Sarah Brown

Happy New Year. Here’s 15 Hours.

A new year is a good time to press the reset button on many things, and I like a healthy, rigorous technology and technology-centric practice clean-out. You may already be using some of the tools I’ve listed below, but a new year is a good time to revisit those spaces, tweak your practices, or delete items that you’re no longer using.

But! If you’re new to all of these items and you integrate them in 2017, you’ve just earned yourself 15.65 (approximately) hours. You’re welcome.


Ever since I got an August smart lock that opens my door as I approach it, I’ve been looking for more ways to automate miniscule tasks, and the service IFTTT (pronounced like “gift” without the “g,” though it’s an acronym for “If This Then That”) provides ways to automate things you might have had to spend time on in the past.

A few of my favorites:

Create reminders when you star an email in Gmail: I like that IFTTT works with whatever practice you already have going. I star things in Gmail that I need to do, so this applet works well to allow me to set a reminder time by which I need to complete the email response. There are many variations of this, like “create a reminder when the label ‘to do’ is added to an email.”

Save screenshots to a separate iOS album: I used to have screenshots everywhere. Now I have screenshots in one place.

Save photos from social media: There are several applets that allow for images posted on Facebook or Instagram to be automatically saved somewhere in a separate space.

Add package delivery dates to Google Calendar: This requires that you also use Slice, which will read your emails (which, yes, is kind of creepy, but I got over that when Google started adding flights to my calendar automatically and I thought, “Hey, that’s convenient enough for me to relinquish some privacy in this free email service I love”), look for tracking numbers, and notify you of shipments. Especially around the holidays, when my building’s front lobby was warehouse-esque, I wanted to know when to sift through the packages to look for my own stuff.

Estimated time savings: 7 mins/week, 364 mins/year

And, if anyone’s interested, estimated time saving using August:

It works 90% of the time, so if it saves me 7 seconds of unlocking the door at that rate, that’s 170 mins/year—but for the times that it doesn’t work and I have to then fumble for keys (something I could have been doing as I walked up to the door), I lose 24 mins/year, for a net gain of 146 mins/year.


As long as we’ve had ways to read things on the internet, we’ve had ways to make sure we’re not missing things to read on the internet: RSS feeds, Digg, emailing stuff to a predetermined inbox folder, etc. And really, we want one space to house things we want to read from the various places we run across those items.

Last year, I finally invested some time in figuring out a better practice for this because I was tired of searching through past Twitter feeds for some phantom article (and I refuse to like things on Twitter because my interest in a Gak-like facemask or recipes that combine casseroles and Doritos are nobody’s business but my own).

That’s why I like Pocket, a browser extension and app that allows you to send items to one elegant interface for later consumption. It works across platforms, allows you to read offline later, and can also save images and videos. The one drawback is that sometimes I like to see where I got an article from, and you lose that path when you use Pocket.

Estimated time savings: 4 mins/week, 208 mins/year


I may have been one of the last people to start using a password manager, but in case I’m not, I recommend it. LastPass generally tops lists of “best password manager” tools: it’s free, easy to use, and secure.

I probably have to search for or reset passwords about 4 times/month for those infrequently-use sites, like Ventra or my UPS account.

Estimated time savings: 6 mins/week, 312 mins/year

D2L Time Savings

These hints are pretty specific to your use in D2L, but they might help you shave off some course management minutes:

If you have grade items that are “pass/fail” or “credit” points (e.g., an assignment that’s worth 10 points where students are going to receive 0, 5, or 10 points), use Grade All to apply a grade to everyone and tweak (scroll down to “Give Multiple Students the Same Grade at the Same Time“).

Use Bulk Edit in Content to quickly update content item titles, and use Bulk Edit in Dropbox to easily update due or end dates.

Pin this quarter’s courses to easily navigate between them:

Pin Courses in D2L Select Course Menu

Estimated time savings: 11 mins/quarter/class, 55 mins/year

So there you have it: an extra 15-ish hours, all to yourself. Plenty of time for a binge watch or trying out a new Doritos casserole recipe, right?

Sarah Brown

About Sarah Brown

Sarah has worked in the College of Education and with FITS since 2010. She also teaches in the Writing, Rhetoric and Discourse department. She earned her undergraduate degrees in Secondary English Education and Writing at the University of Findlay in Ohio, and after teaching at Miami Valley Career Technology Center in Dayton, Ohio for two years, she moved to Chicago to earn her MA in Writing, Rhetoric and Discourse at DePaul. When she’s not teaching or testing out a new technology, Sarah runs, crochets, and cooks.

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