Wednesday, October 26, 2011

For When You Only Have One Sock Left...........

If you're anything like me, you experience that one week (or two, or three) every semester when everything seems to pile up into one big mess of responsibilities. The dishes are piling up in the sink, you're drowning in laundry, there are about 75 papers due, there's an exam every day, and Netflix is just calling your name. The 24 hours in a day don't seem like nearly enough time to get everything accomplished, and it can be very overwhelming. Luckily, there are some great strategies you can use to ensure that you are managing your time effectively. Time management is an invaluable tool that is worth learning during your college experience.

The most important thing to do in time management is to organize your responsibilities into categories. Placing everything you need to do into smaller chunks has the effect of making it seem as if you have less to do, thereby making your tasks less intimidating. I like to organize everything into these categories: School, Home, and Free Time. Put all homework, papers, and projects into the School section; laundry, dishes, and other cleaning under Home, and any fun down-time activities into Free Time.

The next step to take to improve your time management is to lay out all of your tasks in an obvious, easily accessible place. This ensures that you are fully aware of everything that must be done; it also prevents you from forgetting some tasks that may initially fly under the radar. One place that I find particularly useful to remind me is somewhere I see all of the time: my computer's desktop. Most computers have these nifty virtual Post-It notes, which can be displayed on your desktop. Think about how many times you open your computer to get on Facebook, watch Youtube videos, or use your other favorite form of procrastination (Stumble-Upon, I'm looking at you). These Post-It notes are in a very visible place that is, in fact, probably one of the primary time-wasting tools that you utilize.

Next, plan out a schedule to make sure that you are not overwhelmed with everything you must do. It is unrealistic to assume that everything can be accomplished in one day, so spacing responsibilities apart is key. A possibility is placing 5 virtual Post-It notes, one for each weekday, on your desktop. As you complete each task, delete the Post-It. It is a very satisfying feeling to see it drift away.

Finally, make sure you plan out free time for yourself. The stress from all your responsibilities can be very detrimental, and it is very important to not overload yourself with constant stress. Whether it is exercising, reading a book, or simply taking a nap, down time is essential for keeping your spirits high and your motivation strong. Plus, who doesn't love a good nap? The key to this step is to not give too much free time, which is very tempting. Make sure that all your responsibilities are accomplished for that day before you drift into dreamland.

These time management techniques are definitely essential tools in college students' repertoires. Follow these, and your life will be much less stressful. Also, do your dishes; they aren't getting any cleaner

Friday, October 21, 2011

Charcoal and Run-ons

It's easy to get caught up in the frantic writing fervor that comes about upon realizing a fantastic idea or string of thoughts that can be incorporated into a paper. Whether such an experience comes about from an hour away deadline or simply sitting around deep in thought, the excitement of sudden ideas often presses writers into feeling that all words must be typed or scribbled as quickly as possible onto the empty space and, upon seeing the masterpiece in progress, continue without a second glance at the first splatter of creativity.

This is wrong.

There are several reasons why abandoning momentary light bulbs of realization is bad, with one of the most important being that the enhancing qualities that that creativity brings to a paper can at the same time detract from it if left unattended--not only one of the most common mistakes, but also one of the most correctable. The foundation of a paper is built upon a cohesive flow of ideas that unify smaller components into a vivid "bigger picture," but run-on sentences and fragments of ideas are like blotches of yellow and orange on a charcoal drawing. Readers are attracted to the vividness of what they see, but the connection to the piece's artistic substance is missed.

"What's going on here?"

The solution to this problem is different for the drawing and paper, but the principle is the same: the basis of clear expression rests upon a person's ability to incorporate creativity into and with other ideas in a cohesive manner. Reading a paper aloud facilitates the writing process by enabling a greater sense of mental processing via the vocalization of ideas. Oftentimes words that are silently omitted in a paper are correctly or incorrectly inserted into the recitation of a paper, and catching those little discrepancies is vital to clearly expressing individual ideas for others to interpret.

For example, 'I analyzed Green Eggs and Ham for its artistic substance. Make it a popular children's book."

If I were to read that aloud, I could instinctively correct it by saying, " I analyzed Green Eggs and Ham for its artistic substance [and the elements that] make it a popular children's book." A quick glance at those two pieces of information, however, may leave the incompleteness of the second idea undetected due to the completeness of the first.

The charcoal drawing could be made into a painting.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Sickest Email of All

Cold season is here! Flu season is very near! Oh, how I dread this time of year!

All right, I promise I won’t rhyme this entire entry, but a girl has to have a little fun. Many of you probably have already had the sniffles, congestion, sore throat, and headache that usually accompany a cold this year. I definitely have. It might keep you off your feet for a day or two, or maybe a few, depending on how severe. Though, very soon you’re back on your feet and ready to hit the books once again (just what you were thinking of doing once you got better, I bet)! You’re proud of yourself, too. You only skipped the classes that gave you free absences, instead of the ones that you’re required to go to every day.

Along you go, on your merry way in the fall! Then, BAM! Like a brick wall, you’re hit directly with the flu... before flu season! You were just about to get a flu shot next week too… Chills, fever, aches, nausea, and everything else rain down upon you in bed and you struggle to keep warm (or cool, depending on what mood the flu is in that hour). You think about your classes this week. In a panic, you realize that, although you have enough freebie absences left to use up for the week, your mandatory classes are coming up. You decide that you don’t feel that bad – you could probably make it through the class, at least. As the week progresses, and your un-missable class draws ever nearer, you begin to feel worse than before. Soon, you are too weak to even leave bed. You think about emailing your professor, but what good would that do? The syllabus says that you can’t miss class for anything.

So what do you do?

Do you email your professor? Do you try to make it to class? Do you just skip anyway?

Never fear! In fact, I was recently in this exact situation. Here’s some advice: don’t be afraid of your professors! They are people too, not bent on making your life miserable. In my crisis, the same as above happened. Too weak to do much of anything productive, and in a fever-induced stupor, I fretted for hours over what I would do about the classes that I couldn’t miss, or what I would be penalized with if I did miss them. I had been sick for over a week and getting worse, and the plan was to try to get a free few days from class to be able to rest, go to the doctor, and go home with my family to take care of me (who doesn’t love his or her mother bringing them hot tea, soup or maybe some sprite when sick?).

What did I do?

I simply emailed the professors of the classes that I was worried about.

Now, before you get too excited, there are some guidelines to the sick email:

Keep it professional:

As with any email to a professor, despite the fact that you’re sick, you need to still be cordial and professional. Just because you’re ill, doesn’t mean you can jumble up words and letters and not use greetings. Trust me, it won’t make you sound more ill, just like you don’t care. Spell out whole words, use correct punctuation and grammar, and employ good sentence structure, please.

Get the right subject:

I’m not talking about the fact that you’re sick – you know this. I’m talking about the subject area in your email. Most professors prefer their students to type the class title in the subject with another short subject after (ex. PSYC 241 – Class Wednesday). Some professors also like you to put the section number in the subject. Professors often teach more than one class; this just helps them prioritize emails and stay organized. It’s nice to help them out.

Greet your professor:

“Dear Professor Smith,” “Dear Dr. Smith,” “Greetings Professor/Dr. Smith,” and so on. I’m sure you’ve heard all the different ways of greeting someone in a letter – use them! Even a simple “Professor Smith,” or “Dr. Smith,” will do (I personally use this one). As long as you greet your professor cordially, your email will start off being well-received.

Explain, but don’t write a novel:

Chances are that your instructor will want to know what will be keeping you from class. It’s a good idea to tell him or her that you are sick, what is wrong, and why exactly it’s keeping you. However, no professor wants to open his or her email from a student and read an entire novella on the woes of the flu and how you are slowly dying in your bed. Don’t be melodramatic. Keep it simple. Usually, I will tell my professor what I have (if I haven’t been to the doctor, what I think I have), give a few major symptoms (usually the ones that will be keeping me from class), inform him or her that I will be missing class, and ask if I will be penalized/how I can make it up. No sob story needed. Most professors will be more than understanding. After all, most have children.

The end:

End on a good note. This you must do! Be sure to thank your professor for his or her time. Close properly (using “Thank you,” as a closing works too). It will be greatly appreciated. If your instructor responds, be sure to email them back, thanking them for responding to you, or responding quickly, if it’s the case, and acknowledging that you received the email.

Following these rules, you’re sure not to offend a professor, but rather get on his or her good side when asking for a day off or explaining an absence. Usually, instructors are more than happy to accommodate serious and polite students.

Happy fall!