When Do You Study Best?

My best time to study is early in the morning.

I usually get up at 5 a.m. and start studying – and drinking coffee – by 6 a.m.

I can study straight until 3 or 4 p.m. – with brief breaks for stretching and snacks.

I then have the rest of the evening to relax and plan for my next day.

Whats your ideal study time?

Top 20 RSS Feed Readers You Should Know About

Now that the school semester just ended, its time to catch up on some reading.

Im a big fan of Google Reader, but there are a bunch of other great RSS readers out there.

Heres a nifty collection of RSS readers you may not know about:

Alertbear
Desktop-based feed reader for Windows.

Alesti
An RSS reader based on Ajax. Very simple, clean interface.

Bloglines
Organize, save, and share all your favorite feeds and its completely free.

Fastladder
Fastladder claims to help you read the most amount of feeds in the shortest time-frame.

Fav.or.it
Allows you aggregate RSS feeds like a typical reader – and allows you to leave comments on blog posts without leaving the site.

FeedDemon
Get your RSS feeds sent directly to your Windows desktop. Requires Microsoft Windows.

Feedreader
A desktop-based feed reader. Its like a feed reader in Microsoft Outlook.

FeedShow
Free online feed reader that lets you save items locally and covert posts to PDF or print format.

GoogleReader
Organize your feeds into folders, share with friends, save your favorites, and add notes to any post you want. My favorite.

GreatNews
It automatically stores all your feeds locally, so you have access to the feeds even if the site is down. It also integrates nicely into Bloglines.com.

GritWire
Its a personal page like Netvibes that has a SpeedFeed Reader application.

MSN Start
A typical personalized page (a la iGoogle) where you can add feeds of your favorite sites.

My Yahoo
A personalized page that allows you to add your RSS feeds.

Netvibes
A clean-lookin personalized page that allows you subscribe to feeds. I have several friends who like using Netvibes because of the sweet interface.

NewsAlloy
A web-based feed reader that is Mobile/PDA enabled.

NewsGator
The site offers a free web-based RSS feed reader – and a desktop version that integrates into Microsoft Office.

Rojo
A simple RSS reader – similar to Google Reader.

Sage
A nice lightweight RSS feed reader extension for Firefox.

Shrook
A free RSS feed reader for your MAC desktop.

Voyage
Visually-appealing RSS feed reader that lets you scroll through feeds with your mouse wheel.

And if you dont know how RSS readers work, heres a great video that shows you the benefits of subscribing to your favorite web content:

Please let me know of any others that I missed.

Ill be glad to add them here.

5 ways how nutrition unexpectedly influences your productivity

You might think your productivity is down to being disciplined and following the advice in self-help
books. The thing is, there are a lot more things that can influence your productivity than that. For
example, our environment can play a huge role in how productive we are, with certain
environmental cues either pushing us to do more or less, depending on what they are.

Similarly, what we eat can have a huge impact on our productivity, with it influencing energy levels,
concentration and a whole slew of other things. And that makes sense. After all, you literally are
what you eat (okay and drink and breathe). Nothing else can be used to build you and nothing else
can be used to keep you (or distract you) from the task at hand.

So then the big question is, what foods actually affect our productivity and how do they do it?

Sugar

It always amazes me how many students guzzle and gorge sugar as they study. Don’t they realize
what they’re doing to themselves? For if you want to undermine your productivity then there really
is very little else you can do than have a sugary drink.

Why? Because of how the body reacts to it, of course. Sugar, or carbohydrates is energy (sugar is
known as ‘empty calories’). But it’s not energy in the way that putting fuel in a car is energy. Fuel can
just sit there and wait. When we eat and drink, it doesn’t work like that. Instead, with us the fuel
immediately gets processed.

That causes an excess of calories in our body. In order to process these calories the body will
produce a large amount of insulin. These will process and shred the extra energy. The only problem?
They go too far and pull too much sugar out of our systems. This leads you to then have a sugar
crash.

Fiber, protein and quality fats

So no carbohydrates, you’re thinking. Please don’t think that. We do need energy. We just have to
make sure that it’s the right kind of energy. We want carbohydrates that instead of quickly release,
like sugar (and white flour and similar processed products), release more slowly.

The good news is they exist. Some examples are eggs, quinoa, sweet potatoes and whole grains.
These take time to digest and release energy slowly as they do so. In this way, eating these for
breakfast or having a go at them several times through the day can really up your energy levels for
many of hours afterwards. And that, in turn raised productivity and improves writing and creativity.

You shouldn’t just worry about energy

You see, food doesn’t just affect our energy levels. It also affects our mood. Some foods have a
generally positive affect on how we feel. Others do not. How do you tell the difference? Well,
generally if people say you shouldn’t eat a certain food because it’s junk food or candy, then
unsurprisingly it isn’t just bad for your waistline, but also for how you’re feeling in your head.

And as how you’re feeling in your head also decides how you’re going to feel about doing what
you’re supposed to do, that matters.

A varied and healthy diet is the first step to a productive and happy life

Yes, I know that you’re busy and yes I know that eating well is something that takes time and effort.
At the same time, as it directly and effectively stretches out the amount of time you can dedicate to
being productive and focused, it is most certainly worth investing that time and energy.

To help yourself do that, don’t wait too long with eating. This is what a lot of people do. They are so
busy being productive, they only realize they’re hungry when there is already an energy crisis in the
body. They then have a desperate urge for the types of food which quickly restore their energy
levels – which are things like junk food.

A much better solution is to start your day by preparing a whole bunch of foods that have slow-
release properties, like fruit, nuts and wholegrain snacks. Then, during the day, graze on these. This
will make sure that you have the energy you need to keep going and will make sure you avoid the
crisis whereby you suddenly have an urge for the food that undermines your productivity.

About The Author

Amanda Sparks, pro writer and head of content at Essay Supply, lifestyle writer at Huffington Post. Analogue at birth, digital by design.

Follow me on LinkedIn.

The Nuts and Bolts of Time Management

If youve been reading productivity blogs for a while, you probably already know the basics of time management:

  • Making your “To Do” list
  • Focusing on one task/goal at a time
  • Creating deadlines for yourself
  • Rewarding yourself for accomplishing your goals
  • Avoiding procrastination
  • Making time to relax

Its easy to understand these basics, but its another to actually apply them in real-world situations.

As you know, its very easy to lose focus on our daily goals – especially with email, Digg.com, Google Reader, yada, yada, yada.

So thats why Ive found these online resources on time management very practical:

Managing Your Time
Dartmouth developed a nifty list of online resources for time management. The article includes links to a time management video, planning documents, and free calendars to download in both Word and Excel.

Beating Procrastination
The best way to defeat procrastination is to identify it the moment its happening. This article provides 3 practical steps to overcome this weakness in all of us.

10 Tips for Time Management in a Multitasking World
Even though this article is focused on todays office environment, it definitely fits with the life of a busy student.

12 Hours to Better Time Management
Lifehack.org developed a great article on time management. Pay close attention to the first section that discusses how to set up your calendars.

61 Time Saving Tips
This article starts by saying that You DO have enough time for everything and then gives you a laundry list of ways to help you accomplish all your goals.

8 Ways to Avoid Managing Your Time Effectively
Sometimes it helps to read the opposite advice to think clearly about what were doing to waste time.

Time Management Principles for Students
The University of Minnesota Duluth compiled this list of time management strategies for students. Simple and practical.

TimeTracker
TimeTracker is an online tool to help you track the time you spend on each of your tasks. It can help keep you on focused – which is helpful when you need to write a lengthy paper.

Time Management [Video] – Randy Pausch
This lecture was recorded at the University of Virginia – and runs over an hour. Its both informative and entertaining.

5 Effortless Steps to Seminar Success

Wouldnt it be great to shine as the top student in all your seminars – winning attention from professors (who might well be writing a reference for you in the future) and getting a high grade?

And wouldnt it be even greater to manage this without doing a ton of extra work?

Heres how to succeed in seminars – effortlessly:

1. Read intelligently beforehand

Of course, youre already doing all the assigned reading for your classes. (If not, thats a good place to start!) But rather than just skimming over the chapter youve been given, read intelligently. Pick out a couple of points in the chapter that you could disagree with, or that relate to something the class has already studied.

When it comes to the seminar itself, going beyond the usual bland points will really make you stand out as someone whos not just read the material for the class, but who has thought about it too. Professors like to see students using their brains – its what youre at college for!

2. Volunteer to go first in the semester

Will you need to give a presentation as part of this seminar? If so, volunteer to be the first one in the running order for the semester. Your professor will be impressed that youve got the courage to go first, plus youll get an easy time of it because you wont have had so long to prepare as other students.

Youll also find that its easier to work on producing a great presentation at the beginning of the semester, when you dont have any other deadlines, instead of towards the end when assignments are piling up.

3. Speak in the first 10 minutes

If you can speak up in the first ten minutes of your seminar, itll be much easier to remain an active participant throughout. Its so easy to sit there silently, trying to work up the courage to speak – but the longer you wait, the harder itll be.

Its also a good idea to answer any easy, introductory questions that come up at the start of the seminar; that way, your professor wont be picking on you for the difficult questions later on. Whenever youre confident of an answer, put your hand up; youll reduce the risk of having to stumble through a response when the professor decides its about time you spoke up.

4. Keep the conversation going

One thing most professors hate is a long silence during a seminar. If you can, do your best to keep the conversation going. That doesnt just mean answering questions when no-one else is volunteering, it also means listening carefully to the points that other people are making, and then chiming in with something that offers a new angle on what theyve said, or that takes their point further.

Dont be afraid to disagree or offer an alternative point of view – but dont ever suggest that fellow students are being stupid. A seminar is a safe environment for you and your classmates to learn and explore ideas, and your professor will appreciate it if you help foster that supportive atmosphere.

5. Thank your professor

It might seem a bit like sucking up, but why not thank your professor at the end of the semester? Yes, youll look weird if you send a hand-written missive after every class saying how grateful you are for their seminars but a short, sincere thank you email after the last class is a nice way to put a smile on your professors face.

You might be surprised how few students ever bother to thank their professors – taking ten minutes to do so could make all the difference when it comes to asking for a reference, or negotiating an extension to your essay deadline.

Are you a seminar super-star? What are your top tips on being a great member of the class?

Guest Writer: Ali Hale is a freelance writer and postgrad student in London, UK. She launched the blog Alpha Student – helping you get the most from your time at university.

How to Save Time in School

Here are some easy ways to help you save time – and stay more productive when the Spring semester begins:

Get up 30 minutes early.
By simply waking up 30 minutes earlier, you’re giving yourself time in the morning to accomplish some tasks early.

Plan your clothes at night.
Decide what you’re going to wear the night before.

Pack a breakfast and/or lunch.
If you’re going to be out all day, save time by preparing your meal the day before – that way you don’t need to visit a fast food restaurant. You’ll save time and eat healthier.

Avoid unnecessary trips to the library.
When you need to write a research paper, plan for a research day where you gather all the information you need in one day. Don’t leave the library until you’ve found all the info you need.

Buy groceries once every two weeks.
Try to save time by only visiting the grocery store once every two weeks.

Make large dinners.
Try to make extra large dinners so that you have plenty of leftovers for lunches or other meals throughout the week.

Avoid buying a morning coffee.
You can save yourself 10 to 15 minutes a day by brewing your own coffee rather than by buying it at your favorite coffee shop. This will save you time and money

What are some other ways you save time?

10 Foods to Sneak into the Library to Improve Your Productivity

When I visit the library for research, I’m most efficient if I plan on staying there for as long as I can.

I don’t want to leave until I accomplish certain research goals – which mean I’m usually there for at least 4-hours at a time.

I usually get hungry, so here are a bunch of foods that I often sneak into my backpack to make me more productive:

Trail Mix. I like to get a good trail mix – the ones with walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and craisins. This can keep me going for hours.

Oat bran muffin. Lately, I’ve really been enjoying the vegan oat bran muffins at Trader Joes. These muffins are filled fiber, and have raspberries mixed in. It’s low in sugar, and provides a great energy boost.

Raisins. Raisins will definitely give you a boost of energy – and they’re full of antioxidants.

Soybeans. Soybeans taste great, filled with nutrition, and easily mobile.

Bag of Carrots. Carrots aren’t for everyone, but I really like to munch on them. Very healthy – but you have to try and keep quiet when you crunch them in the library.

Beef Jerky. Protein-rich foods like beef jerky can give you more energy.

Peanut-butter & honey sandwich. These sandwiches are delicious, and packed with energy, protein, and vitamins. You just need to have a drink on hand or water fountain nearby.

String Cheese. Cheese contains calcium, vitamins A and B12, potassium and riboflavin. A great energy boost – and tastes better at room temperature.

Cheerios. A bag of cheerios is packed with vitamins – and tastes great. Besides, who doesn’t like cheerios?

Dried berries. I’m not talking about Cap’n Crunch Berries – I mean: dried blue berries, dried cranberries, dried gogi berries, etc. These berries are packed with antioxidants and vitamins.

These foods will help you stay much more productive – and are far healthier than anything in your school’s vending machine.

What foods help you stay more productive?

Recommended Reading

How to Stop Procrastinating: 4 Steps to Finally Getting That Project Done

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We all have items on our list that we dont want to do.

And some projects end up staying on our to do list for weeks or even months.

Here are four ways to help you get that research paper or project done in a timely fashion:

1. Assign a realistic deadline for yourself.
The first step to stop procrastinating is to set a realistic deadline for yourself. Research has shown that our performance to complete a task increases as deadlines shorten, but performance declines if the deadline is too brief (Journal of Management).

So write down a realistic date next to your projects and visualize yourself completing it. Make sure the date you assigned is realistic otherwise youre setting yourself up for failure, which can just drive anxiety up and lessen the likelihood youll actually accomplish it.

Once youve set your deadline, create calendar alerts for yourself and reminders to stay on track. I like to set alerts for myself with Google Calendar to keep my momentum going.

2. Break-up big projects into tiny ones.
One reason we dont work on a project is because some are too big (and so we keep pushing it away hoping it will go away). However, just by breaking a big project into small projects can help you build momentum and motivation for finishing.

For example, if I set a goal to write a book in 6 months, it can seem like a difficult project to achieve. However, if I plan on writing just one page a day, I could have a 180 page book done in 6 months easily. Thinking about accomplishing a small task each day is a better way to think about finishing a large project.

3. Ask others to get involved.
One way to spur you further and to ensure youll accomplish your goal is to get another person involved. Have someone check with you to see how youre project is going.

The idea that you need to report on your progress can give you just the right amount of motivation to keep moving on your project. So bring another person in if youre very serious about accomplishing a big goal on time.

4. Reward yourself for accomplishing projects.
One key to helping you complete a task that has been stuck on your to do list is to motivate yourself to get it done. Reward yourself in some way for accomplishing the goal and consider even writing the reward next to the due date. Giving yourself a reward can provide just the push you need to help you achieve your goal and stop procrastinating.

According to Harvard Business Review, Regina Conti, an associate professor of psychology at Colgate University and an expert in motivation, provides the example of doing your taxes. A person may want to complete their taxes to avoid the legal penalties of not doing so, but because those penalties are far in the future and the task is a boring one, they will not have much incentive to get started with the project, she says.

To make a task feel more immediate, focus on short-term rewards, such as getting a refund. Or if there arent any, insert your own. Treat yourself to a coffee break, or a quick chat with a co-worker once youve finished a task.

So what about you? How do you fight procrastination and achieve your goals?

Let me know what works for you.

Further Research on Procrastination:

Can An Ergonomic Workspace Boost Your Academic Performance?

Photo by Bench Accounting on Unsplash

We all know that spending too many hours in front of a computer can result in a stiff neck and leg pain, but sitting in the wrong chair or using a desk that is the wrong height can result in musculoskeletal problems, fatigue, muscle/ligament/disc strain, and more issues that can affect your academic performance. In this post, we look into recent findings on the relationship between ergonomics and school performance and suggest ways to improve your chances of success.

What is ergonomics?

Ergonomics involves the study of the optimal interaction between people and the products they use. Studies have shown that it is important to harmonize furniture dimensions and the measurements of students. As noted by A. Zunjic et al in a study on the role of ergonomics in education, “School furniture is devastatingly inadequate in many cases. Reports by research groups in many countries, including Australia, New Zealand, and the US, also have raised awareness about the large number of pupils with spinal cord problems.”

How can ergonomics affect your grades?

Studies have shown that poorly designed furniture can negatively affect students’ behavior. It can also lead to lower back pain and scoliosis. Research has also shown that chairs and desks that are the wrong height can lead to fatigue. Around 64% of recently reviewed studies show that ergonomic furniture design improves physical responses and academic performance. The specific design features that enhanced performance included sit-stand furniture, high furniture, and tilt tables and seats (which put less stress on the spine when students lean forward to perform work). In particular, desks with a 15º inclination reduced forward head tilts and neck and trunk flexion, thus improving comfort. As noted by researchers, “In requiring a child to sit erect at an ordinary desk while reading or writing, we are demanding a physical impossibility.”

Furniture design matters to student health

Schools and colleges should take specific measurements into account when purchasing furniture, including popliteal height (the distance from the underside of the foot to the underside of the thigh at the knees), knee height, buttock-popliteal length (the horizontal distance from the rearmost part of the buttocks to the back of the lower leg) and elbow height, to encourage the proper seating posture. In general, static posture and bending forward for long period strains the muscles, ligaments, and discs.

Improving ergonomics at home

You don’t need to spend an inordinate amount of money to improve your home ergonomics with a desk of an appropriate height. Adjustable desks are key since they will allow you to work at a height recommended for your measurements; there is a bevy of free online guides that will aid with this adjustment. As noted in the above-mentioned review, “It is difficult to encourage proper posture early in life without the support of adjustable chairs, desks, and tables in the classroom.”

Consider a standing desk

Sitting for various hours a day is considered an occupational health hazard. It is also related to psychological symptoms which can interfere with academic performance since it is linked to anxiety and depression. To reduce sitting time, consider a standing desk. Several studies have shown that this type of desk produces powerful cardiovascular benefits. Some studies have also shown improved productivity and enhanced engagement, attention, and absorption when using a standing desk.

Poorly designed furniture can not only result in pain, but also in fatigue, anxiety, and other conditions that can interfere with a student’s ability to concentrate and complete the tasks at hand. Ergonomics should be a major priority at schools and colleges, but they should also be an aim for individual students who study or work at home. Adjustable furniture, standing desks, and a greater awareness of the importance of measurement can go a long way towards reducing the devastating effects of poorly designed chairs and desks.

How to Set Realistic Goals this School Year

As the new school year is beginning, its important to start setting goals for yourself.

The following guidelines will help you to set realistic goals:

State each goal as a positive statement.

How often have you been excited to accomplish a goal that didnt even sound good when you brought it up? If you are not comfortable or happy with the goals that you have set, the likelihood of succeeding is pretty low. When you are beginning to set your goals, it helps to state your goal as a positive because it will have others seeing it as a positive as well.

Be precise.

Set a precise goal that includes starting dates, times and amounts so that you can properly measure your achievements. If you do this, you will know exactly when you have achieved the goal, and can take complete satisfaction from accomplishing it.

Set priorities.

When you have several goals, give each a specific priority. This helps you to avoid feeling overwhelmed by too many goals, and helps to direct your attention to the most important ones and follow each in succession.

By doing the most important first and moving to the least important in succession, you are enabling each task to be easier than the last. It causes the accomplishment of each task to get easier and easier, which will encourage you to complete your goals.

Write goals down.

In writing your goals down, you are better able to keep up with your scheduled tasks for each accomplishment. It also helps you to remember each task that needs to be done, and allows you to check them off as they are accomplished. Basically, you can better keep track of what you are doing.

Keep operational goals small.

Keeping goals small and incremental allows you more opportunities for reward. Derive todays small goals from the larger ones you hope to achieve.

Set performance goals, not outcome goals.

You should take care to set goals over which you have as much control as possible. There is nothing more dispiriting than failing to achieve a personal goal for reasons that are beyond your control. These could be bad weather, injury, or just plain bad luck. If you base your goals on personal your performance, then you can keep control over the achievement of your goals and get satisfaction from achieving them.

Set realistic goals.

It is important to set goals that you can actually achieve. Thats why its better to work on smaller goals that lead to big goals.

Do not set goals too low.

Just as it is important not to set goals unrealistically high; do not set them too low. People tend to do this where they are afraid of failure or when they simply dont want to do anything.

You should set goals so that they are slightly out of your immediate grasp, but not so far that there is no hope of achieving them. No one will put serious effort into achieving a goal that they believe is unattainable.

Achieving your Goals

When you have achieved a goal, you have to take the time to enjoy the satisfaction of having done so. Absorb the implications of the goal achievement, and observe the progress you have made towards other goals. If the goal was a significant one, you should reward yourself appropriately. Think of it like this, why would you choose to ignore any accomplishments that you have made? In doing that, you are downplaying your accomplishment which will convince you that it wasnt that important in the first place.

With the experience of having achieved each goal, you should next review the rest of your goal plans and see them in the following manner:

  • If you achieved the goal too easily, make your next goals harder
  • If the goal took a disheartening length of time to achieve, make the next goals a little easier
  • If you learned something that would lead you to change other goals, do so
  • If while achieving the goal you noticed a certain lacking in your skills, decide which goals to set in order to fix this.

You should keep in mind that failure to meet goals does not matter as long as you learn from it. Feed lessons learned back into your goal-setting program.

You must also remember that your goals will change as you mature. Adjust them regularly to reflect this growth in your personality. If goals no longer hold any attraction for you let them go.

Goal setting is your servant, not your master. It should bring you real pleasure, satisfaction and a sense of achievement.