The role of an school administrator is certainly multifaceted. Taking charge of the school’s vision is perhaps his/her primary role, but the reality is that immediate trouble can occur if the “buses don’t run on time”. In order to move my school forward while maintaining the details of the everyday routine, years ago I began studying the cottage industry of productivity which has been embraced by the business world for some time and in its modern state has been exalted by by the theories of David Allen and GTD, web sites such as Lifehacker, and the rise of digital solutions.
Productivity is not necessarily exciting, it may not change your world view on anything, and it doesn’t directly alter the lives of students. But adopting time saving and efficiency techniques can allow administrators more opportunity to focus on vision and school improvement.
I’ve been able to share my ideas on productivity at many workshops through the years but I’d like to share some of my thoughts via Principal Reflections as well. So, today…let’s look at the one tool that is getting the most play in the productivity field: Evernote. Many users have shared their wisdom on Evernote from across the world, so if you are new to Evernote (EN), check out Michael Hyatt’s great posts about EN that will give you the basics.
I have been a user of EN for nearly five years since the beginning of the company’s existence. In celebration of their five year anniversary recently, they emailed earlier adopters their “user number”. I am user number…
…out of more than 65 million users. What makes Evernote so powerful is it’s ability to store nearly any file you use, to be able to recall any file via notebooks, tags, and robust search features (including handwriting and PDFs), and it’s inclusion of many third party programs that enhance Evernote’s productivity reach.
There are some fine books on the Kindle and iBooks stores on Evernote including Nicholas Provezano’s The Complete Evernote Guide to Education and Daniel Gold’s book Evernote: The Unofficial Guide to Capturing Everything and Getting Things Done. Given my proclivity toward those in the administrative world, I am slowly working on an e-book myself that would help Principals, Assistant Principals, Superintendents…really any school leader, utilize Evernote effectively and make their jobs more productive. Occasionally, I’ll share some of these thoughts here on the blog.
To begin, let’s talk Notebooks and Tags.
When I began using Evernote, I harkened back to the days of organizing my files via Mac’s Finder – folders within folders, mostly filled with Word files. I had nearly a hundred folders on EN and didn’t utilize tags much at all. The program started slowing down especially on iOS. I found that by having just a few notebooks and focusing on tags, everything updated faster, and frankly, I was much more organized. I have tags for every committee, every subject area…really, anything that has a category. Best of all, some items can have double tags. For instance, if I am working on next year’s budget – specifically on the library portion, I can put the note in the tag for the library but I can also tag it for “Budget14”
One of the great features of EN is that any email can be quickly sent into your program. Just head to “Account Info” to find your EN email address. When you use it, a forwarded email will simply land in your EN InBox, ready to be processed. I have completely eliminated using folders within Apple Mail – if I want to save an email, I simply send it to EN. In fact, I will often put my EN address in the BCC section of an email I’m sending so that I can save a sent email as well.
It looks like this:
In this case, I am sending an email about the the 2014 Budget to my notebook for my school (HMS – Harold Martin School) with the tag “budget14”. Here’s where Notebooks and Tags come in when using the EN emailing technique. While the sent email will head into your InBox in most cases, if you use this formula:
@ symbol: for folders
# (hashtag): for tags
…your emailed note to EN will land in just the right folder and tag. This is a huge time saver. By the way, EN will not create a folder or tag for you if you type one that does not exist in your program.
This is but the beginning. I’ll blog occasionally on more EN tips, specifically for school administrators, but many of the hints would apply to all educators and practically anyone who wants to organize their crazy life. I’ll be presenting a workshop on Web 2.0 for educators in two weeks at the NH Summer Statewide Educators Conference and specifically on Evernote at the 2013 Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference. Questions? Feel free to email me anytime. I’d also like to hear what your greatest needs are in organizing your work and making your life more productive.