2 tools to help you tackle what this New Year will bring to your #highered job

January 8th, 2014 Karine Joly 5 Comments

New Year’s Resolutions or Goals, Anybody?

So, this “New Year,” how is it working for you so far?

clock_registrationHave you made your big (too long?) list of New Year’s resolutions yet?
Did you blog, tweet or facebook your goals over the holidays break?
What are you going to achieve this year for your unit, your school, your community and your professional career?

I know you’ll do great things and I’d love to help you meet your 2014 goals however I can.

That’s why I want to share the 2 tools that have had the biggest impact in my professional daylife since I started using them. Oh, and I have NOT received any compensation, chocolates or promise of future gifts in exchange for these recommendations :-) I just hope they will also help you get better organized, accountable and creative in the upcoming months.

1) Toggl: You can’t control, change or improve what you don’t measure

I’ve been rambling for years about the power of digital analytics to transform higher ed websites, digital marketing strategies and your professional life. Yet, until a few months ago, I wasn’t measuring the most valuable and scarce resource of my professional life: my time!


If you are a developer or a designer working on different client work, you’ve probably filled out time sheets since the beginning of your career. When I worked on consulting gigs for universities and colleges in the past, I did it too. In this kind of settings, the equation is simple time spent on client work is billable time.

But, when you work for a school in marketing, social media or managerial positions, let’s face it: tracking time just looks like a waste… of time.
Yet, I have to admit – after tracking my time for the past 4 months – it isn’t.

TogglTracking your time works a bit like the new activity wrist bands or fitness apps that keep you accountable by tracking every step you make. When you know how much time you spend on which type of work at work, you can better plan or make more informed decisions.

After trying several time trackers in the past, I fell in love with Toggl. It’s free (with a more powerful paid version), available on the web or via an IOS mobile app on my iPod.

It’s fast to log a task: you just write what you are doing, hit enter and you’re done. You can resume tracking a previous task by a single click. And, when you’re done a click is all you need to stop the tracker.
It emails a weekly report, but you can also slice and dice your time sheets in many ways in the report section.

2) FocusatWill: You can’t achieve much without focusing first & music can help

In our world of gazillions options, social media and 24/7 interactions, it is difficult (often impossible) to focus. As professionals who have been working in front of a computer screen for a bit, you know how bad things have gone in the past few years. You are bombarded every single minute of the day with a myriad of digital “elements” fighting to the death for YOUR attention.

With so many possibilities, it’s often difficult to focus on what needs to be done and it’s so easy to procrastinate by checking first your email, social media channels or this very important online article your coworker mentioned this morning.

Focus WillI’ve tried many, many things to help me focus when I need to write my articles for University Business, blog posts and grade the weekly work of my students in the 8-week online course I teach on social media marketing for higher ed.

Grading is a repetitive task by nature: the less you can focus, the more time it will take as any professor can tell you :-) I managed to keep my focus by listening to… an album with a selection of Mozart pieces, but it didn’t work all the time as I caught myself between assignments checking twitter or email during my weekly grading sessions.

Fortunately, when I started to work on my presentation about social media terms of service, I had an epiphany… in the form of a twitter follow.

I had twitted that I needed to focus big time to get through the 100,000 words (yep, I kept track of the word counts and even included it in my preso) of these boring legalese pieces and got a follow from @focusatwill as a result of my tweet. Since checking this new follower looked really more interesting than what I was reading (TOS, remember?), I did!

I gave a try to Focus at Will and it changed my working life.

This online service streams music on different channels, music that is especially chosen to enhance your focus and help your brain get in the “focusing zone.” As I often explained to people asking about it, there is some science behind the whole thing (so, no it’s not 100% dark magic, wishful thinking or placebo effect ;-). Your brain is very similar to a puppy. It needs constant stimulation. And, boy, does it get constant stimulation in our wonderful digital mobile world! The music actually helps keep this puppy living in your head entertained while YOU focus and get some work done.

I used the free service for some time, then I switched to the paid subscription after 2 months. It is such a game changer that it totally makes sense to pay for this service.

You can also set a timer – I often use this feature to set up an audio “time budget” for a specific task. You know, for the big time worms like social media or online reading… When the music stops, it means that time is up. It helps me keep up with my time budget!

What about you? Any miracle app or magical service that helps you get work done?

Please share with the community by posting a comment so we can all help each other tackle the challenges this New Year will bring to higher ed.

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