Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sending Large Files "We Transfer"

We have all run into the problem of needing to send a large file to someone but either our e-mail system or their e-mail system rejects the file because of its size. "We Transfer" is a free website that provides another way for your party to download get the file.

  1. Go to
  2. Click on the "+" sign next to "Add Files."
  3. Enter the recipients' e-mail address, your e-mail address, and compose a message.
  4. Click the "Transfer" button. 
That's it! There is no account to create. I did find the time required to upload the file is long, so be prepared. Oh course, you can still do other things on your computer while the file uploads.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Enhanced Tickler Files

Tickler files are great for papers that we need to see on a particular future date. Decide on the date, throw the paper in the tickler file, and forget about it. The paper comes back on exactly the right day. But what about papers which have no specific date associated with them?

I received this e-mail from a reader:

Dr. Buck,

I really enjoyed your session. I am ready to set up my Ticker Flies!!!

Should I may files like this:
Files January – December

What about odd and end kinds of things that do not really fit in the above? Did you mention a alphabetized file? Would that be in the box as well or in a file cabinet? Suggestions, please???

Here was my answer:

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Google Priority Inbox...Do You Really Need It?

Handling the volume of e-mail has been a challenge for the knowledge worker for quite a few years now. This short video explains an attempt to help the situation for those who have g-mail accounts.

As the video demonstrates, mail is sorted into high priority and everything else with the idea being that you would handle the high priority items first and then everything else...let's see...when you "have time."

Here is my question, "How many 'low priority' tasks do you already have sitting around?" Do you really need more items in your already overgrown backlog? As soon as mail is marked "low priority" and we give ourselves permission to ignore it until we have more time, it becomes part of that haze that never has our full attention, yet constantly reminds us that something is being left undone.

There is a better way, and it consists of doing exactly the same thing with your e-mail inbox that you do with the mailbox that sits outside your house--empty it daily. Every day, we take the mail from the mailbox and then make decisions about each piece. Junk mail goes into the trash can immediately. Never in a million years would we make a pile of junk mail to go through later when we had more time. The pile would be so large we would never want to tackle it.

Getting the e-mail inbox empty is a matter of making decisions, making them one right after another, and making them quickly. Here is the drill I go through with every e-mail:
  1. Is this something for which there is no remaining value? Is so, hit "Delete."
  2. Is this something someone else should be handling? If so, forward the e-mail and include somewhere in that e-mail  the tilde (~) sign. I have a rule written in Outlook that if an e-mail includes the tilde sign, a copy of that e-mail goes in my inbox. Point #4 discusses what to do with the copy.
  3. Does this information contain information about somewhere to be? If so, use the "drag and drop" feature on Outlook to create an appointment. Give the appointment a date and time. All of the details from the e-mail automatically appear in the note section of the appointment.
  4. Does the information relate to something to do? If what is needs to do is reply to the e-mail, and you can do so quickly, reply now. If the e-mail relates to something to do, and that something can be done quickly, go ahead and do it now. If the e-mail will take a little more attention, drag and drop the e-mail on the "Task" button, and Outlook creates a new task. Amend the subject line to clearly articulate the task. Then, ask the very important question, "When do I want to see this again?" Assign a start and due date based on the answer to that question.
  5. Is the information simply reference information? In other words, there is nothing that needs to be done right now or at any predictable time in the future, but it is information that if needed could be found quickly. Two options are available. One is to drag that information to the "Notes" icon. The other is save it on the computer's hard drive wherever similar information would be stored. For example, if I am sent an e-mail containing a lesson plan on the solar system, I would save it on the hard drive with other science lesson plans.

The neat thing is that once the decision has been made about what to do, the e-mail can be deleted. The inbox is empty! I don't know about you, but I would rather see an inbox that is empty rather than a growing stack of "low priority" e-mail.

Has you tried Google Priority Inbox? 
If so, how do your impressions stack up with mine?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What Did You Create Today?

Will Richardson offers this thought-provoking article. In a world that is all-too-focused on bubbling in the correct answers on multiple-choice tests, Will challenges us to rethink what ought to be happening during the school day (and thankfully is happening in many places).

Is some of this already happening in your child's school? Please share.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Repeating Task System Podcast

I have spoken and written often about the importance of developing a repeating task system to take control of the tasks which must be completed not just once, but every year, every quarter, every month, every week, etc. In working with people one-on-one, I am finding more and more that the concept of repeating tasks is one which requires a great deal of review for people to truly "get it," and that is the reason for this post.

Today, the Eye on Education blog features a podcast I created on the subject. The text of the podcast is also included. Happy listening!

To listen to that podcast, click here.

Anybody have their own repeating task system set up? Is it like one of these?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Look at Harry Truman

A fine line separates the topics of time management and leadership. Leadership requires a mastery of one's time. In the blog All Things Leadership, Kerry Palmer discusses the leadership style of President Harry S. Truman. I think you will find the series of four posts enjoyable reading.

Be an Early Riser
Dress for Success
Read Voraciously
When at Work, Work Hard

Friday, September 17, 2010

Constitution Day and the Repeating Task System

"Constitution Day" was established by Congress in 2004. The legislation establishing it also set forth the requirement that all educational institutions which receive federal funds are required to hold educational programs pertaining to the Constitution on September 17 each year. 

When this legislation was passed, communication flowed as it normally does through the chain of command. Memos went from Washington to each state department of education, who in turn sent memos to school systems, who in turn sent memos to principals.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

Converting PDF to Word

Need to convert a PDF file to Word? It doesn't get any easier than this. Simply go to this site. You are three easy steps away from seeing the converted document in your e-mail inbox!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Converting PDF Files to PowerPoint

The Free Technology for Teachers blog featured this site for converting pdf files to PowerPoint. You may read the description here.

Anyone want to give their feedback after testing it out?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Google Instant

Judging from what is rolling off my RSS feed, Google Instant seems to be the news story of the week. This short video compares searching with Google as normal versus Google Instant:

Those who go to the classic Google page for their searches would experience Google Instant and figure out what is happening with no explanation. People like me who have an iGoogle homepage and search from there do not experience this new development.

So, if you haven't been to the Google classic page in the last few days, take a test drive and see what you think.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Change and "Crystal Clear Task Lists"

I recently read Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, written by Chip and Dan Heath. They are also the authors of the bestseller Made to Stick.

In the book, the Heath brothers say we must do three things for change to occur:
  1. Direct the rider
  2. Motivate the elephant
  3. Shape the path

Directing the rider and motivating the elephant are metaphors for appealing to the intellect and appealing to emotions, respectively.

What strikes me is the wording used to describe what one must do in terms of directing the rider. The authors state on page 17, "What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. So provide crystal-clear direction."  We read on page 72, "Clarity dissolves resistance."

In the September 2010 issue of Fast Company, the Heath brothers further explore this concept in their article "Tase the Haze." One of their examples sounds exactly like a line out of the Get Organized! workshop:

Imagine that you have two items on your to-do list. One is "pick up AAA batteries". The other is "deal with tax issues." Guess which one is still unchecked four weeks later?

Replace "AAA batteries" and "deal with taxes" with the examples "buy shoestrings" and 'improve the math curriculum" and you could be sitting right there listening to me!

In both Get Organized! and Organization Made Easy!, we talk about the elements which go into making an "organized task list," a list that stands a chance of having the items on it accomplished. The first rule of an organized task list? Make the next step crystal clear.

Eye on Education featured this idea on their blog in November of 2009. You can read that post here.

The fact that the same idea shows up again worded in virtually the same way is simply evidence of its truth. Before we can make progress, we have to define what progress looks like. We must know exactly what is being asked of us. When worded in a crystal-clear manner, tasks become easier to do. Mountains become easier to move. Wasted motion goes away. Stress goes down. Productivity goes up. Take a look at your own to-do list with the filter of clarity in mind. How could you re-write so that items which have been sitting there suddenly start to get done?


Have you ever had an item that sat in your to-do list for what seems like forever? What did you finally do to get it moving?

Monday, September 06, 2010

Morning on the Sheep Farm

Last week, we were in Loudon County (Tennessee) for a full-day workshop with school administrators. While we were there, we visited the Quae Tae Me Farm near Philadelphia, TN. The farm’s name means “Come to me” in Gaelic, a common command for the dogs who are such an integral part of life on a sheep farm. The farm’s owner charged no admission, but rather suggested that if we liked what we saw, that we make a donation to Border Collie Rescue. Well, we did, and we did.

If you would also like to support the work of this fine organization in their efforts to find “forever homes” for these intelligent furry friends, their website is here.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Congratulations to Jacksonville State!

Who would have thought it? In one of those David-versus-Goliath matches on the opening week of the college football field, David won, and David's name is Jacksonville State University. I am proud because I graduated from Jacksonville more years ago than I would like to count. And, as ESPN cut away to cover the second overtime, the sound of the JSU Marching Southerners was prominent in the background.

Clips of those final moments are floating about today, but in order to provide a place where that special moment in JSU football history will always be housed, today's post is devoted to providing just such a spot.

Congratulations to the Jacksonville State University Gamecocks on what may well be the biggest win in their history as they defeated Ole Miss in double overtime.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

"NextUp" Keeps Your Meeting on Schedule

Don't you hate meetings which drag on and where people take their own little "bird walks"? NextUp is a very simple website designed to keep meetings running on schedule. To use the site:
  1. Go to
  2. Enter the name of the meeting.
  3. Enter each agenda topic and the time being allocated.
  4. Click "Create Agenda."
  5. When it's time to start the meeting, click "Start the Meeting."
The timer starts, and you watch the time tick second-by-second on the first agenda item. When the timer reaches zero, it starts ticking on the next item. There is no buzzer to signal "time up." If one agenda item is finished early, there is no way to jump the timer to the beginning of the next item. The site simply runs on a computer screen somewhere in the room as a subtle reminder of how many agenda items are left and how much time is left on the current item and those to follow.

Oh, and best of all, the site is free. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

What are your biggest problem areas in meetings? How do you overcome them?

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Blogs, Wikis, Google Docs: A Comparison Chart

Even though Web 2.0 tool have been around for a while, many still have difficulty with the capabilities of each. After all, there is considerable overlap in these capabilities. A recent post on Free Technology for Teachers pointed readers to an excellent chart which compares and contrasts blogs, wikis, and Google Docs.

My personal feeling is that between the ease and increased flexibility afforded to blog users and the improvements to Google Docs, those two tools used in conjunction provide the benefits that a wiki would offer. I would be welcome to hear other sides of that argument.

With a blog, I don't have to have a "big picture" plan for how the site will eventually look. I just start, and through consistent use of tagging posts with subjects, I can easily see all posts related to a certain subject at any later time.

In addition, I am more concerned with maintaining a collection of my finished work than a collection of all of the various drafts. This point makes my blog the choice over a wiki.

Finally, Google Docs fills the voids I see with a blog. The first of  those being there is no place to post separate documents you have created and want others to access. Simply post them on Google Docs and provide links from your blog. Blogs allow collaboration through narrative comments, but do not allow readers to actually go in and make changes to a work in progress. Google Docs specializes in that sort of thing.

Technology has brought us countless new tools. From the standpoint of someone who likes to keep things simple, pick the few that give the most bang for the buck and really get to know those inside out. For me, that meant getting really good with my blogs. Before retiring from public education, I was actively contributing to three blogs. I did not venture out to learn all of the available hosts for my blogs. I have simply stuck with Blogger from the beginning, watched its capabilities grow, and tried to stay abreast of those capabilities. 

For those still a little hazy on what a blogs, wikis, or Google Docs will do, hopefully the chart presented here will help.