Hacking Life to Find More Minutes in Every Day with Dr. Meredith Singleton

 Hacking Life to Find More Minutes in Every Day

Dr. Meredith Singleton, Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Literature, Languages, and Writing

Miami University Regional Campuses


As a full-time faculty member, active researcher, and practicing professional who is also a wife and mother coaching soccer and cheering on a baseball team (why must they play every day?!) while running a small business, my life is slightly chaotic at best. Sound familiar? To put it bluntly, I’m always running crazy and looking for a way to streamline it all. But, I know I’m not alone in the juggling act that is my life.

Fortunately, though, I’m also a techie at heart. Wired is the one text I make room for in my life (yes, I find time to read, but it has to be in small snippets like their articles), and I’m always looking for useful (keyword here) tech tools to integrate into my life and classroom. Tech is supposed to do that, right? Simplify our lives by giving us access to anything at the touch of a button or voice activation? But with Alexa and Google, and mobile and desktop, I find myself juggling my devices in order to keep myself up to date. There has to be an easier way, right?

Well, I’m happy to say there is. In my quest to find efficiencies, I’ve run across some tools that are game changers. Yes, game changers. The three tools below have helped me bring it all together in small ways that have a big impact.  



If this. Then That. This application (which can be accessed and searched online or on a mobile device) allows you to create your own shortcuts and hacks (or “applets”) that are applicable to your life using apps you already use and love. Here are a few examples:

Use IFTTT to:

  • Set your phone so that it automatically silences itself when you’re at work (or on campus)
  • Automatically save photos you post to Facebook to your Dropbox or Google Drive, even automatically save those that you’re tagged in
  • Send a text or email to up to five recipients when you’re leaving work or school

You can even use IFTTT for these shortcuts…


Now, I know you’re probably thinking, “Automatically changing my Facebook and Twitter profile pic at the same time? Not a game changer.” But, it is if you stop to think about how much time you spend on either professional or social media. And, it’s not just the time spent, but the mental energy needed to remember to do so.

Have an Alexa that you use to build shopping lists. I do, but I never remember what they are, so when I get to the store, I’m pulling up Amazon shopping (on certainly bad wifi or signal). Struggling to get it to load. Then, usually just saying, “Forget it. I’ll try to remember.” (And, of course, I don’t.) Wouldn’t it be great if on the drive to the store, you could say, “Alexa, what’s on my shopping list?” and receive an email to your Gmail inbox? You probably see where I’m going here. Yes, you can do that with an IFTTT applet.

Lose your phone? Try to call it only to find out you’ve silenced it? What if you could text your phone (from someone else’s of course) to turn the volume to 100%? Yes, with IFTTT you can.

The efficiencies you can create aren’t just personal. Teaching classes about political or civic engagement? How about automatically receiving the text of new bills signed into law in your iOS reading list? Receive an email from the New York Times when there’s breaking news in certain fields. No more spending time searching for news and downloading for class prep. There’s an applet for that.

These applets can be created in any number of areas of your life, including the environment, news, healthy living, even space travel. You can also use pre-created applets from IFTTT’s large collection. If you’re looking for interesting shortcuts, this is the application to start with.



As a writing instructor, I’m a supporter of any tool that can help writers catch those pesky errors in everyday writing. And, let’s face it, most of students will never become grammar masters. So, why not throw them a bone and at least give them a head start on finding the grammar issues in their work? At minimum, Grammarly will help us all stop posting error-ridden Facebook posts or tweets that we write in a rush.

Grammarly is a free Chrome extension that highlights common grammar mistakes in any writing written online or (if downloaded for desktop) in MS Office. Once you download the Grammarly extension, any content you write within a Chrome window is scanned for correctness on over 100 points of grammar.

Grammarly watches for everything from spelling errors to passive voice in Facebook posts, emails or tweets. You can also download Grammarly for your Windows desktop or Office suite. You can choose to accept the changes (with explanation) or ignore them.

Grammarly gets any writer one step closer to flawless writing no matter what the text or purpose. We’re all rushed writers, so this cuts us a little slack.



And, finally, given all of my personas, I’m a bag lady. I am always working out of multiple bags and, inevitably, my phone is always at the bottom of them. Pushbullet is an application that allows me to work effectively and efficiently without having to have my phone at my side or on my desk.

Pushbullet is a free application that syncs a mobile phone to a desktop or laptop to receive messages, share files, or track contacts. Pushbullet is available for iPhone and Android devices (although specific functions vary between phone devices) and for all of the major internet browsers.

For example, whenever your Android phone receives a text message, you automatically receive a pop-up on your desktop synced to it. You can choose to respond to the message directly from your desktop, or save it for later.

If you want to access photos or files on your mobile device while working on your desktop, you can simply sync them to your desktop without having to dig out your phone, save it to the cloud or send yourself an email. You can also send links between the devices, as well.

This tool makes syncing from your smartphone simple and easy. That’s what we’re all looking for, right?

I’ll end with this. There is no perfect tool that does all things for all people on all devices. But, these few get closer. They help sync my many devices and tools, and they help create shortcuts that work.

Give them a try. You might just save yourself a few minutes.


Dr. Meredith Singleton is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Writing at Miami University.

Email Dr. Singleton at singlemn@miamioh.edu or connect with her via Twitter and LinkedIn or check out her blog,  Teach, Write, Talk



About Robyn Charlton

Robyn is Coordinator of Online Faculty for Miami University Regionals' E-Campus.