YOUR New Year’s Resolutions

I’ve made my resolutions, now it’s time for me to help you make yours!

These, of course, are suggestions that you can take or leave but if you’re looking for inspiration or confirmation, this is it.

  1. Find a type of exercise you actually love. Story time: my mother is one of those people that wanted to do something about her current fitness level and tried to sign up for gym memberships and even beginner volleyball classes but nothing stuck and all motivation would peter out quickly. Just 3 months ago, she signed up for some aquafit classes at the local YMCA because she heard it was good for your back and she’s been going around 3 times a week since then! She’s become one of those people that complains when she had to miss a class! So you CAN get fit or lose those pounds, you just need to find your method! The gym is not for everyone, it might be competition or environment that gives you a reason to keep coming back to it.
  2. Read one book per month. Reading is something that people feel like they don’t have time for but books are, in my opinion, a great part of life and important to expand your imagination. So by setting aside your commute to listen to audiobooks or before bed to read a chapter or two, it is definitely plausible to get through at least one book each moon cycle. Definitely try to get a diverse selection from fantasy to non-fiction because the world is huge and there’s no telling what you might learn.
  3. Invest in friendships. You have no idea how important this is. It’s so easy to let great people slip out of your lives or to not initiate getting to really know someone because you already have your family to talk to. Coffee dates are easy to plan, letter writing is not dead and potlucks are really fun. You don’t have to become a social butterfly but do hold on to the friends you have and make sure they know that they are important to you! That isn’t done enough in my opinion.
  4. Create. Totally open-ended, totally depends on what you enjoy and what you’d love to try. I believe we all have something inside of us that needs to create things whether it be an elegant computer code, your very first knitted scarf or a story. I’m sure there’s something that you’re passionate about and if you’re passionate about it you will totally be able to make the time for it in this coming year!

These are my tips to making your year a success (hopefully), let me know what you would have added to the list or what you’re taking from mine!

Technical Writing and I

It’s a struggle.

I’ve always loved writing. Ever since I was a kid, I would fill notebooks up with random stories usually centered around my current favourite animal and document my day, journal-style. I was a voracious reader and for a good portion of my childhood, I thought I had it in me that I could one day be a famous author. That or a pet shop store owner, that it.

Fast forward to my first year of university where I get to take a wonderful, joyous and soul sucking class about technical report writing.

It could be the fact that it took place at 5pm on a Friday but it could also be the fact that we relearned basic grammar and got reminded that anything imaginative and unprofessional was not needed.

The one thing that I’m actually thankful that I learned in that class was the proper use of the word “whom” which says a lot about everything else that was taught.

Right now, I’m actually required to do a lot of technical reports and summaries for my coop job which feels a lot different from that writing class in that people are going to actually read them and need them to be at a certain level while in class, the only person I had to impress was the TA and only enough to get a decent grade.

The part that is similar is that it’s still like pulling my own teeth in order to produce something other people would consider a professional technical report. I still do love writing as a way to get my thoughts out on paper (hello! I have a blog!) but I find the methods completely different.

I have to go through an entire process where

  • I first ramble out what I want to say in this sort of format, bolding and italicizing words and sections in the process (bold means “is this really important enough to add” and italics means “I’m too busy to find a good synonym right now but there is no way in heck that this word is going to be in the final draft”)
  • Then I need to go back through it and make better sections and subheadings in order for things to be clearer. My saving grace turns out to be bullet points because everyone loves their easy, informative layout but I also don’t have to put together sentences that actually flow!
  • Finally, I correct everything by reading it out loud to myself under my breath and rearranging everything until it is actually good. And I always have to remind myself to go through the bolded and italicized text to fix what past me left for future me.

I think in my time here I have improved on my writing skills just from sheer volume of writing and that those professional connector words like moreover and consequently are slowing worming their way into my textular vocabulary.

I would love to actually go back and read that report on Composite Parts for Automobiles I handed in for my final grade in that class to see how bad it looks from my newly experienced eyes.

Reverse Procrastination

While I was shirking my responsibilities, discovering new corners of the internet to get lost in, I had a novel idea.

I’m pretty sure everyone in the universe experiences the phenomenon where when you really need to get something done but there’s still enough of a window that you’re not in last minute panic mode it seems like absolutely everything else is way more interesting. I find that things are more relatable on tumblr, the click bait on facebook is much more enticing and my room is way too messy to continue this way. Every activity, be it learning how to lip read or discovering some new music, is ten times more exciting than the actual thing that you are obligated to do.

I know I myself have tried the method of inducing that last minute panic earlier than it actually would come by giving myself random deadlines but it’s so easy to pretend you didn’t see the clock turn 6pm or something.

So this brainwave that I had incorporates this concept and attempts to transform it into something useful for productivity rather than detracting from it.

If you rig it right, somehow, you need to trick yourself into thinking that the work you have to do is a distraction from your real distractions.

Confused? I would be too.

What I’m trying to get at is turning the tables on yourself. Open twitter and give yourself a deadline to write a fantastic and retweet worth blurb and pretend like you are not allowed to do anything until that happens. Then, in another tab, have the research on solar panels that you’ve been trying to do all afternoon just sitting there and see what happens.

Obviously I haven’t actually tried this and there is the obvious pitfall that you could open an entirely different tab with a quiz on what famous internet cat you are (is that a thing?? you never know… And there is!!) BUT it’s an idea is all I’m saying. And as someone that actually needs to be researching solar panels right now, I have written two blog posts in a row so at least I was slightly productive with this technique…

Try this and tell me your findings, fellow internet scientist/procrastinators, whichever you identify with most!

I couldn't resist
I couldn’t resist

Study Tips

Having just had three midterms in the past four days, I think I can classify myself as a sort of expert in this kind of thing.

And now I’m about to pass my expertise down onto you guys, do with it what you will. These are the things I usually do to stay focussed and to actually get the information to stay in my brain when studying for tests. Let me say now that it’s a really good idea to study before the night before a test because you’re hardly going to retain any information like that, even with all the tricks in the world.

1. Figure out what kind of learner you are. This is super important when studying!! I cannot stress that enough! You could be totally visual, auditory, kinesthetic or any combo of the three in how you learn. This really affects how you should go about preparing your notes.

–> Lets say you’re more visual. You should definitely try to use lots of colours and flashcards because those things tend to stick in your mind better. I’m like this and I always colour code my notes and organize them on an unlined sheet of paper (why I am saying that in the singular, it was definitely a plural amount of paper) so that it’s really easy for me to physically picture the paper in my head and pretty much read off the information I wrote down from memory.

–> If you remember things by hearing them, you’re an auditory learner. If you’re really a go getter, you could totally record your lectures and listen to them later. Otherwise, just reading the textbook and/or your notes out loud to yourself, family or even pets helps ideas stick in your brain.

–> If you’re the type of person that can’t sit still in class, it’s likely that you’re a kinesthetic learner. I am also very much this. And I know how much it sucks to make yourself sit down and memorize stuff. That’s why I like to rewrite my notes. Yes, it’s pretty time-consuming (even though I do condense them quite a bit) because writing is moving and my brain seems to remember things once I’ve written them down rather than just looked at a paragraph of text. Also, by putting little notes all over the house with things you need to know means that you don’t have to be sitting down at your desk the entire time you’re studying. Whenever you go to the fridge, you can read your list of strong acids and bases. Every time you open your laptop, you’ve got your list of formulas necessary to memorize for calculations. Works like a charm.

2. Set goals. When all you have on your to do list is “study”, not a lot is going to get done. By breaking up everything you need to do into smaller, more manageable chunks, it makes it easier to stay on track. Seriously, if your closest goal is to just “know everything I need to know for this test” then, man, you’re doomed. Try things like “finish notes on this chapter” or “do every second example on page 455” or even “understand  this one concept” because not only does tell you exactly what you have to do but you feel a little more motivated every time you finish something, no matter how small it is!

3. Reward system. Related to the above tip, treat yourself!! Let’s say you’re kind of hungry and there’s a container of strawberries in the fridge you would just love to demolish. Instead of rationalizing your ability to both eat something messy and stay focussed on the task at hand (which obviously you won’t do) just tell yourself that after you finish this one thing, then you get to go feed yourself guilt-free! Works with watching an episode of your favourite show or chilling with your pet. You’ll be really excited to go do whatever it is that you’ll just have to finish what you set out to do first.

4. Schedule. When you plan out your day/study time, it’s a lot easier to stay on top of things. You can set expected times to be finished with certain things and can even schedule in free time in there. That way it’s not 1am with you wondering where the time went.

5. Examples! Some things are pretty much just memorizing (looking at you, bio) but other things are just practical applications of skills. There are infinite situations that can arise and it’s next to impossible to have them all memorized so the best thing you can do is examples. By repeatedly using the same method tweaked a little bit for each question you try out, it becomes all the more easy for your brain to recognize what to do in that kind of situation or something similar. (I’m looking at you, integration)

6. Background music. Definitely put on music if you’re the kind of person that listens to music while studying but be careful about what kind of music it is! I know you really like Elle Me Dit by MIKA but do you really think you can quietly read your notes while the music is begging to be danced around to. And don’t even think about Disney soundtracks because there is no way in heck that you won’t break out singing to Let It Go. I suggest quiet music that doesn’t really demand to be heard like Owl City’s quiet songs or wordless soundtracks. (The How To Train Your Dragon one is phenomenal)

6. If you’re going to procrastinate, do something useful. With all these previous tips, I’m making it sound like I am the jedi master of studying and nothing ever gets to me. Could not be more opposite! For instance, I’ll be writing blog posts or thinking of hilarious tweets when I should really by thinking about differential equations. And I’ve been known to discover new music instead of memorizing the properties of inverse matrices. But my advice to you is that should you find yourself in a situation when you just physically cannot make yourself be productive school-wise, be productive elsewhere! Make your bed! Make a sandwich! Make a scarf! Yes, you’re not studying by something good still came from it and you will feel 400% less horrible about yourself than if you just sat staring at your papers or playing flappy bird. Trust me.

So there you have it! My surprisingly long-winded post regarding everything I know about shoving information into your head so that you can later regurgitate it onto a test! Let me know if you find anything helpful or if you have some super secret technique that I didn’t mention here!

//If you’re nowhere in the mood to study and nothing can change your mind, check this post about Procrastination Tips out