Wednesday, July 31, 2013

HootSuite versus Buffer


HootSuite is the tool I have used to organize my social media life for a couple of years. The site allows me to view my Twitter feed in organized columns (called "streams").

Reading content from everyone I follow would be overwhelming. HootSuite allows me to create "streams" so that the tweets from the people I care about most will be in one easy-to-read stream. No searching through a lengthy list to find what really matters to me.

Those select people whose content I always want to read appear in a column I call "Inner Circle." Columns called "Priority 2" and "Priority 3" display tweets from those whose content I would like to read, but not as much as those in the "Inner Circle." According to how much time is available, I can read only the "Inner Circle," or read the other two columns as well.

HootSuite is the winner and the tool I will continue to use for both reading and composing social media content. Other columns display tweets where people have mentioned me or retweeted my content. Still other columns track conversation on hashtags I am following, such as upcoming conferences. I also see a stream containing tweets I have sent and those scheduled for the future. HootSuite allows me to create columns where I can read content from Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google Plus. I could actually read all of my social media content without leaving HootSuite.

While HootSuite comes in handy for reading material, it is a great tool for composing content. I can create one post and choose whether to send it to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus, or any combination, and do it all from one place. Furthermore, I can schedule any of the content to post in three different ways:
  • I can post post now.
  • I can specify a future date and time for content to post.
  • I can turn on "Autoschedule." HootSuite will decide on a date and time for each of the social media networks I have selected and post my content accordingly.

Enter Buffer
Buffer is another tool to help with posting content. Specifically, it allows you to spread your posting throughout the day. 

I typically read the posts from my favorite blogs during a block of time. I make decisions at that point about those articles I want to share with others through social media networks. If I were to post each one immediately, readers who see a flurry of content from me and then nothing for the rest of the day. Buffer allows the user to create a daily schedule of when content will be posted. You can even have one schedule for Twitter, another for Facebook, and another for LinkedIn.

Buffer is similar to HootSuite's "Autoschedule" feature, only with Buffer, I determine the schedule. If I decide I want to post 4 times daily on Twitter at 9:00, 11:00, 2:00, and 3:00 while posting on Facebook at 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM, I simply compose the schedule and let Buffer handle the rest.

When I read content and want to share it, one click allows me to post to Buffer. Buffer automatically assigns the content to the next available time slot. I am not overwhelming readers with too much content at once.

Buffer's New Enhancement
HootSuite has given me the ability to do one thing that Buffer had been unable to do--schedule content for a certain day and time. If I had a set of quotes and wanted one to appear daily at 8:00 AM, HootSuite would allow this; Buffer would not not.

Buffer has made news in the last several days because it now gives users the ability to put some content in the Buffer while choosing a specific day and time for other messages. Buffer how has the same three capabilities as HootSuite. So, which one is better, HootSuite or Buffer?

The Battle is On
Suppose I am adding a quote-a-day and want those quotes to appear on both Twitter and Facebook. I found entry on Buffer to be easier. 

First, once I had selected which social networks to which the quotes should post, Buffer remembered that selection from quote to quote. Not having to re-select the social networks each time is a plus.

Secondly, when I click the clock icon to choose a date and time, Buffer remembers the last date I selected and presents me with a calendar which is already scrolled that date. If the current month is July and I am posting quotes for August, I do not have to change the calendar from "July" to "August" for each new entry.

When reading an article I want to share with others, the steps to posting are virtually the same whether I am using HootSuite or Buffer. A button for each resides on my browser's toolbar. Clicking that button opens a box. The title of the article and URL are already completed. All I have to do is add my own comment and either post now, schedule the post for the future, or click "Autoschedule" (if using Hootsuite) or "Buffer" (if using Buffer).

Feedly is the service I use to collect the new posts from the blogs I like and present them to me in one place. As I am reading an article from within Feedly and want to share it, Feedly includes a button which allows me to post to Buffer. To post to HootSuite, I must first click the article to open it on its original site before clicking the "Hootlet" button on my browser's toolbar. I then close the article and return to Feedly to continue reading. HootSuite, therefore, requires a few more clicks of the mouse. 

The Deal-Breaker
To this point, Buffer seemed to me to hold a slight edge. I could see myself using HootSuite to read material and Buffer to post material. Two points, however, swung my decision towards using HootSuite exclusively.

HootSuite allows me to post to Twitter, my personal Facebook account, my professional Facebook account, LinkedIn, or Google Plus. With a "Basic" account, I can post to as many as five social media accounts. I found that Buffer would allow me to post to three social media networks only. If I wanted more, I had to upgrade to the "Awesome Account."

Secondly, Buffer has a limit of 10 scheduled posts at any one time. I found this out the hard way--when I had scheduled 10 posts and tried to schedule number 11. You have to upgrade to the "Awesome Account" to schedule more.

My Decision
In my mind, HootSuite is the winner and the tool I will continue to use for both reading and composing social media content. I get the ability to schedule as much future content as I like and post to more social media networks. Of course, I welcome Buffer's new capabilities. The competition between the major players simply forces each to continue to up its game.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Illinois Principals Academy Info

Thanks to the new leaders who participated Thursday's Academy. Wednesday evening, I will draw for a copy of Get Organized!: Time Management for School Leaders. To be eligible, do one of the following four things:

If you do all four, your chances of winning are four times as good!

I hope you took from the day tools and techniques which will make you more productive every single day.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Ads in Gmails New Tabbed View

A week ago, I wrote about my impressions of Gmail's new tabbed view. After giving it a try, I found it gave me more places I had to look before being assured I had handled all of my email.

Since writing that post, I have read two articles which shed light on something with comes along with the tabbed view: ads which appear as emails. In this post from TechCrunch, the author downplays the topic, pointing out that Gmail has always included ads and that the ads which now appear in the tabbed inbox are labeled differently from the legitimate email. Still, to me more low-priority stuff in my email is not a good thing.

Lifehacker reported on the same topic in this post, and went a step further. They give instructions for how to turn off the ads:
  1. Go to the Gmail Settings in the upper right-hand corner of Gmail.
  2. Select "Configure Inbox."
  3. You will see the various tabs which comprise the tabbed view.
  4. Uncheck the "Promotions" tab and save.
The solution gives you one less tab to examine when checking email and eliminates these additional ads. I, for one, still prefer the "Priority Inbox."

New Position? Bring Your Own Shoes

We are nearing the end of summer vacation. In schools everywhere, new people are being hired to replace those who have left. Every business experiences transition. How does the new hire approach the new position, especially if the shoes left vacant are large?  

LeadershipI am reminded of how a particular pastor handled this situation. I had known him when he was first starting his ministry and was one of several clergy at a large church. Over the years, his career blossomed, and he found himself appointed to lead the largest church of that denomination in the United States. His parishioners included George and Barbara Bush. Furthermore, he was following a very popular predecessor. How would he fill such gigantic shoes?

This church's website included links to past sermons, and so I listened with great interest to the first sermon my acquaintance from many years ago delivered to his new congregation. What would he say? How would he begin to follow someone as respected and beloved as his predecessor? How would he, an outsider, step in and lead this large congregation. That sermon answered my questions.

The sermon began with the new minister acknowledging he realized the congregation was grieving over the retirement of its beloved former minister. He went on to point out the importance of that person's ministry in his own life.

Don’t worry about trying to fill anyone’s shoes, because you need to bring your own. Then, he began to relay advice offered in a phone call from an older and very wise minister. “Let me give you the most helpful advice I received... Someone said to me, ‘Don’t worry about trying to fill anyone’s shoes, because you need to bring your own.’" The new minister followed by asking his congregation, "If I can, let me ask you to let me bring my own."

Six years have passed since that first sermon. In short, the church has flourished under the leadership which began that day.

This summer sees new leadership in schools, school systems, bands, athletic teams, classrooms, and in business of all types all across our country. Many of us have been in those positions. We were perhaps uneasy about how we would handle the transition and how well those we lead would accept us. The transition is made more difficult when the shoes to fill are big. The advice given to this minister may be good advice for us as well.

About to fill some big shoes? Don't try. Instead, bring your own.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

July Events and the Book Winner

July has been an incredible month, and there is much more to come. The response at the University of North Alabama Regional Inservice was overwhelming. The "5Keys" session was full and had a healthy waiting list. We had people who were on that waiting and drove as much as an hour and a half hoping to be able to get a seat. We will definitely schedule more events in this area next summer!
Time management

As promised, everyone from the North Alabama workshop who commented on the blog, liked the Facebook page and commented, followed the Twitter account and commented, or subscribed to the newsletter was entered into a drawing for a copy of Get Organized!: Time Management for School Leaders or Organization Made Easy!: Tools for Today's Teachers.

The winner of her choice of the two books is Sara McMillen Smith. Sara, if you will let me know which book you would like and message me with an address, I will get the book in the mail to you.

time managementThanks to everyone who was up and ready to learn at 7:30 for my session at the National Association of Elementary School Principals Conference in Baltimore.

Also thanks to those who came to one or more of my sessions at the Staff Development for Educators Administrator Summit in Las Vegas.

By the time you are reading this post, I will be on the way to Houston for a day with new and emerging leaders in the Houston Independent School District. Later this week, I will be in Springfield for a full day with new Illinois principals.

As a blog reader, you are getting the most regular and complete information on managing your time and organizing your surroundings. If you would like to also receive information through Facebook, Twitter, and the monthly newsletter, I invite you to click the links earlier in the post and connect through those avenues.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Getting Rid of the Incoming Junk

One of my least favorite activities is talking to telemarketers (who somehow can always sense when have just sat down to a meal). One solution is to get on the "National Do Not Call Registry." That can be done by going here. Even before this registry came about, one technique that worked extremely well was this letter:
Time Management

Direct Marketing Assocation
P.O. Box 9014
Farmington, NY 11735-9014

To whom it may concern:

We have become annoyed by the frequent and unsolicited telephone calls to our home from telemarketers. We wish to be placed on your "do not call" list. Various companies selling their mailing lists will have us listed using, perhaps, any of the following names:

(I list here different ways my name or wife's name appear, such as with a middle initial, without middle initial, using my wife's maiden name, etc.)

Other pertinent information is as follows:

(Here I put my home address and phone number, and then close the letter.)

The letter seems to do the trick, reducing the number of calls from daily to almost never. Less time talking to them means more time for me.! Give it a try.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Gmail's Tabbed View: Thanks, But No Thanks

A little over a month ago, Google rolled out its new Gmail inbox. The design allows the user to have multiple tabs across the top of the inbox. Gmail would automatically sort various types of emails into the correct tab. This video illustrates how it works.

The idea is that your important items would be delivered to one tab. Email newsletters and other FYI information would be delivered to a different tab, etc. In all, the inbox would be spread across 5 tabs.

...if my email inbox was spread across 5 different tabs, I had to look 5 different places to be sure I had handled it all I gave the new design a try, and within a couple of days changed back. My experience, in short, was that if my email inbox was spread across 5 different tabs, I had to look 5 different places to be sure I had handled it all.

Regardless of how we arrange the inbox, one fundamental truth remains: In order to keep from being eaten alive by email, we must be handling it at least as fast as it comes in. Failure to do so means that the 100 emails in the inbox today turn into 300 by next week and over 1,000 by next month. Spreading them over 5 tab gives the impression of being able to see what's important and handle it now. We tell ourselves we will handle the rest "later." But "later" never comes, and the backlog grows.

Countless articles have been written warning people of the perils of interrupting the work at hand to glance at the latest email which has arrived. With part of our focus on our current work and part on the new email, we are ill-equipped to handle either one. We wind up reading and re-reading emails while making no progress on them.

What works is the discipline to ignore the inbox until you can devote full attention to it. Start at one end and work straight to the other end, making decisions about each email as you come to it before moving quickly to the next one. Seeing a list of 20 more emails below the one you are handling is good motivation to give that one the time it deserves and no more. It's hard to see how much is left when your work is spread across 5 tabs.

Gmail offers another option. It's been around since 2010 and works quite well. It's called "Priority Inbox." Priority Inbox presents all of your emails on one screen, but segments them into three groups. At the top are the emails Google has determined are important. At the bottom is a section Gmail calls "everything else." In the middle is a space where emails you have "starred" are grouped. That segmentation gives me all I need to see what might need my attention first or may need considerable time to handle, and what can be handled quickly and with no time deadline.

This video demonstrates the concept of the Gmail Priority Inbox.

Gmail learns which emails are important using criteria such as which ones you open and which ones you reply to. If Gmail makes a mistake, you manually mark an email as important or not important. In the future, Gmail will treat emails from that sender according to those preferences.

If you are a Gmail user, you can turn on Priority Inbox at any time. If you are using the new tabbed inbox, you can change to Priority Inbox. On the left-hand side of the screen, mouse over the "Inbox" label and click the drop-down arrow which appears. From the menu, choose "Priority Inbox."


On your mobile devices, go to the Gmail app. On the settings, tap on your email address. Select "Inbox type" and then "Priority Inbox."

At the end of the day, the entire inbox is empty, and I only have to look one place to be sure it's empty. If you are a Gmail user, I highly recommend Priority Inbox.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Your Filing Cabinet: Friend or Foe?

Is your filing cabinet a trusted friend or a dreaded foe? Can you quickly put your hands on documents, or do you stack them on top for fear that they will disappear into a black hole if you open one of those drawers? If you want to save time, spend a little time organizing the filing cabinet. Be sure that you block out enough time to do the job well. It might mean a Saturday morning at school where you can work free from distractions, but it is time well spent.

To begin, gather several large garbage bags and reclaim some of the drawer space that has been occupied by papers that have no value. The process of purging your filing cabinet will not only get rid of the unwanted and unneeded, in the process you will undoubtedly run across some real gems you had forgotten you had.

OrganizationHow much time could you save if you could actually find what you are looking for in that filing cabinet? You will also need a generous supply of blank folders on hand. The last thing you want to do is compromise your system simply because you didn’t have enough folders available. I prefer to use manila file folders as opposed to hanging files for general reference filing. Manila folders are much cheaper and take up less room than hanging files. If you want great-looking labels, a Brother labeler is a good investment. Of course, if your penmanship is good, there is certainly nothing wrong with hand labeling the folders.

Scrutinize the system you have for labeling your folders. If you begin labels with nouns, you will find it easier to develop a logical filing system where you can find your documents. Certainly, you can be open to the possibility of using subcategories. Identify the folders that are too thick and see how they can be subdivided. You will probably find other folders with only a few pieces of paper each that could be combined under one category. If you are in for a major renovation, find a couple of colleagues who seem organized and see what sort of system they have developed.

 Be sure to leave some room in each drawer. Three-quarters full is plenty. When drawers get tight, you will resist filing like the plague. Offices and classrooms all over America sport stacks of files piled on top of filing cabinets, counters, and every flat surface imaginable—all living proof that overly-stuffed file drawers are no picnic.

How much time could you save if you could actually find what you are looking for in that filing cabinet? How much frustration could you save? Schedule a day to devote to this project and get it done.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Room at the "In"?

Life used to be simple (or so we like to think). Those who worked in an office had an “in” box. When the in-box was empty, you were up-to-date. Incoming paper went in the box. Phone messages were jotted on slips of paper and dropped in that box. Ideas could be jotted on scraps of paper and dropped in the box to be handled later.
Time Management

In the “old days,” work showed up in few places. Check the mailbox at home and dump the contents into your in-box at home. Check your mailbox at work and dump the contents into your in-box. When you saw the bottom of the in-box, you could relax.

Getting “in” to “empty” was the name of the game. Getting “in” to “empty” is still the name of the game. What has changed is how many “ins” you have. Before you can get a handle on everything that calls for your attention, you have to first get a good idea of the number of “ins” and where they are. Ask yourself if you have:
…a mailbox at home for U.S. mail?
…a box at work where your receive mail and paper messages?
…voice mail at home?
…voice mail at work?
…voice mail on a cell phone?
…e-mail at home?
…e-mail at work?
…more than one e-mail account at either home or work?
…a notepad living by the phone?
…a fax machine?
…a bulletin board at work where information is posted?
…a work website you are expected to check?
…a legal pad where you take notes during meetings?
…information fed into Evernote?
…a memo pad in your pocket?
…a brief case or purse that collects papers? media accounts to check?
...professional reading piling up in your reader feed?

You may have more in addition to those examples. Take a few minutes to sit down with pencil and paper. List the “ins” you have. If you get them all, the length of the list may surprise you. Each one is an opportunity for things to slip through the cracks. Use this list as a starter. Before you can organize all of your “ins” and have any hope of getting them to “empty,” first you have to know where they are.
Time Management
Secondly, think about how many you can eliminate? While you may have five different e-mail accounts, tools such as Outlook or Gmail can be configured to check every e-mail account and dump them all into one place. If you have one notebook where you take notes during meetings and another for phone calls and another for meetings with clients, could you merge them into one book with every interaction in chronological order? Can we get rid of that bulletin board where current information is camouflaged by notices for meetings that happened four years, but nobody ever took them down? The fewer places you have to look, the less opportunity exists for the ball to be dropped.

Finally, Can we get rid of duplicate notices? If you have ever gotten a phone call asking if you got the faxed copy of the e-mail sent to both your home and work e-mail addresses, you know what I mean. You are looking at a noise-filled corporate culture that is out of control. The time spent to examine how information is communicated in the company and how it could be improved is a great investment of time.

Of course, we can’t roll back the clock to 1975 and the one in-box. We live in a world where information will continue to arrive in multiple places and in multiple forms. Trapping it all, funneling it into one place, and organizing it so that we clearly seeing our marching for the day…that’s the challenge for the 21st century knowledge worker.

How many "Ins" can you count in your own life? When you counted them, was the number a surprise? 

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Google Hangouts Video

Google Hangouts is a great way to carry on a video chat. A group of up to 10 can all participate. Google Hangouts includes the ability to share your screen. This option would allow someone to work from a PowerPoint presentation and all members of the Hangout would see the presentation on their screen.

Here is an excellent video, composed by Martin Shevington, which explains the nuts and bolts of Google Hangout.

Martin Shervington, Law and Business Studies, LLB (Joint Hons), PG Dip Organisational Psychology, Master Practitioner NLP has spent 15 years in this field working as an executive coach, business consultant and marketing psychologist; he is now based between the UK and the USA, dependent upon clients. His website is

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Google's Conversational Voice Search

I have quickly become a fan of Google Search. This 7.5 minute video shows the capabilities coming shortly to Chrome and currently present in Google Now for your mobile devices.

The video is part of the Google I/O Keynote from May 2013. If you want to watch the entire keynote (which is over 3 hours long), you can do so here.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Reviewing the Toodledo Posts

When I talk about the "Signature Tool" in my workshops, I lean heavily on the digital side. In addition, being able to access the calendar, to-do list, contacts, notes, and email from anywhere is crucial. We have to be able to add information with 10 fingers at a full-sized keyboard, and we have to be able to see and change our information no matter where we are.

Time Management After having used Outlook synced a mobile device for over 10 years, I moved a year ago to a suite which includes Toodledo as my to-do list. For those who have attended recent workshops with me, this post points to a group of 6 posts from this blog which illustrates the major features.

I was one of the lucky ones who realized early the value of trapping to-dos when they first arrive and putting in a system presents them to you at the right time. In today's world, so much comes to us digitally, and makes sense to have a system which allows what comes in a digitally to stay digital. There are lot of options on the market, each with their own set of strengths and weaknesses. I have found Toodledo to be the best all-around option for me.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Are You Doing Your Part?

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction is a book I wish I had read long ago. First copyrighted in the year of America's bicentennial, it is a gem for those who wish to communicate a clean, clear, inspiring message to readers. One particular passage from the book seems especially appropriate for this Independence Day.

Author William Zinsser devoted a chapter to writing about places. Authors often approach the subject from the standpoint of how the first-time visitor feels about the experience. The richer account, however, comes from those who live or work there every day, as they recount what attracts people to that place. Zinsser illustrates his point in this paragraph about Mount Rushmore, spoken through the words of a park ranger. Quoting from page 131 of the 25th anniversary issue:

"In the afternoon when the sunlight throws the shadows into that socket," one of the rangers, Fred Banks, said, "you feel that the eyes of those four men are looking right at you, no matter where you move. They're peering right into your mind, wondering what you're thinking, making you feel guilty: 'Are you doing your part?'"

Independence Day is a day of celebration. It is a day to remember those who did their part so long ago, so that we enjoy a way enjoy the freedom that is the envy of the world. It is also a day to ask ourselves a question, the same question Fred Banks sees in the eyes of those four figures every day. Are we doing our part? Are we giving at least as much as we are taking? What is it we do today that in some way is making tomorrows better for us and for those to come?

Happy Independence Day!