86 Productivity Tricks, Tips, and Apps

The wordle made from the tags and bookmarks shared in this post. Wordles are a phenomenal productivity tool and I'm starting to have students put them on the front of longer documents to help me scan and preread.

I collect productivity books, tips, and ideas. Going through my bookmarks on Diigo, I realized I had some great stuff in here that I still use and ponder. In this “best of” post, I'm sharing some of the best productivity tips, tricks, and apps for those of you who are trying to get the most out of every moment.

  1. This website lets you mashup and create new feeds from existing ones. Take some time to manipulate feeds into smaller ones and you'll be glad you did.
  2. A service that filters feeds for certain keywords. This is a fascinating way to drill down into feeds that have a lot of content but you just want some of it.
  3. This Feed flitering service will pull out spam and profanity – great to try for those who are behind firewalls and concerned about inappropriate content getting through.
  4. Plan your routines now for next school year! When will you do each set of routines.
  5. If you want to be more productive, set your Chrome bookmarks to sync across computers using your Google account. One of the issues I have with Chrome bookmarks is that you can't insert dividers. You can, however, with the hack from this website, holohub, that has made the icon (called a favicon) as a dividing line. Just bookmark the page to the bookmark bar. Right click and click “edit” and remove all of the text. Now, you have a divider.Granted, it takes more space than the equivalent built-in divider in firefox,but it still serves as a divider.
  6. This is a very long and peppered with the occasional expletive, however, habits are VITAL. When I set goals, I set habits to achieve those goals and this article is one I'm putting in my reference material. It is worth the very long read – just not for sharing with younger students.
  7. Detailed instructions for installing pocket onto any web browser including for mobile devices.
  8. Instructions for adding Pocket (formerly read it later) to the safari web browser. This is the sole competitor for Instapaper in my opinion. Cool App.
  9. Instructions for adding a safari bookmarklet for just about every service (except Diigo) on Chris Bray's website. If you have an ipad or iphone and want to send things to your Tumblr blog you can follow these instructions. (For pinterest, go to the Pinterest website.)
  10. Reddit is increasingly a site where technology news breaks as well as having a tight integration with top technology sites like Twit.tv (they use Reddit to curate topics for the show.) This app is the highest recommended app for using reddit on the ipad and for that reason I've installed it.
  11. I follow many aspects of the Flylady system in my home and classroom. Tis book was a turning point for me in my home. If you're having trouble getting your house in order and keeping it on order, I highly recommend her book Sink Reflections and this website.
  12. I read problogger and Zenhabits so this post about letting go of goals intrigued me. I think, however, it isn't necessarily letting go of goals, it is about letting go of the traditional view of success. I agree that truly getting in touch with what you want out of life is essential. Read this post and think but realize that there may be a few semantic issues here that may cause you to want to debate. Get past the semantics into the real meaning and look at your life. Summertime is an important time to reset for teachers.
  13. Not sure how I missed the April announcement that Read it Later has been rebranded as Pocket but I kept seeing “pocket” in my RSS readers, Zite, etc. and got curious. Pocket (theh competitor to instapaper) allows you to save websites you see on your mobile device to read later like a magazine on devices like your ipad, droid device, kindle fire, or even your web browser (if you read on your laptop still.) I've seen many use this on their laptop and send it to Pocket or Instapaper to read on their ipad later.
  14. If you have an iPhone, Camera+ is the best way to take photos. It is on sale right now for $.99.
  15. The Home Routines app is a phenomenal productivity app for those who focus on habits. The book, the Power of Habit, says that 95% of what we accomplish in our lives is due to habits. Now, I use homeroutines for even my school routines. I have a morning and evening routine each day, but also different routines for the first 10 minutes of my planning period and for Saturdays. Although Called home routines, it is a powerful app for business too. If you have an ipad and an iPhone it syncs. $3.99
  16. In Flat Classroom and with my students we use a Trello board which is a web app used for Agile development. This app makes sense for schools and for personalized learning projects like the Personal Project done by my computer students. I couldn't track all the little pieces without it. Scrum, Lean, Agile, KanBan – these are all terms for project management systems and I think that as educators implement projects, this is a great place to look to handle large complex tasks with teams of people in efficient ways. Meetings are often a waste of time and should be to do what you can ONLY do face to face. This research posted on Educause's website seems to back up this assertion. “Gartner predicts that by the end of 2012, agile development methods will be used on 80 percent of all software development projects. Project Management Institute’s research shows that agile project management tripled from December 2008 to May 2011, and can help decrease product defects, improve team productivity, and increase business value.
  17. An excellent list of Chrome extensions. I'm such a productivity fanatic, I've found that the lightning fast Google chrome and a FEW extensions are all I need to get everything done. Firefox's last few builds have just been laggy and very slow for me, not sure why, but I now prefer Chrome.
  18. An excellent blog post that will help you improve your productivity if you use gmail. I love “find big mail” as it helps free up space for me. If you want to be more productive, great apps and instructions in this epic gmail productivity post.
  19. Some great apps for windows users. I highly recommend teracopy and have used Fences on my older xp machine. Am going to try bins.
  20. Some send important tweets to evernote. Here is how to do that and why you might want to.
  21. Steven Anderson (@web20classroom) is using this system for time management which combines evernote and email. These videos are worth watching if you're a productivity fan like I am.
  22. Text expansion is very helpful and substitutes keystrokes with phrases. Here is a getting started guide.
  23. So, if you want to delete only the attachment to an email in gmail, the only way to do this is in Thunderbird. This is unfortunate as there are many times I wish I could have the email but delete the message itself. Here is how if you  have to. 9/25/10 Here is a solution for deleting email attachments in Gmail without deleting the message itself.  This is a better way then forwarding the message to yourself because you actually save the original message and timestamps, but with attachments removed.  This solution gets the results you want, albeit a little time consuming.  The basic idea is access your gmail account as an IMAP account using Thunderbird, and then use Thunderbird’s feature for deleting attachments.  You just need to make sure messages are first moved to a local folder, then moved back to an imap folder. Details: – Determine messages in Gmail that need an attachment removed. – Access these messages in Thunderbird via IMAP access.  To make this easier, in the Gmail web interface you can create a new label such as “delete-attachments” for these messages. -Select messages in TB and “Copy To” a local folder.  This will download a copy of the message and attachment(s) to your local drive. -Then, using the Gmail web interface, delete the messages permanently. -Return to Thunderbird and access the messages stored in the local folder.  -Delete the attachments in the locally-stored messages individually.  -Finally select the messages and use the “Move To” command and select a label within Gmail to move the message.  This will copy the messages back to Gmail without the attachment and upload the message to Gmail servers with original time stamps. 
  24. This website goes through your inbox and helps you find all the big mail in your inbox so you can clear up space.
  25. How to free up space in your gmail. This is another way to get through freeing up space in your gmail inbox.
  26. Moving from one gmail account to the other. Here are some instructions.
  27. My friend Beth Ritter-Buth showed me this gem that runs through your inbox with a hatchet, helping you remove the bulk and junk subscriptions that fill things up. 
  28. When Beth Kanter recommends books, I read them. I am loving 18 minutes and plan to make this my next read.
  29. I love Leo Babatua. He challenges my thinking. Do you know why you do what you do? Can you replace bad habits with good? This may get you started. “The old habits of coping didn’t build up overnight, and they won’t go away overnight either. We built them up through years of repetition, and the only way to change them is also years of repetition.”.
  30. Another great list of what to do while you're waiting. My favorite is #2 (Check email on my ipad) and #3 – Clean out Your wallet and purse. I also like to write down quotes and thoughts.
  31. I love ideas of how to get more productivity out of life and time management ninja is a new site I'm reading. I think that as a teacher, I can have other things on the list like I grade on my ipad using dropbox. I can go into PowerTeacher on my ipad and tweak some comments on students to communicate with parents.
  32. A slideshow with more than 50 quotes about “doing the impossible.” It may sound silly but sometimes, I'll use slideshare and put quotes or interesting slideshows on my whiteboard and rotate during class. This is something that you can share with others. 
  33. If you are looking for goal tracker alternatives, Joe's Goals won a recent lifehacker poll. i use homeroutine but the drawback is there are no analytics.
  34. I love this productivity tip! Leave yourself a treat on your desk on Friday! Find something you love and leave it on your desk for yourself. I'm doing this!
  35. I love Fogbugz made by Fog Creek Software and now Joel Splosky, the founder has created a new app called Trello for managing organizations. This works using the kanban system that I love! Joel received a big boost this week when he was mentioned on Seth Godin's blog. Recently Fogbugz put a Kanban board into their program and I fell in love with it again. I won't do project management without Kanban and here it is! If you do major projects, try trello. I'm sigining up right now.
  36. Zen habits is a great blog for those of you who care about productivity and organizing. Here is an inspirational post from Leo Babauta about how to tackle your clutter. The surge is a great strategy (hitting it all at once) but is often not practical for those of us who have a lot to do.)
  37. At the end, he's talking about self talk and it is more of a sales pitch, however, he has an important point. I'm not advocating buying what he has, but the first 4 minutes are worth a listen. What do you say when you talk to yourself? This is a great video I'm showing my students as part of my “Becoming a Time Ninja” series that I've written for my class. Helping students self-talk in a way for success is so important. We are our own best motivational speaker because we control our actions when we speak into our brains.
  38. If you want to lose weight and keep it off…write about it. “A study published in Psychological Science, found that women who wrote about their most important values, like close relationships, music, or religion, lost more weight over the next few months than women who did not have that experience.”.
  39. I love the home routines app. 95% of what you accomplish is due to your habits. Homeroutines supports flylady and habit hacker. Great app that syncs between ipad and iphone/ ipod touch.
  40. So, if you want to improve yourself and your health, creativity, or organizing habits, look at the habit hacker. A more impudent version of the fly lady, this artist is a bit “cheeky” but blunt and to the point. Just the kick in the seat some of us need.
  41. Too much clutter. Join the Clutterfat challenge from Leo Babatua. If you're a productivity type person like I am, you'll get a lot out of Leo. Why not take this challenge for your classroom? 
  42. If you want to scan documents here are 8 great options. I send mine to Evernote from the school's copier.
  43. Although this research brief is touting a particular company, the point that productive companies integrate technology, cloud computing, and telecommunications for increased productivity is ne to consider as we look at helping our students be more “productive” in their learning. i still wonder whybwe ignore telecommunications as a link to our students when it is the one technology they have with them all the time. ” top performing companies were more likely to have integrated enterprise communications with other enterprise applications, and with the most current approaches to technology delivery-including cloud computing, virtualization and mobility.”
  44. Use this to create an encrypted drive for your financial records if you have them on your laptop! Remember to backup the folder as well! It is free. I would also recommend this for those who have private files on their computer like guidance counselors.
  45. This is a great post with guidance on helping people use email more efficiently. If you use Google apps for domains, the tools that let you analyze your email use will be great. If you teach digital citizenship and literacy, this is a great starting point for teaching about email. No, email is not free, it costs us time. 
  46. Volkskwagen agrees to turn of blackberries after hours as part of a union agreement. While I don't know a lot of teachers connected via blackberries,I do personally know the complexities of global collaboration in schools. We must learn to balance work and home and know when to disconnect but then again, a work environment can become so fast paced that everyone seems to expect the others that they should work 24/7. Yet another reason to advocate checking email 2-3 times a day – let everyone know when you will be available and stick to the schedule.
  47. As teachers try to make things tighter for 2012 including budgets this is a great checklist to print and put on the front cover of the folder where you keep your bills to pay.
  48. This is a video I made in just 2 minutes on my iPad. I didn't have to go to educreations' website first but did everything on my iPad. I cannot watch the web version, however as it is flash based. You can create public or private classes and easily share the videos. Very cool implementation of simple screencasting. This would be great for ll schools with 1:1 iPads. Need to get if you can view class content from their app without going to web. Very easy. Wow.
  49. A sticky note account. I may use this for my pkflow method that uses stickys. This website lets you have a page with online stickys and notes. Cool tool that reminds me of corkulous on the ipad.
  50. Zero mail is making productivity news for its purpose and its pricing.It is charging a $100 lifetime fee but says it is super-simple email management. It does things like clean out things that aren't needed (like twitter notifications) and zaps mail that is not from a real person. I wish I could demo before paying the fee to see if it works but I've seen good reviews so far.I wish gmail would look and learn from some of these features which look very cool. Yes, I fight and struggle with email.  It also helps you outsource things in your inbox with one click (an interesting concept.)
  51. Wonderful, flexible tool that I've used to take my classroom paperless.
  52. Google docs is a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation software of choice in the cloud for many that need to be collaborative. But perhaps the most useful thing to me is google forms which let students make the form and put it out on the web for others to answer. Then, examining results is as simple as pasting into a word cloud maker.
  53. One of my favorite tools is evernote. I email to evernote. I pull it up on my ipad. I take photographs and scan to evernote and can search text. It is on my phone, my ipad, my computers. My notebook that I carry everywhere. Great tool.
  54. If you have an ios5 device, you got text expansion. Lifehacker's guide is a great guide for setting up. I will add this tip. If you are lucky enough to have more than one iOS device, set it up the exact same way on both!
  55. Evernote for administrators from TJ Wolf in North Carolina is a simple, easy to read guide to a tool that can be put on just about anything. It has become my personal filing system for everything. Nice guide.
  56. This service is another that I am seeing people use to help manage overburdened email accounts or for people like me who teach all day.
  57. You can use this online service to create forms and then collect responses online. It is from adobe so the forms look professional.
  58. A free service from Adobe that lets you send large files. It also integrates with some of their products. I'm still learning. If you're an adobe user, you'll want to sign up for a free account.
  59. Lets you create an email to send files security to your dropbox account.
  60. A cool app to help plan routines. Wish it interfaced with google cal but still pretty.
  61. Very cool feature that let's you use the Diio app from within safari on you iPad.
  62. Nice binder -friendly Lesson planning template. I use this to map out and plan my classes.
  63. Due to a malware attack – the following link was removed 12/16/2014 – Vicki Davis,
    Introducing appointment slots in Google Calendar – Official Gmail Blog
    Introducing appointment slots in Google Calendar #productivity
  64. The chosen “blocker” I'm using. I set certain times for certain tasks.
  65. Some great tools to help you stay on task and learn how to avoid the “time suck” of certain websites. Most productivity experts recommend batching activities and not “living in” Twitter or email, for example.
  66. You can now save your livescribe notes to Evernote. It captures the audio and the text for taking your notes.
  67. Another project management online program from gtd agenda – they have also come out with youchecks and you tasks.
  68. So, if you want to chat, but don't really want to have your gmail open all the time, remember that you can bookmark and install google talk. This will keep you from getting interrupted by your email while still making you accessible to those who need to reach you using this valuable service.
  69. So, you're using google tasks to organize the to-do's in your email but are upset that there is no stand alone app. There is, sort of – go to https://mail.google.com/tasks/canvas and you'll have it. This page gives you the tip on how tihs works at brokekid.net.
  70. Excellent post about motivation and becoming a more motivated teacher. I really enjoyed reading it!
    1. Some of it could be because the technology is working better and because I feel at last I can think about teaching and learning, rather than just thinking of ways to fix things.
    2. Opportunity and encouragement to try new ideas and take risks
    3. So overall I think I am more motivated because I am using more of my strengths – I think I am helping teachers to become more successful with their use of technology and that some of last year's problems are being solved as decisions made with teaching and learning at the heart of the process.

  71. OH my goodness. Often my window gets off screen, particularly when I've undocked and had my gradebook on the second monitor. This trick brings it back on to my window. 1) Press Alt + Tab and click the window off screen. 2) Click Alt+Space 3) Click M 4) Click any arrow key 5) Move the mouse Voila it pops back on the screen. I want to remember this for myself as much as share it with you. Those of you with double monitors will appreciate this trick.
    1. Just hit any one of the arrow keys (Left, Right, Down, Up), move your mouse, and the window should magically “pop” back onto the screen.

      Note: For keyboard savvy people, you can just alt-tab to the window, use Alt+Space, then M, then Arrow key, and then move your mouse.
      This should work on any version of Windows. It’s really amazing how many people are not aware of this little trick.

  72. Really cool new feature in Gmail — priority inbox. I have it on one account but the other has not received it yet!!
  73. New tools to facilitate elearning are cropping up including this site that gives elearning students online whiteboards to share. (I use elluminate for this purpose, but there are other options.)
  74. There is a gadget for evernote for google calendar and gmail.
  75. Really cool thumtack mike for ipods for kids who need to record class discussions.
  76. There is just no alternative for this option. Egretlist extracts the checklists in evernote onto your itouch or iphone. I want this in the evernote app!
  77. Looks like the number of pixels is the most important factor. Personally, I love my multiple monitor setup, but this does make sense. (I'm forty and don't see hugely well for the really small pixels, though.) “there's an optimal number of pixels you need to complete the tasks you need to complete. Worry about that number, not the number of monitors you have. That optimal number, for the vast majority of people is about 2500×1400. In 2003—before widescreen became commonplace—it was the case that 2 17-20″(2560 pixels wide) LCDs was the only affordable way to acquire an optimal number of pixels. Today, you can pick up a 27 inch display with 2560×1440 pixels along with a computer attached to it for under $1500. This number of pixels allow you to accomplish most tasks—whether it's writing code and debugging, writing a blog post and reading primary sources, or editing one spreadsheet with data from another.”
    1. when the study came to the conclusion that it was pixels, not monitors that increased productivity. What's also surprising is that while the report mentioned that there were productivity gains in certain tasks with more screen real estate, those gains begin to taper between 26 and 30 inches, or at monitors where the native resolution is 2560×1440 or greater.

  78. For those who don't use Evernote (guess there are some) and have Windows 7 – this gadget for Windows 7 lets you create a scratchpad that automatically sends the notes to Google Docs.
  79. This really cool app is a lifesaver with working with the computers of others. System administrators and IT support who work on PC's with windows will want to take a look.
  80. Ideas for creating calming routines. This is a great read and a reminder to make time to “be quiet.” My blog readers will know I get up each morning at 5am (during the school year) and have a definite routine of my own to stay centered.
  81. So, you need to delete files and make room but don't know what is taking up all that space, try out spacemonger!
  82. A new place that evernote has shared that gives you all the hardware, applications and tools to really help evernote! Such a cool tool!
  83. Cool website that lets you visually organize bookmarks. Kind of a neat idea.
  84. Planner pages for those who like to print them out!
  85. The reflections from Stephen Downes on the 7 Tips to Analyze the Formula of your Life are worth reading. He begins “There's an old song from The Smiths that runs something like this: In my life Why do I give valuable time To people who don't care if I live or die ? And I think the essence of ‘personal learning' (or maybe I should expand the concept, and talk about ‘personal living') is captured in this….” What a great read. This just shows how one thing leads to another in this amazingly interconnected world!
    1. In my life

      Why do I give valuable time
      To people who don't care if I live or die ?

      And I think the essence of ‘personal learning' (or maybe I should expand the concept, and talk about ‘personal living') is captured in this.

  86. I love this app and use it to sync with toodledo! It is very useful and incredibly “beautiful.” Just one of the best list managers on my itouch that I've seen.
    tags: productivity app itouch education

    Hope you find some tricks that work for you and if you have some for me, please share them in the comments (even if it is a blog post you've written, I'd love to add it to my collection.)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.
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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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