Friday, April 29, 2011

4 Favorite Productivity Websites (+1 for fun)

“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” –Bertrand Russell

I agree with the quote above … to an extent. We have all decided to “check Facebook” for a couple of minutes and then look up and realize that an hour has wasted away.

The internet is full of time-wasters, but also full of many productivity tools. Below are four of my favorites and one bonus for fun.

  1. (cost: free; iPhone app: Yes-free) – is a genius website for organizing all of your financial information in one place. Once you set up your account through, each time you log in it updates all of your financial information. Through you can: set up and monitor a budget, monitor your retirement accounts, set and track financial goals and many other things. The best benefit about – it’s absolutely free! Click the link above and you can watch a short video on

  1. (cost: free; iPhone app: Yes-$1.99) – is a very simple to-do list. I primarily use this website at work. When I think of something that needs to be accomplished, I type it into my teuxdeux list. There is nothing fancy here, but I subscribe to the idea that the best way to not forget something is to write it down (or in this case, type it in). Click the link above and you can watch a short video on

  1. Google Reader (cost: free; iPhone app: No) – I visit Google Reader every day. Essentially, Google Reader takes content from websites that you choose and pulls in any new material. All you need to use Google Reader is a gmail account. By the way, Google has many incredible web applications that you can explore. Click here for a one-minute explanation of Google Reader.

  1. (cost: free; iPhone app: No) – is a site that I often forget, but when I need to save a video off of YouTube or other sites, it comes in very handy. All you do is copy the URL from the YouTube video that you are watching, paste it into the box on and click download. You can choose various formats for saving your video. This is a very handy site.

  1. (cost: free; iPhone app: Yes-free) – This is one of those “time waster” websites, but I check it out everyday because it pulls in the best deals from the internet into one site. The home page shows the best current deals at the top. If you click the “ED CHOICE” tab at the top, you will be directed to a list of other great deals. Finally, clicking the “More” drop-down box along the top of the page will give you choices of deals to check (electronics, books, etc.). I often look on this site for free Amazon Kindle books.

Remember, YouTube is a great source for tutorial videos. If you want to find out more about setting up Google Reader, for instance, go to YouTube and search for Google Reader videos. You are guaranteed to find just what you need.

In future posts, I hope to add more productivity websites and iPhone apps.

Have a wonderful weekend!

QUESTION: What are your favorite websites and iPhone apps? Please comment below.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Leader in Me

A seminal moment in the annals of American education occurred on April 20, 1999. At 11:17 a.m. on a beautiful, clear morning in Littleton, Colorado, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire on two students at Columbine High School. Forty-nine minutes later, fifteen people were dead, including the shooters (TIME magazine, 2009). David Cullen, who penned the most comprehensive book to date on the school shooting, Columbine, described Harris as a psychopath, a natural-born killer. However, he discovered a more nuanced understanding of Klebold. As TIME magazine stated in its review of Cullen’s book:

"If there is a lesson here, it lies in Klebold's story, which is the more disturbing because he was, at heart, like us. He was capable of love and sympathy, and he discarded them. Some killers are natural born. Klebold was made." (Grossman, TIME magazine, 2009 - read the entire article

Next year, my school district is implementing The Leader in Me character education program. Click here to read more about the program. This might be the most important initiative that our district has ever undertaken.

Education encompasses many noble ideas, but teaching character is more important now than ever before. This program, based on Stephen Covey’s landmark bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is the character education program for the 21st Century.

The Leader in Me teaches very young kids to, first, be leaders of themselves through utilizing habits 1-3. Next, habits 4-6 teach kids to be leaders of others. Finally, habit 7 directs kids to take care of themselves. These are timeless principles that we should all be utilizing.

Habit 1: Be proactive – You’re in charge
Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind – Have a plan
Habit 3: Put first things first – Work first, then play
Habit 4: Think win-win – Everyone can win
Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then be understood – Listen before you talk
Habit 6: Synergize – Together is better
Habit 7: Sharpen the saw – Balance feels best

Can you imagine how we could change lives by teaching elementary-aged children to use these principles?

I am super-excited about this initiative. I have visited schools where they implement this model and it is empowering to hear a third grader verbalize what it means to be proactive.

The TIME magazine quote above is sobering. How many kids have wandered through our schools and gained an education, but lost themselves? We have an obligation to educate the whole person. Certainly, children should be learning this character at home, but too often it just does not happen.

QUESTION: What are your thoughts on character education in the schools? Is it worth an investment?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How to start a movement

One of my favorite websites is TED. TED is a nonprofit devoted to ideas worth spreading. You can find short videos on numerous topics given by outstanding people.

To introduce you to TED, below is one of my favorite TED videos delivered by Derek Sivers. In this short 3:00 video, Derek shares how to start a movement. 

Below are the major points that Derek shares in this video:

  1. Leaders need the guts to stand out and be ridiculed.
  2. The first follower is an underestimated form of leadership in itself.
  3. The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader.
  4. New followers imitate the early followers – not the leader.
  5. Understand the importance of nurturing the first few followers and treating them as equals.
  6. When you find a lone nut doing something really great, have the courage to stand up and join in.
Question: Have you ever followed a lone nut to create a movement?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Here we go...

“Don’t prepare. Begin” -Steven Pressfield, Do the Work

Today is a big day for me. Instead of “talking” about starting a blog, today I actually do the work!
I’m not exactly sure of the flavor of the blog just yet. I feel certain that I will post my thoughts on education, leadership and personal development.

Just so you know, I read several blogs on a daily basis that influence my thought processes. Topics includeleadership (Seth Godin, Michael Hyatt, John Maxwell, and Kerry Palmer), education (Dr. Frank BuckFree Technology for Teachers, Scott McLeod, Dan Meyer, Mighty Little Librarian, Michael Smith, and Suzanne Tingley), and personal development (Get Rich Slowly, Chris Guillebeau, Donald Miller, Daniel Pink, Steven Pressfield, and Presentation Zen)

I use Google Reader to follow my blogs. Google Reader consolidates all of the blogs that I want to read in one location. This saves me much time in going to each website every day to check for new content. If a new blog has been written, it is automatically updated in Google Reader. All you need for a Google Reader account is a gmail address.

I have, intentionally, not organized the site or worried about how it looks and flows, etc. I knew that I could spend days, weeks, or months trying to perfect how the site looks.

Instead, I decided to do the work and write today.

I have a couple of goals for the site:
  1. Write 3-4 times per week for the first month.
  2. When I do not feel like writing, write anyway!
So, what have you been “preparing” to do? Stop talking about it and do the work!