Showing posts with label productivity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label productivity. Show all posts

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.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Two More Tools That Can Help Students Stay Focused on Online Tasks

On Friday morning I shared a browser extension called BeTimeful that limits your access to social media sites during your working hours. As I wrote in that blog post, there are similar tools worth noting. Here's a short overview of some tools that can help students remove distractions and stay focused while working online.

StayFocusd is a Chrome extension that I've used for years whenever I feel like I'm falling into the bad habit of chasing rabbit holes on the internet. StayFocusd lets me specify the sites that I want to block from myself or limit my time spent viewing them. After specifying the sites and the amount of time I'll allow myself on them, a countdown timer appears whenever I view those sites. The timer resets every 24 hours.

Pomofocus is a task timer that is based on the Pomodoro method of getting things done. On Pomofocus I create a list of tasks then start the timer. Each task is allotted 25 minutes (you can adjust that). After 25 minutes there is a five minute break timer that automatically appears. After the break the next task timer appears.

Friday, July 22, 2022

BeTimeful Hides Social Media Distractions

BeTimeful is a browser extension that is designed to hide social media distractions during your working hours. There are similar browser extensions that block your access to social media sites during working hours. What makes BeTimeful different is that instead of entirely blocking your access to social media sites, BeTimeful hides all distracting content like "related," "recommended," and "trending," content. What that means is you can post on social media with BeTimeful installed, but you can can't see anything other than your own updates. 

When you install BeTimeful you can set working hours for yourself (it imports your Google Calendar settings to do that). Outside of working hours BeTimeful won't hide or block anything. During working hours BeTimeful hides all social media distractions. 

BeTimeful can work in Chrome, Firefox, and Edge. It will work on your laptop, desktop, phone, and tablet. 

Watch this short video to see how BeTimeful works. 



Applications for Education
BeTimeful could be helpful to college or high school students who need a little help staying focused on their work while writing or researching.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

How to Record Screencasts in Gmail

Nimbus Screenshot is a Chrome extension that I've featured in the past as a good tool for creating annotated, scrolling screenshots and for creating screencast videos on Chromebooks. The latest update to Nimbus Screenshot added the ability to record screencast videos directly from your Gmail inbox. 

With Nimbus Screenshot installed in Chrome you will see its icon appear in the composition window whenever you're composing a new message or replying to a message. Simply click on the Nimbus icon and you can start recording a screencast of your browser tab, a specific window, or your entire desktop. When your recording is finished it will be automatically inserted into the body of your message. 

Watch this short video to see how you can record a screencast in Gmail by using Nimbus Screenshot.



Applications for Education
Nimbus Screenshot in Gmail provides an easy way to reply to requests for tech help. Creating a quick screencast video to answer a student's or a colleague's question about how to do something on his or her computer can be a lot more efficient than trying to write step-by-step directions.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Forest - A Tool to Help You Focus on Important Tasks

When I need to focus and get a lot of writing done, I set a timer and tell myself that I can't stop writing until the timer goes off. Forest is a Chrome extension that basically does the same thing plus it blocks me from websites that could distract me from getting things done. 

Forest lets you specify the websites that you want to block yourself from visiting while your timer is running. For example, with Forest installed I can set a timer for fifteen minutes and the timer goes off I can't visit Twitter, Facebook, or any other site that I choose to block. The "reward" for working until the timer goes off is a digital tree that is planted in my digital forest (there's also the satifisfaction of completing a task without getting distracted). 

In this short video I demonstrate how Forest works. 



Applications for Education
One thing that I like about Forest is the psychology of working in blocks and saying "okay, for the next 15 minutes I'll focus" instead of "I can't visit my favorite social media sites." There's also the component of getting a little visual reward for completing a focused block of time. For students who need some help focusing to write a long paper or develop a presentation, Forest could be just what they need.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

My Top Five Productivity Tips

This is an excerpt from my weekly Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week Newsletter. The newsletter is sent out every Sunday evening (Eastern Time). In my newsletter you'll find my favorite tip of the week as well as a list of my most popular posts of the week. You can register for the newsletter right here

Can Your Comments
I find that I answer the same questions fairly often in my email. Likewise, when giving students feedback on assignments I can often use the same comment from assignment to assignment and from student to student. Therefore, I have message templates stored in my inbox and have re-usable comments stored in Google Classroom.

If you’re an Outlook user, you can also create canned responses to use to answer frequently asked questions in your email. 

(My newsletter contained directions for creating canned comments in Gmail and Outlook). 

Ignore Email…
This is one of many productivity tips that I picked up while reading Cal Newport’s Deep Work. Don’t ignore your email completely. Just ignore it until you actually have time to read it and respond to it. (My newsletter contained more information on this habit).

Use Filters
When it is time to tackle my inbox, I have some filters in place that help me prioritize messages landing in my inbox. (My newsletter contain more details and directions on this).

Automate Everything
When planning your week, use email scheduling and assignment scheduling so that you don’t have to manually send messages every day. Every popular LMS (learning management system) 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. Gmail users, you can schedule messages to be sent in the future. (My newsletter contained more information including tutorials on automation).

A Big Things List
My to-do list doesn’t include little things like “take kids to school” because that’s something that has to be done and can’t be put off for “later.” My to-do list has things that could be put off, but that I’d feel unproductive if I did put them off. For example, right now I’m trying with all my might to finish a big writing project. So on my to-do list I put “write 1,000 words.” It doesn’t have to get done that day, but I feel a lot more productive when I do get it done.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Three Chrome Extensions That Help Students Stay on Task

If you or your students need a little help staying on task when working online, try one of these Chrome extensions to help limit distractions whenever a new tab is opened. A video overview of these three extensions is included below.

StayFocusd is a Chrome extension that lets you specify the sites that you want to block from yourself or limit your time spent viewing. After you set your time limit and list of sites you'll see a countdown timer for the amount of time that you have left to view that site for the next 24 hours.

ReCall Study Time is a Chrome extension for limiting the amount of time you spend on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Instagram. When you have ReCall Study Time enabled you will see a huge reminder to get back to work if you try to open one of those five social media sites.

FlashTabs is a free Chrome extension that will display flashcards whenever you open a new Chrome tab. The thing that I like about FlashTabs is that it is easy to create your own flashcards to have displayed in your new tabs.


Thursday, October 11, 2018

How to Create Personalized Certificates in Bulk Through Google Sheets

Creating a certificate for one or a few students is a fairly straight forward process. You can use Google Slides, Canva, or any number of Word templates for that. However, that can get time-consuming when you need to create certificates for a long list of students like the school secretary that I helped earlier this week had to do. That's when you know it's time to try using the Google Sheets add-on called autoCrat to create personalized certificates for a long list of students.

In the following video I demonstrate how to use Google Sheets in conjunction with Google Slides to create personalized certificates in bulk.


In the video I used the example of creating personalized certificates that displayed only the students' first names. To create certificates that have students' first and last names you will simply need to put first and last names into a column in your spreadsheet then use conditional tags in your slide to match. For example, in the certificate I'd put the conditional tag <<name>> and in the spreadsheet I'd put a column titled "name" and then in that column I'd list students' first and last names.

Watch this video to learn how to automatically send certificates to students when they pass a quiz in Google Forms.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Try Quick Key's Gridded Response Format for Your Next Math Assessment

Quick Key is a free app that I have liked and written about since my friend Mike Morrell showed it to me almost five years ago. Every year since then Quick Key has improved by adding new features that teachers want. The latest feature added to Quick Key is a gridded response format.

Quick Key's gridded response format will let you create math questions that your students can answer on paper or online. If your students respond on paper, you can use the Quick Key mobile app to scan the paper and have your students' responses quickly graded. If your students answer online, their responses are automatically graded upon submission.

Quick Key's gridded response format was made for math assessments. The gridded response sheets can be used to answer math questions with digits, decimal points, negative signs, and division symbols. Check out the complete description and tutorial here.

Applications for Education
For those who are not familiar with Quick Key, the basic idea is that your students respond to questions on a bubble sheet and then you use your mobile phone to scan those sheets and have the scores uploaded to your online Quick Key account. Last year Quick Key introduced a complementary product called Quick Key 1:1 that allows you to give the same quiz online that you give on paper. With Quick Key 1:1 you can have students who prefer to work on paper complete their assessments that way and students who prefer to complete an assessment online can choose that option.

Disclosure: Quick Key is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Tabs Scissors & Tab Glue

Tab Scissors and Tab Glue are two Chrome extensions that will make your life a lot easier when you find are toggling between two different tabs. Tab Scissors works by splitting your Chrome browser into two perfectly sized windows at the selected tab. Tab glue will join the tabs together again. You can do the same thing by dragging tabs apart and resizing them, but this method is tedious and can be frustrating. Tab Scissors and Tab Glue make this task so much easier.

Applications for Education
Tab Scissors is useful when grading assignments. You can have the assignment open in one window and your grade book open in another. Students will find it useful when they are doing things like reading and answering questions or researching and taking notes. Tab Scissors and Tab Glue are almost as good as having dual monitors.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

This Handy Extension Helps You Get Back on Task

It can be easy to say to yourself, "I'll just take a quick look at Facebook" and then look up at the clock to realize you've wasted twenty minutes sharing memes for or against a political stance. Dayboard is a Chrome extension that can help you avoid falling into the trap of opening a new tab just to "take a quick look" at something on social media.

Dayboard is a free Chrome extension that opens your daily to-do list every time you open a new tab in Chrome. When you open a new tab for the first time Dayboard will appear and ask you to enter your to-do list for the day. After creating your to-do list for the rest of the day whenever you open a new tab you will see your list. You can place a checkmark next to items as you complete them.


Applications for Education
Dayboard is the kind of to-do list that I need and that I am sure many students can benefit from using too. I often find that I lose momentum on my to-do list when I start switching between tabs. Having my to-do list appear instead of the default "most visited sites" tab appear in Chrome should help me stay on task. I'm sure that it will help some students stay on task too.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

5 Handy Chrome Extensions for Teachers

After seeing my browser in one of my tutorial videos or one of my presentations, people often ask me about the extensions that I have installed. Here are five Chrome extensions that teachers should try.

1. Nimbus screenshot - Rather than answering the same question dozens of times, create a screencast video to explain how to use a website. Or use the extension to make a flipped classroom video.

2. Bitly - Create a free Bitly account and you can create custom, shortened URLs for any webpage. Rather than relying on a randomly generated shortened URL, which is often hard for students to copy correctly, choose the characters that you want to appear in your shortened URL. This is a great way to direct students to specific webpages.

3. Hootsuite - Use Hootsuite to schedule updates to appear on your school or classroom Twitter and Facebook pages. Schedule your Tweets and Facebook posts to appear even when you're not online. Don't forget to repeat your Tweets because not everyone that follows you will see your Tweets the first time around.

4. Google Keep - This has been my preferred bookmarking and note-taking tool since Evernote essentially eliminated their free plan.

5. Share to Classroom - If your school uses G Suite for Education, then you need to try the Share to Classroom extension. With the Share to Classroom extension installed you will be able to push webpages to your students' devices by simply opening the extension and specifying which of your Google Classroom classes you want to receive the page. Students do not need to do anything because the page will automatically load in their web browsers. You can also have students push pages to you through Share to Classroom.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

How to Add Sticky Notes To Webpages

Note Anywhere is a Chrome extension that lets you add a sticky note to just about any webpage that you have open in your browser. With the extension installed you can simply click its icon in your browser and start writing notes on the page. As I demonstrate in the video embedded below, Note Anywhere could be a good tool to use to remind yourself of things that you want to say to students when you share a webpage with them.


H/T to Lifehacker.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

QuickKey + Inexpensive Phone = Time Saved On Grading

QuickKey is a popular iOS and Android app that can help you save a ton of time when grading multiple choice or true/false quizzes. I first learned about it a few years ago when a colleague of mine was raving about it on Facebook.

Here’s the basics of how it works; create your quiz on the Quick Key website then print and distribute a bubble sheet. After your students have completed the bubble sheet you simply scan the sheets with your phone and the grading is done for you. As you can learn in the video embedded below, QuickKey will work on the cheapest of Android phones as well as on more expensive Android phones and on iPhones.

Android Tracfone Scanning from Quick Key on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

9 Google Apps Productivity Tools & Tips for Teachers

The one thing that every teacher wants more of, besides salary, is time. I can't give you more time in the day. What I can do is point you to some tools and techniques for completing routine tasks more efficiently.

Email:
Auto Text Expander for Google Chrome is a convenient Chrome extension that I've recently started using. The extension enables me to create keyboard shortcuts for words and phrases that I frequently use in emails. In the video embedded below I provide a short overview of how this helpful Chrome extension works.


Add Reminders is a Google Sheets add-on that enables you to send emails from a spreadsheet. The add-on will format your spreadsheet so that you simply enter reminder messages and email addresses then specify a date on which you want your reminders sent. The Add Reminders Add-on allows you to send the same reminder to everyone in your email list or you can send individualized reminders to everyone in your email list. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use the Add Reminders Google Sheets Add-on.


The Add Reminders add-on for Google Sheets is great if you just need to send reminder emails. However, if you want to create custom, personalized emails then you're going to need a slightly different spreadsheet script. Doing this requires adding a script to a Google Spreadsheet containing email addresses. It might sound complicated, but it really isn't. Watch the short video below from the Google Developers team to learn the process.



When you receive a document that needs to be signed, you don't need to print it if you use Hello Sign. Hello Sign offers a Google Drive app. You can also use it without integrating it into your Google Drive account. Learn more about Hello Sign in the video below.


Grading:
Flubaroo is a popular Google Sheets Add-on that enables me to grade all at once all of my students' responses to a quiz created in Google Forms. The autograde option in Flubaroo allows you to have students automatically receive their scores after submitting their responses to a quiz you created in Google Forms. The autograde feature will send students an email with their scores and the answer key (you can exclude the answer key). With autograding enabled students do not have to wait for you to run the grading process or wait for you to send emails. You can also print grades from Flubaroo and or save them as a PDF.

Online Rubric is a Google Spreadsheets Add-on that enables to you create rubrics, enter scores, and email scores to students all from one place. Online Rubric provides very clear instructions for each step of the processes of creating a roster sheet, creating a rubric, and emailing grades to students. The video below provides a demonstration of how to use the Online Rubric Add-on.


Doctopus is a Google Spreadsheet Add-on that can help teachers manage the flow of shared work in in their Google Drive accounts. The basic concept behind the Add-on is to enable teachers to quickly share documents with all of the students on a roster, monitor usage of shared documents, and give students feedback within that roster spreadsheet. When Google launched Google Classroom it seemed that Doctopus might become redundant, but that has not exactly become the case as Justin Brink demonstrates in the videos embedded below.



Scheduling:
Lab Scheduler is a neat Google Sheets Add-on that enables you to easily create and maintain a lab or room reservation system for your school. It is designed for schools that use a labeled block schedule (for example, the high school in my district uses "period 1" through "period 8" even though there are only four periods in a given day). Once you have added Lab Scheduler to your Google Spreadsheet it will walk you through the process of creating blocks of time and lab/room space in your spreadsheet. You can set your Lab Scheduler to maintain a preview of as many dates as you like. The preview is what people will see when they want to make a reservation. Share the spreadsheet with your staff and they can reserve a block of time in it.

YouCanBook.Me is a meeting scheduling tool that integrates with your Google Calendar and is easier to use than the appointment slots feature in Google Apps for Education calendars. YouCanBook.Me allows people to book fixed blocks of time in your calendar. You identify the times in your calendar that you are available to meet. Then when someone needs to schedule a meeting with you, you send him or her a link to your booking calendar. Visitors to your calendar click a block and enter their email addresses to reserve a block of your time. When a block of time is reserved you receive an email alert and the other person receives a confirmation email.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Try Doodle for Choosing Mutually Convenient Meeting Times

Throughout the school year we'll schedule what seems like countless meetings with various people including colleagues, students, parents, and outside consultants. Trying to choose a mutually acceptable meeting time can quickly become a mess of email replies. Doodle provides an easier way than using email chains to choose mutually acceptable meeting times. Doodle is essentially a polling platform for selecting meeting times. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how easy it is to use Doodle.com.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

An Easy Way to Digitally Sign Documents

This evening I received an email from a friend who was looking for advice on how to sign and email a document without printing it because she didn't have a working printer at home. My suggestion was to use HelloSign. HelloSign makes it easy to sign PDFs and Word documents without having to print them. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use HelloSign in your web browser. HelloSign is also available as an Android and iOS app.


Applications for Education
In the course of the school year there are plenty of documents that we all have to sign for one reason or another. You could print those documents, sign them, then scan them. Or you could use HelloSign to sign them within your web browser and never have to print or scan them at all.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

How to Save Time When Replying to Email

If you're like me, at the beginning of a new semester or school year you probably find yourself frequently replying to the same type of questions in your email. Try Auto Text Expander for Google Chrome to efficiently reply to those emails. In the video embedded below I provide a short overview of how this helpful Chrome extension works.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Save Time and Keystrokes With This Chrome Extension

Auto Text Expander for Google Chrome is a convenient Chrome extension that I've recently started using. The extension enables me to create keyboard shortcuts for words and phrases that I frequently use in emails.

To get started saving time sending emails install Auto Text Expander for Google Chrome. Once the extension is installed you will be sent a page to create your database of shortcuts. A handful of sample shortcuts are provided for you to help you understand how to format your shortcuts. After creating your shortcuts database you're ready to start using them in email and other web applications.

To use your Auto Text Expander for Google Chrome shortcuts in your email just type the shortcut and hit the space bar to see the full text appear. For example, I have a shortcut "tyfr" that I now use when I want to write "thank you for reading my blog" in an email.

Applications for Education
At the beginning of every new semester I find myself answering the same type of question fairly frequently. You probably experience the same. Auto Text Expander for Google Chrome should make replying to those frequently asked questions a bit easier than before.