5 Reasons Every Teacher Should Use Evernote

I used to have endless piles of educational resources around my office. Files full of hand outs from conventions, in-service training, workshops, and magazine articles. I used to keep stacks of educational and professional journals thinking I would some day need to reference those materials.

I no longer have the piles…I recycled them all. But I do still have every bit of information that was in them! And it’s completely searchable and organized where I can find anything by typing just a few keywords! Did I mention they’re also accessible from anywhere? How did I do this? The answer is Evernote.


If you’re unfamiliar with Evernote, it’s an amazing resource that operates as a digital file cabinet allowing you to keep track of anything. Literally anything! Instead of me giving a brief overview, I’ll just let the fine folks at Evernote. show you their product.


Pretty cool, huh? My life has been so simplified by using Evernote. Here’s 5 reasons why you need to start using Evernote today!

  • Evernote is Universal – If you are a Mac, PC, Android, iOS, or just about anything else, Evernote is fully functional on all devices. Not only does Evernote allow you to create new notes, it also allows you to import any file type you want to keep track of. Have tons of old Finale files? Need help keeping track of spread sheets and word documents? No problem, Evernote stores it, sorts it, and catalogues it where it’s easy for you to find! You can access your important files and documents from anywhere in the world on a web enabled device using either the Evernote app, or their website!
  • Evernote is Searchable – No longer will you have to spend time digging through file cabinets of paper in order to find that one handout from several years ago. Simply title and tag the note, or file it in a “notebook” of your choice. You’ll never lose a document or file again! Also, if you’re working with PDF files, the text within the PDF is searchable. That means if you have scanned 100 old magazines and are interested in finding every article dealing with flute tuning, simply search “flute” and “tuning” and every single document you’ve saved that has those two words will pop up! It’s an amazing tool!
  • Evernote is Shareable – Do you have an important project that you are working on with other teachers? Create an Evernote note, or notebook and share access to it with all the members of your group. An example could be a notebook where everyone shares lesson plans, or commonly used forms and resources, or anything else you want to share. The possibilities are endless!
  • Evernote is Great for Taxes! – For the past several years I have used the iPhone Evernote app to take pictures of every receipt every time I spend my personal money for work related expenses (school supplies, meals & hotel on trips, music supplies, etc.) This year I was able to deduct a huge amount because of how well I tracked these expenses. The IRS allows us to deduct these things, so we might as well make the most of it. Evernote saved me tons of money this year alone just because of the receipts I tracked!
  • Evernote is Easy to Use – There are tons of video tutorials on how to do anything you want with Evernote, and there’s also books and blog posts. I’ve found the best way to get started is to just play around with it a little. It’s very intuitive and very well thought out. Probably the easiest feature to use is the email function. Included with your Evernote account is an email address that is linked directly to your Evernote. If you receive an email that you want to save, simply forward that email to your Evernote address and it will automatically generate a new note containing the entire email. It’s a fantastic tool that I use about ten times a day.

If you want to get started using Evernote, their YouTube Channel is full of helpful information. I would also highly recommend the blog posts by Michael Hyatt concerning Evernote (He’s the one that got me to try it!) I would recommend the following posts he’s written:

Evernote is an amazingly powerful tool that you can start using today for free! It’s well worth your time and will increase your productivity drastically.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” 


3 Questions for Making Better Career Decisions

Have you ever found yourself trying to be something you are not? I don’t mean you’re Professor Harold Hill, but somehow some way you find yourself involved in projects that you really aren’t good at?

I browsed through my old computer files the other day and found tons of unfinished projects. They’ve been in a folder unfinished, moved from old computers to new computers, and still sitting unfinished…some of them as old as 10 years. I’m not going to bore you with the details, but after looking at those files I realized just how much time I had wasted trying to operate outside of my ‘wheelhouse.’

If you’re not familiar, it’s a baseball term referring to the place in the strike zone where the batter will have the best opportunity to turn on a ball and really hit it well. It’s different for every batter. Some like pitches fast and inside, while others prefer breaking balls out across the plate. Every batter’s ‘wheelhouse’ is different.

The same is true for us as musicians, teachers, and even composers. We each have different strengths and weaknesses, and I’m working hard to make sure that my time is spent working in my strengths.

Every new project I agree to will go through the filter of my strengths. I’m starting by looking at things I’m involved with currently. If I can’t answer “Yes” to these three questions below, then the project in question is not helping my career and I shouldn’t waste my time with it.

1) Is this something I would want to do even if it didn’t pay well? My wife and I were having a discussion about this the other night. There was a business opportunity on the horizon and we had to ask ourselves are we interested in this opportunity, or simply the money that could possibly result from the opportunity?

In the end, we determined that we would not truly enjoy the work required and would only enjoy the money if everything went well. Because of that, we passed. If you won’t enjoy the process, don’t get involved. Simply pass and go to the next opportunity.

2) Does this help me get to my ultimate career/personal goals? I think we all have an idea of where we would like to be professionally and personally in 10 years. If not, you may want to spend some time thinking about that. When an opportunity comes around, ask yourself if this will help you reach your ultimate goals, and how?

You have to be careful here. Sometimes I let myself get blinded to reality and come up with this Rube Goldberg-esque explanation of how taking a project will get me to my ultimate goal when in reality it doesn’t.  Be honest with yourself here. On the flip side, do your research or you might miss out. That project you don’t want to be involved with may wind up being the next big thing. 15 years ago, who would have taken a company seriously with a ridiculous name like Google?

3) When others see the finished product, will they be looking at my best work? There are a lot of things I am capable of doing that I won’t do professionally. I’m a pretty good cook, but you won’t see me opening a high-end restaurant. I’ll leave that to the pro’s. Just because I can cook doesn’t mean I should cook professionally.

Most of us get roped into doing something at some point in our careers that we’re not really that good at. And though the immediate payoff might be tempting, how will sub-par work on our part affect us in the long run? Will you always be known as that teacher who messed up that important project? Will a failed endeavor follow you from job to job? Only accept those opportunities where you can proudly create your best work.

Each of us has strengths and weaknesses. I’ve learned that if I can spend the majority of my time working in my stronger areas, and limit my time spent working in my weakest areas, I feel better, get more accomplished, and produce much better work overall.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” 


Top Ten Testing Day Time Killers

It’s that dreaded time again where we lock children into a room and force them to pretend they’ve learned something during the school year by taking a test that really has no meaning. If they taught us about this aspect of teaching in college we would have dropped out and perfected the art of flipping burgers. Yes friends, it’s time for standardized testing.

So much time is wasted on testing day that I always leave school feeling like the entire day was pointless, so I’ve come up with some things we can do to pass the time when we have no students. Obviously, you won’t be able to do some of these things if you are administering a test (my sincere condolences if you are), but if you’re stuck on hall duty, bathroom duty, or non-testing holding room duty, you can still be productive. Here’s The Top 10 Testing Day Time Killers you can do while not teaching music this week!

1) Score Study – Getting ready for contest? Perhaps learning new music for a late festival or Spring Concert? Why not sit down with colored pencil in hand and mark up your score? Not having enough time to study the score is one of the biggest complaints of music educators.

2) Put Music in Score Order – A few years ago I took about 10 pieces of music from our music library with me to hall duty and placed them in score order. I also took a pad of Post-it Notes with me, wrote down what parts were missing, and stuck it to the front of the box to order later.

3) Design Your Marching Show for Next Year – Have you thought of some drill design ideas? Maybe logistical notes for moving props, or pit equipment? Maybe you’re still trying to get your music selected. Take a notepad and pencil with you and put some of these ideas on paper. You’re much more likely to follow through with them if you write them down!

4) Make Lesson Plans – We all dread making lesson plans. It’s boring, it takes forever, and usually puts us in a bad mood, but it’s required by most school districts. Why not use this time to make them out, then make some money off of them! LessonPlanPro is a new website that’s still in Beta testing, but is currently operational. They specialize in selling lesson plans created for fine arts instruction. The site is very new, and there’s not a lot of content loaded at present, but that doesn’t stop you from creating some awesome plans and putting them up for sale. Definitely a site to keep your eyes on in the coming months.

5) Look for Lesson Plans – Other than LessonPlanPro, there are several ideas for good lesson plans for just about every class imaginable. There are also tons of free resources for rehearsal outlines for popular band literature. Why not use some of your time to find some? If nothing else you might learn how others are approaching teaching the same pieces you’re working on. And of course, you could always steal my lesson plan!

6) Enter Grades – Pretty self-explanatory. Finish grading papers and enter them into the grade book. If you use a web-based gradebook, go ahead and create entries for upcoming assignments, fill in missing grades that kids have made up, and possibly be the first person to turn in mid-term grades! Your principal will love you for this! Ok…at least they won’t hate you as much.

7) Backup Your Files to Cloud Storage – Since I also work doing IT for our district, I see lots of teachers cry when all of their teaching files disappear when their computer crashes. We constantly tell them to back up their files to cloud storage, but so few of them do. It’s really simple and largely free! Check out this post for more details.

8) Update Your Resume – After years of neglecting my resume, I have become a constant resume updater. The first time I updated it took me forever because it was so out of date. Even if you’re not planning on leaving your current job, update it with your latest accomplishments, and remove some of the old outdated stuff like that summer you car-hopped in college. You could also draft a generic cover letter so when you do find a position you want to apply for, you’ll at least have a start.

9) Fill Out Menial Paperwork – Do you have a football schedule for next year yet? Do you know when your contests are? Why not use this opportunity to fill out check requests, bus requests, and any other paperwork that will frustrate you later this year? Even if you can’t turn them in right now, just file them away for later. Get it all done months in advance, and then you don’t have to worry about them anymore.

10) Listen to New Music – Bring a set of headphones and a laptop to your seat outside the bathroom and listen to something more enjoyable than the sounds echoing out of those tiled hallways. Jump on Penders, J.W.Pepper, or SmartMusic and listen to find some new music you may want to purchase for your group.

What do you do to pass the time during standardized testing?

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” 

How To End Burnout

Are you living on the edge of burnout? Are you stressed beyond belief? Are you at the end of your rope burning your candle at both ends and have no idea how you can stay afloat? Been there. When you find yourself in a situation like this a break (like spring break) can be a welcomed relief. But the burnout and stress will just come back unless you choose to make an intentional change to your life. Are you ready to leave the stressed-out you behind?Stress Burnout

Dr. Richard Swenson’s book, Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, deals with this very real issue facing our world. Swenson believes that we are now in an unprecedented age where we are involved in more, stress more, demand more, and work more than any society in the history of the world.  This also means our society is the most physically and emotionally burnt-out in the history of the world. More people are treated for stress and depression related illness now than ever before. Thankfully, the answer is simple and attainable for anyone who wants it.  It’s called margin.

Margin is the space in various areas of our lives – physical, emotional, time, financial – that can protect us from overload. When margin decreases, stress increases and burn-out is the inevitable result. Without margin we can function for a while, but eventually our physical, mental, and emotional health is sacrificed for the stuff that occupies our time. I fully recommend everyone reading Dr. Swenson’s book, but here are a few pointers to get you started on your path to more margin and less stress!

  • Learn to say “No.” – This one is incredibly difficult for me, but it’s something I’m working on.  Saying “No” is ok when your well-being is on the line (and it is.) Do not over-commit by saying accepting every opportunity and event that comes your way. Really…it’s ok.  Just say “No.” Doing so will allow you to…
  • Plan time for yourself. – I have time blocked off on my calendar every day for me. Nothing gets scheduled during this time because it’s part of my margin and I protect it. This is time for you to do what makes you happy. Relax and listen to music, go for a walk, sit on your porch and enjoy a drink, go on a date…whatever floats your boat. It can be as frequent as you like, but I’d suggest a minimum of once a week. Schedule this time to spend on yourself and DO NOT WORK!!! Disconnect from the world of work and simply enjoy life.
  • Rest when it’s time to rest. – I have a hard time turning off my brain when I’m stressed and while my body is lying still in bed, my brain continues to fire in this semi-conscious state, leaving me completely exhausted the next day. You’re probably not as weird as I am, but maybe you have trouble sleeping because you think about work, or stressful issues when you really need to rest. This is not a good long-term solution and can lead to major fatigue and health problems down the line. Allow yourself some time away from stimulation like TV, computer, cell phone, work, etc., thirty minutes before bedtime. Then when it’s time to go to sleep, go to sleep. Also be sure you’re getting 6-8 hours of sleep every night in order to feel rested.

Margin isn’t something you’ll achieve just by dumb luck. You must be intentional about creating more margin in your daily life. It is a process, and burnout doesn’t disappear over night, so you need to Start Today! It may take a while to get things exactly the way you want them, but start today.  Order Dr. Swenson’s book, and change your life by making intentional decisions toward creating margin and eliminating the feelings of burnout and stress from your life.

What are some ways you create margin? Share by leaving a comment below.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

5 Easy Ways to Get More Done in Less Time!

“If you spend fifteen minutes planning your day, you’ll be able to accomplish twice as much.”  I remember a professor telling my class this when I was a freshman in college.  At the time, I was neck-deep in my first semester with mid-terms fast approaching and doing everything I could to simply stay afloat.  “I don’t even have fifteen minutes to spare,” I remember thinking to myself.  I wonder how much less stress I would have had (not to mention better grades) if I had simply listened to my professor. Since then, I’ve become much more disciplined at time management and have actually managed to have success at work and still have a life with family and friends outside of the school.  Here are five time management tips can help you reclaim some time for yourself.

1. Create a “Steak List” – In his book, EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches, author and money guru Dave Ramsey shares his process of making a to-do list.

First begin by making a list of all activities that you feel need to be done today.  Once you have your list, go back through and put an “A” beside everything that must be completed today. Examine the remaining items and place a “B” beside the items that may not need to be done today, but definitely soon. Anything else on the list receives a “C” and will be moved up in priority when “B” or “A” when priorities allow.  Finally, go back through the each letter of the list and prioritize those items by number, meaning item A1 (where the steak list gets its name!) is the most important thing to do that day, A2 is next, and so on.  Complete this list in order and don’t deviate! When A’s are all complete, move on to B’s, and finally C’s.  This really sounds more complicated that it is…in fact, it probably took you longer to read this paragraph that it will to make your “Steak List.” The first time I made a list, I actually completed everything on it in one day!  It’s amazing how this little exercise can increase productivity so much!

2. Create an Ideal Calendar and Stick To It! – I have an abundance of demands on my time between my regular school responsibilities, weekend contest events, family gatherings, church functions, and other life events…life is truly crazy at times, but keeping an accurate calendar really helps keep me sane. Parkinson’s Law states, “Work will fill up whatever time you have allotted for it.” If we’re not intentional with our time, we’ll inadvertently waste much of it.

Michael Hyatt recently published a podcast entitled “How to Create More Margin in Your Crazy-Busy Life,” where he mentioned he had created a mock calendar of his ideal week. In this calendar he intentionally set up time to spend on himself, his work, and his family, and vowed to stick to that calendar outline when scheduling future events. This is an exercise that admittedly both Hyatt and I have done in the past, and have gotten away from.  I’m finalizing my ideal week and will begin scheduling accordingly soon.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

3. Delegate – This is an item that I have found easier to do the longer I’ve taught.  When I first started, I wanted to do everything myself so I knew it was done right.  After spending endless hours at the school (as late as midnight several times) and still not getting everything done, I realized I simply couldn’t do it all.

Let’s face it…there are simply some things that only you can do! That’s why you have a job!  You are a uniquely qualified individual that fits a very specific need in your workplace.  There are simply some things that can’t be done by other people, and those are the things you need to stick with!  If it can be done by someone else, then delegate that responsibility to your assistant, or a student leader/volunteer.  You shouldn’t spend your time stacking chairs when work remains unfinished that only you can do. Say it with me…”Delegate.”

4. It’s OK to say NO! – For some reason our society views “No” as some sort of a new two letter swear word that should never be said by anyone that wants to be successful.  But saying “No” is the only way we can eliminate a lot of distractions from our life.

What is your primary goal – as a music educator, a spouse, a parent, a friend, or a human being?  What are you ultimately trying to achieve with your life?  Remember that “Steak List” from earlier?  Well, if something comes up that isn’t an “A” or “B” on your list of life, then it’s a “C” that needs to hear the word “No.”  Sometimes really good things are in actuality really big distractions that keep us from reaching our life’s goals. Saying no to something, even if it’s a really cool opportunity, will actually benefit your career, and your life, in the long run.

5. Plan Ahead – We talked about starting your day with fifteen minutes of planning.  Try ending your day in a similar fashion, but with a further look into the future.  At some point in the evening, perhaps just before you begin your bedtime routine, take a few minutes with your calendar and look for any upcoming events that may be on the horizon.  With those forthcoming events in mind, I’ll usually jot down a few items that need to be prepared ahead of time to place on tomorrow’s “Steak List.” I find when I take these few minutes in the evening to plan ahead, I am much more prepared for the next day, which for me eliminates a lot of stress.

What tips do you have for managing time well?