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It seems like we hear this more and more: “I’ve been crazy busy!” So, in the interest of getting to “sane busy,” I’m listing here what I think are some of the best work tools and techniques for time and task management:
To-do List Apps: Write down everything you need to do for a particular list, prioritize your list, assign dates, take action, and then cross them off when done. Be sure to prioritize your workload. Work backwards from project due dates to set your deadlines and prioritize your tasks. For more help prioritizing your workload take a look at: http://www.wikihow.com/Prioritize-Projects.
Here are some apps/websites to try:
Remember the Milk. Share lists, syncs across computers, tablets, smart phones (iphone & android), google calendar, gmail, outlook and twitter!
Wunderlist. It has a simple and clean interface, ability to share /email your lists, and syncs with all of my computers and devices. Smart lists and notes here too.
Toodledo. A powerful tool when you are looking for robust task manager. Includes hotlists, filters, sorting, scheduling, notes, file attachments, sharing, time tracking, imports lists, alarms, and more. Syncs with multiple devices.
- Timers to help you stay on task. The Pomodoro Technique is a simple, effective approach to time management that chunks the work into “pomodoros” (or tomato, in Italian)—25 minute periods of focus—followed by short breaks. This is effective for projects that take a good deal of focused energy to complete. The method is based on the idea that frequent breaks can improve mental agility. A Google search for pomodoro timers or pomodoro technique will yield a lot of results, but here’s one site that’s all about the simple timer: Pomodoro Timer.
There are five basic steps to implementing the technique:
- After creating your to-dos, decide on the task to be done;
- Set the pomodoro (timer) to 25 minutes;
- Work on the task until the timer rings; record with an x;
- Take a short break (3-5 minutes); and
- Every four “pomodoros” take a longer break (15–30 minutes)
- Get(ting) Things Done is a time-management methodology, as described in the book with the same title by productivity consultant David Allen, often referred to simply as GTD. The Getting Things Done method rests on the idea that a person needs to move tasks out of the mind by recording them externally, so the mind is free from the job of remembering the tasks that need to be completed. One can then concentrate on performing the tasks, instead of remembering.
I read this book in a moment of panic earlier in the semester and it has been a serious stress reducer. It’s full of ideas to help you, well, get things done.
The David Allen Company lists many tools to help you manage your time more efficiently like TheBrain and EverNote. Richard Winters wrote an article reviewing 3 apps he uses to get things done including the low-tech index/notecard.
This semester I had the privilege of presenting the workshop “Building Your Stress Toolbox: Minimizing the Impact of Stress on Your Life & on You.” I held the workshop twice, once for the Womyn@Noon program offered through the Women’s Center and again at the Center for Teaching & Learning.
The presentation was about managing stress to minimize the impact it has on our lives, a topic that affects us all. Stress is all around us, but what is stress? There are many definitions out there, but for this article, I like this definition I found at Mountain State Centers for Independent Living:
“Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand. It can be caused by both good and bad experiences. When people feel stressed by something going on around them, their bodies react by releasing chemicals into the blood. These chemicals give people more energy and strength, which can be a good thing if their stress is caused by physical danger. But this can also be a bad thing, if their stress is in response to something emotional and there is no outlet for this extra energy and strength. This class will discuss different causes of stress, how stress affects you, the difference between ‘good’ or ‘positive’ stress and ‘bad’ or ‘negative’ stress, and some common facts about how stress affects people today.”
Because stress comes from everywhere, we can’t get away from it. My recommendation: Plan for it.
Here is an excerpt from the collection of resources I have collected related to stress management:
When feeling the effects of stress it is important for us to be able to:
Recognize the stress and its impact on us. Identify what and how stress affects us.
Reorient the perspective back to “me.” Focus on self-care.
Realize and utilize the resources around to help manage or minimize stress and its impact.
There are a few different levels of stress, categorize your stress into: low stress, mid stress and extreme stress to plan for each. Ask yourself the question, “What stresses me?” This helps us to zone-in on the causes of stress in our lives. Make a list for yourself in a journal or a document that you will keep in your stress toolbox.
To mitigate the impact of stress in your life, it is important to recognize the signs of stress in and around you. We each have a variety of ways of responding to our stress. Some ways help us to move through it, while other ways just have us moving in circles and creating additional stress. Writing these out can help us begin to plan what tool to use when we are feeling overwhelmed and it becomes too hard to think.
Reorient the Perspective
So often when stress takes a hold of us, we resist checking in with ourselves and our needs. We just try to “get it all done.” This added distracting inner voice compounds our stress response. Maybe it’s that we are used to taking care of others’ needs first and forget about our own needs. Self-care is critical to success. Having a plan helps us when it is the hardest to see ourselves. Planning helps us to focus on self-care.
Utilize the Resources
It is important to have many different ways to take care of ourselves when stress takes over. Start building your toolbox. This is important to do for ourselves because stress is personal, specific, and individual.
“Physical activity has been identified as an important behavior to help prevent the development of overweight/obesity and associated conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome. Regular physical activity has also been found to improve dietary intake and patterns. Therefore, interventions targeting physical activity may lead to weight change not only by increasing calories expended each day, but also by influencing the food choices people make.” 1
Or so thought Nutritional Sciences Graduate student Lizzie Pope. So she designed a study to provide new information on the efficacy of using monetary incentives to help college freshmen meet physical activity guidelines, and therefore establish an important health-promoting behavior. It worked like this:
One hundred and seventeen students were randomized to one of three groups: continued-incentive, discontinued-incentive, or control. For 12 weeks during the fall semester both the continued-incentive and discontinued-incentive groups received weekly incentives for using the university fitness center. At the conclusion of fall semester weekly incentive payouts ended for both incentive groups. For 12 weeks during spring semester the discontinued-incentive group received no incentives to use the fitness center while the continued-incentive group received incentives on a variable-interval schedule, averaging one incentive payment each month. During the spring semester the exact schedule for the incentives was not known to participants in this group.
Great. But how was she going to track the students? Well, perhaps she could set up some sort of card swipe system that would record the student ID, date, and entry/exit times for each visit to the fitness center. Great, how do you do that?
Enter the Center for Teaching and Learning. Lizzie enlisted the aid of CTL staffer Wesley Wright. Together, Wesley and Lizzie assembled a Mac Mini computer and magnetic card reader. The Mac recorded each card swipe and entered the data into a central database. The database fed a web site, and the web site was used by the students to track their individual progress, using both tables and graphs. The web site also provided Lizzie with both individual and group statistics and the incentive payment owed to the students.
Results? ”Basically, we were able to increase fitness-center use over the fall semester by paying weekly incentives,” says Lizzie, “however this increased exercise did not translate into weight maintenance for the incentive groups over the fall semester. In the spring semester without incentive payments our discontinued-incentive group no longer met fitness-center use goals. However, with a variable-interval payment schedule our continued-incentive group continued to meet fitness-center use goals. Unfortunately, this increased exercise again did not translate into weight maintenance over the spring semester. It would be interesting to measure body composition and metabolic markers to see if the increased exercise had beneficial effects other than weight control.”
1 “Burn and Earn: Incentivizing Physical Activity in College Freshman – UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT”, n.d. http://www.reeis.usda.gov/web/crisprojectpages/0223043-burn-and-earn-incentivizing-physical-activity-in-college-freshman.html.
Will the iPad save or destroy education? Is it the device that will revolutionize scholarship or is it merely a gadget that differs from many others not by its potential but simply by its marketing? The cloud is already abuzz with posts on either side of these questions; some extravagant praises, others equally extravagant jeremiads.
One way to approach iPad use in education is to explore what can actually be done with it. At the first iPad for Scholars roundtable at the CTL we discussed several apps that are useful for scholars. These can be categorized as apps that are designed for:
- collecting, storing and reading ebooks
- Stanza – ebook reader (reads ePub and eReader books, not Kindle books). Links to a library, free and non-free books, free sheet music, can download books purchased from Fictionwise. Can share books from your Mac or Windows version of Stanza.
- Kindle – ebook reader. Syncs with your Kindle.
- Nook – Barnes&Noble’s ebook reader.
- FreeBooks, ePubBooks – more books!
- storing, reading, and annotating PDF files
- Goodreader – for reading all kinds of files, especially PDFs (it will re-flow text to fit page). Coming soon in version 3: PDF annotation.
- iAnnotate – “integrates its annotations directly into the PDF such that they will be available to any standard PDF readers like Adobe Reader or Preview. You can transfer PDFs via email, iTunes sync or even clicking any PDF web link in the integrated web browser.”
- creating documents, notes or other content, either through hand writing, typing, or dictating
- accessing and editing documents that exist in other places (ex: Google Docs, docs on other local devices)
- DocsToGo – open, read, and edit .doc, .ppt. .xls files; access these files on your iPad, from Google Docs or other online services, or from a folder on your Mac.
- SharePlusLite – connect to your Sharepoint sites
- WordPress – access and edit your blog from your iPad (that’s how I wrote this!). WordPress is the new UVM blog tool for public blogging. Check it out at http://blog.uvm.edu
- browsing the web or accessing content
- Instapaper – save web pages for later offline reading
- Atomic Web – an alternative to Safari
- NYTimes – Editor’s Choice is the free iPad app (news, business, technology, opinions, arts, features, videos). Other sections available as iPhone/Touch app (will appear small on your iPad screen.
- NPR – news, live streams, etc.
- Pandora – access radio stations via your iPad
- Time Management apps – mentioned in our session were Things, Easy Task, OmniFocus, and Taska. Several of those, and others, are reviewed here.
- iPad management apps:
Another category that we are all waiting for, bibliographic management apps, is on the horizon. As of this writing there is no specific app for Endnote, but Zotero is inching closer as is the Mac-only reference manager, Sente.
For those wishing to create ebooks, a number of solutions exist, some of which we will look at in the coming months.
Our first roundtable on the iPad, “iPads for Scholars,” was held at the Center for Teaching and Learning, Wednesday, 9/8/2010. As one might expect, the web has been awash with articles, opinions, and comments about the iPad. Here are a few, from a variety of sources, that address some of the issues and in so doing represent common themes and memes. Some are enthusiastic, some are naysayers, some seem to be clear attempts at ‘first kids on the block’ headline grabbers:
Notre Dame Launches First Paperless ‘iPad Class’ - By Timon Singh, Inhabitat, Sept. 7, 2010
How Schools are Putting the IPad to Work - By Joel Mathis (of Macworld), PCWorld, Aug. 26, 2010
iPad: The New Big Gadget on Campus – By Gus G. Sentementes, The Baltimore Sun, Aug. 22, 2010
50 Useful Resources for Students With an iPad – Accredited Online Colleges Blog, July 27, 2010 (links)
Apple’s iPad Goes to College – By Chris Foresman, cnn.com, July 26, 2010
iPad for Education Revisited – By Lee Wilson, The Education Business Blog, June 2, 2010
First iPad University Course: An Interview with Eric Greenburg of Notre Dame – By The eLearning Coach, May 16, 2010
iPad more resources on whether it is any good in the classroom – By David Hopkins, elearning blog don’t waste your time, May 7, 2010 (with links and quotes from others)
University Presses Get Creative in an iPad World – By Hannah Elliott, Forbes.com, May 6, 2010
Will the iPad Revolutionize Higher Education? – By Adam Peck, Think Magazine, April 21, 2010
University to Provide iPads for All New Students – By Lauren Indvik, The Mashable Apple, March 30, 2010
The iPad and the Historian – By Sean Kheraj, Canadian History and Environment, January, 28, 2010
iPads in Education – an ongoing NING with links and comments from many
Next up: What’s on your iPad?
We’ve come to expect innovative ideas from CHNM and this week has been no exception. Funded by a grant from the NEH, the One Week/One Tool project’s intent was to bring together twelve practitioners in the digital humanities to decide on, and develop, a useful tool. The project was announced in June 2010 and the event was held in late July. True to the premise, Anthologize was delivered at the end of the One Week. There were several finalists that we hope will be developed in future.
Anthologize is a plugin for the WordPress blog application. It allows one to collect their own blog posts, or import blog posts from others, combine them, and produce a text. Currently the text formats are ePub, PDF, TEI, and RTF. An active community has sprung up around the project, contributing bug reports and feature suggestions. Work will continue on what promises to be a simple but useful tool.
There are several educational uses that immediately spring to mind:
1) Bringing together class blogs from a course
2) Collecting individual student’s blog posts as a ‘takeway’ for students
3) As an assignment or class project, having students search and compile posts on a topic
4) For organizations, an easy way to compile news and updates from the year as a document for use in applying for, or continuing, grant funding
5) Using WordPress as a drafting space, then compiling the results as a TEI document for forther markup and processing (Your WordPress postings do not have to be publically posted: you can build Anthologize documents from drafts)
6) Teaching students the importance of creating their materials digitally, especially using standards like TEI. Digital, done right, means multiple opportunities for repurposing.
7) Pulling together blog postings for a quick ebook that can be downloaded to your ereader device for offline reading.
8) Building course packs or readers of relevant articles
9) Building a CV or portfolio of your own work, or teaching your students to do the same for their own eportfolios
I’m sure we will all be thinking of more as the program develops. Meanwhile, here is a short video of Anthologize in action. It’s done without audio overlay as a way to show how easy it is to use, though I’ve also highlighted some of the current bugs that are already being addressed.
Unnarrated Screencast of Anthologize
If you are at UVM and would like to try it, contact me and I’d be happy to get you started (email@example.com, Center for Teaching and Learning, UVM).
While only one of the add-ons, Zotero (which we’ve mentioned before), has a decidedly “academic” feel to it, the concept of bundling tools in this way is intriguing. Campuses regularly offer software that is modified to fit their user base. However with the web and even browsers themselves becoming more social in nature, the idea of deploying a customized browser presents all sorts of possibilities, from bookmarklets and toolbars, to customized search bars.
If you were going to build a customized version of Firefox for your campus, what would you choose to include? Keeping in mind that you can only fit so many tools into a browser, how would you balance and blend the social and academic tools that are out there into a cohesive and useable tool for faculty and students?
Office 2007 has arrived and with it the main questions: what are the big differences between this version and other Office versions? when should we make the jump?
ETS has put together a Task Force led by Doug Varney, Carol Caldwell-Edmonds, and Mike Fitzgerald to explore the new Office suite and determine ways to ease the transition. The Task Force consists of ETS staff, departmental IT support staff, and people who use Office applications on a regular basis. The plan is to test the applications and collect information on changes, pitfalls, tips and tricks, then analyze the data and make recommendations. Members would like to work with volunteers who would like to try the products to build a comprehensive picture of what works, what doesn’t, what may cause trouble, and what may be a fantastic new feature.
The collection/analysis phase will be through mid-June, then the group will be publicizing that and opening up publication/commenting to the broader UVM community. Ideas on the best way to spread the news and provide support for the transition are welcome. Current ideas include space on ETS web site, a blog devoted to this, publicly-accessible areas of the Sharepoint site, all/any of the above.
Would you like to see some workshops at the CTL on any of these products? Let us know! And if you would like to volunteer a few minutes of your time to try out your favorite Office application feature and report your reactions to the Task Force, let us know that too!