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Let’s be productive!

October 13, 2010 Leave a comment

I thought I would highlight some of my favorite free productivity applications. Many of you might already be using some of these but hopefully you will find a new one. Again I can’t stress the importance of the right tool for the right job. We all work in different ways so you have to find the tool that works best for you.

Time Management
We  are all extremely busy and need to make the most of the time we do have. We use Outlook here and I am not sure what I would do without the calendar. I find it especially helpful that is syncs with my Droid so I have my calendar current and updated all the time. If you don’t have that, then use the Google calendar and you can sync that just the same. Just choose ONE calendar that works for you and don’t have several. Too confusing. I already mentioned the to-do list that is working for me. It is called Todoist and is completely web based. It is working much better for me than Outlook and paper. There are some others such as Remember the Milk that are not bad and have a Google gadget. If you are working on a project or a goal such as weight loss or increasing your writing or exercise time, HassleMe is an interesting web application. You put in what you want to do, how often you want to be reminded to do it, and it sends you e-mails at those intervals nagging you to do whatever. I also used to be a big fan of Jott when it first came out but now they charge. You can call the Jott number and say your current thought or idea and it will send you an e-mail with the text translation. I used to use it a lot for all of those brilliant ideas in the car on the way to work. Now I can hold the search button on the Droid (any android phone) and say “note to self…then the note…” . I then hit send (at a stop light of course) and it will go to my gmail. Another one I have run across is Task.fm but I must be honest and say that I have not tried it. It looks like it might have promise though.

I must mention another tip from a colleague of mine (thanks Carolyn S.). She suggested using the timer on my phone to set a specific amount of time and then work on one task during that time. No drifting to e-mail, twitter, facebook, sms, etc. Stay focused for that time period then take a break for social networking. I have not tried it yet. I am afraid I will start twitching.

Collaboration

What would teaching life be without collaboration and meetings? So if you need to schedule a meeting, you have to give Doodle a try. It is fabulous. You can set up some possible days and times, then send the link to your group. They then choose what works best for them. You can then see the grid and choose the best day and time for everyone. It is great for party planning too. Here is a short screencast I made about getting started with Doodle.

Do you have a team working on a project together? Maybe your students need to work on something. Obviously Google Docs and the other Google collaboration tools are very helpful. If you have a gmail account, it certainly takes you a long way. Within your gmail now you can chat, group chat, call someone (yes, to their phone),  talk via computers, or do a video chat. It is all still very free. I have tested all of these communications and they are great. Don’t leave them out of your communication bag of tricks. I also really love Dropbox. You can access your files on any computer via the web interface or installed application. When you drag and drop a file to your Dropbox, it will sync to all of your other devices as well. You can set up shared folders for your team members as well as put up web pages. It is simple and slick. I strongly recommend you give it a try. (click on my referral link!)

If you want to step out of the Google realm, there is another company that has a nice suite of applications you might want to check out. Zoho is primarily geared toward businesses but you might find something they do that you can use. Most of the collaboration tools are free for light use so give it a try. I keep an account just in case. Teambox is another web based project management application. You can have 3 projects for free. I have not used it extensively but seems to have some promise.

Work Flow

I am often asked how I keep track of all these new programs and web applications (trust me I have only shared a few). The main application that keeps me current is Twitter. Yes I said Twitter. I finally found what Twitter could do for me. I follow folks  who know about elearning, and educational technology. I can scan through 100 twitter posts in a relatively short amount of time on the computer or my phone. If I am pressed for time, I just mark the ones that sound interesting as favorites. If I have time, I look at the articles or links they refer to. And no I don’t care who had what for lunch. I can get a LOT of great information and ideas in a very short period of time. Do some searches for a particular hashtag such as  #elearning or whatever you are interested in. Read some of those posts and you will start learning who might be useful for you to follow. Here is a great Twitter cheat sheet to help get you started.

Now the way I keep track of all of these great finds is through social bookmarking. Delicious is my site of choice. You can tag  your links or bookmarks to help keep them organized. You can send links to people for all of your bookmarks or just certain tags. People can follow your bookmarks through RSS. You can set up sharing as well. Great for students doing some group research too. And your bookmarks are web based so no more trying to remember which computer your bookmarks are on. Check out this short screencast about Delicious. For more details check out this blog post.

One final tool that I have had for a long time but am finding more and more useful everyday is Evernote. Evernote is a note tool that allows you to make written notes, audio notes, or picture notes. You can then tag them to stay organized. They are search able too. Even the picture notes are search able. So you can take pictures of business cards and Evernote will make the contents of the cards search able. That is really nice. If you see that cool gadget  that you want to research more about, take a picture and put it in Evernote. If you have that great idea, make an audio note on your smart phone in Evernote. If you find a link or good idea for your next blog post, leave it in Evernote. I have to write an annual report each year. When I do something or go to a presentation, I make a note in Evernote. At the end of the year, I will collect all those items that I tagged “annualrpt10”,  and hopefully that will shorten my report writing considerably.

Ok, that is a lot to look over. Set your phone for 30 minutes and start checking it all out. Post a comment on how you use the tools above or suggest some others. If you want to see more details on a particular tool in another post, just let me know.

twitter pic from http://www.pcmag-mideast.com/2010/07/21/ultimate-twitter-tool-guide-part-2/
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