Friday, January 30, 2009

Keeping a Date-and-Time-Stamped Journal on Your Computer - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more For those who are near a computer pretty much throughout the day and and need to keep a running records of phone calls fielded or any other type of journal info, this tip may be just hit the spot.

I can't remember where I originally saw this idea. The best I could find through a Google search was this page (Scroll about half-way down the page.), and since I do subscribe to that magazine, that's probably where I saw it.

The idea is known as the "Captain's Log," and it makes use of the Notepad accessory that comes with Windows. On Windows XP, go to Start>All Programs>Accessories>Notepad. Open Notepad and type ".LOG" (without the quotation marks and in all caps) on the first line and then hit a couple of times. Save the file on the desktop with an appropriate name. I like "Captains Log."

Every time you open the file, the current date and time will be displayed on your document. Enter your documentation and save.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Principalship from A-Z

My friend Barbara Blackburn has just published another in her set of "A-Z" books. This one is entitled The Principalship from A-Z. (Click the link to see the table of contents and read several sample chapters.) The chapter on Juggling Priorities is particularly relevant to this blog. Barbara has included some of the ideas from Get Organized! and included the book in the "If You Would Like More Information" section of the chapter.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Excel Part 4-If Then Statements - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more
"If-then" is a common formula. Once you have the hang of this formula, you will find yourself using it in many situations. They called this video "Conditional Formatting," but it's really not. If you understand the formula used when they calculate the letter grades, CONGRATULATIONS, you would really have the hang of it!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Workshop for R. L. Young Faculty

"Life doesn't have to be hard" was the theme of a short workshop for the faculty at R.L. Young Elementary School here in Talladega, AL. There are tricks and tools that can reduce the monotony and help us get our lives in order. Often, the tools are already laying around; we just need to know how to use them.

In about 20 minutes, teachers had a good grasp of how to create data with the Renaissance Place dashboard and how to get e-mail from "In to Empty" using Outlook's drag and drop feature. If you would like to read more about the workshop, here is the post from R. L. Young's blog.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Air and Simple Gifts

I didn't know exactly what to write about this inspiring moment from today's inauguration. One of the comments about it left on YouTube did it for me:

When I heard Yo-Yo Ma was in it, I knew it was going to be good.
When I heard Itzhak was in it, I sat up a little bit straighter.
And when I heard it was arranged by John Williams,
in those 5 minutes,
you could not have done anything
to take my eyes away.

If seems that when we as a people gather at an important event, music becomes not only a important element but an element long remembered after the event is over. For my entire adult life, John Williams has brought us music that has entertained, inspired, and moved emotions. Today was certainly no exception.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Excel Part 3-Autofill, Formulas, Formatting, Sorting - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more
This tutorial gives examples of Autofill, writing formulas to find sums, percentages, averages, maximums, and minimums.The examples also shows how to sort rows, resize fonts, and merge cells.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Syncing Google Calendar to Outlook

This post covers two points:
  • The ability to sync Outlook with a Google Calendar
  • The rationale for doing so
I was surprised at how easy the process was. If you are sitting at a computer which houses your Outlook data, you are about 5 minutes away from being able to see your Outlook dates on Google Calendar.

You must first have a Google account. The next step is to create a Google calendar. You will see a list of Google features. If "Calendar" is not one of them, look for "More" and click there. Once you have created a Google calendar, you can now sync with Outlook.

Click here to see an easy article that takes you through the process.

I was prompted to download and run an installer. On my desktop, I then had a shortcut which would take me straight to the Google Calendar. In the Windows System Tray, I had an icon which allows me to edit settings and manually sync. It was that simple.

Why would you want to be able to sync Outlook with a Google Calendar?
  • One tremendous advantage I see is that if someone else has some responsibility for managing your appointments, Google Calendar is the perfect way for that person to view and add to your calendar. To begin, the other person would need to sit at the computer which actually houses the Outlook pst file on it and go to their Google calendar. That will set up the link between that particular Outlook pst file (the file where Outlook data is kept) and that particular Google calendar. From there on, that second person can view and add items from his/her own work station and the results appear on the Outlook calendar.
  • Similarly, one spouse may want to create a Google Calendar to view the other's Outlook calendar.
  • A person who houses their calendar on Outlook yet does not sync it to a smartphone could certainly benefit. Syncing Outlook to a Google Calendar gives the ability to view it from anywhere. In particular, web access from a smartphone would keep a person in touch with their calendar just by pulling the smartphone from their pocket.
I do not think that a Google calendar is the answer for everyone. Personally, syncing my BlackBerry to Outlook gives me my calendar, tasks with all of the related details, a very complete list of contacts, and tones of "Notes" information, and it's all a couple of clicks away. I am not dependent upon quality or availablility of cell phone reception in order to see where I am supposed to be or what I am supposed to be doing. For many others, a Google Calendar synced to Outlook may just be what the doctor ordered.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Excel Part 2--Setting Up A Budget - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more
A budget is a pretty standard Excel example to work through. This example shows how to add labels in Excel, enter numbers, format the numbers as money, total the amounts rows, and total the amounts in columns.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Teachers, I Need Your Help

Teachers, I need your help. The project I am working on is a second book, one geared specifically to the classroom teacher. Get Organized! Time Management for School Leaders seems to be finding a niche with school administrators more than any other group, although the strategies are applicable to anyone. This second book will serve as a guide for the teacher who is new to the profession, the teacher new to a school who may have inherited a mess, or the teacher for whom organization and time management have never been strengths and wishes to “turn over a new leaf.” I hope the book also finds an audience with the teacher who is well-organized and a good manager of time, yet wants to get even better. The book is intended to be a manual that begins with organizing the newly-inherited classroom and continues through structuring a signature tool, taming technology, and staying afloat in a profession that throws far too many tasks our way. Of special interest is how the teacher can help students with their own organizational struggles.

Here is where I need your help: Does anyone out there have a really good reference filing system set up in your classroom (forms, instructional materials, correspondence, etc.)? If so, I would like to hear about it and credit your ideas in the book. Ideally, I would like to hear from both elementary and secondary teachers. Input from “specialty” areas such as physical education or music would also be welcome. If you are interested in contributing, e-mail me at and we can talk from there.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A Special Dedication...

Why I have chosen to embed this video on this blog at this particular time will make no sense to most who are viewing it. It's really intended for one in particular who will know exactly why it's right here and right now.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Excel Part 1-Writing Simple Formulas - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more One of the best investments of my time was learning the spreadsheet portion of AppleWorks back in the days when an Apple IIe was "cutting edge." The first accomplishment was immediately moving my gradebook from paper to computer. Never again did I have to average a grade. Since that day, spreadsheets have been huge time savers in many projects both for me and for many others with whom I have worked.

For today's school leader, a knowledge of Excel, at least at some level, is a necessity. Some will learn enough about Excel to have a sense of the capability. This user knows enough about the program to have a mental picture the results of the project and will call upon a more tech-savvy friend to figure out the formulas. Others will embrace the design and composition of formulas.

If you are a newbie with Excel, the post for each of the next seven Mondays will present a tutorial from TeacherTube on a different Excel technique.

This first post teaches the basics of writing formulas. You will learn how to write a formula to add, subtract, multiple, or divide numbers. You also learn how to sum numbers in rows and columns using a simple budget as an example.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

I Do It When I Think About It

How often do we hear someone talk about performing a routine task “when I think about it”? The corollary for that one is when the task goes undone, the excuse is likely to be “I didn’t think about it.” We hang up the phone after talking to Sam for 15 minutes and then remember the 3 things we really needed to ask. We think about the application we need to submit the day after the deadline. We wake up at 3:00 A.M. thinking about needing to buy ketchup. The next day we walk right past ketchup at the grocery store without a clue. If only we could think about things at the right time.

Let me pose this question: When is the last time you thought about chocolate ducks? My guess is that you have not thought about chocolate ducks in a while. Yet, what are you thinking about right now…? Yep, that right—chocolate ducks! A simple trigger caused you to shift your attention, even if for a brief moment.

In all seriousness, I believe that all of us do things when we think about them. The challenge is to develop some type of mechanism which causes us to think about them at the right time. Car manufacturers understand this concept and build in a little chime to indicate the fuel level is low. That mechanism causes the driver to think about getting gas at the exact point the tank is approaching empty.

Cooks understand this concept and set timers to cause them to think about taking the cake out of the oven at just the right time. Merchants buy air time so that their commercials can remind us right at the peak of the gift-giving season of the products they sell.

Some people seem to always be doing the right thing at the right time. Others are continually letting things slip through the cracks. What is the difference?

If it is true that I do things “when I think about it,” then the magic becomes developing a system which causes me to think about it at the right time. Yet there is one more crucial step. The real magic is making that system easy enough that I will sustain it not for a week or a month, but for a lifetime.

Countless times during the day, responsibilities come my way which cannot be handled at that moment. What I can do is trap that thought before it escapes. That reminder likely goes straight into the BlackBerry or Outlook worded clearly enough that its meaning will be understood weeks later. If the ideas are flying and the exact task is hazy, my journal traps the conversation and I flesh out the “to-dos” at a more quiet time later in the day. Or, when obligations or thoughts come “on the fly” as I am walking down the hall or sitting in traffic, the memo pad I carry in my shirt pocket traps the basic idea.

What I can do is look at everything I have trapped during the day, make decisions about when I want to see each task again, and word them clearly in my signature tool. Now, everything I wanted to think about today is going to appear on the list for today. All I have to do is look at it. If I need something more, adding an alarm to any appointment or task causes me to think about it at the precise time I need a reminder. One of the beauties of organizing with a digital tool is that when Sam calls unexpectedly, quickly keying “Sam” in the find command on my BlackBerry or in Outlook brings up a list of everything I wanted to talk to Sam about.

We live in a world that is potentially filled with stress. In February 2003, Fast Company magazine referenced data from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that 80% of our medical expenditures are now stress related. The National Mental Health Association estimates that 75-90% of all visits to physicians are stress related. Tools as simple as a memo pad or as complex as a smartphone combined with a strategy for how to use them can relieve a good bit of unneeded stress.

Those little tools serve as our personal assistants and remind us at just the right time of our meetings, the gifts we have to buy, the reports we have to write, and even the chocolate ducks we might like to see on an Easter morning. All the while, we are able to focus and be fully present in the moment. Carrying that smartphone or memo pad, and developing the discipline to use it, is a small price to pay for the freedom from stress that it brings.

A very good friend who proof-read the original draft of this post asked, “Did you write this with me in mind?” I was a little surprised, seeing as how this person is someone I view as being one of the most having-it-all-together people I know. The question did let me know that this message is one that probably speaks to us all at some level. Somehow, it clicked for me my senior year in high school and has made all the difference ever since. Perhaps it will click for someone else today.

We do it when we think about. That’s our nature. We just need an easy system, one that runs constantly in the background, does our remembering for us, and nudges us at the right moment. As we begin a new year that holds so much potential for each of us, can there be a better time to adopt a simple tool and simple system which will allow us to unleash some of that potential?

Friday, January 02, 2009

Picasa 3

Picasa is a free piece of software which allows you to store, edit, organize, and share digital photos. I just started experimenting with it and am finding it very easy to use. Picasa has organized my photos into folders, yet I am able to scroll through the entire collection from beginning to end and see every picture without having to open and close folders.

You may download Picasa by clicking here. I found a particularly helpful video which gives an overview of the program. You may view it by clicking here.

I opened Picasa for the first time this evening. It immediately asked to scan my hard drive copied every one of them into Picasa, all categorized into folders.

That's really all I know right now, but what I do know, I learned in about 10 minutes. So, if you are looking for a way to organize your digital pictures, check it out.

Jing--Free, Easy, Screen Capture

Jing is a program which allows you to capture images and videos of what you see on your screen. Imagine you are trying to demonstrate how to execute a technique in Word or PowerPoint. You could sit another person beside you and let them watch your screen as you explain what you are doing. That would not work, however, if the person was 1,000 miles away. With Jing, distabce does not matter.

Jing allows you to record videos of what you are seeing on your screen along with your commentary. There are two versions of Jung, with one of the them being free. The free version does limit you to 5 minutes of recording time for any one video.

As a next step, watch the video that is located on their homepage. It provides a thorough explanation. The website is