Archive for the ‘Time management’ Category

The College Class Syllabus….

Every college student gets them. But, what happens after that?

Do they end up at the bottom of a backpack, as a crumbled mess, or in a desk drawer?

After all, the instructor will remind me of everything throughout the semester anyway, right?


Dead wrong.

Most instructors will assume you are an adult and will act as a responsible one. Therefore, as soon as you get your syllabus, you have a hot date that night. Syllabus+Planner+YOU.

I’d also suggest grabbing some highlighters, colored pens, stickers… and whatever else you might want to help you recognize at a glance, what you need to be doing. The Syllabus MUST Meet Planner

Now it’s time to hack your syllabus… break it into bits and prepare a plan that will help you manage your college life.

First things first: Begin by writing EVERY test, project deadline, research paper deadline, or anything else that has a due date in your planner.  If you are the kind of person who likes things to be a fancy-pants, use stickers, highlighters or colored pens to color-code everything. For example, everything related to biology is written in green, everything related to English Comp is written in blue, etc. Highlight all tests with a yellow highlighter, and paper due dates with a orange highlighter.

Next: Do some back planning. For every deadline, count back an appropriate number of days and set a “start date” for starting to begin test prep or writing a paper. For example, you should allow 5 good study days for every exam, at minimum.

So, if you have an exam on October 25, count back 5 days in your planner and write, “Prepare study materials for Psychology test #3. On day 2,  you might write, “Study for Psychology test #3.” Continue with the notations over the next 3 days. For a large research paper, you might want to count back 2 weeks and write “Begin research for British Literature paper.” The next day you might write “continue British Lit research.” Depending on the size and depth of your paper, you may want to begin writing it 1 week prior to the due date, so you would note this in  your planner, as well.

Keep in mind: If there are days you have things going on and cannot study for your test or work on your paper, then you need to add an additional day when you set your start date for studying or preparing for a project. college-planner

NOW…. if you do this with ALL of your syllabi,  it will take a while, but it is well worth the investment of your time. Having a detailed planner goes a long way towards college success.

Sneak peak at the first few pages.

Sneak peak at the first few pages.

For the last few months I’ve been designing my own planner. Even though I’ve found and used some great planners over the years, I decided I wanted to make one that would more precisely fit my needs. I have made a couple of prototypes that I liked. But, I am still making a few tweaks. I started to think about you…. my readers! I would like to have your input!

If you had the opportunity to create  your own perfect planner, what would it include?

What would you definitely leave out?

What bugs you about planners you have used in the past?

What have you loved in your favorite planners?

As an English major, finals week usually involved countless hours sitting on my rear, with bleary eyes staring at the computer screen, conducting research and writing lengthy term papers. After a while I would begin getting drowsy or just feel the need to move. Do you relate? While taking a break can be beneficial, the risk is getting distracted and not coming back to it soon enough….. or not at all! 

I always tell my students to time the breaks ! I would suggest setting a timer for 15-30 minutes. And, what should you do? In my experience, taking a quick walk, doing some exercises, or any other physical activity can be especially helpful. It relieves stress, wakes you up, and gives your bum a break from sitting! Also, I’d suggest getting a drink, having a healthy snack, or whatever you need to revive your mind and body. However, as soon as your timer goes off, don’t procrastinate….. get back to studying!

Check out the link below to find a great chart for doing a full body workout in just 7 minutes! It fits perfectly into a study break and is great for your mind and body! 

7-Minute Research-Based Full Body Workout!

Let’s face it, sometimes getting started is half the battle. If you deal with procrastination or tend to lose track of time, there is an inexpensive and simple tool you can use to help you out. Buy a TIMER. In my opinion, it is one of the best and most necessary time management tools. How does it help? Well, let’s say you need to study for a test, but you find yourself playing Farkle, sharpening pencils, cleaning out your backpack, etc. A lot of us tend to “get busy” when we are procratinating because it disguises our procrastination, because we feel like we are doing something. So the first step is to recognize what procrastination looks like in your life!

Once you have your timer, this is what you do. Make a deal with yourself that you will start whatever task it is, and will do that task for fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes is pretty easy to do, right? Sit down with your study materials and set the timer, and go at it! When the timer goes off, you have earned a break. (However, if you feel like you want to continue, set the timer for another fifteen minutes and GO!) If you take a break, be sure to time your break, too! Allow 15 minutes breaks, at least every hour of study.

This really is a great tool and will generally cost you less than $10. Personally, I like the ticking timer, because it helps me to remember to stay focused. But, if you work best in silence, a digital timer is better for you.

Finals are next week, and the activity around my office has increased quite a bit. Some students are panicking because they have realized that the final will make or break the possibility of them passing the class. Others are doing well enough in the class, but lack confidence or suffer from test anxiety. We even have some students dissolving into tears during these last two weeks of school because of the stress. The most important thing these students can do, no matter which category they are in, is to begin preparing early in a systematic and thorough way.frustrated female student

Here is a good way to make sure you cover the material in a thorough way:

Begin by seeing how many days you have available to study before your final. Now subtract one from that total, and that gives you the number of days you will work on your finals preparation. So, let’s say you have 7 days before your first final. So begin by subtracting 1, which leaves 6 days. Now divide your test material into 6 parts. Over the next 6 days you will prepare and study the material. On the first day, prepare study material for Part 1.  This might mean making flash cards, organizing charts, creating a self-test, etc. On day 2, you will prepare study materials for Part 2 and study the materials you created for Part 1. One day 3, you will prepare Part 3 and study Parts 1 and 2. Continue on until you have completed all 6 days. On the 7th day, you will review ALL 6 PARTS! Each day, this should only take you an hour or two, depending on how much material you have to cover. Once you have completed this study method, you will be well prepared for your exam and can go into the classroom with confidence.

If you have several exams for the week, you will create this type of schedule for each exam you will be taking. Just adjust the number of days according to the time you have left to study.  

Let me know how your finals go and good luck!

curve of forgetting“The Curve of Forgetting” is something I speak to all of my students about early in the semester. It is a powerful piece of information and it’s application can make a huge difference in grades. This chart is a visual representation of what happens to a person’s memory when they listen to a lecture. As they listen, the curve steadily increases until it reaches 100% of whatever he or she will know, however well they will know it. As you can see, after the lecture the curve takes a rapid and steady decline when the student does nothing to try to retain it. By day 2, if the information has not been revisited in any way, 50-80% will be lost!  After 30 days, only 2-3% of the original information is still hanging on. This may coincide with an exam date, and the student has to relearn almost 100% of the information that could have simply been retained with a little effort.

The reason this happens has to do with the instability of our short-term memory. This part of our memory is limited to just five to nine items, so our brains are constantly tossing items out to prevent the short term memory from getting too full. Therefore, if you want to keep a memory, you need to convert it to a long term memory. How does that happen? Quite simply, through repetition. Long term memory is created when chemical messages in the brain create a “neural network.”  The more these connections are used, the stronger the network becomes.  The author of a book titled The Brain in Action equates it with being similar to creating a path in the woods. “The first time you create a path, it is rough and overgrown. The next time you use it, it’s easier to travel because you have previously walked over the weeds and moved the obstacles. Each time thereafter, it gets smoother and smoother. In a similar fashion, the neural networks get more efficient, and messages travel more swiftly” (2). In other words, the more time you give “memory making” the easier it will be for you to access that memory.

If we apply this understanding to the lecture represented in the graph, we know that we must immediately begin giving our brains a hint that we want to retain that information. As you can see from the yellow line on the graph, a brief review within the first 24 hours gives your memory a fantastic boost, almost up to that 100% again. A week later, it only takes 5 minutes to reactivate the information and bump up the curve. If you continue to repeat regular reviews, you have worn a smoother path and given your brain plenty of hints that the information should be kept.

If you don’t do this, you will spend about an hour relearning each hour worth of lecture material. Therefore, it is actually a great use of your time to spend a few minutes reviewing material regularly. Another advantage is that this method decreases test anxiety because the information is in the long term memory, rather than the unstable short term memory.

Do yourself a favor and try this for a couple of weeks and then, do me a favor in return…. let me know what you think!

As I mentioned in the previous post, since there are no cookie cutter people,I don’t think there is such thing as a planner that would fit every person’s needs. But, the Uncalendar may come pretty close because it does allow for so much flexibility.The trick is, figuring out how to adapt it for your needs. The picture below shows a two-page spread in the weekly section of the Uncalendar. On the right, there are weekly calendar pages, which have the Monday-Friday spaces divided into three sections. I typically think of these sections as morning, afternoon, and evening. My days are pretty full, and I like to jot down a few details along with the appointment, due date, or whatever I am writing in those spaces. However, if I put those details in the weekly calendar area, it can fill up the space and not leave room for other notations/due dates. My new method is to number each thing I put on my weekly calendar, and then put a corresponding number on the left side in the big green box, with the added details. (For example, the calendar might say “(1) research paper due,” while the left side elaborates “(1) research paper, 8 pages, MLA citations, bring to Dr. Smith’s office before 5 p.m.”

Now, some of you may not need to write down those kinds of details, but I DO! In spite of my wishes to retain the information, they will be tossed out of my memory, never to be seen again, if I don’t make note of them.

Here are some ways I’ve used the other boxes on these pages: The green rectangle on the top right, I use for money-related  items, such as bills due or making a deposit. The graph box on the lower left, I have used to track reading assignment progress. I was an English major, and would sometimes be reading as many as three novels (for three different classes) at a time. I would write down the name of the novel and then in each box write the chapter numbers I needed to read that week. As I completed each chapter, I would blacken in the box with the corresponding number. It helped me to make sure I was making progress on all of the books and not losing sight of how much I still needed to read that week. These little boxes could also be used if you are keeping track of dietary things, glasses of water, exercises, goals, etc. What are your ideas?

If you have other ideas on how to use these two pages, please share them in the comments.