Archive for the ‘Organize Your Digital Self’ Category

Remembering What You’ve Read

While trying to get all my Kindle devices in re-sync (iPad, Kindle, Android, Laptop, and Desktop), I discovered a feature of the browser-based Kindle app that I wasn’t aware of.

Remember the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve?  In 1885, Ebbinghaus showed that we need repeated exposure to information to store it in biological memory … and pretty much we’ve been forgetting things ever since.

I try to build reflection into my learning routines (to take advantage of the Ebbinghouse curve) by doing things like rereading my tweets and the end of the week, organizing ideas into mindmaps, and composing blog posts that bring together ideas.  This Kindle Browser feature helps with that (at least, it will if you remember to use it).

“Daily Review is a tool to help you review and remember the most significant ideas from your books.  It shows you flashcards with either your highlights and notes or the popular highlights from one of your books.  Only books that you have marked as “read” are eligible for review, and Daily Review will take you through all of your read books, one per day.”

The Kindle Daily Reader is getting closer to what I would want Socrait to do, but it’s missing the recall portion.  This app provides the highlights or notes that you have marked important, but you only process them as recognition items.  I still think a forced recall from memory would be more powerful.  Nonetheless, kudos to Kindle for building in this feature … now when can I have it on my Android App?  :)

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Sanity in the Age of Digital Overload

I often conduct a workshop called “Organize Your Digital Self” and the last section of the workshop is on staying sane in a world with so many ways to go into digital overload.  Here are a few of my favorites apps and programs for staying sane:

StayFocusd is a Chrome Extension that lets you choose websites (like Facebook or casual games sites) that you want to limit your time on.  You decide how much time is enough, and then StayFocusd will warn you when you’re getting close to your limit and cut you off for the day once you’ve surpassed it.  Sure, you can open another browser, but if the point is to be more cognizant of how you’re wasting time, it does a good job reminding you.

WorkRave is  designed to help prevent repetitive stress injuries (like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome) but it also works very well to force you to take a break.  If you’re one of those people that can sit for hours working at the computer without even realizing that an hour has gone by, try a program like WorkRave.  You can decide how long you want to work in one sitting, how long you want to break, and how long you want your “snooze” to be before you really have to take that break.  Use your break times to talk to your family, spend time with your pets, go breath in some fresh air, get the mail, etc. The point is to force yourself to get up from your computer and do something else.  I’d experiment with the optimum continuous focused work time – for some it is 45 min, for others it is 90 minutes.

RescueTime is a bit like having your very own “big brother.”  Once you install it, it can track how much time you spend where on your computer (not just the Internet, but also your desktop, Windows or Mac).  So if you think you’re spending 3 hours a day answering email, it can verify that or it might tell you that the 3 hours is actually spent in Farmville.  RescueTime can also block distracting sites, so you can kill two birds with one stone – track time and block sites that are wasting time.  If you’re into the Quantified Self movement or you want students to track some data of their own for a project, the time-tracking reports and graphs from RescueTime are great (see video RescueTime Reports).  To measure just your online activities, there is now a RescueTime Chrome Extension too.

Part of staying sane is not becoming distracted and following link after link “down the rabbit hole” of time suck.  Readability is a great little browser extension for Chrome, Safari, or Firefox.  Their mission? “With one click, turn any webpage into a clean comfortable reading view.” Not only does Readability strip out all the extra links and advertisements on an article you’re trying to read, but it allows you to set your preferences for margins, background, text color, font, font size, columns, and more.  Subscribers to Readability can save web articles for later reading, send articles to a mobile device, and sync with Kindle.  The video that follows is a 1-minute tour of Readability.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Dropbox, which is one of those programs that has changed my workflow and contributed greatly to my ease of mind.  This is one that you will have to pay for if you want more than 2 GB of space (and trust me, you will).  Here’s the idea: if you’re working on multiple computer systems, dropbox makes a file folder on each computer and a mirror image of that folder “in the cloud.”   Whatever you drop into the folder on your computer, that file is mirrored in your Dropbox account in the cloud and then on the other computers synced to your account.  The beauty of this is that you can edit a file on your home computer, close it, drive to work, and after you boot up the computer there, the new version of the file will be sitting in the Dropbox on that computer.  You can also access any of the files in your Dropbox on any computer and on mobile devices by logging in to your Dropbox account.  This is invaluable when you suddenly have to present off someone else’s computer.  The ease of mind comes from knowing that if a disaster occurs and all your computers are lost, the Dropbox with all your important stuff will still be sitting there in the cloud waiting for you.  Dropbox has gotten some negative press lately over encryption practices, but the reality is that their encryption practices are better than most of our private security practices (if your work requires a security clearance, try another system).


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Digital Organization: Create a clickable resume!


In Michigan, unemployment is somewhere between 15 and 20%, depending on who’s collecting the data.  Consequently, there are a lot of stories in the news about job fairs, interviewing techniques, and resume advice.  After reading several of these articles this week, I thought clickable resumes would be a good topic for this week’s OYDS task. A clickable resume (CV or portfolio) is not only a great way to increase your visibility on the web, but it will also provide you an easy to access place to store all the little pieces of information that you need to keep with your professional history.

Ideally, you would start this project with an updated paper-version of your resume or vita, but chances are you don’t have one of those laying around just waiting to be used.  In that case, at least begin setting up the structure so that you can begin tracking your professional history online from this point on.  To “fix” the missing information, you can simply place a disclaimer on the bottom of these pages for now, and finish updating them at some point in the future.


Perhaps you’re not convinced … you think you don’t need to keep track of your professional history online?  Consider the following list:

  • Conferences that you’ve attended (with web links to the conference pages)
  • Presentations that you’ve given (with web links to the presentations and/or event websites)
  • Publications (with web links to abstracts, or full-text versions, or a place to buy the publication)
  • Design Portfolio (with web links to sites or projects you’ve designed)
  • Contact information (Twitter, LinkedIn, email, etc.)
  • Educational background (with web links to the departments where you graduated, links to thesis or dissertation information, links to capstone projects)
  • Teaching Experience (with links to course webpages or departments at colleges where you’ve taught)
  • Work Experience (with links to companies you’ve worked at and major projects you’ve been involved with)
  • Professional Activities (the stuff that doesn’t fit well elsewhere, courses you took, conferences you organized, etc.)
  • Community Service or Volunteer Experience (with links to the appropriate organizations and events)
  • Awards and Honors (with links to appropriate press releases, articles, or websites)
  • Featured (sometimes you get a mention in some video or article, in which case, wouldn’t you like to have that on your resume complete with link to the item?)
  • Endorsements (I often ask participants in workshops to write a short blurb to recommend the workshop or presentation to others, I collect them on this page)
  • Frequently Asked Questions (because you can only answer the question “Do you sleep?” so many times before you just want a web page that answers the question for you!)

Every item on the list above has a digital trail.  If you’re only keeping track of these things on paper, you’re missing a lot of information.   If you’re not carefully tracking all these links somewhere, you’re going to start losing them.  Incidentally, you can find examples of almost all of these types of pages under the ABOUT menu on my website/blog,


If you already have a clickable resume/vita/portfolio online, then you should consider this a gentle nudge to make sure (a) that it’s current and (b) that you’re not missing some of the details of your professional history that you could be tracking.

Even if you’re just a student with little work experience, you should start a clickable resume/portfolio.  As you create work you’re proud of, you can include it in your online portfolio.  You might find that the need to fill up your pages creates the urge to volunteer to help at events and activities that will beef up your “experience” section.

If you don’t already have a resume/vita online, you need to decide on a format.  The most commonly used platforms are websites or blogs (although I think a wiki would work well too).  If you’re nervous about creating your own webpage, I’ve found that Google Sites is extremely easy to use.  In one of my math classes last semester, every student had to create a clickable resume/portfolio as a final project – we used Google Sites (here’s an example) and it took about 5 minutes of lab time to get everyone using it.

So, get started on your clickable resume, CV, or portfolio.  Your site doesn’t have to be finished, it just has to be set up so that you can begin collecting new information from now on.  At first this is a task under Digital Organization, but after that, it moves into a Digital Maintenance task – something you should keep up with as you get new information.

You have a week to get this task done before we move on to the next Organize Your Digital Self (OYDS) task.  New assignments post each Monday.

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Digital Organizers: Set up Alerts!


Have you ever wondered how some people seem to know instantly when you’ve mentioned them (or their website) in a blog post?

Every activity in the digital world leaves a digital footprint (like it or not).  There’s a great video called Digital Dossier that explains the kinds of actions that leave your mark on the web (and it’s mark on you).

If you haven’t ever googled yourself, try it.  Put your name (as you normally write it online) in quotes and search yourself.  [Example: "Maria H. Andersen"]  Ideally, you want to be happy with the first 10 search results (most people never click through to the second page of results).  If you’re not happy with what you see, then your only choice is to start working on a larger digital footprint that will eclipse what’s there (a website, a blog, a google profile, etc.).

In the meantime, it’s relatively simple to monitor what your name is doing on the web.  Set up a web alert that will notify you when a new occurrence of your name goes into the search engine.   The most common alert systems are Google Alerts and Yahoo Alerts.  You can set it up alerts to come to you instantly, daily, or weekly.  To minimize the digital clutter, I’d go with weekly alerts (unless you find yourself in a media hot seat, in which case, switch temporarily to receive alerts more frequently).


At the very least, I’d set up an alert for your name and for the place where you work.  I find that my weekly alerts about my college are informative.  Often, they’re just reports about which team won what event, but sometimes I discover what my colleagues are up to in the real world too.  I know information about my college faster than most people on campus.


The other way to use Alerts is to start searching for keywords in your field of interest.  For example, I have a Google Alert set up for the words innovation and math whenever they occur together in a new web item.   Here are a few suggestions for alerts you may want to set up:

  • Your name
  • Your blog URL and blog name (Example: and “Teaching College Math”)
  • Your twitter account name (Example: busynessgirl)
  • Your place of employment (Example: “Muskegon Community College”)
  • Your professional fields of interest (Example: math innovation, future education, etc.)
  • Your personal fields of interest (for example, if you have a child with autism, you might set one up for research autism)
  • Your publications (the title of your book or a recent article to see who’s talking about it)
  • Your competitor (it’s always good to know what they’re up to … why stop at your place of employment?)

At first, it will take you a while to sort through all the alerts you receive each week.  They will all be new to you.  But after a few weeks, you’ll begin to recognize websites you’ve already visited and you’ll have some insights about which items are going to be worthy of clicking.  You may want to tweak your alerts in a month or so to make the wording more precise on general alerts you set up today.

Even if you already have alerts set up, when was the last time you updated them?  Maybe it’s time to eliminate some, tweak them, or create some new ones?

So, set up a few alerts and start living on the tip of the cutting edge of the Internet.  You have a week to get this task done before we move on to the next Organize Your Digital Self (OYDS) task.  New assignments post each Monday.

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Digital Decluttering: Get Control of Your Unruly Data


This week, I tackled a non-digital task that has been driving me nuts for years.  I had one spice rack and two spice drawers, but whenever I needed to find a spice, I ended up looking in all three places. Even worse, I had to pull out every single jar to read what was on the label.  During this process, I often discovered that I had  duplicate spice jars or that I was completely out of the spice I was looking for.  Over the winter break I purchased a 48  little glass jars with white tops, and yesterday I moved all the spices into these jars, labeling the side and the top of each with the name of the spice.  Sure enough – there were duplicates, there were empty jars, and in the end, I got this unruly collection down to one drawer of neatly organized spices.  Now that it has some uniform structure to it, I can find the spice I am looking for easily and quickly check for the spices I need when I am making a grocery list.


What would be the equivalent of this organizational task in our digital world?  For me, the digital spices are all the miscellaneous and unruly pieces of information about professional trips I take during the year, including flights, presentation titles, speaking fees, lodging, who I’m meeting for dinner and on which nights, who is reimbursing me, etc.  This information is all over my computer and the Internet (in email, on websites, and in files).  Every time I got ready to go on a trip, I found myself in a panic, hoping that I’ve got all the right information and that I hadn’t forgotten something crucial (like booking a hotel room).  Like the spices, the details for each trip are fairly similar in structure, but they lack the proper “container” to hold all the information.

In the last year I’ve begun using TripIt (which is free) to hold all the travel and lodging information for trips (you can just forward your emailed confirmation bookings to TripIt and they are all imported into one place).  Using TripIt has definitely improved how I track trip information, but I’m also worried about losing information about whether I’ve registered (if I need to), when my presentations are, who my contact persons are on the trip, etc.  Maybe there’s a magic web tool to organize all of this (ConferenceIt?), but I haven’t seen it yet.


During the next year I will be traveling out-of-state on at least ten trips, giving different presentations at each.  Just like with the spice drawer, it was time to get control of this information too.   So I made something of a checklist/table document that lists everything that I would possibly want to know about every trip I take:

  • Event name
  • Location
  • Event date(s)
  • Travel date(s)
  • Funding for event (who’s providing the conference fee?)
  • Funding for travel & lodging (sometimes this is different)
  • Speaking fee (if applicable)
  • Contact info (who is your main contact at the event?)
  • Event website
  • Event Venue (it might not be where you’re lodging)
  • Presentations, times, and technology (Internet, projector, etc.)
  • Other events during this trip (dinners, breakfasts, meetings)
  • Registration (and date paid, if applicable)
  • Travel (flights, mileage, and/or car rental information)
  • Lodging
  • Meals (costs to be added after event)
  • Invoice (how and when did I submit for reimbursement / payment)
  • Payment / Reimbursement (when did I receive reimbursement / payment)


I’ve gone back through every trip I plan to take in the next six months, and filled out all the data that I currently know for each event.  These are all filed in the appropriate folder in my mega folder called “Conferences” (which also includes miscellaneous speaking engagements).


Now, when I get new information about an event (like a dinner invitation or a change to my presentation time), I don’t have to try to file it away in my personal memory somewhere, I can just open the data file and update the file with the new information.  This blank table is my digital equivalent of the empty glass spice jars with the uniform white tops.

In this case, it was important that I be able to access the data from any computer, so I have the files folders stored in my synced Dropbox (see Sort those Files!).  Another wise place to store these kinds of files would be in a web-based document application like Google Docs, since it would be accessible anywhere with Internet access.

For me, the “digital spice drawer” was my cluttered and hard-to-find trip information, but for you it might be something different.  As you’re going through your normal week, keep an eye out for some aspect of your digital life where you need to get control of some unruly data of your own.

Once you’ve found that “digital spice drawer” in your life,  take the time to bend it to your organizational will.  I would love it if you’d share the examples of your own “digital spice drawers” or other tips on ways to organize them.

You have a week to get this task done before we move on to the next Organize Your Digital Self (OYDS) task.  New assignments will post each Monday.  This is just the tip of the digital decluttering iceberg.

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Digital Decluttering: Sort those files!


This is Part 2 of a series on how to Organize Your Digital Self.  To view all posts in this series, go here.

My guess is that you manage to accumulate piles of paper in your office, in your home, or maybe even in your car (I accumulate paper in all three places).  At least once a year I attempt to get to the bottom of these stacks and put everything away (this creates clean space to begin accumulating new stacks!).   The goal of file organization would be to create a system for organizing these “stacks” that is so natural to use, that it’s just as easy to put away the paper as it is to stack the papers.

Ironically, sometimes the best way to find that natural system of organization is to first accumulate a “stack.”   After looking through all the crap stuff you accumulate over a period of time, you can start to get a sense for what the natural categorization is.   Sort the “stack” into smaller stacks, and group those according to theme, and re-sort if necessary.

On a computer, we accumulate these “paper stacks” in a slightly different form … files.  If you’ve been accumulating random files on your desktop, or in a folder labeled “Junk”, then I would like to congratulate you on your forward thinking.  You were obviously just gathering these together to help you establish a natural computer file organization system.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Restructure all the really important files you regularly access, plus all those miscellaneous files you’ve been accumulating in computer piles, into (at most) ten file folders.  Bonus points for you if you install a sync / backup for these ten folders while you’re at it.

Why 10 and not more than 10?  You need to have a small enough group of folders that you can see all of them at once.  It needs to be a short enough list that you remember and regularly use all the folders in the list.  Why?  Because if you don’t regularly use a folder, you’ll forget you have it and end up creating a duplicate folder (or subfolder) to gather files.  This might not seem horribly problematic, but as you start to split the files into two locations, you’ll start to lose track of where you’ve put things.


If your computer has been accumulating files for as long as mine has, you’ll need some ground rules to get started on the herculean task or organizing those unruly files.

  1. Create as many sorting folders as you want to at first. Every time you find at least five related items, put them in a folder together.  These folders may eventually turn out to be subfolders of some larger category, but for now, just sort.
  2. Don’t open the files. Create temporary storage folders called Unfiled.  and No Idea.  This initial sort is a little like that first sort on the show Clean Sweep.  It’s not the time to worry about perfectly sorting every file.  When you honestly have no idea what a file is, put it in No Idea.  If you know you should keep it, but you don’t know how to categorize it, put it in Unfiled.  You may also use Unfiled when you just get tired of sorting, and want to just throw everything left into a folder.  As files begin to accumulate in the Unfiled folder, you’ll find that they start to group together naturally into categories.


There are some visual ways to make file-sorting easier. For example, you can change the way you view the files.  For some types of files (document files), it’s probably easier to see them in a list view.  For other types of files (images), icons are preferable for easy sorting.



In the Detail View, you can click on the column headers to sort (ascending or descending) by that property.


When you’re done with the primary sort, you should have a collection of miscellaneous folders.  Now you have to look for ways to organize those folders into larger, all-encompassing categories.

I found that I had a lot of folders with specific conference information (proposals, acceptance letters, travel requests, presentations, and notes), so I created a superfolder called Conferences to house all those smaller folders.  Each subfolder is then relabeled in a way that makes them easy to find.  In this case, it’s the name of the conference, year, and location.


I’m not going to lie … this task is likely going to take you a while.  However, if you’re like me, it’s been on your list of  things to do (aka “things you’ll never get to”) for a while.  Well, there’s no time like the present.  And, you can say that I ordered you to do it!

Don’t get caught up into the black hole of opening files and cleaning up the files themselves.  For example, I had to resist the urge to create a database of all my test questions.  I also had to resist the urge to rename all the files in a similar format.  Just don’t go there! At least … not this week.  All you do this week is sort.

When you’re completely done with your 10-folder mission, consider making this the time in your life to sync your computer systems once and for all.   A good syncing program will also create an automatic backup system for your important files.  Let me see if I can explain (easily) how a sync works.

I have two computers: Home and Work.  I’d also want an Internet backup so that (a) I have copies of files if anything happens to the computers and (b) I can access the files from someone else’s computer if necessary.  I pay for a program called Dropbox.  On each computer, there is a “My Dropbox” folder with the exact same set of files.  This “My Dropbox” folder is also on the Internet (accessed with a username & password).  When I make a change to a file on my home computer, it syncs this change to the Internet, and the next time my work computer is on, it picks up the change and saves it on that computer too.  It’s not the entire computer that’s synced, it’s just this particular folder.  There are some kinds of files that you may not want to sync (i.e. personal financial information, student grades, etc.).  Just leave these files in a folder outside of the dropbox.


What’s the real advantage of a sync between computers?  No more duplicate files.  You will never again open a file, only to discover that it’s the version from several weeks ago instead of yesterday’s version.  That’s just awesome.

One word of caution.  Once you have a sync established, tackle the file sorting at a reasonable pace (go for 15 minutes at a time, instead of a massive 4-hour sorting session).  If you sort and rename too many files too fast, your sync (on multiple machines) may not be able to keep up with you (or, ignore my advice and learn this the hard way).

So, find those orphaned files, and give yourself 15 minutes every day to do nothing but sort those files.   If you have additional tips about ways you’ve found to sort piles o’ files, please comment them in!

You have a week to get this task done before we move on to the next Organize Your Digital Self (OYDS) task.  New assignments will post each Monday.  This is just the tip of the digital decluttering iceberg.

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Digital Decluttering: Clean up those profiles!

This is the first installment of what will likely be a 52-week series.  The series is based on a conference/webinar presentation I’ve been doing for a while now called Organize Your Digital Self (OYDS).

Perhaps you’ve experienced the “decluttering bug” before – the sudden and unexplainable urge to just get rid of all the junk that’s cluttering up your life.  You find yourself installing new closet organizers, filing the stacks of paper on the dining room table, and vowing to do a better job keeping up in the future.

Well, we’re all encountering the same issues in our digital life, only we aren’t as good at acknowledging what the problem is.  Just like you might declutter your home once a year, we need to do the same with our digital lives. In the same way we need new closet organizers, we periodically need to add new digital methods of organization (and we need to rid ourselves of the ones that aren’t working).  Finally, we need to have strategies that help us maintain our digital selves in a state of organization instead of chaos.  Are you ready to Organize Your Digital Self ?  Let’s go!

Digital Decluttering: Clean up those profiles!


The task for this week?  Find and clean up all those digital profiles that arelurking out there on the Internet.  Chances are, you haven’t ever really given it much thought, but you might have as many as twenty profiles collecting cobwebs in cyberspace.  When someone finds you, do you want them to see outdated photos, website information, marital status, or job status?  Heck no!  Not only would that be unprofessional, but it might lead to some pretty awkward conversations.

Before you begin, you might want to find the most recent bio that you’ve written and copy it to a new document.  Update it and write a few different versions.  For example, you might have a lengthy version for a professional site, a more personal version for your own site, and then a short and quick to read version for sites like Twitter.  Please be careful not to reveal too much information about yourself (only you can decide how much is too much).  Personally, I avoid putting my phone number and address out there in public forums as much as possible.

maria_in_sariYou should also choose a couple photos or images (no more than 3) to represent yourself in your profiles.  Since we tend to associate our memories about relationships with images we remember, I wouldn’t change your profile images very often (Facebook is the exception to that rule, since you know those people pretty well already).  Consider this: If you don’t know somebody well, then the only visual “anchor” they have for their memories of interactions with you is that profile picture you choose.  Don’t underestimate the power of this association.

Before our 2009 Math & Technology Workshop, all the participants got to know each other on our Moodle site.   One of their first tasks was to upload a photo or image for their profile.  For two weeks, we exchanged pleasantries and ideas online.  Then they all came to Muskegon in person.  After hanging out with all of the participants for a week in the flesh, there were only four that I didn’t know by name.  These were the participants who either did not post profile pictures on the Moodle site, or the ones who did not use their own photo (e.g. a car or a picture of a son or daughter).

spmariaI used to use one pic for professional sites (a photo of myself from a professional studio), a cartoon avatar (for chat windows), and a more casual picture for other sites (like twitter).  I think this is okay, but recently I’ve settled on just one professional/casual image for everything, and I like that consistency it brings to my digital profile.  No matter where you see my digital presence, it’s the same me.

Without further ado, let’s begin to tackle that list of profiles.  Let me start by giving you a list of of places that you might start looking for those stagnant profiles:

  • Blogger or WordPress
  • OpenID
  • LinkedIn
  • Ning
  • Google chat / Google talk
  • Google groups or Yahoo groups
  • Google profile (show up in Google searches)
  • Yahoo, Microsoft, or Apple profile
  • Wikipedia (or other Wiki sites you belong to)
  • Twitter
  • Facebook or Myspace
  • Blackboard, Moodle, D2L, etc.
  • Academic or work chat clients (like Wimba)
  • Company blog or website
  • Professional blog or website
  • Personal blog or website
  • Picasa, Flickr, Snapfish, or other photo sites
  • YouTube channel (or TeacherTube, Google Video, etc.)
  • Shelfari (or other book-sharing sites)
  • Delicious, Diigo, etc.
  • Digg, Technorati, etc.
  • Profiles on gaming websites
  • Profiles on websites with discussion boards (like TED)

Chances are that if you’ve read this far, you’re already starting to feel overwhelmed!  How on earth did we all end up with so many profiles?!?  You may already be deciding to jettison some of these old accounts.  Just like we throw out some of the junk in our home, feel free to throw out some of the junk in your digital world.  Where you can, delete those old and unused accounts.  That will be one less profile to declutter next year!

So, print the list (or take a screenshot), and give yourself 15 minutes every day to do nothing but declutter those profiles.   If you come up with any additional places to declutter profiles, please comment them in!

You have a week to get this task done before we move on to the next Organize Your Digital Self (OYDS) task.  New assignments will post each Monday.  This is just the tip of the digital decluttering iceberg.

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Organize Your Digital Self


Last week I gave a presentation called “Organize Your Digital Self” to the participants at the University of Wisconsin.

Does your email stack up? Do your important web links get “lost”? Are you still creating the website or course link as the last step? Maria offers helpful strategies to get your digital life under control.

This entire webinar is now available as a recording, which can be found at the ICS website.  Just a warning, the presentation runs a little over an hour, but I promise that you will get much more than an hour back in time saved later.

Here are a few of the screenshots:





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Computer Lockdown is a Good Thing

Whenever I give a presentation at a college or conference, someone always asks the question.  You know.  THAT question.

“Just how much time do you spend at the computer every day?”

I’m not sure if I really don’t want to know, or I know, but I don’t want to acknowledge it.  It’s a lot.  In the last year I’ve gained a few pounds and that’s got to be reversed, so I’ve once again instituted the “Computer Lockdown” program (which my husband absolutely hates).


What is the “Computer Lockdown” program, you ask?  (well, thanks for asking)  It’s actually a software program called WorkPace designed to prevent RSI (repetitive strain injury).  After intensive periods of typing it locks the keyboard for a few seconds to force you to rest your fingers.  But that’s not the primary reason I use it.  The reason I use WorkPace is that I can force myself to take computer breaks.  My computer will actually lock me out and no amount of cajoling or rebooting will let me back in for 10 minutes.

This forces me to get up and walk around, maybe get a little exercise, give my dogs a good scratch, go out on the deck and get some sun … in other words, re-engage with the world.  This is a good thing.

Now, if that sounds scary to you (and if it does, you’ve probably got the same work-obsessed problem as me), you can decide just how forceful you want WorkPace to be.  Do you just want it to be annoying, but not lock you out?  Do you want mandatory lockout once an hour?  Or maybe you only want lockout after 10 hours in one day.  All these things can be adjusted.

If you don’t want to pay anything to have your comptuer lock you out, there’s another (similar) program called WorkRave, which is not as adjustible but does have a cuter logo.


I’ve tried both in the past, but liked WorkPace a little better (but I can’t exactly remember why).

There is one other aspect to this “mandatory break” thing that I really like.  Every hour I am forced to account (at least mentally) for what I actually accomplished in the last hour.  Did I wander aimlessly about the Internet?  Did I really focus on replying to student emails?  Do I need to regroup for my next hour of work?

Uh oh.  That’s my warning.  About to be …

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Write on your walls

Now that I’m in “sabbatical” mode, I finally have time to think about things I’ve been meaning to do for weeks months years. Many of those things relate to organization, project planning, and creativity (freeing up your mind to be creative instead of dealing with details). Here’s the first of the new additions to my “sanity protection” – a whiteboard, only not white!

I didn’t want to cover up my wooden walls (or in this case, closet doors) with large white panels, so I had some glass custom cut to fit the wood doors. They drilled holes in each corner and using a screw and two nylon washers in each corner, we hung the glass panels last night. So now I can write on my walls! Well, not all the walls, but at least that wall. For markers, I’ve got to recommend a set of TUL markers. These are really cool because they have an eraser on the tip of every marker AND they are magnetic. Although my glass is not magnetic, the file cabinet is, and it’s right next to my new glass marker board.

Last week I took a group of students to TechSmith on a field trip, and while we were there, I noticed a lot of interesting project planning systems (all of them on walls, and usually involving sticky notes). So I’ve morphed a couple of their systems into my own system – mine is for tracking where videos are in their production. Each video gets a sticky note and the note will move to track where the video is in production.

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