Digital Tools for Productivity & Time Management

Everything seems to exist and happen within the parameters of time. Einstein was intrigued by time and changed the 400 year dominance of the Newtonian concept of time with his theories of relativity. Building off of Einstein’s work (not really) Melissa and I wanted to explore time management and productivity through the best use of digital tools and create a workshop where we could find ways to use technology in harmony with our work (rather than as a distraction!) Our goal is simple. To improve our relationship with time.

In our conversations we came up with one common dilemma – Why is it that when we find a new tool or app that is supposed to help with time management, it can start off pretty good, but then, little by little, we often default back to our old behavior? (Much like a New Year’s resolution.) Adapting a quote from Professor Beryl Levinger, we can see that a change in tools does not equal a change in behavior. So in the workshop, before going straight into showing new digital tools, we thought it would be a good idea to do a little analog self assessment.

Not All Lists are Created Equal
We all make “To Do Lists” but do our lists reflect our priorities in such a way as to enable our best time management? “OK Einstein,” You may be thinking. “So how do I make my list reflect my priorities?” Well, let’s do a simple exercise. Where would you place yourself in this spectrum?

How do you approach work?

Would you say you are more “task oriented” or more “people oriented?” Wherever you are on this line, having a clear understanding of how you (and your partners) approach work is very beneficial when it comes to productivity. We can avoid misunderstandings and make schedules that are more realistic according to people’s orientations.

Now that we have located ourselves in the above spectrum, we let’s look at how we decide what is “important,” “urgent,” “less important,” and “less urgent.” We can also think of any combination of these (i.e. important and urgent vs. important and less urgent). By being able to categorize your tasks and list them according to their importance and urgency you can plan the next action step and when to do it. The chart below is simple, easy to apply, and (we think) an effective method for organizing your lists.

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 11.53.33 AM

If something is “important” and “urgent” the plan is to do it now. If something is “important” and “less urgent” the plan is to schedule a time to do it, and you can decide how soon this should be scheduled. If something is less important but urgent you may see if you can delegate it to someone else. And if something is less important and less urgent you can ignore it. If “ignore” sounds too strong, you can at least decide if this unimportant and not urgent item should be on your to do list at all. The important thing is that you know what should be done now and what should wait for a later time. And when you are clear and comfortable about this you can free up your mind to focus on what you are doing now without having that scheduled task sitting in your mental ram taking up space and energy.

We have heard that “knowledge is power” but knowledge can also be time-saving and productive when paired with the right tools for you. We believe it is important to understand clearly how we see and prioritize things in order to have digital tools work best for you. So, now with this understanding up front we can go over some cool (and FREE) digital time management resources and see what feels right for you.

Workflowy – “Organize Your Brain” 
When it comes to making lists, Workflowy doesn’t mess around. You can make multiple lists and sublists, you can make lists within lists, categorize lists, locate lists or items in your lists, you can share lists, import and export lists and more. Make lists as simple or as complex as you need them to be. This program is very easy to use. If you go to their website you can give Workflowy a test drive from a sample display list that they provide. On their site it also tells us that “Stewart Butterfield and his team used WorkFlowy to brainstorm and implement the first version of Slack, a company now worth more than $1 billion. They managed their entire team and product development process in WorkFlowy.” Along with your future billion dollar company, you can manage your schoolwork and grocery lists as well.

Evernote – Good for Staying Organized! 
If you need a system of keeping your notes organized, or you have a habit of writing things down before you forget them, Evernote could be your best friend. You can create notebooks & notes, as well as add text, web clips, photos, and files. You can also create “to do” lists & reminders.  All of these items in Evernote are searchable and synced across devices (you can import Workflowy notes as well).

The Pomodoro Techinque – Good For Getting things Done!
This is not software but a time management technique that is a simple and effective way to improve your work and study habits. It was introduced in the 1980s (I think) in a book with the same name by Francesco Cirrilo. I recommend you click on the link above and watch the 2 minute video for a very good explanation of how to use this technique. But the basic idea is to work on one task in 25 minute increments (ideally) un-interrupted with 5 minute breaks.  Each one of these sessions is called a “pomodoro session.” You decide how many pomodoro’s it takes for you to finish a task. By the way, pomodoro is the Italian word for “tomato,” and this technique is named that because in Italy tomatoes grow in 25 minute spurts. (Is this true? Probably not, because I just made it up, but it would explain to me why the heck this is called the tomato technique! )

These are some of the tools that we covered in our workshop. You can find the complete list of digital tools that we covered in our workshop presentation here: And as always, you can stop by the DLC to talk with any of us about. We hope that these ideas , tools, and techniques help you get things done in the ways that best fit your personality and life. Practice makes us better so try things out for little bit and don’t be afraid to change from one method to another. This is a constant work in progress for us all. But with a little bit of time, we can all improve our relationship with time!

Death by powerpoint

Do ya Pecha Kucha?

Pe-cha-ku-cha? Hold up, before you think I’m insulting you, let’s talk about it.

Pecha Kucha literally means “chit-chat” in Japanese, but in this context, it’s a style and method of presenting. So when I ask, “Do ya Pecha Kucha?” what I mean to ask you is, do you know how to rapidly present an idea in 6 minutes and 40 seconds? Better yet, can you devote a mere 20 seconds to 20 different slides? Let me tell you, if Peter Shaw and Bob Cole can do it, I’m sure you can!

Just before spring break I lead an open-ended workshop with Peter Shaw that helped 20 GSTILE students contribute 20 seconds each to 20 pecha kucha slides for the TESOL department…

And this past Friday I watched Bob Cole freestyle a pecha kucha presentation using truly random assortment of slides. Needless to say it was AWESOME and it even included some audience participation, which caught us all off guard.


Bob Cole’s 20×20 about MIIS Happening and Pecha Kucha


Both the process and finished products of the presentations were quite amazing, so in the spirit of MIIS Happening and the upcoming Pecha Kucha Clinic on Friday, April 10th, let me share with you some key takeaways…

  1. Pecha Kucha is direct
    • 20 slides may seem like an overwhelming amount of space for content, but 20 seconds is a very short amount of time to present anything meaningful. There’s no room for slides full of text or complex diagrams. Every slide is a short, powerful chapter in a story. Peter used 20 still images from his class field trip to Bay View Academy, where his graduate students taught foreign languages to middle school students. The voice overs for those 20 slides came from 20 students in the session, so each student had to be very succinct in the soundbytes they provided. Each one used an average of only 50 words!
  2. Pecha Kucha is engaging
    • Styles vary even within Pecha Kucha, but the idea is to convey a meaningful message or story in a short amount of time. In a way, it’s a direct response to death by powerpoint. Pecha Kucha tends to bring a presenter’s points to life by giving them a relief point. After 20 seconds, the slide shifts whether they’re ready or not, so when presented live it tends to keep the attention of the audience, who deep down inside know that they only get 20 seconds to hear and see each point. It’s like a power point that’s adapted to our short attention spans! Bob was riffing, but great at keeping our attention. He even had a timer built into his slides, which you can find the template for on the MIIS Happening page.
  3. Pecha Kucha is fun
    • Unlike all the text above, Pecha Kucha is enjoyable to be a part of. On the back end I got to help Peter Shaw put together a fast-paced multimedia project using PowerPoint, Garageband, and Camtasia, and on the front end it’s fun to watch! Get a group of Pecha Kucha presenters together and you’ve got yourself a party… of sorts, which is exactly what MIIS Happening is!

I don’t want to spoil the details of the MIIS Happening event, so just take my word for it that Pecha Kucha is what’s happenin’ – so follow the link to get schooled and I’ll see you on Friday in the DLC from 10-11am!


MIIS Happening is April 16!

A happening is a performance, event or situation meant to be considered art, usually as performance art. Happenings occur anywhere and are often multi-disciplinary, with a nonlinear narrative and the active participation of the audience. Key elements of happenings are planned but artists sometimes retain room for improvisation. This new media art aspect to happenings eliminates the boundary between the artwork and its viewer.” -

What is MIIS Happening?

A two hour Pecha Kucha-inspired event featuring short 6 minute and 40 second (20 slides x 20 seconds) talks, by MIIS students, staff, and faculty. The program will be generated through a massively open invitation for contributions by MIIS community members from all walks of campus. We’re seeking 20×20’s to inspire, engage and entertain a diverse audience, promote cross-disciplinary sharing, put a dent in programmatic silos, stir up some serendipity, celebrate creativity, and generally mix things up for a couple of hours. Talks may be inspired by storytelling or any number of themes, such as: change, place, culture, immersion, identity, adaptation, systems, ecologies, climate, language, among others. MIIS Happening! is two hours of participatory, fly-by-the-seat of your-pants intellectual exchange and exploration of unexpected connections among fields and schools of thought across the campus! MIIS Happening! is for everyone being shaped by and shaping MIIS.

How can I get involved?

We are seeking 20×20 presentations from across the MIIS community. To get involved:



Participate in a DLC MIIS Happening design clinic to learn how to present in the Pecha Kucha inspired 20 images x 20 seconds format.

Current Sign-up Sheets

No sheets available at this time.

Download the Pecha Kucha slide template with built-in timing: pk_template.pptx

Website Audit 2 Pic

Website Audit – Take 2!

GPayne checkin’ in! Amidst the rush of returning to school last week I made it a priority to check back in with Evelyn Helminen about my website. To get up to date on how this whole website audit thing started, click the link to my previous post. In my previous post I detail how Evelyn audited my website’s purpose, vision, content, and navigation, and in the end, I decided to start over! I bought a new domain name ( for 2 years, switched my host from WordPress to Weebly, and created an all new outlook for my e-portfolio. How is it different?

  1. Weebly
    • WordPress was a great host and platform to learn how to manage a website, but Weebly has an ease of use and polished look that I like more. Weebly uses a drag-and-drop interface similar to iMovie and Garageband, but for website design it’s great! There aren’t too many choices and the mobility of those options can make each page very unique. For the purpose of my website, which is to function as a polished and easy to navigate e-portfolio Weebly was just what I was looking for, even though there are a few options I don’t have access to without a premium account.
  2. E-portfolio
    • I only need my e-portfolio to do a few things, but I need it to do them very well. First, I need it to make me look good. Weebly has a very polished look to it and has a lot of nice themes to choose from. Large pictures display perfectly both in the background and the foreground, and some of the page formats are specifically designed to showcase those large photos.
  3. Pages
    • Because it’s so easy on the eyes, it makes me as the subject of the website easy to understand. Instead of overloading my audience with everything that might be important, my new website pushed me to be as streamlined about my delivery as it is about displaying my information. Thus, I limited myself to 5 menu items, only 2 of which have drop down menu items, streamlining my navigation.
  4. Links
    • To make navigation even clearer however, I embedded links in the text on each page so that as my audience finishes reading each page, context-specific links to other parts of my website are clearly displayed in a light turquoise color. It’s obvious now that I misunderstood “link theory” in my old website, which frustrated everyone from my mom to my supervisor, so I started over there, too. Now, it’s easier for people to navigate to relevant content.
  5. Impact
    • I think the most significant difference in my new website is the impact it has. It conveys purpose, vision, and content much better now, which makes me proud to share it. I no longer hesitate to share my URL with potential employers. I’m simply confident that it tells my story appropriately and effectively when I’m not telling it out loud.
  6. Possibilities
    • Lastly, I think the most exciting thing about my new website are the possibilities. There are quite a few options I want to try out in the future, but most notably is embedding video. Instead of forcing people to read about me, I’m going to upload a video introduction, as well as a short video to replace the content on the Looking Ahead page. So if and when potential employers land on my website, they can hear and see who I am, what I’m good at, and what I intend to do in my future career.

Take a look at my new website to see what I’m talking about! And if you get a chance check out an article about WordPress vs. Weebly that is circulating around the DLC now.


Emerging Teaching Practices Brown Bag Lunch with Visiting Asst. Professor Orion Lewis

The Digital Learning Commons is pleased to invite MIIS faculty as well as interested staff for a lunchtime brown bag conversation on effective and emerging ‘next generation’ teaching practices: ‘Striving for High Def in Hybrid & Online Courses’. Bring your lunch, DLC will provide snacks and drinks!

Middlebury Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science, Orion Lewis, shares his insights and experience in planning, designing, collaborating and teaching hybridized and online courses via HD video conference with Middlebury College and MIIS students. Orion will be joined by DLC and Middlebury curricular technologists as well as students involved in the joint Middlebury-MIIS NPTG 8546 Insurgency & Security Policy course.

PLEASE RSVP on the DLC event page by clicking “sign up” on the event Sign-Up Sheet below by Monday, April 20th to attend.

Emerging Teaching Practices Brownbag - Orion Lewis | Tues, Apr 21 12:15-1:30pm | DLC

Date: April 21, 2015

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Intercultural Digital Storytelling Project Showcase | April 22 | 5-7:00pm

The 2015 cohort of intercultural storytelling fellows representing immersive learning programs in five countries is pleased to invite you to join us for the first digital storytelling showcase. Fellows will present their stories, discuss their process, and welcome you into this interactive storytelling environment. Light refreshments will be served!

Weds., April 22 | Digital Learning Commons | 5-7:00pm 

IDSP15 Showcase: 5 – 7:00pm | Weds, April 22 | DLC Design Space

Date: April 22, 2015

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Piktochart digital sign .001

Infographics with Piktochart Workshop

Have you ever thought of creative ways to present your information, especially the important kind such as your resume? Have you ever tried to craft an attention-grabbing poster or handout? Unless you are a born artist, it could be challenging to make your information stand out. Fear not, this workshop will introduce you to the basics of using Pikotchart to create infographics, a visual presentation to present information.

When: 1:30-2:30pm Friday, April 24th

Where: DLC Design Space

What will be covered:

  • Sign up for Piktochart
  • Templates available for free and paid versions
  • Modify an existing template
  • Create from a blank template
  • Share and present the Piktochart

Please bring your laptop so you can try it out!

Infographics with Piktochart Workshop | 1:30-2:30PM | Location: Digital Learning Commons

Date: April 24, 2015

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Google Analytics Glossary

How Visitors Find Your Website

Traffic Sources: Direct vs. Referral
Traffic sources show you how users got to your site, and in Google Analytics are split into direct and referral traffic.

Direct Traffic is made up of visitors that type a URL directly into the address bar, select an auto-complete option when typing the URL, or click on a bookmark to get to your site

Referral Traffic is when a user has landed on your site by clicking on a link from somewhere else; this could be another site, a social media profile, or a search engine.

Organic Search shows the users who came to your site by clicking on the organic links on the search engine results page.

Paid Search show the users who arrived at your page through clicking paid or “sponsored” content on the search engine results page.

Keyword: The word or phrase a user entered into the search box that led them to click on one of your links.

Landing Page: The page your user begins their visit to your site on; quite simply, how they ‘land’ on your site.

How Visitors Interact with Your Website

Visitor: Visitors are defined by a unique ID – this ID is usually stored in a visitor’s cookies. Google Analytics cannot accurately track users who delete their cookies, use multiple browsers, or share their computer.

Unique Visitor: When a user visits your site for the first time, a new visit and unique visitor are both recorded. If the same user returns to the site after their initial visit, only a visit is added.

New Visitor: A visitor without an existing Google Analytics ID (usually stored in a visitor’s cookies) when they start a session on your site. If a visitor deletes their cookies and comes back to the site, the visitor will be counted as a new visitor.

Returning Visitor: A visitor with existing Google Analytics ID from a previous visit.

Visit vs. Session: ‘Visits’ and ‘Sessions’ have the same meaning in Google Analytics. There may be a specific context in which one term is used over the other, but they are broadly interchangeable.

Session: A session is a group of interactions that take place on your website within a given time frame. For example a single visit can contain multiple pageviews, events, and interactions. A single user can have multiple sessions. A visit ends after the visitor closes their browser, clears their cookies, is inactive for 30 minutes, or at midnight. When a session ends, a user can create a new session.

Pageviews: A pageview is recorded every time a page is viewed. When a visitor opens a page in their browser, hits the back button, or hits refresh, a pageview is recorded. Users can trigger multiple pageviews of the same page in a single session.

Unique Pageviews: Unique pageviews represent the number of visitors to a page, rather than the number of visits to that page. Whether a visitor views the page once during their visit or multiple times, the number of unique pageviews will be recorded as just one.

How Visitors Leave Your Website

Bounce Rate: The percentage of visits in which a user left your site from the same page they landed on, without visiting or interacting with other pages (single-page visits).

Exit Rate: The percentage of pageviews for which this was the last page of the visit. This percentage includes both single- and multiple-page visits (visits included in the bounce rate are also included in the exit rate).

Bounce Rate vs. Exit Rate:
Visit 1: Page B > Page A
Visit 2: Page B > Exit
Visit 3: Page A > Page B

Bounce Rate:
Page A: 0%
Page B: 33%

Exit Rate:
Page A: 50%
Page B: 66%

Visit Duration: Every time you visit a web page your browser records a timestamp. Visit Duration is calculated based on the timestamp difference between the first and final pageviews that occurred during a visit.

Average Visit Duration: The amount of time that the average visitor spends on your site.


Need help with Google Analytics? Make an Appointment at the DLC!

Smile for your mind map

Mind Mapping 101

Mind mapping sounds like something diabolical scientists do… but in actuality, it’s a simple tool to process the scope of work and direction for any project or idea. Like your average brainstorm, it usually starts with a circle in the center of a blank page, and expands with arrows out from the center connecting other free floating ideas, eventually leading to a page full of words, doodles, and color…

Once the concept has been thoroughly mapped however, people usually don’t understand that a mind map can and should be simple, easy to read, and easy to understand.

How do we do that?

  1. Start with a firecracker
    • Consider how you frame the context of your map and you’ll find that a good starting point can lead to all kinds of interesting connections and discoveries. For example, if you put the words “Users ignore our product” in the center of your mind map, you’re going to have a much different outcome than if you put “Users are buying from the competition!”
  2. Speed map
    • A wise man once told me to read every book twice – once for feeling, once for meaning. Sadly, I don’t have time to read most books once, but most of us have time to draw two mind maps, so try not to get bogged down in the details during the mind mapping process the first time. First time around, just write what you feel!
  3. Keep it brief
    • As you speed map, try to limit yourself to 3 connections per node (the bubble or box containing the concept). Beyond 3 and you might be reaching for connections that don’t exist. Less than 3 and you’re just not thinking. By limiting yourself to 3 connections the first time around, you’ll find that you spend less time thinking, and more time mapping.
  4. Value the connections
    • Simple lines and arrows suffice for most mind maps, but mind mapping possibilities are endless if you consider the value of the connection. Label your connections, use colors, and draw unique symbols to represent connections. Your connections are as valuable as your nodes. As an example, the words “Fruit” and “Dried Cranberries” might connect well together, but “Fruit” and “Salad” might not connect well without an arrow labeled “Dried Cranberries”.
  5. Mind mapping should move at the speed of authenticity
    • I know I just told you to speed map, but if this is your second time around slow it down! By the time you get your first (and most pressing) concepts on the page, try only adding and taking away from the map when you can justify the action. Because it’s an iterative process, don’t expect it to be finished in just a few minutes. Return to it after a day or a week if time will allow and you might see a new node or connection you hadn’t before.

In the end, mind mapping is a tool best exercised with patience. I’ve been promoting mind mapping for a while now, and I’ve found that most people’s reservations about it stem from thinking it’s a waste of time. However, if you ever learned to make an outline before writing a paper, consider it the parallel process for project development. Take it one step at a time, and maybe your map will be as beautiful as the one above. For some good mind mapping tools try using Mind42 or CmapTools!

SEO & Web Content Guidelines


  • Keywords incorporated, but appropriately spaced
  • When applicable, full program title included in content
  • Full names referenced before acronym use
  • Link to program requirements included on program pages
  • Location specified when appropriate
  • Carousel items removed where possible to speed page loading


  • Keywords used in hyperlinked text rather than “click here”
  • Keywords used in hyperlink title (Insert/Edit Link > Title)
  • Links are active/updated if necessary
  • Links do not use shortened links (go links) or include .index


  • Keywords used in captions
  • Alt tags are 125 characters or less
  • Title is logical with keywords included
  • Original image size is as small as possible to speed page loading
  • “Image” or “Picture” included in the description if appropriate

Tags and Formatting

  • Meta Tags > Description includes keywords in brief summary of 150-200 characters. This text may appear as the summary text in a Google search, and should be written as an enticing preview to the page.
  • Keywords included in H1 & H2 headings where possible
  • Text styling (bold, italics, etc.) used for keywords where appropriate

Questions? Contact the web team: Melissa Jennings,, Evelyn Helminen,