Conference booth
I can hardly wait for your free lanyard.
My, how things have changed. I attended my first education conference in 2004 as a sales representative with a big publishing company. It was my job to cajole teachers to stop at our booth (or lure them in with a big bowl of chocolate bars), and give them a 5 minute elevator pitch on some groundbreaking yadayadayada, then invite them to enter a draw for which they’d only be selected winner if deemed influential enough.

These, my friends, were the days before random winner generators, online entries, and the power of quiet influencers with more followers than the Pied Piper using social tools to share their expertise. Biggest school in Ontario? Pssssssshhhhh. How about the elementary teacher from Armpit, SK, who has built a digital program for her students that gives them reach for their ideas that they’ll benefit from for years to come, and tweets her experience to 5000 like-minded followers? I’d rather learn about the platform that makes that notion of global collaboration possible for kids, as opposed to who’s bought (and wasted the most money on) the biggest gargantua of a conference booth (check out the eco footprint too, yo).

But at SXSWedu, there was no vendor showcase. Companies had to be sneaky and infuse their sessions with clever product pitches, sessionbomb by planting product-focused operatives during question time, or be not so sneaky and incur the deserved wrath (Hi, I’m a #conferencehashtag. People use me.) Teachers are getting much better about standing up to the disruption of their learning. They pay out of pocket to come to these things. It’s not cheap. Don’t invite them to a session about innovations in critical thinking applications and pitch your app.
Amway called. They want their strategy back. Ugh. (more…)

This gentleman uses smart productivity tools, and his resolutions are well on track. Look how relaxed he is.
Why not buck the trend and establish your resolutions (or business goals) slightly after the champagne sizzle of the new year begins to turn flat?
Are you planning to do amazing things this year?
You probably got all in a huff as New Year’s Eve approached. You probably felt like you hadn’t articulated your goals strongly enough, or committed them to something other than your lunch napkin.

Know what? Now’s the time. The hype has died down (a bit). The rest of the world is whinging that only three weeks have passed, and they’ve already broken the rules. Let themselves down. Failed to ship.

Take 3 graspable goals to set for 2011. Any of these tools might help make ‘em happen.

1. BaseCamp

Since we’re an uber-small business, we can’t (yet) hire someone to boss us around and tell us what to do. We wanted a solution that would help us manage our clients and projects, instead of the other way ‘round. And what we’ve found is that BaseCamp is the single best thing out there to keep us on track. Milestones are deadlines. To Do lists can be easily integrated with Milestones. Which means that deadlines can’t sneakily creep up and whoosh past, in the words of Douglas Adams. Writeboards let us brainstorm with clients in real time, which means we can work in our pajamas most of the time. It even lets us store files, so that they don’t get lost in email hell. Our clients seem to like the workflow set up that it provides them access to – and that workflow is what keeps us sane while multi-tasking and juggling llamas. Free and paid versions available, depending on how many projects you’re managing. Great for personal stuff too, like tracking diet and fitness goals.

2. Instapaper

Keeping up with your professional development goals can be extremely challenging, because you’re freakin’ busy. If you spend a lot of time online (and especially if any that time is spent in social networks) you probably come across a multitude of great stuff that you’d give your eyeteeth to read, but you just don’t have the free half hour, 9 times a day. (BTW, if you gave your eyeteeth, who would want them? Always wondered this.) The best tool I’ve found for archiving and saving the delightful gems I mean to read but can’t always access in real time is Instapaper. By adding a little Read Later button in your Bookmarks bar, you can simply click and save anything for later. Then, when you’re luxuriously lounging in your velour, you can visit your page and immerse yourself in the learning you’ve had the foresight to set up for yourself. You can even convert articles to text, ePub format, or printables (if you’re mad at trees). It feels good to learn. It’s a good, graspable goal. And it feels good to lounge about in velour, too. Free!

3. FreshBooks

We’re just big enough to need an accountant. Because we aren’t math people. Because we simply don’t have time to do the best work we can, and then turn around and be brilliant money strategists. We have to ski when we’re not working. An accountant is lovely, but it doesn’t mean that we can turn a blind eye to the incomings, outgoings, and time management issues of our business. So we use FreshBooks. It lets us invoice, track those invoices, manage taxes, track time spent on projects (even integrating with BaseCamp, which gives me shivers of joy), and communicate professionally with our clients. The quality of the FreshBooks blog is astounding, considering they spend so much time providing awesome customer service, responding to Tweets, and generally being cool. We want to be that cool as well, so we rely on a tool like FreshBooks to do the work for us. Free and paid plans available.

None of the above services paid for our gushingly positive reviews. We just like to write about things we like, because not every day requires a good rant.

Good luck with your resolutions, whether you’re already making progress or just getting started. Work hard, but make some time to slay the pow.

The full report is ready for download. So are other local government action resources.