Making Planning a Routine

Need help with any kind of writing or math assignment? Fill out your details below and get it done with some help!

You’ve probably heard that it take 21 days to form a habit. Or was it 30 days? Some are saying 66 days. However long it takes, you can’t seem to maintain a schedule where you get stuff done. This was me just a couple years ago, but after trying out different methods as an undergraduate student, I’ve finally formed a good habit: planning.

I now religiously believe that the key to success is good planning. It’s not enough to just show up. There needs to be an action plan where all the steps are clear. So how did I get started?

I forced myself to really live with this notebook. I kept it on my desk next to my alarm, I put it in my backpack whenever I left my dorm room, and tried to use it to keep little memos to get into the practice of using the notebook. Over the few months I tried out different notebooks and planning styles, these are the main tips I found were useful for all of them.

Don’t micromanage.

The first few weeks were test runs. I got a random small free notebook at a fair and wrote a literal hour-by-hour schedule. It was a total mess, since the minute I was behind because I had not finished a certain assignment by the time I thought I would, it ruined the rest of my day because it pushed all my other activities behind. I still have all my notebooks, and looking back, there are a lot of crossed out lines. Planning your day doesn’t have to mean have a rigid schedule. Now I use my notebooks as to-do lists, usually in order of importance. I draw a circle next to it if I finished it, and a red X if I didn’t.

Learn to prioritize.

It’s understandable when things don’t work out like you thought it would. Family emergencies, traffic, team member suddenly calling sick, you getting sick, etc. When certain tasks on your list haven’t gotten done by the evening, it’s time to practice your planning skills! Planning is also about learning to prioritize tasks. Can your calculus assignment be done tomorrow instead of today? Do you absolutely need to do the dishes tonight, or can your roommate tolerate it one more day? When things are written down, it’s easy to simply move it off to the next day, but also be warned. One thing I saw during a busy season was that my to-do list continued to get bigger and bigger. When you notice that your to-do list is growing, and you’ve lost the motivation to feel like you have to do it that day, you’re procrastinating. Reorganize your plans, and focus on trying to get the list down to zero.

Keep yourself accountable.

Just having your day opened out in front of you may help, but sometimes you look back at your day and realize, wow, you barely got anything done! Think- what was the reason? Write it down, and if that reason keeps popping up, figure out a way around it. For me, my most unproductive days were because I ran into a friend either while walking from class or at the cafeteria, and ended up having an extremely long lunch. After that, I consciously trained myself to never eat for over 45 minutes on days I needed to get things done.

Another important thing about developing this habit is to not give up when you realize you haven’t opened up your planner in days. It took me maybe 2 months to actually integrate it into my daily life. It takes time for a routine to be created, so don’t get discouraged!

Try different styles.

Every student is different and the type of planner and level of detail is totally up to you. It is also a good tip to schedule a specific period of time you get all your work done. Some people enjoy bullet journaling (it’s very time consuming however), and others go even more minimalistic with a simple to-do app. However you do it, take the first few weeks to test out new methods. You may even learn something new about yourself, like I did!
And with that, hopefully you’re ready to start a planning routine. Be sure to take time to find the right fit, and don’t be discouraged! If you think planning is not for you, try switching it up. There’s definitely a good match for every student.

This post was written by Shannon from www.regularlee.com, a student life blog. Regularlee shares various productivity tips, student resources, daily life hacks, and guides on starting off an internship.

Group Projects: How to Deal with Different Personality Types

In this guest post, GreekForMe.com provides tips to help students deal with different personality types in your school group projects.

High school teachers and college professors just seem to adore group projects, don’t you think? After all, there’s nothing like teamwork!

Well, if you’ve been part of a group project, you know they’re a lot harder than they look. Working as team is a challenge, and not just for the work involved – the hardest part is juggling all the different personalities.

We have a hunch that learning to work well with our peers might just be the real reason why teachers on insist on group projects. Long before we found ourselves pursuing our dream jobs in the Greek Clothing industry, we were high school and college students just like you, and our experience taught us a thing or two about those faces you’re seeing around the library table.

Larry The Leader
Every group has a Larry. He’s that guy that just seems to take control from the start, saying hello to everyone, reading the project directions, and starting to divvy assignments. Let Larry do his thing, but understand that most Larry’s have a details problem. He’ll happily work out the big picture and be the spokesperson of your project, but you need to help him out by laying out specific roles, deadlines, and the small details of the projects. He (or she!)’s natural habitat is the head seat at your gathering spot.

Introverted Isabella
Isabella is a major asset to the group, so don’t take her quiet demeanor as lacking any group qualities. Sure, she may not want to be the one presenting the project or speaking up during group meetings, but assign her a role and task, and she’ll run with it and get it done. Make it a point to specifically ask her for her opinion and ideas, rather than expecting her to pipe up. She might blush, but she’ll be thankful you sought her opinion – and so will you!

Cooperative Chris and Carrie
You’ll usually have a few of this type, which is great, as they’ll make up the backbone of your group and are the easiest personality type to deal with in a group setting. Chris and Carrie will share their ideas and understand your vision, and although they may not always create new ideas, they will certainly carry out the group’s plan and get it done on time. These two do need to be challenged, so give them the rough plan, and allow them to run with it and put their own stamp on it.

Free Riding Randy
Uh oh. Randy is that guy or girl in your group who either really doesn’t care, or has so much going on that they just don’t have that much time to invest in the group. If he or she is of the not caring type, take the (often frustrating) time to continually remind him or her of meeting times, speak directly to Randy at meetings, and specifically ask for task updates. It’s never fun to have to be someone’s source of structure, but Larry the Leader will need to be just that for Randy. If Randy simply has too much going on to do much for the project, instead of overwhelming Randy will large tasks, give him a series of small tasks. This presents itself as more doable in light of his busy schedule, but still equals out to someone with a more extended task.

These are just a handful of group personality types what kind of group project personalities have you had the opportunity to get to know? How did you deal with them and make that personality type work for your group? Share the nitty gritty with us!

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 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?

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.

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?

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

SONY DSC

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:

How to Fight Distractions: 4 Mindful Ways to Stay on Task

Its easy to get distracted especially when youre juggling a lot of projects.

The secret to staying productive is recognizing the moments of distraction and immediately getting back on track.

Theres always an email to read, a text message to send, a Facebook stream to read, etc.

You see, there are distractions all around us and there are plenty of excuses on why were not finishing up a project that has been sitting on our to do list.

So how do we fight distractions and stay on task?

Here are four ways:

1. Know what distracts you.
What keeps you distracted? Keep a list of items that trigger distractions for you (e.g. clicking a web browser, visiting Huffington Post, reading email, etc.). Keep this list top of mind so you recognize the trigger that is leading you to distraction. Identifying distractions is key to stopping them.

2. Set daily goals for yourself.
If you want to stay focused on your projects, you need to set goals for yourself with specific time-frames. Not setting specific goals within a certain time-frame is the reason why we end up with items on our to do list that we never accomplish. And not having concrete goals makes it easier to get distracted. So set your goals and accomplish them. No excuses.

3. Zone out everything else.
Once you know what distracts you and have your set goals its time to get hyper-focused to accomplish your projects. For me, this means putting on ear phones and listening to sounds of the ocean or rain (to block out all external noises). Second, it means turning Outlook off and closing down all windows except for the one program or window I need. Third, it means putting my phone in a drawer so that I dont see any text messages or know that anyone is calling. The only way to get in the zone to accomplish your goals is to zone out everything else.

4. Recognize the moments you get distracted and get back on task.
Look, youre going to get distracted no matter how hard you try to stay on task especially if you work in an office. Your office phone can ring, employees can drop by, etc. Even while writing this article, my Outlook program alerted me to an email that looked interesting enough to start reading it. Within 15 seconds of reading it, I realized the distraction and got back to this article. The key is recognizing the distraction and getting back to work.

How do you fight distractions? How are you staying hyper-focused to finish your work? Let me know.

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 Make Your Commute More Productive – 7 Tips

Its amazing how much time we spend commuting to school.

As an undergrad, I would walk for almost 30 minutes just to get to my classes.

And as a grad student, I had a 30 minute commute by car – and then another 10 minutes to find parking.

I would literally spend about an hour a day commuting back and forth to campus.

And thats why I tried various ways to stay productive.

Here are 7 productivity tips for your daily commute:

1. Listen to audiobooks or podcasts to expand your mind.
One easy way to stay productive while driving is to simply listen to audiobooks or podcasts that interest you. Expose yourself to new ideas and new subjects. You can also polish your foreign language skills by choosing podcasts or audiobooks in that language.

2. Review flash cards.
When I was an undergrad, my walk from my dorm room to my classes was nearly 2 miles. I spent this time reviewing flash cards for my classical Latin and Greek language courses. Here are some great websites to download flashcards:

3. Set your goals for the day.
Take a few minutes to think about your goals for the week. If youre driving, you can record your goals on a digital voice recorder, or use your phones voice mail system.

4. Critique and proof your papers.
If you take public transportation, pull out a paper youre working on and start proofing. Dont just look for grammatical mistakes, but also analyze the argumentation and structure.

5. Review class notes.
Its difficult to get any serious reading done while commuting, so thats why skimming class notes is a great way to stay productive. This is only recommended if you walk to class or take public transportation.

6. Return phone calls and/or text messages.
If you owe anyone a phone call, then you could use this time to make phone calls. You could also take this time to call up classmates and set a time to study.

7. Practice breathing exercises.
An easy way to help you reduce anxiety and stress is to practice deep breathing. There are a number of other benefits like helping you feel more awake, and helping you think more clearly. Its a perfect way to spend your commute.

How do you stay productive during your commute?