Update and Apologies

So…it’s been a while. I’m sorry I’ve been AWOL for so long. This semester has taken a while to adjust to. And I’ve been slightly more social. I’m definitely going to start blogging again. Hopefully, at least once a week.

Updates:

  • I’m currently watching Friends on Netflix. It is fantastic. I also started Once Upon a Time but couldn’t really get into it.
  • I watched Interstellar last night, and it was the best movie I’ve seen in a long time. It definitely helped restimulate my intuition and has made me want to do more big-picture things again.
  • I’m currently reading The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. It’s also taking me some time to get into. I’ve already read about 9 books this year, so that’s great. I do need to read more this month.
  • I’ve actually been dressing relatively not crappy most of the time.
  • I got into a few hobbies and practices at the end of last year, but those kind of slipped away. So I need to get back into those.
  • I don’t skip class anymore, which makes me very proud of myself.
  • I kind of stopped journaling daily, as well. I need to get back into that as well.
  • I’ve been researching MBTI again. I think I know too much about it. I still can’t really type other people that well though.
  • I’ve gotten back into tumblr. Which might be a reason that I haven’t been partaking in my hobbies.

What have you been up to lately?

Semester Beginnings

If you don’t know, I am a first year Biochemistry major at Georgia Tech. I am also pre-med for now. I am starting my second semester. Yay.

It’s 8 days into the semester. And I’m starting to realize how difficult these four months are actually going to be. The courses I am currently taking this semester are: Quantitative Analysis, Organic Chemistry, Calculus 2, Intro to Biomedicine and Culture, and Intro to Philosophy. The latter two are super easy and interesting and discussion-based. The former three are torturous. Actually, Calc is not that bad. Orgo is also not terrible, but my professor is super boring. Quantitative Analysis is a Chemistry/Biochemistry major course, and apparently is the hardest Chem course we have to take. It is made terribly worse by the fact that my professor has an incredibly thick accent. I am taking 16 credit hours, but the actual class time amounts to a whopping 21 hours. I have a four hour lab from 2-6pm on Fridays, which sucks to no end. I actually have to go to all my classes this semester :(. And the only breaks I have between my classes are 30 min-1 hr lunch breaks. It feels too much like high school I don’t like it.

I’ve been pretty good at maintaining my good study habits. I am still getting my work done by dinner time (holla). I’ve still been watching too much Netflix and reading too many books (though that’s not really possible). I have some exciting events I am volunteering for in the next couple of months. All in all, college is still stressful and overwhelming, but great.

How has your semester been going?

First Semester Reflections

I had my last final today, which means that it is officially the end of my first semester as a college student. HOLLA. This is cause for much celebration (Netflix). I have learned many things these four months, some about chemistry and some about psychology, but I learned the most about myself.

I learned that I am a lot more socially inept than I told myself I was. I learned that I value independence above most things. I learned that I can watch an incredibly high amount of Netflix, even during the week. I learned that I have the capability to be a generally productive person. I learned that I always have enough time to do the things I want to do even when it doesn’t feel like it. I learned that I need to have projects outside of schoolwork to keep from going insane from intellectual stagnation. I learned that skipping classes is way too easy and way too enticing. I learned that I really love planning everything, even if there is no way I will follow through with my plans exactly. I learned that creative outlets are also essential to my mental well-being. I learned that it is really hard to maintain a workout schedule when your environment is constantly changing between the week and the weekend. I learned that I want to accomplish things that are unrelated to my career goals. The most important thing I learned is that it may seem to be hard to stand out in a large community of brilliant individuals, but everyone stands out in some way. For me, this has seemed to be my growing productivity skills.

What have you learned about yourself this semester?

Finals Survival Kit

Today was the last day of my first semester of college classes. It was pretty uneventful. Next week is finals. Yay. I am fortunate in that my finals take place in the second half of the week, and I only have one a day. So I can use Monday and Tuesday to possibly study. I still haven’t really learned how to study, which is another problem in and of itself. During finals week, everyone is overly stressed out and tense. We could all do with a bit of relaxing. In this blog post, I am going to create the perfect finals survival kit using items that I actually own or can obtain before next week. And yes, I am going to try and utilize the kit I am making (maybe).

1. Tea (or Coffee, I guess)
I prefer tea, but my body doesn’t really like caffeine. So I don’t drink it very often. I do like Tazo Zen tea which I’m pretty sure is a combination of various green and mint teas. Tea is very relaxing, especially in December. It’s supposed to be cold in December. But Atlanta doesn’t listen. I guess iced tea could work in the right circumstances. Just drink something that relaxes you and doesn’t include drugs stronger than caffeine.

2. Books (use with caution)
I haven’t read nearly as much as I would have liked to over this past year.Instead, I have been compiling a huge list of books to read on Wunderlist. I really want to start reading again, so much so that I’ve already made a December reading list that is about 20 books long. I just want to dive into them, but finals are coming. So I should probably wait. But I’m not going to because books are splendidly relaxing and act as an escape from the personal stressors of life. Instead of focusing on your own troubles, you get to focus on someone else’s. I do, however, have the tendency to get sucked into the black hole that is a good book and not emerge until I have finished it. For this reason, I’m going to limit myself to reading productivity books during finals week.

3. A Netflix subscription (also use with caution)
TV shows and movies can also serve to whisk you away from your troubles. Again, these should be used with caution, as they can be a little too distracting. Movies are probably better than TV shows during finals week because you can just watch one when you’re done with studying for the day. TV shows are another story. You can never watch just one episode. Unless your self-discipline is incredible, in which case, you do you; you probably don’t need a finals survival kit anyways.

4. Clothing that you did not wear to sleep
It’s going to be difficult, but I’m going to make an effort to change out of my pajamas every day of finals week. Yes, even on the days when I’m doing nothing but studying. This is going to be really hard because most of the time, I don’t even get properly dressed for class. But dressing well increases confidence, so I guess I’ll have to at least try.

5. Snacks
Snacks are so great. Especially when you’re so busy studying that you don’t have time to go to the dining hall for a proper meal. Or, if you’re like some people, you get so entranced by your textbooks that you forget to eat at all. DON’T DO THIS. Your brain needs fuel to work. If you deprive it of food, it will deprive you of remembering molecular orbitals. The very least you can do for your cranium is keep some snacks on hand to eat during study breaks. Also, don’t forget to take study breaks. They are also very important.

6. Something to look forward to at the end of the week
There’s nothing to get you through the week like anticipating something exciting. For me, the end of finals will bring lots and lots of books that I’ve already downloaded onto my iPad.

7. A set sleep schedule
As important it is to study, it is way more important to sleep. Your brain needs you to sleep so that it can work to sort out the information you need to remember. Sleep an adequate number of hours every night of finals, and your body and brain will thank you. Ideally, you should also sleep and wake up around the same times every day to stabilize your circadian rhythm. And for the love of all that is good in the world, DO NOT PULL AN ALL-NIGHTER. It’ll seem like a good idea at the time, when you have a thousand more things to memorize and not enough time in the day. But you will regret it when your muscles ache the next day and you get sick and you fall asleep during your finals. Yeah, you can sleep when you’re dead, but if you want to live the best life, you gotta sleep in life, too. Just sleep. But don’t sleep through your 8 am exams. That would be bad.

8. A workout schedule
So far this school year, I’ve been pretty bad about working out. There have been a couple of weeks that I have consistently worked out, but not many. But I know how important it is and what the incredible benefits of physical fitness are, so I’m going to try this week. I just have to get through five days of working out. Working out also serves as an amazing stress-reliever. And ya’ know, it’s good for you. Optimal brain functioning and stuff. Yoga is sometimes fun. Yoga counts as exercise. Or you could just take study breaks to go toss a disc with your friends or something.

9. Good study music
Study music can help increase focus, if it’s the right kind. The best study music has no lyrics. From there it’s mostly personal preference. Some prefer classical music, while others prefer white noise type music. There are also people who like to get all science-y with their music choices and opt for focus-centered binaural beats. I don’t know how to describe them, or much about how they work. So google them if you want to learn more. I have tried a music-machine type app that had focus-specified binaural beats, and it seemed to work pretty well at the time. Just don’t choose music that makes you sleepy.

10. Most importantly, a realistic and specific study plan
I’ve had my finals study plan mapped out for about a month, but I’ve found that it’s not specific enough. This weekend, I’m going to further specify my study plan, so that I don’t end up wasting the time blocks that I’ve set aside for studying. I’m planning on maintaining my 9-5 study schedule during finals week, so knowing exactly what I’m going to do in a given hour is vital to my time-management system.

What would you include in your finals survival kit? Do you have any suggestions for me to add to mine?

Finals are Approaching

I only have one week of classes left. The week after that is finals week…WHAT?!?!

It seems like only last month I was brainstorming blog ideas and typing out my four year college plan over summer. Looking back at my first semester of college, I definitely have some regrets (being antisocial, not getting very involved, not exploring the city, not working out…), but I still love college immensely more than any other form of education I have experienced.
So my first round of college finals is quickly approaching, and honestly, I have no idea how I feel about them. To prepare, I’ve made a study schedule. But I don’t really know how to study, so we’ll see how that goes. During finals week, I am going to stay as relaxed as possible. I am going to workout every day (theoretically). I have been getting interested in more distracting activities (calligraphy and lettering and reading), which might be bad. I am also planning to go to the crafts center. I am going to try to blog a lot to break up the studying. I also need to start a new experiment since I’m done with 30 Days of Lists.
This was a bit of a journal-y post, but I promise I’m going to get my blogging act together soon. Peace.

My Productivity Toolbox

I have now been a college kid for approximately two months. I am very proud to announce that up to this point, I have been exponentially more productive during college than I was in high school. Productivity is really, really important in college (really). Especially if you go to a crazy hard school like I do. Of course, everyone has their perfect productivity equation, but, so far, my personal success with productivity has come through the use of these tools:

1. iPad mini
An iPad mini is the best investment I have made for school. It has increased productivity in class through note taking apps, walking between classes through decreased backpack weight, and even procrastinating through awesome brain function and creativity enhancing apps (aka Netflix).I also use my iPhone for awesome apps. I like apps.

2. blank paper+colorful pens
I use blank copy paper and colorful pens to outline my textbook reading and attempt to sketchnote. There are two reasons I don’t use my iPad for this: 1. iPad is currently being used to read the textbook being outlined, and 2. it is easier to view an entire physical page than an iPad screen.

3. Index Cards
Honestly, I don’t use index cards as study tools like most people do (I ain’t basic). I use my index cards to doodle and write lists. Most of you are probably like “Doodling is procrastinating not being productive, Yusra.” Those of you who are saying this are wrong. Just kidding. Doodling can be a waste of time, but doodling with a purpose is a habit I have picked up that has helped me to get things done. Doodling has many benefits including, but not limited to: acting as a creativity outlet, sketchnotes(!), and stress relief. Also, index card doodles can be used as non-wall-damaging dorm decorations (HOLLA).

4. Styluses
Obviously, styluses go with the iPad for notetaking and sketching. If you need an explanation, I have no words for you.

5. Legal Pads
I use legal pads primarily for my homework assignments and as a scratchpad. Also, it is easy to just carry one writing pad to all your classes and organize notes by course later.

6. Portfolios/File Folders
I use portfolios for this very purpose. I have a different portfolio for each course, even though I probably won’t have enough paperwork to fill any of them. I know some people love binders, but I’ve had my hands caught in binder rings enough times to hate them. But if you just have to have your binders, they can also be used for this purpose.

7. A mini notebook/journal/moleskine+planner
For planning out my daily life, I use a combination of a planner (I just use my official school one) and a mini spiral notebook from the dollar store. At the beginning of the semester, I wrote down all of my assignments and exams in my planner. In my notebook, I write daily to-do lists and also plan out my day based on time. So pretty much, I use my planner to plan things out what day of the week I need to do specific parts of an assignment, and I use my notebook to plan exactly what time I will work on something. If you haven’t noticed by now, I am a planner (aka INTJ).

My toolbox has allowed me to usually get all of my schoolwork done by dinner time, which is usually 5 or 6 pm, which means I have time to Netf-I mean develop social skills like a normal person. Of course, this combination of tools will not work for everyone, but the time at the beginning of school is the time to experiment with different paper mediums and technology and whatnot. And remember, being productive should make you feel good about yourself, or you’re doing it wrong.

P.S. I didn’t include my laptop because that’s a given.

P.P.S. I am going to do another one of these posts about my Technological Productivity Toolbox. Get excited.

What does your productivity toolbox consist of?

College Countdown: 3 Methods of Self-Evaluation

It is currently August 12, 2014. I move into my college dorm the day after tomorrow. My first day of class is Monday, August 18th. I am freaking out.

Oftentimes we become incredibly overwhelmed in times of great change. We have much to do and many potential stressors. During these moments of mental chaos, it is important to take a step back from life and center the mind. We must evaluate our mental, emotional, and physical states.

1. Good vs. Bad/Pros vs. Cons
Whenever you are frazzled because of a big change or a busy schedule, just sit down and write/type/speak all of the things causing excitement and all of the things causing worry. Letting it out allows your brain to externally process the entire situation. This allows you to better see solutions for any possible problems you are confronted with and further increase excitement for the amazing things about to happen in your life.

The Good:

  • I am almost done packing. (yay)
  • Most of my textbooks are easily findable as PDFs.
  • I have a pretty reasonable schedule for a freshman.
  • I have not spent very much money in furnishing my dorm room ($65 including a mini fridge).
  • I have been very productive in working on applications for various leadership organizations and some scholarships.
  • My calendar is already packed for the next week.

The Bad:

  • I am not completely done packing. (ugh)
  • Insomnia
  • I keep forgetting to take my allergy medicine at night.
  • This whole college thing still hasn’t completely registered.
  • I have not bought any school things I need, such as textbooks not available online, lab coat, clicker,etc.
  • I’m having innate urges to make routines and schedules, but I don’t really have the time to. (I’m a planner.)
  • I still need to buy things like various Command products.

2. Meditation
By definition, meditation is a form of reflection. Meditation allows you to focus on one tiny goal: thinking deeply, or maybe even not at all. In my experience, the meditation that helps me reduce my frazzled-ness is allowing thoughts to come randomly, but only observing them, not ruminating the problems or possible solutions. I know to most college kids meditation seems like a “hippie, tree-hugger” sort of thing to do, but it is much easier than you think, and can help increase productivity. You can even do it while walking to class.  I personally love the Breathe app (App store) and Headspace‘s 10 day program (available on App store and Google Play). The Essence app (App store) is also simple and great for beginners.

3. Make a List of Questions
This is as simple as it sounds. Just ask yourself questions. Don’t think about answering them. You can tackle them one by one later, if you so wish. Simply write/type any uncertainties you possess. This method can also work as a sort of to-do list.

  • Am I really ready for college?
  • Can I take care of myself?
  • Did I pick the right classes to take my first semester?
  • Should I get a job my freshman year?
  • How many clubs/organizations should I limit myself to?
  • What if I can’t learn how to properly study?
  • How am I going to balance my wide array of interests with schoolwork and studying?
  • Have I packed enough?
  • Have I packed too much?
  • How soon will the workload begin?
  • Am I choosing the right career path?
  • Am I ever going to achieve my goal of becoming a morning person?

I hope these methods helped decrease your overwhelmedness as the new school year approaches, bringing with it exciting/frightening changes.

How do you center yourself when your mind is being a little too chaotic?