Showing posts with label Focusable. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Focusable. Show all posts

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Pacing Group Activities With Focusable

A few weeks ago I ran a workshop in which I changed up the way that I paced the session. What I've almost always done is give a little instruction then time to try and complete a little practice activity. Then I'll hold a little debrief before moving onto the next activity. It's a pretty common format that I'm sure you also learned in one of the methods courses that you took at some point. 

What I did differently in my workshop a few weeks ago was to use Focusable to pace the workshop. Specifically, I used Focusable to keep track of the blocks of work time. When the time was up I then had everyone follow along with the breathing exercise that Focusable suggested before we did the debrief. I then summarized the debrief in a video in Focusable before moving onto the next workshop activity. 

I found that having everyone participate in the Focusable breathing and recharge activities was a better way of getting everyone's attention than using the old method of saying something like, "okay, let's talk about this." Perhaps it was just the novelty of following along with the breathing exercise, but it worked well for refocusing the group for a short discussion. It's definitely something that I'll do again in future workshops. 

Speaking of workshops, I'd love to run a workshop at your school this summer. To learn more about that, please visit this page or send me an email at richard (at) byrne.media

Video - How to Use Focusable

Friday, March 24, 2023

How to Use the Latest Version of Focusable

Focusable was one of my favorite new tools in 2022. In 2023 it has continued to evolve to help teachers and students learn how to ignore distractions and focus on important tasks.

Focusable was recently updated with a new user interface designed to help you get focus and get into a flow a little more quickly than before. The new way of using Focusable begins with a short, guided "recharge" activity followed by a five or ten minute block of work time. This is slightly different than the previous version of Focusable in which "recharge" activities were separate from the "focus" workflow. 

Watch my new video that is embedded below to see an overview of how to use the latest version of Focusable



Learn more about Focusable in the following blog posts:

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Focusable - Fitness Tracking for Your Mind

Focusable is a free app and website that I started using at the start of this school year. It's a tool that anyone can use to teach themselves to focus on completing difficult tasks, to ignore cheap social media distractions, and to recharge after completing a stressful task. Since September I've used Focusable as a progress journal and I've used Focusable as an aid to avoid procrastination

Throughout this school year Focusable has added new features and refined existing features to make the user experience better for everyone who uses it. One of those new features is the ability to use Focusable without registering for an account. Those who do register get access to even more free features like recording progress reflections and keeping track of focus streaks. In the last couple of months Focusable has also added more guided "recharge" activities. Recharge activities are breathing, stretching, and similar relaxation exercises you can do at your desk or anywhere else you like. 

In the new video that is embedded below I provide an overview of how you can use Focusable without an account and how you can use it with a free account. 

Video - Try Focusable to Help You and Your Students Stay on Track



You can see how Focusable works from a student's perspective by watching this video.

Friday, December 30, 2022

Best of 2022 - Using Focusable as a Progress Journal

As I do at this time every year, I'm taking the week off to ski and play with my kids, shovel snow, and generally not think about work. I have some of the most popular posts of the year scheduled to republish this week. New posts will resume in the new year.

About a month ago I started using Focusable to help me focus on my work even when I really didn’t want to. That includes working on a particularly frustrating project that I have to get done. The project is rebuilding my Practical Ed Tech website from the ground up. That includes rebuilding and or editing some databases and doing a lot of quality assurance checks. The work is rather tedious, frustrating, and something I’d just pay someone else to do if I could.

I started using Focusable to help me focus on the work of rebuilding my Practical Ed Tech website. It has helped a lot! I’ve gotten more done in the last few weeks than I did all summer. Last week while recording my reflection in between time blocks in Focusable I realized that I was journaling my progress. In each reflection I was stating what I had just tried and what I was going to try next.

When I start to work on my project again today after a weekend away from it, I’ll watch my last Focusable reflection video to remind myself of where I was when I stopped and where I need to start the next step of the project.

Applications for Education
Focusable was built for the purpose of helping students learn how to focus on their work while ignoring distractions. An ancillary benefit of using Focusable is creating a little journal to document progress on a project. If you give students a little direction like “state what worked and what didn’t,” they can use Focusable to develop the skill of focusing while also documenting their progress on a project. You can then use your Focusable teacher account to view your students’ progress.

See A Great Tool to Help Students Learn to Focus for a complete overview of how Focusable works.

Monday, December 26, 2022

Best of 2022 - How to Stop Procrastinating

As I do at this time every year, I'm taking the week off to ski and play with my kids, shovel snow, and generally not think about work. I have some of the most popular posts of the year scheduled to republish this week. New posts will resume in the new year.

I meant to write about this a few days ago. TED-Ed recently published a new lesson that tackles an issue that most of us have dealt with at one time or another. That issue is procrastination. 

Why You Procrastinate Even When It Feels Bad is a TED-Ed lesson that explains why people procrastinate. It does a great job of explaining the biggest psychological cause of procrastination. That cause being the fight-or-flight response in our brains to tasks that we perceive as difficult or otherwise stress-inducing. The lesson explains why we procrastinate when faced with a task that actually isn't that difficult once we get started. 

The end of Why You Procrastinate Even When It Feels Bad includes a couple of tips for breaking procrastination habits. Those tips include breaking tasks into smaller pieces and journaling about the feelings associated with a task that are causing you to avoid it. That's essentially what Focusable helps you do. I've been using Focusable since September and it has helped me avoid procrastinating on some difficult tasks. Read this blog post to learn more about how Focusable can help you avoid procrastination. 



Applications for Education
Helping students identify what it is about an assignment that's causing them to avoid it could go a long way toward helping the get started on the process of completing it. This TED-Ed lesson can help them understand why they're avoiding academic assignments. A tool like Focusable can help students get started on those assignments they perceive as difficult and help them journal their thoughts about it.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

What's New in Focusable? More Ways to Help You Focus

Focusable is the first thing listed in my Best of the Web 2022 presentation. Since the first time that I tried it back in September, I knew that Focusable was a tool that could do a lot of good for teachers and students. It does so by helping you learn to ignore distractions and focus on the things that you need to get done. Unlike browser extensions that simply block distracting websites, Focusable teaches you how to focus so that you don't give into the temptations of distracting websites and apps. 

Like any good educational technology company, Focusable has listened to feedback from teachers and students to make improvements. The latest update to Focusable puts a lot of that feedback into use. For example, you can now use Focusable without an account. Another significant update is that you no longer have to use your webcam to record your reflections on the progress you're making. And you can now have more control over the time intervals for your focus/ work sessions. Watch my new video that is embedded below to learn more about what's new in Focusable. 

Video - What's New in Focusable? More Ways to Help You Focus  



Applications for Education
Focusable was built for the purpose of helping students learn how to focus on their work while ignoring distractions. An ancillary benefit of using Focusable is creating a little journal to document progress on a project. If you give students a little direction like “state what worked and what didn’t,” they can use Focusable to develop the skill of focusing while also documenting their progress on a project. You can then use your Focusable teacher account to view your students’ progress.

On a related note, take a look at Why We Procrastinate.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Now You Can Use Focusable Without Registering for an Account

I have been using Focusable since September to help me stop procrastinating and focus on the work that I need to get done when I'd rather be doing something else. Focusable isn't just for adults. In fact, it was created for classroom use. However, Focusable has always required that users register for an account in order to use the platform. That can be an obstacle to using it in some school settings. Focusable has remedied that problem by now offering an option to use the platform without registering for an account. 

Anyone can now use Focusable by simply going to Focusable.com/focus. When you use that link you'll be directed to Focusable's countdown timer page. You set the timer for the length of time you need. Once the timer has started you can access the breathing and visualization activities that Focusable offers. 

When you use Focusable without an account you don't have access to the video journaling feature. Nor do you have access to a record of how many Focusable sessions you've done. 

Watch my new video that is embedded below to learn how to use Focusable without registering for an account. 

Friday, November 4, 2022

How Focusable Helps Me Stop Procrastinating

On Thursday morning I wrote about a new TED-Ed lesson that explains why we procrastinate. The lesson also offers some suggestions for breaking the procrastination habit. One of those suggestions is to journal about how you feel when faced with a task that you would rather avoid. To that end, I suggested trying Focusable

I've been using Focusable since September. I use it whenever there is a project or even just a list of little tasks that for one reason or another I have trouble getting started on. It's a simple program that works remarkably well. 

The premise of Focusable is that you can do anything for five minutes. Based on that idea Focusable gives you a brief breathing exercise to do then a five minute timer appears. Your goal is to work for five minutes on that thing you've been avoiding. Once you've worked for five minutes Focusable plays a little chime and prompts you to record a little video journal of how you felt while working. Then the process repeats, but the second time you work for ten minutes. Then the process repeats again for twenty minutes. 

Watch my updated video that is embedded below to see how Focusable works. 


Applications for Education
As a teacher you can create a group for your students to join in Focusable. They then use Focusable to create progressions to help them develop the habits of focusing for blocks of time and reflecting as they go. When students are in your group, you can reply to their reflections with short videos of your own to encourage them and give them feedback. Again, the only people who see those videos are you and the student. Jump to the 6:53 mark in this video to see the student perspective of Focusable.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Why We Procrastinate and Tips to Stop Doing It

I meant to write about this a few days ago. TED-Ed recently published a new lesson that tackles an issue that most of us have dealt with at one time or another. That issue is procrastination. 

Why You Procrastinate Even When It Feels Bad is a TED-Ed lesson that explains why people procrastinate. It does a great job of explaining the biggest psychological cause of procrastination. That cause being the fight-or-flight response in our brains to tasks that we perceive as difficult or otherwise stress-inducing. The lesson explains why we procrastinate when faced with a task that actually isn't that difficult once we get started. 

The end of Why You Procrastinate Even When It Feels Bad includes a couple of tips for breaking procrastination habits. Those tips include breaking tasks into smaller pieces and journaling about the feelings associated with a task that are causing you to avoid it. That's essentially what Focusable helps you do. I've been using Focusable since September and it has helped me avoid procrastinating on some difficult tasks. Read this blog post to learn more about how Focusable can help you avoid procrastination. 



Applications for Education
Helping students identify what it is about an assignment that's causing them to avoid it could go a long way toward helping the get started on the process of completing it. This TED-Ed lesson can help them understand why they're avoiding academic assignments. A tool like Focusable can help students get started on those assignments they perceive as difficult and help them journal their thoughts about it.

Monday, October 3, 2022

Using Focusable as a Progress Journal

Disclosure: Focusable is an advertiser on my websites.

About a month ago I started using Focusable to help me focus on my work even when I really didn’t want to. That includes working on a particularly frustrating project that I have to get done. The project is rebuilding my Practical Ed Tech website from the ground up. That includes rebuilding and or editing some databases and doing a lot of quality assurance checks. The work is rather tedious, frustrating, and something I’d just pay someone else to do if I could.

I started using Focusable to help me focus on the work of rebuilding my Practical Ed Tech website. It has helped a lot! I’ve gotten more done in the last few weeks than I did all summer. Last week while recording my reflection in between time blocks in Focusable I realized that I was journaling my progress. In each reflection I was stating what I had just tried and what I was going to try next.

When I start to work on my project again today after a weekend away from it, I’ll watch my last Focusable reflection video to remind myself of where I was when I stopped and where I need to start the next step of the project.

Applications for Education
Focusable was built for the purpose of helping students learn how to focus on their work while ignoring distractions. An ancillary benefit of using Focusable is creating a little journal to document progress on a project. If you give students a little direction like “state what worked and what didn’t,” they can use Focusable to develop the skill of focusing while also documenting their progress on a project. You can then use your Focusable teacher account to view your students’ progress.

See A Great Tool to Help Students Learn to Focus for a complete overview of how Focusable works.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Five Time-saving Ways for Teachers to Use Technology

Making time for yourself is one of the things that I talk about in my new keynote presentation titled Using Tech to Bring Joy Into Your Teaching. There are many ways that technology can help you get more time for taking care of yourself and doing the things you enjoy outside of professional responsibilities. To that end, here are five time-saving ways to use technology so that you can have more time for yourself. 

Use Smart Replies
If you use Gmail or any G Suite-based email account, enable the Smart Replies function. Smart Replies will predict what you want to write in response to an email in your inbox. Using Smart Replies saves me ten to twenty seconds per reply. Taking an average of fifteen seconds per email for twenty messages in a day and you’ve gained five minutes. Watch this video to learn how to enable Smart Replies in your inbox.

Use Canned Responses
This is similar to using Smart Replies but instead of letting Google guess what you’re going to write, you actually create replies that you save for reuse at any time. This video will show you how to use Canned Responses in Gmail.

If you're an Outlook user, you can create canned responses to use to answer frequently asked questions in your email. Here's a good video overview of how to create and use canned responses in Outlook.

Give Quizzes in Google Forms or Microsoft Forms
If you have to give multiple choice or similar quizzes, use Google Forms or Microsoft Forms. Both will let you create a quiz that your students can take online and have grades automatically calculated for you. An overview of creating a quiz in Microsoft Forms can be watched here. A series of Google Forms tutorials can be seen in this playlist.

Use Scheduling in Your LMS of Choice 
Every popular LMS contains a scheduling tool that you can use to write up a list of assignments and have them distributed on a schedule over the course of a week or month.

Block Yourself from Social Media Sites 
Those times when we check Facebook for “just a minute” are never just a minute and they quickly suck time out of our days without adding much, if any, value to them. Use a Chrome extension like ReCall Study Time or Stay Focusd (intentionally misspelled) to limit the amount of time that you allow yourself to spend on social media sites. Better yet, teach yourself to ignore social media distractions by using Focusable

Monday, September 26, 2022

Three More Ways Focusable Can Help You Focus

Disclosure: Focusable is an advertiser on my websites. 

Last week I wrote about how Focusable is helping me get things done more efficiently. That blog post featured how Focusable works once you start working. What that blog post left out was how Focusable can help you get started when you have a task to do but you'd really rather not do it. 

When you're having trouble getting started on a task that you need to do, try one of the pre-work exercises that Focusable offers. When you are signed into your Focusable account you'll find breathing exercises, visualization exercises, and stretching exercises that are designed to help you focus and get started on your work. In this brief video I provide a demonstration of where to find those exercises and how to complete them.



For a complete overview of what Focusable is, how you can use it, and how you can use it with student read this article or watch the overview video that is embedded below.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Three Ways Focusable is Helping Me Be More Productive

Disclosure: Focusable is currently an advertiser on my websites.

In the past I’ve used browser extensions to block websites that distract me from getting work done during my day, but eventually I would still find a way to distract myself. Recently, I started using a different approach thanks to the help of Focusable. Focusable is not a browser extension. Focusable is a tool to train yourself to focus on the work that you need to do. So far, it has been quite helpful whenever there is something that I need to do, but just can’t seem to get started doing.

I’ve been using Focusable for almost two weeks now. Here are the ways that it has helped me use my time a bit better during my work day.

I can do anything for five minutes!
I can do anything for five minutes. I can use those five minutes to mindlessly scroll Instagram looking for a quick dopamine hit or I can start working on a task that you need to get done. Focusable has helped me use those five minutes to get things done.

In Focusable you create something called “progressions” which is another way of saying goals or tasks that you need to complete. Each progression begins with a five minute block of time. Often, the first step in getting something done is just starting to work on it. Whenever I’ve started a progression in the last two weeks, once I complete the first five minute block I’m ready to keep working on the task at hand. In other words, working for just five minutes is enough to get me in a flow to keep going.

No more “I’m just going to look for a minute” breaks.
Focusable progressions have time blocks of five, ten, and twenty minutes (you can adjust the times, but those are the default recommendations). The goal is to work on your task nonstop during those time blocks. Between each block Focusable prompts you to reflect and breathe. I’ve found it to be a fun exercise to not look away from what I’m working on until I hear the chime from Focusable telling me to stop. Previously, I would just stop and take a break whenever I felt like it, which could mean a break after writing one sentence or after two hours of picking my way through a difficult problem.

Resetting With a Focused Break
For the last month I’ve been working on a particularly vexing problem with one of my websites. I’ve had moments when I wanted to chuck my laptop like a frisbee! It’s in those moments that I need to walk away and reset, but not walk away for too long because then I’ll lose momentum. Focusable has been helpful in not only getting me started when I don’t want to work on the problem and it has also been helpful in reminding me to take a break after thirty-five minutes of working on the problem. At the end of every set of three time blocks, Focusable prompts you to take a break away from your screen for ten minutes.

These focused breaks have also been helpful when I feel like I’m getting annoyed or frustrated while working through my inbox or replying to social media posts. Rather than continuing down a frustrating path that leads to me venting, I have the reminder from Focusable to walk away from my screen.

Learn More About Focusable
Focusable was featured in this week’s Practical Ed Tech Newsletter. In that newsletter I also included this video that provides an overview of how Focusable works from a teacher’s perspective and from a student’s perspective.



By the way, I used Focusable to help me focus on writing this blog post.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Focusable Looks Like a Promising New Approach to Online Instruction

Focusable is a new service from the same people that brought us Swivl and Synth. Focusable is currently in a private beta (public beta to launch in August) so there isn't a lot of information available about it. That said, what I've seen so far makes Focusable look like a promising new approach to online instruction.

The concept of Focusable is to help students focus on completing a learning activity (or series of activities). This is done through something that Focusable refers to as a flow. The flow includes a task, a timer, a reflection tool, and breathing (focus) exercises designed to keep students moving toward the completion of a learning activity. It appears to be different than just telling students to "set a timer and work for X minutes" because the flow uses very short timers followed by a reflection and a breathing exercise intended to get students to flow back into the assigned learning activity. 

You can sign up for beta access to Focusable on their homepage. It is there that you can also watch a short demo video of the Focusable concept. You may also want to read their announcement that introduces the Focusable concept and their article about the optimal learning experience

I've signed up for early beta access to Focusable because I'm curious to see how well their approach works. If it works nearly as well as they promise, it could be a great way to give personalized online instruction. 

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