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Archive for the ‘productivity’ Category

Homework Stressing You Out? Here Are Some Time Management Tips

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

planner

Do you ever feel so overwhelmed with everything you have to get done that you don’t even know where to start? When you’re faced with a mountain of work, it can be tempting to crawl under the covers and hope it will go away. But a better solution is to start practicing some good time management habits.

Sure, some of these tips may not give you the adrenaline rush that comes from waiting ’til the last minute, but working under pressure really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Giving yourself a little structure and discipline will not only help you feel calm, even in your busiest times, but it will also give you a life skill to carry into adulthood when you have even greater responsibilities and commitments.

Get started with these useful time management tips:

  1. Remember, Academics Come First
    We’ve all been there. You have a huge English paper due next week, a science test on Monday, and your volleyball team has a tournament all weekend. While we don’t advocate quitting a team or dropping out of the school musical at the last minute, it is important to remember that schoolwork should come first. If you are absolutely at your wit’s end, or you have noticed that your grades have started to suffer because you’re over-committed, you might need to cut back on your extracurricular activities.
  2. Buy a Planner
    This may seem obvious, but you’re not going to be able to start planning anything if you don’t have a place to write it all down. Put everything in your calendar, including homework assignments, tests, social events, and family responsibilities.
  3. Plan Ahead
    Here’s the thing: Your volleyball team’s schedule was probably given to you at the beginning of the year. And most teachers give you a syllabus outlining when big papers and tests will be given throughout the semester. So busy weeks really don’t have to stress you out – if you plan ahead. When you know you have a busy week coming up, make sure to work ahead in the few weeks before so you can keep everything under control.
  4. Prioritize Your To-Do List
    If you’re feeling overwhelmed, one of the best places to start is just writing down everything you can think of that needs to get done. Include school and non-school related things – whatever is weighing on your mind. Next, go through your list and identify which items are most urgent and need to get done immediately. Then identify which tasks are important, but don’t necessarily need to get done today. Too often, students just deal with the urgent things, and once they’re done they slack off and do something fun. Instead, if you have any extra time, try to do at least one task that will help get you ahead – such as brainstorming for an upcoming paper – before you take a break.
  5. Estimate How Much Time Something Will Take
    When you’re trying to prioritize what homework to tackle first, one good method is to estimate how much time each task will take you. If you’re not sure, you can start by keeping track of how long each type of homework takes you each night. After a few weeks, average the times. Once you know how long something generally takes, use those estimates when planning what you’ll get done each day.
  6. Do the Worst Stuff First
    Do you love English but hate math? If so, it’s best to get your math homework done first. The more distasteful a task is, the more you should put it at the top of your to-do list. The sooner you get it over with, the more productive you’ll be with other tasks because the icky thing won’t be hanging over your head.
  7. Take Advantage of Study Hall and Travel Time
    If you have open blocks during the day, use them do get as much homework done as possible. You’ll be more awake during the day than if you try to cram late at night, and you’re probably less likely to get distracted at school than at home. Also, if you have a long commute to and from school, spend that time getting your reading done.
  8. Break Down Big Assignments
    If you have a big research paper due in two weeks, you don’t want to start writing it the night before, pull an all-nighter and turn in something half-baked. Instead, when you first get the assignment, spend a few minutes mapping out when you can tackle smaller parts of the project. Work backwards from the due date, giving yourself time to brainstorm, write an outline, write your first draft, revise, and proofread before it’s due.
  9. Use a Homework App
    One great way to stay on top of your assignments and manage your time is to use a homework app. One that gets great reviews is iStudiez Pro, which can manage your class schedule, teacher contacts and upcoming assignments and tests. Another popular one is MyHomework App, which lets you track your classes, homework, tests and assignments in an easy-to-read calendar display and gives you handy homework reminders.Whatever method you choose, remember this Educational Endeavor slogan: Structure equals freedom! By putting systems in place for handling your workload, you’ll gain freedom from worry and stress.

Do you know any other great time management strategies? Let us know in the comments section!

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How Breaking Your Cell Phone Addiction Can Help Your Grades

Tuesday, September 5th, 2017

cell phones

We all know that cell phones can make life a lot easier, right? But did you know that they may actually be hurting your life and your school work more than you think?

Recently, scientists have begun studying how cell phones, and social media in particular, impact our lives, and studies have shown that they can cause everything from shorter attention spans to increased levels of stress, anxiety and depression.

One of the biggest problems, it seems, is that cell phones and social media give us an illusion of feeling like we’re more connected to each other. We can text our friends day or night, communicate instantly with them over SnapChat and follow their lives through their Instagram feeds. But unfortunately, being connected in a virtual world isn’t the same as being connected in real life. In fact, the more time we spend alone with our phones and the less time we spend with other people in person, the more depressed we become. Does that sound like something your parents would say? Well, it’s actually true and studies are proving it.

The Monitoring the Future survey, which is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, has been asking teens questions about their lives since 1975, and recently, the data has shown that teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy than those who spend time doing in-person activities.

In addition, all the time you spend on SnapChat or Instagram is certainly making it harder to keep your grades up and finish all your schoolwork. Those poor grades you’re getting won’t lift your mood one bit. It’s a downward spiral and it’s clear to see that the so-called smartphone may actually be making you perform in not-so-smart ways.

Tired of this blog already? Not surprising. According to a recent article in The Atlantic, children and teens who use a media device right before bed are more likely to sleep less than they should, more likely to sleep poorly and more than twice as likely to be sleepy during the day.

Sleep experts warn that the blue light emitted by cell phone screens decreases our body’s production of melatonin, which controls our circadian rhythm, making it harder to fall asleep. On top of that, many students report going to sleep with their cell phones either on their pillow or just next to their bed, buzzing throughout the night when they get texts or emails.

And, of course, not getting enough sleep makes it harder to concentrate at school or focus on your homework, which leads to poorer performance in the classroom.

Putting Down the Cell Phone

With all of the negative effects of cell phones, it makes sense that we should limit our time on them. But if reading that sentence makes you shudder, you’re not alone. Many of us are so addicted to our phones that separating ourselves from them feels unthinkable. In fact, so many people experience nomophobia, or fear of being without their mobile device, that researchers at Iowa State University have devised a test to measure the phenomenon.

But that’s all the more reason to limit our cell phone screen time; it can do wonders for our self-esteem and mental health and should lead to better grades as well.

How to Curb Your Cell Phone Addiction

Here are a few suggestions for ways to limit your cell phone use and kick your smartphone addiction.

  1. Try a Digital Detox
    Not convinced that your cell phone habit is actually an addiction? We challenge you to try a digital detox – 24 hours of not checking your cell phone at all. We promise you it’s going to be harder than it sounds, but you’ll also be amazed by how much freedom you’ll feel when you are forced to be more present to what is going on around you.
  2. Don’t Use Your Phone As an Alarm Clock
    If a phone-free day sounds too difficult, try taking smaller baby steps to reduce your habit. One way is to stop using your phone as an alarm clock, so you won’t be tempted to bring your phone to bed with you or see it the first thing when you wake up.
  3. Put Your Phone on Airplane Mode
    Need to focus on your homework? Avoid the constant distractions of getting texts and notifications by switching your phone onto airplane mode for a solid hour. After working for an hour, give yourself permission to check your phone. If you can, gradually increase the time that you put the phone on airplane mode to have longer stretches of concentration.
  4. Turn Off Your Notifications
    Another way to decrease distractions from your phone is to turn off your notifications so you don’t hear a buzz every time someone likes one of your Twitter posts or a new article is posted on CNN.com. Trust us, all of the info will still be there when you go to check your phone a few hours later.
  5. Announce to the World That You’re Taking a Break
    A big thing that drives us to compulsively check our phones is the belief that we have to respond to every text, email and message immediately. If you want a little more serenity in your life, let people know that you are trying to take a break from your phone so you don’t feel as much pressure to check it compulsively. Then give yourself permission to check your phone for a few minutes once an hour, instead of looking at it every few minutes.
  6. Install an App to Help You Quit
    We know, we know. This sounds counter-intuitive. But actually, there are several apps out there that will help make you more aware of just how addicted you are to your phone and can help you break the habit. Most of these apps are available for Android due to Android’s open platform, but there are a few that work for the iPhone as well. Here are a few to try:

    1. Checky (Available for both iPhones and Androids): Shows you how many times you check your smartphone each day and offers stats about your use over time.
    2. BreakFree (Available for Androids): Tracks how much time you spend on different apps each day. It can send you notifications if you are checking your phone too much and turn off notifications and WiFi at set times.
    3. Moment (Available for iPhone): Tracks how much time you are spending on your phone each day and will block you from using your phone after you’ve reached your daily limit.

If you are reading this blog on your smartphone, take a moment to reflect on the irony, but then go to your settings and put your iPhone into airplane mode, or go search the Play Store on your Android phone for an App that could help you quit the habit. The world got along just fine before cellphones and curing yourself of your smartphone addiction could be one of the smartest things you do today.

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Trade in your post-its for a 3-part to do list

Monday, May 15th, 2017

Life gets overwhelming when you have a whole bunch of tasks you could be doing or “should” be doing. This mental to do list takes up a lot of brain space that could be devoted to actually getting stuff done.

A long to do list can also be stressful because it’s hard to decide where to focus. By choosing to do one thing, you are automatically choosing not to do the other things, which creates stress about whether those other things will ever get done.

And as the cartoon below illustrates, Post-its are great, but they’re probably not gonna get the job done.

Strategy: a new kind of to do list

The folks at Mission Control Productivity have a method of making to do lists that could be life-changing. Just follow these steps:

Step One: Brain dump. Just write down everything you have to do or want to do, from the little nit-picky tasks to big lifelong goals.

Step Two: Rewrite the items from the brain dump, putting them into one of three lists:

  • List A: Things you will do in the next 2 weeks.
  • List B: Things you will do between 2 weeks and 6 months from now.
  • List C: Things you will not do until 6 months from now or beyond.

Step Three: Put the items from List A into existence. That means write in your calendar or assignment notebook when you will actually do each and every thing on that list.

Step Four: Any time a new task or goal comes to mind, write it on the appropriate list.

Step Five: Every two weeks, revisit the lists. Move things from list B over to List A.

Why it works

This system is powerful because you can rest easy knowing everything has been addressed and everything will get done. All you have to do is follow what your calendar says to do.

You can stay focused and stop wasting precious energy trying to remember things that you are not working on right now.

Tip: include everything

Don’t be shy about the brain dump in step one. Include everything, from all aspects of your life: academic, personal, and social. Include conversations you need to have, chores you need to do, steps you need to take toward your goals.

Everything from cleaning your room, to thanking your aunt for the birthday gift she sent in the mail, to writing an outline of an essay due in English, to going in to see your math teacher for extra help; all of it should be included.

Recommended Viewing

Check out this quick video from ASAP Science about scientifically researched techniques for improving productivity.

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