I’ve used a number of on-line ‘to do’ list applications over the years but about 4 or 5 years ago, I came across one called Wunderlist that I really liked and have been using it ever since. It works on a browser, a tablet or a smartphone so it’s never out of reach. And because it’s cloud based, whatever I enter with one device is instantly available on the others.
A few years ago, I found that Microsoft had purchased the company that developed the Wunderlist app for somewhere between $100 – $200 million. Now, I know that when a company gets purchased, it can spell doom for the customers of the product. It’s hard to understand the business model of a company that gives away a product for free and doesn’t appear to have any up-sells or in-app purchases to generate revenue. So my heart kind of sank when I heard that Microsoft intended to discontinue the product not long after they purchased it.
Then I became aware of a Microsoft todo list simply named ‘To Do’ and that it would allow importing of the data from Wunderlist. I was skeptical at first, but now that I’ve imported my data, and have watched a few tutorials, I am hopeful that this new product will be even better than Wunderlist.
Wunderlist will go away on May 6th, 2020, so if you are a Wunderlist user, I can assure you that the Microsoft To Do list works even better. Now to be fair, I learned to use Wunderlist by just using it and never bothered to read any ‘how to’ articles or tutorials on it. I’m sure a lot of its functionality was lost on me. So I made a point of watching a few video tutorials on Microsoft’s To Do and I’ve included them below in case you’re thinking of taking the plunge. One video is of using it on a mobile device and the other is how to use it in a conventional browser. I learned a lot about its features in these two short videos and found them to be worthwhile.
Like my last blog posting, this one was created in one 25-minute ‘Pomodoro’, which is another productivity tool I recommend. It keeps you focused and reluctant to allow distractions or interruptions. You know you’ll be done in 25 minutes or less so you’re unlikely to allow the task to go unfinished. Give it a try too, I think between the To Do and the Pomodoro Technique, you can get much more accomplished that you realize and in much less time.
I haven’t been doing much blogging over the past few years. One of the reasons is that as a teacher, I don’t really feel like I have any time that I could be writing a blog post that I shouldn’t be doing something related to my job as a teacher. When you’re a teacher, there are always more things that you can do than there is time to do them, and so creating a blog posting is a deliberate use of time that might better be put toward updating assignments or your teaching skills or researching new developments in technology, etc., the list goes on and on.
But I recently came across a time allocating technique that really intrigued me. It’s called the Pomodoro technique and it involves setting aside chunks of time where you avoid distractions and interruptions so that you can concentrate on a single task for 25 minute
intervals. It was developed by Francesco Cirillo back in the 1980’s and is the subject of his book, The Pomodoro Technique. It derives its name from a kitchen timer that looks like a tomato (pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato). I recently ordered a timer since Cirillo feels that the mechanical timer is more effective than an app or electronic device for setting the time since the physical act of winding it puts you in the state of commitment and provides a constant display of the amount of time left. For now, I’m just using a website called tomato-timer.com which seems to be working fine for now.
I’m actually writing this post in the 25 minute allotted time of one ‘pomodoro’.
Although this technique was developed in the 1980’s, it’s even more relevant now because of how easy it is to get distracted today. Back in the 80’s I had a TV that got at most 12 channels. My TV now has hundreds of channels. There was no personal email, no World Wide Web, no computer games, no smartphones, no social media and no YouTube. With all these new technologies that are designed to distract us, it’s amazing anyone gets anything done at all!
So far, I like the discipline this technique imposes on me. When I set a pomodoro timer, I know that I have a limited time to finish the task and then I must stop for a 5 minute break. If you notice that I’m posting more on the blog, it just may be the Pomodoro Technique that is to blame. I’ll keep you updated on how useful I find it.
And I’m glad to report that I got this whole thing written and posted in a single Pomodoro!
Did you know that you can get a Full Stack Web Development Certificate at Aims Community College? It’s true and you won’t have to pay an arm and a leg like you do at some of the bootcamps that teach these skills. Not only that, you’ll earn college credit and that will apply toward an AAS degree, should you decide to pursue that route. The classes required for the certificate are as follows:
The first 4 classes are required for the AAS degree, but if you’re already working in the IT field and just want the Full Stack skills, you can take the CWB classes and you’ll have as good a working foundation as you’ll get from any of the numerous unaccredited $20,000 15-week code bootcamps you see advertising full stack web dev courses. Most of the Aims classes are all available at night or, if you’re a self-motivated individual, you can arrange to take many of the classes online.
The following is a guest article by our favorite English teach, Mr. James Lynch.
To all of you sitting before me, waiting for the pomp and circumstance, the speeches and distribution of degrees to be over, and celebratory parties to begin, I know exactly how you feel. Besides my own high school, college and master’s degree graduations, I’ve sat through forty high school graduation ceremonies as a teacher, and several high school, undergraduate and graduate ceremonies of my children. The speakers at all those graduations ranged from the mediocre to the bad and the ugly, and offered a mishmash of all the usual platitudes about changing the world you are about to enter. None of them addressed reality you now face.
What is it then that I know about what you are really feeling as you sit there restlessly in those uncomfortable chairs? First, I know that you feel a vague, existential unease about your life from now on. Although in high school you railed about being subjected to “totally unnecessary” rules that made you sometimes call your alma mater a prison, and although your college years seemed to swamp you with endless academic activity (unless of course you were on a four-year booze cruise with a beer-pong major), you lived for many years in a comfortable and protective womb with few real-world concerns – your rapidly approaching or accrued debt notwithstanding.
Now things look different. If you are an accounting major, for example, do you really look forward to sitting at a desk for twelve mind-numbing hours a day during income tax season, adding up columns of numbers and trying to decipher thousands of pages of the tax code? If you are leaving med school, do you look forward to years of the back breaking and sleep-deprived schedules of internship and residency? If you are graduating law school, does working 80 hours a week at a high-end law firm feel worth the prestige and financial reward? If you have a degree in such areas as the rapidly proliferating number of gender, ethnic or identity “studies,” do you wonder how flipping burgers at McDonalds will provide you with a living wage, along with the ability to pay back that crippling tuition debt?
This I know: The world can be and is often a cold and uncaring place. It simply doesn’t care about you or your wellbeing. You are not special; you are not entitled to anything; you are not guaranteed anything. You may die early via accident or disease, or you may die in your sleep at 100. That diploma or degree you receive means nothing to life. Life is one, big crapshoot, and life rolls your dice without preference or mercy. You will randomly encounter health or sickness, fortune or misfortune, love or loss. Life is only what you do with it, how you respond to whatever happens during it.
Somewhere in your life, however, fate will show you an alternative to whatever you are doing to provide for yourself. You must decide at that point, however, whether the opportunity that beckons is offering an inspiring or evil alternative. You can choose the path of Winston Churchill, or Hitler (who was an altar boy) and Stalin (who once studied for the priesthood). Fate may offer cruel power and riches, or an opportunity to facilitate peace and justice. You alone must decide. Our flawed nature, as described in every early mythological story and religious text, can lure us into dangerous territory.
Here’s the real truth. Except in rare cases (even in the medical or legal fields) you will not anticipate either option. Hell, if you are typical you’ve probably changed majors three or four times while in college. If you are headed for college next year, you will likely change majors that many times yourself – and take more than four years to graduate as a result. You may even drop out and not graduate at all. The old saying that if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans has never been more appropriate.
No, the truth known to those who have sat in these seats before you is that your careers will choose you. And if you resist being beckoned by fate into a virtuous occupation, for financial of any other reasons, you will likely lead a miserable and unsatisfactory life. That decision will be yours alone. You may drive a Lamborghini and live in an exclusive and gated community, but you will die unhappy. Your tombstone will read, “He had the most toys, but died an unfulfilled human being.” Unless you consciously direct your talents and abilities toward a foreordained and rewarding purpose, your life will be wasted, and society will lose your unrealized contributions.
Before they met and pursued their appointed destinies, Walt Disney was a newspaper editor (fired for lacking imagination), Neil Armstrong drove a tomato truck for a local cannery and sold kitchen knives door-to-door, Julia Child was a CIA intelligence officer, Harrison Ford was a carpenter, Elvis Costello was a computer programmer, Allen Ginsberg was a dishwasher, Andrea Bocelli was a lawyer, Brad Pitt was a limo driver, Sylvester Stallone worked in a deli, Paul Newman sold encyclopedias from door-to-door, and Whoopi Goldberg worked at a funeral parlor applying makeup to corpses. Their transitions were certainly not easy, or without sacrifice and struggle, but a leap of faith – a belief in fate and oneself – made their lives meaningful and their contributions to society manifold.
Fate tapped me on the shoulder early in life, but doubt and uncertainty kept me from my appointed profession until a combination of circumstances shook me by those shoulders, looked me in the eye and told me that I could either spend my life as a miserable salesman (or in any other occupation really), or accept my calling as an educator. Fate had her work cut out for her, as I was absolutely terrified of public speaking, and convinced that no one would be interested in my opinions. Time, circumstance and a good number of patient mentors eventually led me to my personal leap of faith.
After four decades in education, I look back on a career filled with pride and satisfaction. I was once petrified at the thought of standing before students and attempting to provide information pertinent to their lives. That job, I told myself, was for people much more intellectual and erudite. It took two attempts to finally get it right, to feel the vibe that only teachers know when instructor and students interact in the harmony of sharing the knowledge and wisdom of the ages. When teacher and student understand their interdependence in that process, there exists a connection like no other.
So be patient my dear graduates. Test the waters of various occupations and pay attention, not to the monetary, material or social aspects of the job, but to how it makes you feel at the end of the day. Are you simply drained from exertion, or are you also experiencing an equivalent personal satisfaction? Are you happy? When your appointed fate beckons with a good life, you will know it. Lady fate may frighten you with challenging odds, daunting logistics and numerous what ifs, but she will know you better than you know yourself. Trust her, believe her, and take her by the hand. You will never look back on the choice without a smile and an understanding that your life has meaning.
When you meet her, say hello for me, and tell her I’m grateful.
Congratulations and good luck in your future endeavors.
Jim Lynch Fleetwood, PA ————– If you’d like to provide any feedback to Mr. Lynch, he can be reached at jimadalynch(at)gmail.com. You’ll need to fix that email to use it, by substituting the @ symbol for the (at) characters