What I’ve been up to this week.
My productive habits. And how I could improve.
If you create a service that people actually find useful then I suppose you’ve got a right to charge for it. Still, it annoyed me that FeedMyInbox has gone paid-for. $5/month is $5 more than I expect to pay simply for the privilege of getting email updates from blogs that haven’t provided the feature themselves. For those in a similar situation, I’m trying out Blog Alert and Reblinks at the moment… 😀
- A stereotype was a printing plate case from movable type. A cliché was a phrase that, because it was used often, was cast as a single slug of metal. Thanks for that nugget, Seth!
- Toward a grand theory of n00bs. Seriously, you couldn’t make up some of this stuff!
- Why ‘serious games’ work (via OLDaily):
I felt compelled to devote a section to Lifehacker this week, just because so many of their articles/posts were top-notch:
- What’s the easiest way to share large files and media with friends?
- Make sure you’re not de-motivating your team
- Why Google Apps users miss out on regular GMail features – and some solutions
- Choose Wisely lets you select your default browser on a per-link basis
- Set up a fully-automated Media Center
- Best Start Page? (I’m using Google Sites for my 3 year old son’s new domain: BenBelshaw.com!)
- TuneGlue helps you find new tunes you’d like by mapping music connections
- Sweet Home 3D models your home, rearranges your furniture without breaking a sweat
- How to blur out faces and other portions of video
- Five best netbook operating system (I’m still loving Jolicloud!)
- Air Video streams your videos to your iPhone with minimal effort, is incredible
- Use CoreAVC to enable HD playback on netbooks (Windows-only, unfortunately)
- I auto-tweet from this blog when a new post is auto-published. It makes me smile that I could be asleep yet people think I’m active online. The Make Me Social WordPress plugin takes this one step further, auto-posting to services such as Delicious (via @durff)
- Google Docs now has a web clipboard that remains over sessions and between computers!
- RealPlayer SP allows you to trim videos ready for posting to YouTube, etc. I haven’t tried it (yet) but it looks like it could be a basic alternative to Windows Movie Maker. And it’s cross-platform!
- Published blog posts now appear instantly in Google Reader. Which is nice. 🙂
- How many oranges does it take to charge an Apple iPhone? About 2,380 slices apparently (via TechXAV)
- Hoccer is a very futuristic way to share info from your iPhone or Android phone (via @iusher)
- You can now track your dog via Twitter with a tweeting dog collar
- HOWTO: make a Google Buzz-specific desktop app
- Intel and Nokia have collaborated to make a new Operating System called MeeGo. Failure imminent (well, as soon as Google Chrome OS is launched…)
- You CAN delete more than one photo at a time in your iPhone’s Camera Roll. Hurrah!
- PumaPhone is like Nike+ but for the whole phone! (via Mashable)
- The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have produced a checklist to go through when you buy an ebook.
- TweetGuru allows you to send Direct Messages (DMs) to up to 12 Twitter users at once (via TechXAV)
- Some reasons to ‘drop Google’ (via @ginatrapani)
- URL shorteners are so 2008. ShadyURL makes your shared URL look sinister! (via BoingBoing)
Productivity & Inspiration
- Drowning in email? Zen Habits has some advice!
- Kairos is saying or doing something at the right time. Here’s how you can put it into practice!
- Some suggestions on how to achieve ‘creative flow’.
- Chris Guillebeau has some useful tips for stress-free travel. And let’s face it: he should know!
Education & Academic
- A school used laptop webcams to spy on students (Their statement after being found out can be found here)
- Some tips on how to create a live online learning event.
- We should cut teenage girls some slack. It ain’t easy – hence the sugar, fat and carbs!
- Academia.edu is a social network for academic researchers (via @ianrobsons)
- Building an e-learning course? You should probably read this then.
- How to write a 20-page research paper in under a day (slightly tongue-in-cheek) (via @simfin via @Documentally)
- Learning in Hand has some useful advice for deploying a class set of iPod Touches (via @WebGalPat)
- The Differentiator is a great tool for getting teachers where they’re pitching their lessons in relation to Bloom’s Taxonomy (via @lnewton)
- Some schools in the US are showing their true colours and are working in tandem with Wal-Mart, training students to be good workers (via OLDaily)
- Researchers have tracked 19,000 children born in the UK at the start of the 21st century. Lots of data and interesting reading (if somewhat depressing in places)
- Designing a school? Make sure teenagers get enough ‘blue’ light or they won’t sleep very well at night!
- The good people are Futurelab are crowdsourcing ideas for their conference later this year.
- Some recommended iPhone games for young children (via kottke.org)
- A ‘burbclave’ is a walled garden that segregates various people in society. Dean Groom doesn’t like them. Neither do I. Let’s not encourage them, eh? :-p
- Connexions is a site trying to move beyond the textbook. Richard Baraniuk, the brains behind it, has done a TED Talk (via Don’t Waste Your Time)
- By the time children from the poorest families get to school, their vocabulary can be a whole year behind their middle-class peers. (via @Darcy1968)
Data, Design & Infographics
- SlipCover produces icons that look like game/Blu-ray cases, etc. (via @jamesforcee)
- An amusing look at how to create big, important infographics.
- Facebook relationship status and happiness:
- How Open Source runs the world infographic (via @glassbeed)
- The ocean is very, very deep. This is how deep. Deep, eh?
- Some countries didn’t deliver on their promised Tsunami aid. Will the situation be the same for Haiti (I’m looking at you Austria and Germany!) (via @courosa):
- Awesome PhD brain development comic-style infographic (via @usablelearning)
- The Wall Street Journal has new guide to creating infographics (review at FlowingData)
- Fonts as landmasses. Quality.
- Ever wondered how memory works? Check out this National Geographic 3D guide! (via Chart Porn)
- I don’t necessarily agree with the conclusion, but this infographic about the difference between pirated and ‘legit’ DVDs makes a good point.
- This is a rarity. A well-presented argument with fantastic design! (via Scott McLeod):
Typography from Ronnie Bruce on Vimeo.
- PleaseRobMe.com is a Twitter mashup that makes an important point – why are you telling everyone that you’re not at home?
- Bantu is just Japanese craziness taken the extreme. Oh. My. Goodness. (via @nickdennis)
- Birds ‘poop’ every 15 minutes (via @gardenglen)
- This Dilbert cartoon remind anyone of anything?
- Deforestation is affecting the evolutionary shape of birds’ wings.
- Holding a Realist epistemology can be dangerous for your career. Unbelievable.
- Don’t understand the economic theories of Keynes and Hayek? Perhaps this gangsta rap-style explanation will help! (via BoingBoing)
- Create your own comic/story with Spore (via @kukukukuku)
A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes (H. Downs)
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them. (Henry David Thoreau)
There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it. (Edith Wharton)
Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak. (Anon.)
Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. Helen Keller
(image at top CC BY-NC Brandon Christopher Warren)
Image BY-NC Rsms @ Flickr
I like music. A lot. I listen to as much as I can as I believe it makes me more productive.* As a student I worked in HMV at Meadowhall in Sheffield and bought a prodigious amount of CDs. When I did my MA in Modern History I sold many of them to fund my living expenses, but still many remained. I hadn’t ripped them all to MP3 but still had around 100GB of my 250GB taken up with MP3s. I deleted all of that today, leaving only my downloaded podcasts:
After my week of divesting the only CDs that aren’t in boxes ready to be sent off to Music Magpie or Amazon customers are those (nine) that I’ve decided to keep as artwork.** I signed up for a Spotify Premium account the day after their iPhone app became available. It costs £9.99 per month to upgrade from the Free account. For that you get, amongst other things, the usage of their iPhone app (which doesn’t work with a Free account), a higher streaming bitrate and no advertisements.
That’s not to say that Spotify features every album and every piece of music that I’ve ever listened to. But I reckon that they’ve got about 90% of the stuff I search for. That’s good enough for me, especially given my eclectic, ever-changing taste in music and the fact they add thousands more track to their library every week – check out their blog!
The streaming model makes sense. Now that a decently-fast internet connection is available to me pretty much everywhere I go, there’s no need for me to manually sync and carry around with me a partial collection of music I like. Much better to have access to a much bigger collection everywhere I am. 🙂
Of course, there are times when your internet connection isn’t so good (or even non-existent). It’s for these times that Spotify has made playlists that you create available offline. Up to 3,333 tracks can be cached for offline play at any one time. That’s certainly enough for me!
Finally, then, there’s the problem of making Spotify’s vast library user-friendly. A start has been made via SpotifiTunes (see my library here) which takes your iTunes XML file and creates a list of Spotify links. Wanting an up-to-date version of this, I’ve created a workspace on my wiki dedicated to this. To access this, click on the ‘Music’ link at the top of this blog or click here!
What do YOU think about Spotify and the like? Will you be signing up any time soon? 😀
* I recommend you read Lifehacker’s The Best Sounds for Getting Work Done
** See CD wall tiles @ IWOOT)
I’m always on the lookout for ways in which I can be more productive and increase my creative outputs. Time is precious when you’re a teacher, husband and father! Whilst I recommend you subscribe to blogs like Lifehacker and Lifehack.org directly, I’d like to share with you some of the tips and ‘lifehacks’ I’ve found useful recently:
If you’re not using FriendFeed yet, you should be! I’ve been using it for a couple of months and find it very useful. It’s like the river of news and updates you get on Facebook (or at least last time I checked). The difference is that it’s people in the edublogosphere so it’s things related directly to professional learning. The quality of links, recommendations, etc. I get through FriendFeed means that I actually check my feed reader less often now (and use Feedly instead of Google Reader when I do…)
2. Firefox Extensions
I’ve already blogged about Stylish and Feedly, but it’s amazing how much Firefox extensions (addons) can improve your productivity. Take a couple recommended by Lifehacker recently:
- Tree Style Tabs – allows you to hierarchically organize tabs in a vertical manner in your sidebar. Much more useful than it sounds!
- Picnik – allows you to capture and edit screenshots online.
- Zemanta – adds features when creating blog posts like related articles, suggested tags, links to Wikipedia articles, etc.
It’s worth trawling through the Mozilla Firefox addons site and/or doing a Google search for recommended extensions. There’s some great one out there! 🙂
3. How Priorities Make Things Happen
I know from experience that I work much better and in a more focused way if I’m working to a deadline. In fact, I purposely don’t start things until, for example, I’ve only got 24 hours left to complete it. Otherwise, I procrastinate and then, when finished, endlessly tinker to make things ‘just right’.
In a Lifehacker post about a book entitled How Priorities Make Things Happen, this is put into a more structured and easy-to-understand (and follow) form:
The easiest way to make a goal meaningful is to use ordered lists and a high priority one bar. These two simple tools force you to make tough decisions early. An ordered list simply means putting your goals in priority order, most important at the top, least important at the bottom. Divide that list in half: the top are things you must do, or die (Priority 1). The rest are things you hope to do, but can live without (Priority 2). Make your priority 1 list as small as possible: set a high bar. The smaller your list of must do’s, the easier they are to achieve. You will face waves of conflicting emotions as you decide what is truly important, but once you settle on priorities the hard decisions will be behind you.
4. Share Your Secrets To Be The Change
I’ve always shared pretty much everything I’ve ever produced – from my university essays/theses to resources I use in the classroom. Others have been flabbergasted by this approach, finding it strange that I should give away for free what I’ve put so much work into. I have the opposite approach – I get back so much more than I give. I’m sure others reading this have found the same.
It’s for the above reasons that I found Share Your Secrets To Be The Change, a post on Lifehack.org, to be so affirming. I especially liked the bits about sharing ‘making your life happier’ and making you into a ‘hero’. Knowing that I’ve got an audience certainly makes me more productive.
5. Top Ten Modern Life Survival Skills
It’s all very well these websites that show you how to start a fire using a Coke can and a piece of chocolate, but how many of us will actually ever need to do that? Really useful ‘modern survival skills’ can give you more control over your life; ergo more time and therefore productivity.
A post on Lifehacker entitled Top Ten Modern Life Survival Skills includes this gem:
Ever notice how putting your hand on your clock radio tends to clarify and boost the signal? You can use that same body-as-extended-antenna trick to locate your car in a stuffed parking lot. Hold your remote opening fob against your skull, hit the alarm (or beep-beep locking button), and you’ll locate your vehicle from farther away.
Have YOU got any productivity tips/hacks you’ve come across recently you’ve found useful? Share them in the comments section! 😀
(Image credit: branching out by shapeshift @ Flickr)
I used to be naturally productive. These days, for a multitude of reasons, I need some assistance, some guidance, a helping hand to point me in the right direction. It’s about time (and especially given the education, technology, productivity tagline of this blog) that I share some of my productivity kryptonite… 🙂
Continue reading “4 blogs that enhance my productivity” »
For the last 26 years and 275 days (yes, I worked it out…) I’ve approached ‘To Do’ lists in a very old-school way. We’re talking bullet points here. Obviously, given my ability to procrastinate and the number of things I don’t cross off my list each day, it’s not an amazingly successful system. I was delighted, therefore, to come across this post on lifehack.org with the following graphic:
Continue reading “To-do v2” »