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?
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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?