. Sketch or write up a template for your new process. Experiment and stay open to revision as you try out the new approach. Aim high. Don’t stop until you achieve inspiring results.
  6. Build on your success by working on a new task.

Writerly Play offers a framework for creative thinking. In each mental room, we tackle different thinking tasks. This activity is a tool for your Library, where we analyze resources, identify strategies for specific solutions and play with them until we make them our own.

Expand Your Perspective with Twenty Questions

Expand your Perspective

When you need to move a heavy piece of furniture, you examine it from multiple angles to figure out the best strategy. In problem-solving, we’re more likely to identify helpful strategies when we explore multiple vantage points as well.

Try this:

  1. Identify the problem. If you need help clarifying what the problem is, exactly, try running your vague issue through this helpful clarification exercise.
  2. Start with a clean piece of paper, and list twenty questions that relate to the problem. If you come up with more than 20, excellent! Do push yourself to come up with at least 20, even if you stall out around 12. The questions that aren’t first to mind often end up being the most compelling or innovative.
  3. If you’re struggling for questions, spur yourself on with question starters such as “What if…” or “Why does…” or “How can…” or “Where can…” or “When might…”
  4. Once you have a list, go back and decide which you’d like to explore. You may feel the whole list is helpful, or it may be that one or two stand out.
  5. Make a plan for how you’ll address your list. Some next steps might be:
    • free-write
    • brainstorm in mind-map form
    • create a collage
    • research via google
    • research via the library
    • research via an expert (friend, colleague, blogger, podcaster)

Sometimes the most important step in problem solving is simply starting. Once you’re in motion, it’s much easier to ask, “What’s the next step?”

Writerly Play offers a framework for creative thinking. In each mental room, we tackle different thinking tasks. This activity is a tool for your Attic, where we collect life experiences, sort them and crystallize them into a question or set of questions to guide our creative exploration.

Manage your Classroom for Play

Sometimes having fun in class is as nerve-wracking as it is exciting. How do we strike the balance between making sure our students are having a blast, and maintaining a productive work environment? The key is filling up our educator tool-boxes so we’re prepared with classroom management when things begin to spin out of control.

Learn more about classroom management for Writerly Play in Writerly Play: Transform Your Teaching with Game-Based Strategies and Tools.

Host Writerly Conversations

Play opens up new possibilities in our storytelling. But how do we make the leap from play to paper? Two important kinds of writerly conversation bridge between play and writing. First, we host modeling conversations with the full class, in which we as facilitators think aloud as we connect the dots. Also, we individualize the learning through personalized conversations with our students writer-to-writer. These conferring sessions help students apply the general concepts from the day to their unique projects.

Explore strategies for conferring in Writerly Play: Transform Your Teaching with Game-Based Strategies and Tools.

Set Up Your Classroom for Writerly Play

The first day of any new writing class can be daunting. There’s a lot to think about. Maybe you have a new group of students to get to know, or you are introducing a curriculum that’s new even to you. The first day is a chance to establish guidelines, rules, and relationships, as well as get your students excited about the lessons to come.

Learn more about setting up your classroom for Writerly Play in Writerly Play: Transform Your Teaching with Game Based Strategies and Tools.

Book Club Tips

This year, for the first time, I hosted a book club for young readers. I have to say, this may be the best thing I’ve done for my writing in a long time. What an excellent reminder it is to listen to readers talking about why they like a book and maybe even more importantly, why they don’t.

I’d suggest to all authors of books for children: start a book club with readers the age for which you’re writing. Suddenly all those uncomfortable truths that you’ve tried not to notice will be right in your face. Are readers really interested in the topics you’re writing about? If not, is there a way that your passion can hook into theirs? Are readers of this age ready for the themes in your book, or might you deal with the topic in a way that is more age-appropriate? Now, I’m the last to water down anything for kids. Kids are capable of a lot more than we think. However, sometimes we bring the heavy issues we deal with as adults into the writing of books for children and forget that books are also a place readers go to escape, to try new skills, to build their own courage and resilience. It may be, if we’re dealing with fear in a book, for instance, that what scares us is different than what scares a reader of this age. Considering their experiences and needs while we write is certainly not a bad thing.

In any case, if you’re a writer for children or teens, I strongly suggest starting a book club with young readers. Listen to them. Keep an open mind. Ready to start? Here are a few tips about running a book club:

1. Set some kind of structure. In my club, I email a list of questions ahead of time to the girls. The questions give the conversation structure and allow readers who think on their feet and those who need more processing time the chance to participate.

2. Use discussion guides as a resource. Most books have discussion guides online that will provide a starting place for your questions.

3. Use the Scholastic Book Wizard. Young readers are still growing in their comprehension and ability. A book that is far beyond their skill will only be frustrating. The Scholastic Book Wizard helps identify reading level and interest level for most books.

4. Ask for book recommendations in advance. I like to ask for recommendations by email, but you could also have a jar for readers to drop ideas into. It’s nice to have looked into the books a bit before putting them up for a vote for the group.

5. Tap into authors as resources. Most authors are happy to answer questions from the group via email or even by skype. It never hurts to ask!

6. Keep things fresh and varied. It’s easy for a group to fall into a genre pattern or for meetings to start to become stale. Mix it up by asking the group to set the questions one time, choosing a very different kind of book, or gathering suggestions for fresh approaches from the group.