Surfing the Seas at the Beginning of a New Year

Well known techniques for staying on the board as we surf the turbulent seas at the beginning of the school year include meditation, simplification, and steam-lining work flow.

I’d like to modestly recommend my favorite resources for each.

Well known techniques for staying on the board as we surf the turbulent seas at the beginning of the school year include meditation, simplification, and streamlining work flow.

I’d like to modestly recommend my favorite resources for each.


The  guided meditation app, Stop, Breathe, and Think, is available across platforms and on the web. The app comes with several guided meditations, and you can purchase many more. I mostly use Welcoming the Day; Relax, Ground, and Clear; and Body Scan. Several, like the Body Scan come with a short version and a long version. You can also set a timer and meditate in silence.

There is a Walking Meditation, but I get great benefits from doing any of the meditations when I go for walks.

You begin a session by either selecting a meditation directly from the menu or by completing the very short physical, mental, and emotional check-in, after which the app recommends some meditations suited to your current state. The app tracks your data over time and even awards stickers.

An alternative to Stop, Breathe, and Think is YouTube. Entering search terms like “Guided Meditation Anxiety” or “Guided Meditation Concentration” returns a wealth of choices, most lasting between 15 and 40 minutes.

Almost all guided meditations lead you through visualizations that you can retreat to during high pressure moments in class. And just reminding myself to, “Stop, Breathe, and Think,” at the first sign of stress works wonders.


Without doubt, Laws of Simplicity is the best reference I’ve ever seen for simplifying life. Author John Maeda intentionally designed his book about simplicity to be simple, so he kept it at 100 pages and easily readable in a sitting or two. (The book is available as a PDF.)

Maida’s laws become ear-worms and I include them here, along with his three keys and with his own summaries.

The Ten Laws

1)  Reduce: The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction.

2) Organize: Organization makes a system of many appear fewer.

3) Time: Savings in time feel like simplicity.

4) Learn: Knowledge makes everything simpler.

5) Differences: Simplicity and complexity need each other.

6) Context: What lies in the periphery of simplicity is definitely not peripheral.

7) Emotion: More emotions are better than less.

8) Trust: In simplicity we trust.

9) Failure: Some things can never be made simple.

10) The One: Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.

The Three Keys

1) Away: More appears like less by simply moving it far, far away.

2) Open: Openness simplifies complexity.

3) Power Use less, gain more.

Streamlining Workflow

Among all the digital tools I use to streamline my workflow, nothing makes a bigger daily difference than my bookmark manager and my password manager. For bookmarks I use Diigo which organizes my bookmarks by tags I create, enables me to annotate bookmarked web pages, and makes my bookmark collection available on all my devices and any computer. Diigo has many free options for teachers.

LastPass, my password manager, stores all my passwords online and enters them automatically when I log on to a site. You can have LastPass assign passwords or make them up yourself. The name LastPass comes from the claim that your password to LastPass is that last password you’ll ever need to remember – and that’s pretty much turned out to correct.

You can find lots of bookmark and password managers, and it’s worth looking around for your personal best fit. (I’m a bit hypocritical here – I’ve actually only tried one other bookmark manager and zero other password managers.)

The start of school is deceptive. We’re rested, renewed, and eager to execute all the new ideas we had during the summer. But that takes a lot of work, and combined with all the complications inherent in a new school year can lead us to crash and burn way too soon. My hope, therefore, is that the tools I’ve promoted here help avoid that.

But, please, no matter what, be human first and attend to what matters most – your faith, family, and health.