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.

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

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.

Why there are no shortcuts to examination preparation

This is a contribution by Lucy Wyndham.

Photo by Antoine Dautry on Unsplash

The college test season is upon us with the first ACT tests in the bag and the next set of papers available to take on April 14th. After years of dominance the numbers of students taking the SAT has fallen behind the ACT, and now more than two million students take the tests. With the rise in numbers, the need to do better than your peers is greater than ever.

Why cramming means nothing

Revision is, for many, a misnomer. To revise means to revisit what is already known. If you are having to do late-night cramming sessions before a test don’t kid yourself that you are revising. Cramming is the stuffing of facts into the short-term memory in the hope that they will be the right things needed on the examination. The ACT and its rival SAT do not check facts but require you to have an understanding of the topics that you can apply in practical ways. There is nothing wrong with revisiting older learning in the weeks running up to a test but this will only truly help you if you knew and understood the topics before revising. A far better use of your time is to ensure you learn and understand every topic as it is taught and frequently revisit it but not to refresh your knowledge but instead to insert new learning into a growing framework of understanding.

Raw learning is sometimes far more important

If, however, you have blocks of information or key equations that just won’t stick there are no shortcuts to memorizing them you’ll have to go old school. When you learned to read and write the only way to make it stick was to do it over and over again. Flash cards, memory games and the old fashioned mainstay of just writing it out repeatedly are the only way that really work. Parrot-fashion learning has fallen out of fashion (and quite rightly with understanding being fundamentally more important) but when it comes to raw, powerful, intense recall there is nothing that beats it. Remember that actors learn lines by reading them out over and over again. Doctors learn medicine and lawyers recall cases through flashcards – it may seem childish but it works.

Remember that practice makes perfect

You’ve put the effort in and solidly learned the key facts through repetition. You’ve stalwartly taken this knowledge and transformed it into understanding through mind-maps and deeper reading… so are you ready for the big day? Not in the least.

Understanding and deeper learning requires cognitive conflict and quite frankly you need to be sure that your understanding is correct. From a much more practical standpoint you also need to become intimately familiar with the way in which you will be tested on your understanding. There is no substitute in the world for taking past examination papers, and with free ACT practice papers available on the internet, that’s more easier than ever. Revision requires knowledge and understanding; not just the knowledge and understanding you are revisiting but a clear knowledge of what you do not know properly and this can only be determined through testing.

Didn’t you get the message? There is no final cramming session. There is no shortcut to success. Revisit, redraft, flashcard and memorise as you go. Link concepts together and read deeper. Understand rather than just learn. And then test yourself over and over again.

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?

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?

How One Student Earned 2 Bachelors Degrees in 3 Semesters with a 3.9 GPA

I hope final exams and papers are going well for everyone. I havent posted this last week because Ive been busy with finals too.

I read a fascinating article this last week from Steve Pavlinas blog on how he managed to earn two Bachelors degrees in 3 semesters, while maintaining a 3.9 GPA.

Here are some highlights from his article that focuses on time management:

  • I believe that having a clear goal is far more important than having a clear plan. In school I was very clear about my end goal graduate college in only three semesters but my plans were in a constant state of flux. Every day I would be informed of new assignments, projects, or tests, and I had to adapt to this ever-changing sea of activity. If I tried to make a long-term plan for each semester, it would have been rendered useless within 24 hours.
  • Instead of using some elaborate organizing system, I stuck with a very basic pen and paper to-do list. My only organizing tool was a notepad where I wrote down all my assignments and their deadlines. I didnt worry about doing any advance scheduling or prioritizing. I would simply scan the list to select the most pressing item which fit the time I had available. Then Id complete it, and cross it off the list.
  • If I had a 10-hour term paper to write, I would do the whole thing at once instead of breaking it into smaller tasks. Id usually do large projects on weekends. Id go to the library in the morning, do the necessary research, and then go back to my dorm room and continue working until the final text was rolling off my printer. If I needed to take a break, I would take a break. It didnt matter how big the project was supposed to be or how many weeks the professor allowed for it. Once I began an assignment, I would stay with it until it was 100% complete and ready to be turned in.
  • To work effectively you need uninterrupted blocks of time in which you can complete meaningful work. When you know for certain that you wont be interrupted, your productivity is much, much higher. When you sit down to work on a particularly intense task, dedicate blocks of time to the task during which you will not do anything else. Ive found that a minimum of 90 minutes is ideal for a single block.
  • During one of these sacred time blocks, do nothing but the activity thats right in front of you. Dont check email or online forums or do web surfing. If you have this temptation, then unplug your Internet connection while you work. Turn off your phone, or simply refuse to answer it.
  • You can probably find numerous opportunities for multitasking. Whenever you do something physical, such as driving, cooking, shopping, or walking, keep your mind going by listening to audio tapes or reading.
  • If you want to master time management, it makes sense to hone your best time management tool of all your physical body. Through diet and exercise you can build your capacity for sustained concentrated effort, so even the most difficult work will seem easier.
  • While in college I could not afford to let my enthusiasm fade, or Id be dead. I quickly learned that I needed to make a conscious effort to reinforce my enthusiasm on a daily basis. I would listen to time management and motivational tapes. I also listened to them while jogging every morning. I kept my motivation level high by reinforcing my enthusiasm almost hourly. Even though I was being told by others that I would surely fail, these tapes were the stronger influence because I never went more than a few hours without plugging back in.

Read the full article . . .