Productivity Tech Tip: Images that POP off the page!

by Jess Samuels

In the business of student affairs you wear many hats.  For those of you who sometimes find yourself making flyers for events, you are likely looking for the quickest way to get something done without sacrificing visual appeal.  As someone who regularly makes graphics for my office, non-profits, and the NEACUHO Navigator newsletter one of my most utilized tricks has been Instant Alpha.

Instant Alpha is a Mac only trick, so you PC folks can do things the long old fashioned way in photoshop (or you can buy a Mac 😉 )

Here’s how it works:

1. You find a image you want to go on your flyer that doesn’t have a transparent background.  White or black backgrounds works best, but anything without a lot of variation can work.


2. In Mac Pages, Keynote, or Preview you select “Instant Alpha” from the format menu.


3. Select the space around the object and expand the circle to to make the area transparent.


4. Voilà! You have a wonderful image that really POPS off the page.

Instant alpha 0

Productivity Tech Tip: Images that POP off the page!

How I Work

With a hefty nod to the folks at for the idea and questions, we’ve decided to share a little bit about how the bloggers at SA Women Talk Tech work.

by Valerie Heruska

Location: Bloomington, IN
Current Gig: Assistant Director for Residence Life, Academic Initiatives
One word that best describes how you work: organizedchaos
Current mobile device: Smartphone: iPhone5. Tablets: iPad 2
Current computer:  MacBook Pro with a 13″ monitor. Clearly I drank the Apple juice.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? Why? 

I love Feedly, especially for personal purposes: saving recipes. I also use Evernote on all of my devices for work meetings and I can easily transfer notes that I take into emails to my colleagues and students. I’m use I’ll figure out more uses for both, but for right now, this is how I use them.

For my running, I use Nike+ GPS and for when I am in a new place, I use map my run online and transfer my route to the app. on my phone.

My workflow is like this: 

  • I take every single agenda for a meeting I receive as an attachment in an email and automatically drop it into Evernote. It allows me to type my notes into each of my Evernote agendas and I am able to use tags to figure out what I need.
  • I have a gigantic dry erase board in my office which stores all of my random ideas and also a huge checklist of things that I need to do. I also resort to using beautiful post its to tack things up on the board as well.

What’s your workspace setup like? 

I have a beautiful cherry-oak desk, in an office with no windows.  I have a monitor, which a stand so it is at eye-level. I also have a stand for my iPad and frequently bring my MBP to my office when I am working on graphics. I like to surround myself with things that inspire me: books, plants, pictures. I have a duo coarkboard and dry-erase board, which is great for putting my favorite things near me, without cluttering my small office space. I also have a small desk lamp and a standing lamp because the fluorescent bulbs give me migraines.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?

Do something during your day that makes you happy. Also, if you’re in an office with no windows… or even if you aren’t… go outside and take a walk. Move around often and clear your mind. Don’t sweat the small stuff… seriously, let it go.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?

My nutribullet. I make some really tasty (and chock full of energy) beverages for any time I get the craving for something sweet. It’s definitely something I  enjoy having and it keeps my blood sugar at even levels so I can be productive at my best time: the morning.

What do you listen to while you work? P

I have a pandora station that I named after me: Valtastic. It features the following artists: Joss Stone, Amy Winehouse, Nikka Costa, and soulful voices.

Women’s Running Magazine. I wish I had more to say about reading, but I haven’t been able to get to the library. 

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert? P

What’s your sleep routine like?

I’m usually in bed by 10PM and shortly asleep thereafter. I’m usually up at 5:30/6AM. I get up around 5AM when it is lighter out in the morning.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _________ answer these same questions.

Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? P

Why not go out on a limb, that’s where the fruit is. – Mark Twain

How I Work

Linkage Love: Productivity Jump Start

by Jess Faulk

This coming Monday I will be teaching a session at the Boston Nonprofit Center on Productivity #Techtips for the organization Socializing for Justice (My 2012 SAWTT blog post on last year’s presentation).  When I began thinking about teaching folks about the technology they can use to be more productive, I also started to reflect more on the behaviors we need to take on to be more productive.  I believe you need both to truly find success.  So this week’s linkage love is pointing you in the direction of some fabulous women’s blogs talking about productivity.

How to Be More Productive and Accomplish the Big Things That Really Matter

Alex Grant entrepreneurial writer and digital strategist, writes in her blog, “The secret to creating the life you want: Be proactive, not reactive.”  She writes about how important it is to be make priorities, and make peace with the fact that you can’t do it all.  I was particularly impressed that she actually had a “tweet this” link in her blog to share the idea.  What a cool idea!

How to Maximize Your Productivity in the Morning

Jessica Lawlor, Public Relations and Social Media Professional tells us about how she gets a great start to the day by waking up early and making most of her morning.  While I fear I will never be a morning person, I do like her ideas on planning ahead and being focused on what you want to accomplish.

Linkage Love: Productivity Jump Start

Best Practices/Making Life Easier: Summer Projects

By Anitra Cottledge

When summer comes, we all – and I mean, all of us in higher ed – tell ourselves that this is the time to go back to that massive to-do list. This is the time where we will make some headway on that fantasy list of dream projects AKA all those things that we couldn’t get done during the fall and spring semesters.

There is some truth in this narrative that we tell ourselves. Personally, I’ve been able to get quite a few things done so far (and it’s still early on):

  • Some re-organization and thinning out of paper and digital files
  • Completion of small projects and tasks that had been lingering on
  • Beginnings of projects for next academic year

This is what we all do, in some way or another, during the summer months. So I don’t want to make it seem as though we’re all just telling ourselves a big lie about summer productivity. But, I do think that there are a few things we should all keep in mind when planning.

  • Be realistic. In addition to the things that have to get done, I also have a list of things that I want to do. There are all sorts of ideas that I want to explore, connections that I want to make. Some are tiny things that would only take a phone call or email to complete. Others are large-scale projects with many moving parts. This may seem like the obvious, but I can’t do them all. Yes, for our office, summer is three months with virtually no programming (except some trainings/workshops), but those are still months made up of days that still only contain 24 hours each (and truly much fewer hours if we’re just thinking about the work day). It pays to be realistic about what you can accomplish, both in the summer as a whole, and on a daily basis.
  • Pay attention to the ebbs and flows. I think that student affairs professionals are, by and large, already pretty good at this. The summer, just like the rest of the year, has peaks and valleys. Just as we are attuned to times of high and low activity throughout the year (e.g., Homecoming, semester breaks, Women’s History Month, etc.), we should also pay attention to timing throughout the summer. For instance, I think there’s a really productive window between the end of spring semester and the beginning of say, New Student Orientation. You may have various signature events that take place on your campus at different times, and depending upon your level of involvement in these events, those events can serve as brackets for your time and ability to get things done.
  • Build systems for yourself. There are lots of resources here on the SAWTT blog about how to build systems that work, and lots of tips about using technology to help you do this. Some people keep it “old school,” and jot down lists on sheets of paper. Some people use the Tasks list inside of Gmail. Some people (like me) use both. There’s color-coding, planners, apps, working in the coffeeshop on Friday afternoons, etc. It all depends on the resources available to you, the tactics that work best for you, and the nature of the tasks you have to accomplish. The trick is both finding those methods that work, that keep you moving forward, as well as having the flexibility to let the systems evolve over time.

What projects are you hoping to accomplish this summer? What are some tools/ideas that help you?

Best Practices/Making Life Easier: Summer Projects

Highlight an App: 30/30 for Productivty

By Brenda Bethman

As I think I’ve previously mentioned, I’m both a bit of an app addict and a stickler for being organized. The combination of those two things means that I have tried just about every to-do list app that exists for iOS. Today I want to write about one of my favorites, 30/30. Made for iOS devices (sorry Android and Windows peeps!) by Binary Hammer, 30/30 is both a task manager that combines a to-do list with a timer. Using it is simple: just enter your tasks, set an amount of time, color code and set icon if you like, and you are ready to start:

Screenshot of entering a task
Screenshot of entering a task

Tasks can be grouped in lists or you can just use one list for everything. Personally, I like lists as I can then look back and see when I did what:

Screenshot of task lists
Screenshot of task lists

Once tasks are entered, you can then use the app as a timer. Simply press the timer button and it starts counting down the time for the task. You also have options to increase or decrease the time, mark complete, move to the end of the list or delete. Tasks that are not active can be rearranged — and hidden in settings is a feature that adds the time to the task. For example, 30/30 tells me right now that I will finish writing this blog post at 1:49 p.m. In settings, you can also sync with other devices via iCloud (and I should note that this is vastly improved with the latest update — previously syncing tended to erase data. Not good). Here is what my list looked like earlier today:

Screenshot of active task list
Screenshot of active task list

You’ll note that I don’t put meetings, breaks, etc. on my list (I just pause the app when I take a break), but one could. I also don’t use it every day — I tend to use it on the days when I have a lot to do and really want to focus as I find the timers to be incredibly helpful in that respect.

30/30 is a free app, although you can make in-app purchases of extra icons if you wish. They are not necessary, though and there are no ads, which is nice. The only thing I wish it could do is sync with Clear, my other favorite to-do app. Do you use 30/30 or other task managers? Share your thoughts and recommendations in the comments!

Highlight an App: 30/30 for Productivty

Linkage Love: Social Media and Relationships

by Anitra Cottledge

I had a conversation today over IM (yes, I still use IM) about social media burnout. Yes, social media keeps us connected personally and professionally, but sometimes you just can’t. One person too many uses Twitter as though it was a blog written in 140-character installments, and you just feel like you want to pull your own hair out. How much can we be invited into other people’s thoughts, experiences, kitchens (“Hi, I just boiled an egg.”) and lives before all the information comes oozing out of our ears?

So sometimes I experience social media burnout, and by the end of that conversation with my friend, we had both come to the conclusion that we were taking a 30-day break from social media, or at least thinking about it. (As for me, my social media use will be greatly reduced in July due to travel.)  The inspiration for our discussion? An article called, “How 30 Days Without Social Media Changed My Life.” The author Steven Corona says, “The benefits were immediately apparent. With a mind free to wander and explore, I started to create things, to make moves, rather than suck down a never ending stream of information.”

That article and the conversation I had made me think about Jess’ recent post about productivity. Are we more productive when we use less social media? At a certain point, the narrative was that technology was supposed to streamline our lives, make processes more efficient. (Those of us who wish we could clone ourselves just to answer our email may challenge that narrative.) However, we do know that some technology makes some things easier. So where’s the “just right” between too much and not enough technology? How does technology and social media use affect our friendships, our productivity and creativity, our mental health, our very views about what it means to be human?

A few links to explore:

How Depressed People Use the Internet

If You’re Consuming Too Much, You’re Creating Too Little

Social Media’s Small, Positive Role in Human Relationships

The Facebook Resisters

What Is Our “Hybrid Reality”?

Linkage Love: Social Media and Relationships