7 Productivity Power Tools for the Busy Educator
Dr. Frank Buck on episode 227 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast
From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis
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Become more productive today with these seven tools from Dr. Frank Buck. Automate what you can and save time.
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7 Productivity Power Tools for the Busy Educator
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Date: January 9, 2018
Vicki: Today we’re talking to one of my dear friend, Dr. Frank Buck @DrFrankBuck. He’s really a productivity guru for education leaders.
We’re going to talk about seven productivity power tools for the busy educator.
So Frank, what is your first tool?
Tool #1 Toodledo
Frank: First and foremost, Toodledo.
That’s my task manager. That’s where everything that I have to do “lives.” And I’m surprised that it doesn’t get nearly as much press as it deserves. It is a free tool. It is web based.
I can add to it with my voice. It includes a large notes field for each task, which is free whereas a lot of other tools you have to pay for that. I can forward emails to it, so that helps me keep my email inbox empty. I can move unfinished tasks en mass to a future day.
It is a great tool; it’s sort of like my brain, I couldn’t live without it.
Vicki: Wonderful. OK, what’s your second one?
Tool #2: TaskClone
Frank: Well, my second one… most people would say Evernote, but I’m not going to say Evernote because everybody knows Evernote. But for everybody out there that’s either using Evernote or they’re using OneNote — Taskclone.
This is a wonderful tool,. It’s about $15 a year, but it integrates either Evernote or OneNote with your digital task manager.
So let’s say that I’m in a workshop, and I’m taking notes in Evernote. As I’m taking notes, I think of some things that I want to do, following that workshop. Well, I just continue to take notes right there in Evernote, but I put a little checkbox in front of those things. Before I close down, I just tag that note “taskclone.”
Magically, those things with the checkbox beside them appear on Toodledo on the day that I want to see them, and then the little attached note is a link that takes you right back to the note in Evernote.
Fabulous tool! It’s a must-have if you use Evernote or OneNote.
Vicki: It is truly a remarkable — in somes ways, secretary. It just takes care of putting things where they need to go.
Frank: Oh gosh, absolutely.
Vicki: OK, what’s your third?
Tool #3: IFTTT
Frank: The third one is IfThisThenThat (IFTTT). In the world of productivity, one of the mantras I keep hearing is, “Eliminate. Delegate. Automate.”
Teachers are pretty good at the first one — looking at things that just don’t need to be done and getting rid of them.
Most teachers are also pretty good at delegating, especially those master first grade teachers. You go in their classroom at the end of the day, and twenty kids are doing twenty different jobs. Everybody helps.
But the third one, automate, is really our opportunity for growth. IfThisThenThat does that. It allows different services to work together. For example, Instagram and Twitter — when I put something on Instagram, I’d like the same thing to go on Twitter. But instead of having to do double duty, I just have a little applet that I’ve created. This is an applet that says, “If I post to Instagram, then post to Twitter.”
Some other things that I have on there — on Twitter, when I see really good articles, I’m usually reading those on my phone, and I’d really like to read the articles when I get back to my computer desktop. So how do I hang on to all those little links? Well, I just have a little applet that I created that says, “If I “like” a tweet, then send it to Toodledo.” So all I have to do is click the “like” button, and then there’s a task that’s sitting over on Toodledo, so I can just forget about it, work through my Toodledo list, and there it is for me.
Some other things… “If I add something to my Google calendar, then send my wife an email.” That automatically keeps her updated on some of the things that I’m doing.
So it has so many features, does so many things. I used to not teach it in workshops because I thought it would be too difficult for people to understand, but I have been dead wrong. People eat it up.
Vicki: Well, and if you’re looking for home efficiency, I actually use it. I have Philips Hue at my house. It takes sunset times, and it starts powering down one of my lights because I tend to work too late. So at sunset, I know that I have about another 30 minutes. And that changes throughout the year, and I just love it because it kind of helps me keep my internal clock straight.
Vicki: OK, what’s our fourth?
Frank: OK, the fourth and fifth help me with my writing.
Tool #4: Hemingway App
The fourth one is a website called HemingwayApp.com. Hemingway, like the writer. So this free site does more to clean and tidy my writing than anything I can think of.
You copy and paste your draft into that site, and then just check your ego at the door, because it turns all these sentences colors. It flags sentences that are hard to read. It flags passive voice. It flags words that it suggests that you simply eliminate.
When I start working through that, and start resolving the suggestions it’s making, my writing actually really is a lot, lot better.
And then the next one… Vicki, I don’t know about you, but I cannot proofread my own writing.
Tool #5: VoiceInstead
Frank: My brain tells my eyes what I meant to say, not what I said.
And even if I read my stuff out loud, no. My eyes… they see what I meant, and not what I wrote.
But I have a little Chrome extension called VoiceInstead. So while I’m there at that HemingwayApp, and I’ve got things cleaned up, I just highlight the whole thing, right-click, and in the little menu will be VoiceInstead.
And it reads it back to me. When I hear someone else reading it, I catch everything. It’s just a simple little Chrome extension called VoiceInstead that you can just get from the Chrome store.
Vicki: Those are two great tools, and we’ll just add one little caution. HemingwayApp does not like GoogleDocs. It does not save it for you. So if you close the web browser…
Frank: (laughs) Exactly!!!
Vicki: … without copying it… as my students have learned, because we love Hemingway. It’s a fantastic way to teach, making writing more concise.
OK, what’s our sixth?
Tool #6: igHome
Frank: Number six is igHome.
Several years ago, a lot of us used to have those personalized Google pages as our home pages. I loved it! But then Google discontinued it.
Right about that time, someone created igHome to really fill that void.
So here’s what happens. When I open my browser, right there, staring me in the face is my Google calendar, Toodledo, and Gmail — side-by-side. Right below it is the weather forecast for the day, the local news and the national news beside that. I have an electronic sticky note where I just need to paste something electronically. I have commonly used bookmarks.
I really think of it as my internet organizer, because really, all of my internet-based tools are in some way connected to that igHome.com homepage. I can get to it from anywhere. I love it. Couldn’t live without it.
Vicki: So we don’t have to complain about iGoogle going away, we can use this. Of course, there’s Netvibes and Pageflakes, but I’m really intrigued by this.
Frank: I have used Netvibes. I liked it, but really the igHome I like even better.
And what I tell people is, “Good tools come, and good tools go. But usually good tools are replaced by better tools. So don’t worry about it, because something better is coming along. Just watch for it.”
Vicki: OK, what’s our last one?
Tool #7: Spreadsheets (like Excel or Google Sheets)
Frank: The last one, Vicki, is spreadsheets.
If I had to point to one tool during my professional career that is the biggest game changer, it would be that. I’m so glad that back in 1987 — that long ago, 30 years ago! — I read some little chapter in a book about using Appleworks spreadsheets, and I had this epiphany.
I thought, “I could put my gradebook on this thing!” And suddenly, I was no longer spending one Saturday out of every six, hand-averaging grades and getting them ready to go on to report cards. Huge gamechanger.
And the thing that I would say to that busy educator is not that you necessarily have to go out and become the Excel guru — because I’m certainly not — but just start to formulate the question…
“Here’s the problem that’s in front of me. I wonder if maybe Excel or Google Sheets would do XYZ?”
Because once you’ve got the question, there’s probably a sharp student who can find the answer for you.
And I’m still running into situations where I don’t know the formula or if there is a formula to do the particular thing that I want done, so all I do is just Google it.
I put the word “Excel” in the Google search box, whatever it is I’m looking for, and somewhere in the world, somebody else has had the same problem, the same question, and has posed it on some bulletin board. And somebody else, somewhere else in the world, a lot smarter than I am, has come up with the answer. Just copy and paste it, and change the little cell references, and you’re good to go.
So that’s my number seven, spreadsheets.
Vicki: Well, remarkable educators, I think it’s important that we all have productivity power tools.
Do our students have power productivity tools? I’m amazed at how many students don’t know how to set a reminder, or set a calendar appointment, how to put things on a list.
These are some great tools that Frank has given us. Frank tends to pick things that are very, very reliable and rock solid. So if you need a place to start, these are awesome.
But the big thing is — do you have a place to put your calendar? Where are you going to put your notes? Where are you going to have your reminders, and your To Do List? We all need these essential things so we can be productive in today’s modern world.
Thank you, Frank!
Frank: It’s been a pleasure. Thank you, Vicki.
Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford
Bio as submitted
Frank Buck is a veteran school administrator, public speaker, productivity coach, and author of Get Organized!: Time Management for School Leaders. He has spoken to audiences throughout the United States and internationally to help busy professionals achieve total control over their time and the peace of mind that nothing is falling through the cracks.
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