Friday, September 30, 2011


One principal who helped mentor me described the end of the school year as “…like being on a sled going down a steep, snow-covered hill. Things just get faster and faster and there’s nothing you can do about it. You just try to avoid running into a tree.” We forget just how much hits us until it arrives. The end of the year just seems the logical time to bring closure to just about any activity you can name. Everyone is trying to clear up everything all at the same time. Work shows up faster than we can possibly get it done. Without intervention, this year will be no different.

As the year comes to a close, we would actually like to enjoy it. Everything we have worked for all year long blooms! How nice it would be to savor the moment instead of feeling the stress of so much to do in so little time!

It doesn’t all have to be done right now.
Some of what is on our plates could wait until the dust settles. Our fear is that by the time we actually have the time, those good ideas will have been forgotten, so we try to cram it all in while things are fresh on our minds. Two simple tools allow us to take those worthy tasks and carve a place for them in our future. One more gives hope that we could prevent this onslaught next year.

The Tickler File
There are the physical things which are lying around in the form of papers and files. Their physical presence serves as reminder of the work to be done with them. Every time we look at them, we are distracted from the task at hand. That’s where the tickler file comes to the rescue. We have a pretty good idea of when the dust will settle and life as normal will resume. Drop those papers in the tickler file for that time. They will resurface exactly when you have decided you wanted to see them.

The Signature Tool
There are the mental things rolling around in our heads. Every one of them screams “Don’t forget to…!” yet still we forget. Those things which could be done later compete for our limited attention with those things which much be done now. Our signature tool, be it paper or digital, is the answer. Pick a date when things will be more settled. Write it down or key it in depending upon whether you system is paper or digital. Either way, you have earned the right to forget about it. It will come back on its own, and it will do so on exactly on the date you had chosen.

The Repeating Task List
Some of the avalanche is caused by other people. Some of it, we likely have nobody to blame but ourselves. It seems as soon as life settles down in June, we forget the feeling of overwhelm and what we might have done to minimize it.

The world of education is a cyclic world in which many of the same tasks and same projects repeat every year. Some of what we are doing in May could have been done in March, if only we had thought of it in March. You can structure a system which will cause you to think of it in March, or at any time you choose. I have spoken often of the value of the repeating task list, a simple tool which allows us to think of something one time and then let our system remind us at just the right instant.

Finishing teacher observations, scheduling next year’s dates, grading mountains of make-up work, or taking inventory of our equipment are just a few examples of the tasks which need not be able to left for the mad rush of mid-May. If all of what we are trying to fit into a small window of time was actually written down in one place, we would instantly realize that we have set ourselves up for failure and begin to do something about it.

Master these three tools and watch your productivity go up and your stress level go down:
1. Tickler File
2. Signature Tool
3. Repeating Task List

End the Insanity
Mid-May is a terrible time to fix the problems of mid-May. Now is a perfect time to lay the plans and implement the procedures that will make this May the perfect end of a perfect year.

Our two greatest problems are gravity and paperwork. We can lick gravity, but sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming.
— Dr. Wernher Von Braun

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Here is What We Do...

Over the years, the material I present has changed, matured, and expanded. Trying to put together a comprehensive catalog that is not out of date as soon as it is completed has been a challenge.

Clicking on the image to the left will take you to a virtual catalog. Feel free to browse. If something strikes your fancy, I hope you can join me the next time I am presenting that topic. If would like to bring me to your school or other organization for the one of choosing, click here and we can begin a discussion.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Looking for Your "Brand"?

There was a time when choosing a username was something to which you did not give a second thought. You typed in the first thing that came to mind. If that name was not available and the site suggested something else, you took it. Those days are gone, or at least they should be. Whether it's Twitter or YouTube or Blogger, we want something that identifies us, a single name that identifies us across the web.

I found very quickly that "Frank Buck" had already been taken on a number of fronts, not to mention the fact that I share that name with a famous wild animal hunter from days gone by. Happily, Blogger was a notable exception. I also discovered that adding a title in front of my name gave me something that no other "Frank Buck" seemed to have. So, "DrFrankBuck," with well-placed capital letters, became my "brand" across the web.

Are you struggling with the same question, trying to find one username you can use universally? If so, namechk is the site for you. There is no registration. Simply enter the username you are considering and click "chk." Namechk returns an "available" or "taken" result for up to 160 different sites.

Want to view a "taken" site? Click on its icon and you will be viewing the Twitter feed, Facebook page, or YouTube collection for the person with that name. Start your search with a short list of possibilities and in just a couple of minutes, you should have pegged a brand for yourself. If you are looking for a time-saver, this is one!

While you are at it, are you thinking about a website domain name? Take a look at Panabee. Enter the words you are interested in having in the domain name. Panabee shows you what is taken and what is not.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Deadlines and Toothpaste

What is the trigger that tells you it’s time to buy toothpaste? Is it when you’re squeezing the last little bit out of the tube? Or, is it when you take the last unopened tube from under the counter? How you answer this question speaks volumes about your entire approach to deadlines and either the stress, or lack of stress, they cause.

In the tooth paste scenario, the person who adds “Buy toothpaste” to the list when there is none left has created an urgency, and a trivial urgency at that. Buying toothpaste becomes a “must do” for the next day. There may be no other shopping items to get, yet we’re going to make a trip to the store for that lone tube. If our favorite brand is out of stock, we either settle for something else, or shop somewhere else. Needless to say, we will be paying the regular price for toothpaste.

What about the one for whom the “buy toothpaste” trigger occurs with the last unopened tube is taken from the cabinet under the sink? If toothpaste is bought tomorrow, that’s fine. If it doesn’t get bought until next week or even next month, that’s fine too, because there is enough to last. Surely there will be a great coupon for toothpaste along the way! If our favorite brand is sold out, no problem. Next time we go shopping, the new shipment will surely have arrived.

One of the keys to minimizing stress is to work ahead of deadlines. You work at a pace that is refreshing rather than frantic. You work on activities that fit together naturally – running a bunch of errands at once, or paying a whole stack of bills at once. You are driven by efficiency, what offers the most “bang for the buck," instead of jumping from one fire to the next.

Work ahead of deadlines, and you give yourself the gift of time. The “Julie Andrews Hour” ran during 1972 and 1973. Andrews closed each episode with the song “Time is My Friend.” The lyrics are as follows:

Time is my friend for ev'ry time we meet
The time we spend is tender and sweet
Sweet songs to sing
And pretty words to rhyme
And memories that cling thanks to time

Quiet parks to walk
And long talks to talk
And tall hills to climb
And mountains of time

Then time to go
For everything must end
I'll see you soon I know
Knowing time is my friend

It's time now to go
For everything must end
I'll see you soon I know
Knowing time is my friend

For the one who works ahead of deadlines, time is a friend!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Importance of Being "On Time"

I have posted before on the book The Little Big Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence written by Tom Peters. On page 363, he talks about the subject of punctuality:

A "couple of minutes" late is... late. Five minutes late is... late. One-point-three minutes late is... late.
Late is... Late. "Better late than never"? Never. Period.
Early is not late.
Early is respect.
Early = "I care."
It matters.
Arriving early for a meeting is not a sign that you are "anxious." It’s a sign that you are ... PUNCTUAL.
Late is rude.
George Washington was never late.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Online Egg Timer

I have seen different online timers, but this one is different because you can have three different timers going at the same time.It's free. Check it out.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Want to "Validate" Someone Else

Want to make a difference in someone's day? This fable illustrates the power in each of us to make someone's day better or worse.

To view the credits for this delightful video, go to the original post on YouTube.

What will you to today to validate someone else?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wylio...Photos With No Attribution Worries

Photos are plentiful on the Internet. have to be careful of copyright and Creative Common license restriction. Here is a website that handles that for you.

  1. Go to Wylio and set up a free account.
  2. Enter to search for a photo.
  3. Select your picture.
  4. Wylio displays a preview of the picture and asks you to decide whether to align left, right, or center. You can also use a slider to re-size the photo.
  5. When you get the picture like you want it, click the "get the code" button.
  6. You can now paste the code in your blog. The picture will appear with the correct Creative Commons attributions.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Reducing the File Size of Photos

The file size of photographs can get very large. Want to know an easy way to reduce the file size? This post provides the perfect answer. I tried it, and the reduction on file size was huge.

Friday, September 09, 2011

How Have You Grown in the Last 10 Years?

In this month's newsletter, we talk about remembering the tragedy of September 11 ten years ago, including both where we were at that exact moment as well as where we were in general at that time in our lives. We use that recollection as a springboard for how we can maneuver the next 10 years, 5 years, or whatever time frame in which we want to set goals.

I was a school principal and had just stepped into my office when a parent called with the news of a plane striking the North Tower. I walked into the library, where a television set was tuned to the breaking news. It was at that moment when a second plane struck the South Tower, thus beginning the challenge of how to explain the unexplainable to children who should not have to deal with this sort of tragedy.

My life has changed since them. I am sure yours has as well. We have taken advantage of opportunities, and perhaps watched other opportunities go by. We may be able to point to the exact phone calls, relationships, emails, books read, or events witnessed that opened doors. We may be able to point to the actions taken that turned opportunities into the realities that shaped the last decade of our lives.

Ten years ago, when you looked into the future, how did it compare with the reality of your life today? What about the next 10...or 5...or 1? Where do you want to be in the future? Opportunity will knock. What can we do today to be ready when it does? Here are three ideas to consider:

Clear the Decks
Take a hard look at your "to-do" list. What tasks take time yet give no return? Get rid of them. Who else could do it? Delegate it. Will it repeat? If so, make it clear, identify the details, and make it part of your repeating task system.

What Are Your Goals? 
 It's easy for day-to-day activities to consume every minute. The weeks and months click away, but nothing seems to change. As you look to the future, how do you want it to be different from the present? If you can articulate it, you have a chance to make it happen.

Connect the Dots
The opportunities which turned into realities over the last decade happened because of small events that worked together. Turning your present goals into future reality will happen in the same way. What knowledge do you need to acquire, relationships do you need to forge, or skills do you need to hone in order to be "ready"? What are the small actions you can take today to make it happen?

Today, we look back 10 years. We look at a national tragedy, but we also look at where we have come since that tragedy. Let's go a step further and ask ourselves where we want to go in the next 10 years, 5 years, or 12 months. Let's take the next steps towards turning opportunity into reality.

"You've got to think about the 'big things' while you're doing the small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction" -Alvin Tofler

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Monday, September 05, 2011

Locking Google Safe Search

Keeping students safe on the Internet is a constant challenge? Did you know about this one?

As a teacher, you can look for the colored balls even from across the room. Those tell you safe search is on. This is a great to know about whether you are a teacher or a parent.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Organization Starts Early

Foyer at Raymond L. Young

Good organization pays off at any age. It starts with developing the habit of writing down the things you have to do, and having one tool that holds everything you write. That was the message delivered to 4th, 5th, and 6th graders at Raymond L. Young Elementary School. Like many schools, the students have planners supplied by the school. Unlike many schools, the faculty realizes the importance of devoting time to how to use them effectively.

A packet of letters arrived in my mailbox, and here are some of the things students had to say:
  • You gave me a lot of information and inspiration to make my life and my parent's lives a lot more organized.
  • When I got home Friday, I got organized ASAP!
  • I never thought you could stay so organized when you have so much to remember.
  • My favorite part was when you told us we could write non-school things in our planner.
  • I used to put school stuff in my planner. Now I put birthdays, holidays, when we're out of school, and lots of other stuff in there.
  • Finally I cleaned up my room and closet and that's very unlike me. I also cleaned out my drawers and found out that's why I couldn't find my clothes.
  • I'm writing down everything I need to know. I'm forgetting less now so that's a good sign. Life is certainly easier!
  • School is a lot easier when you are organized.
A thank-you gift