working out loud

Tools I Use to Manage a Lot of Work and a Hectic Life

tools_to_manageFor a long time now I’ve been wanting to document and share the tools I use to help me manage communications work at the National Writing Project, and really, life in general. My motives are two-fold: maybe it will help others and maybe I’ll get some good suggestions by putting this out there.

First, some criteria I’ve established for myself:

  1. Whatever the tool is, it must actually make my work easier or more manageable in some way. Just because something is pretty or nifty is not enough of a reason to use it. That being said, I’m shallow. I like pretty if I can have it.
  2. It must have a desktop/web version and a mobile app.
  3. I’d prefer not to pay for stuff, but I do believe in paying for well-crafted tools/services.
  4. It must have collaborative features so I can share work and processes with others, and to that end, it must be available on PCs as well as Macs, iOS as well as Android.
working out loud

A Little Fun With Curation



A big part of my “day-to-day” working at the National Writing Project is curating—selecting, organizing, and presenting information online. The public aspect of this can been seen on, Educator Innovator, or our social media accounts. I’m not the sole curator for our organization, luckily I have help from brilliant colleagues, but in a way, I’m the primary curator for online content.

The Task

Yesterday, we were a “core partner” for Digital Learning Day, and a couple weeks ago our team decided that we’d do a Storify of the day’s events as part of our post-event coverage (and in case you don’t want to read this whole thing, I’ll give you the final product now (though I do hope you read this anyway)). For those of you not familiar with Storify, it’s basically an online platform for curating content from across the web. One of my colleagues focused her attention on gathering assets throughout the day for this project, but knowing what a tremendous amount of content was going to be shared online via Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube, and hundreds of other sites, I was also glued to the stream, grabbing highlights along the way. Here are some questions I considered while gathering the info:

  • What is the story? Yes, it was about digital/connected learning, but it was also about how teachers engage students in learning using technology and what the products of learning were. The day was also about considering access and equity issues regarding technology and education around the U.S., and what the future of digital learning looks like.
  • What’s our story? NWP and its Educator Innovator and Digital Is initiatives were core partners, along with other partners that we often collaborate with. In fact we had a collaborative project called #Make4DLDay which was a set of challenges to engage people in “making” to celebrate. I wanted to try to represent everyone who is closely related to NWP in some way.
  • What’s the source? Not only did I want to represent partners and individuals related to NWP, I also wanted our story to have a variety of content that would include thoughts, perspectives, stories, photos, and video from several major sources like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

A Life-Changing Practice

There are two practices that solve nearly all my problems and because today is in fact Thanksgiving, it seems appropriate to focus on one: Gratitude. The other is being in the present moment, and without going into that too much, I think you’ll see how one compliments the other for me.

Obviously the concept of gratitude isn’t a new one to me, but it has taken on a whole new level of importance in my life this past year. I have to thank my wife for really introducing this practice into my day-to-day and making it something that I do, not only daily, but especially when I’m struggling throughout the day. When I’m disappointed, fearful, angry, frustrated, overwhelmed—you name it—I simply have to take a breath and refocus on what I’m thankful for. It can be people in my life, circumstances, and even things—but not long after I start thinking about what I’m thankful for, my entire mood and outlook changes.