Get confused often? Write things down

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When I was young, my father used to constantly remind me to write things down. He insisted I should note down every important point in a rough notebook. I used to loathe this nagging habit of his. I couldn’t see why I need to write down when I could easily remember stuff in my head. However, looking back I think things were simpler then. The textbooks were sufficient and regular exams ensured we stay on track in school.

As I entered high school, things changed. The level of studies got higher in terms of diversity and difficulty. I could no longer read a single notebook and give exams. I was supposed to go through reference books and give my opinion on things. As I entered college, the standard got even higher. Now major portion of my studies involve going through reference material deeply and squeeze out important information. The assignments are more interactive and allow me to think freely, giving my point of view instead of adopting the bookish view.

Still, I didn’t follow my father’s advice. I continued my habit of reading and trying to remember everything. As exams approached, I discovered I don’t remember half of the stuff. I panicked. I was so confident I knew it all, I didn’t make notes. I could remember only in parts and it got me confused and frustrated.

Now I was wishing I should have noted things down. There I was, sitting in the examination hall and getting all confused. Somehow all the information in my head mingled into each other in a way I couldn’t sort it out. I was very upset with myself.

Why writing helps?

The thing is, as a human being we have the tendency to overestimate our strengths. I am good at remembering stuff but I could not recall them in the exam. I realized how important writing is. When we write things down, we are completely engaged in the material. We try to concentrate our knowledge and try to write in easy and simple words. We frame a structure in our mind of what the facts are and how they relate to each other. It is like painting a picture in the brain.

Writing things down prompts you to think straight. Anything you write, you tend to analyze. Subconsciously, we try to make sense of things and when we see written information, we try to relate and verify it with already familiar things. In this process, we make new neuronal connections. In other words, we create long term memory.

Therfore, today’s tip is to write things down. Even if you are not going to look again, even if it is a rough scrambling on paper. Put things in writing. You WILL remember better.

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Hey there! Today I want to tell you about a well known study technique which you might already know about. However, not all people like to do it because it seems difficult and different at first. Mind maps or Spider notes as some people call them, is a way of making notes based on ideas.

Basically, you write down major keywords on a piece of paper and connect them. In these connections more details can be added. 

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The best way to understand them is through an example:

 

The above image has been taken from www.mindtools.com. This website offers step by step guidelines to construct your own mind maps.

If you are still confused, you can check out WikipediaIf you are interested in making spider notes using software, check out this post on lifehacker.

I hope you enjoy making these beautiful little maps. I know I do!

Killing distractions: 3 useful tips to stop wasting time on internet.

Hey there! It is very difficult to stop yourself from opening facebook or gmail when you know your internet is connected. You think ” what the heck? I’m just going to check the notifications” but end up spending an hour and realizing you don’t have the will to study any more. Happens more often than you would like? I’ve got some tips to help you out!

1. Don’t save passwords

Saving passwords on your browser can come in handy when you need to check email real quick. But if you want to stop the habit of checking facebook every 5 minutes, make it difficult to log in. The first step is to remove saved passwords to force yourself to enter email and password every time you log in.

2. Use plug-ins to limit browsing time/blocking websites

Facebook, stumbleupon and youtube are the most time-hacking sites in my opinion. An hour seems to pass by in the blink of an eye. So what is the solution? Is there a way you limit your internet browsing or even block the above mentioned sites? Yes. You can install stayfocusd plug-in and set daily limit of internet browsing. Here is a very useful post explaining stayfocusd and how to use it. Firefox users can check out leechblock. Here is a post about leechblock.

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3. Block websites entirely and enable notifications on phone

There is a feature of getting email and facebook notifications in every smartphone. Use it to your advantage by enabling it. Block time-killing websites on your laptop entirely and set sounds for the notifications on your phone. This way you will know there is no notification if there is no beep alert and no reason for you to open the website.

You can read my post about managing distractions and using them to motivate you to study here.

I hope you like my tips. Please give your feedback in the comments.

Hey there! College is very different from high school. The “cool” people suddenly become creepy and the nerds and geeks become “smart”. These smart people are not necessarily brilliant, they just happen to have best of both worlds. They enjoy late night parties and drinking games, yet manage impressive CGPA.

It can be frustrating to see these people succeed. I have been there. You both hate and admire them. Today I’m going to tell you, they aren’t exceptional. They are smart, smart in the sense that they know their priorities and how to maintain good rapport.

The most common mistake people make in class is not speaking up.

They sit in silence. Sometimes they are afraid to get criticized, other times just being lazy. Speaking in class is very important. It doesn’t matter whether you know the correct answer or not, just giving an answer to your professor’s question can make you stand out in his class.

Your professor must know you.

Ask questions. Use office hours. Get on good terms with him. He can help you much more than you can imagine.

 Give opinions in a respectful manner. Ask questions. Discuss. Speak up.

Never forget a thing: set reminders

Hey there! I absolutely hate it when I go to college and forget to submit a book I borrowed from library. I usually forget such things and end up paying huge fines.

Evernote has been a great help. I set reminders to it whenever and wherever I remember and it buzzes at the right time. I love not having to worry about little things anymore. I can set reminders for weeks or months ahead and forget about it.

Here is an article about starting your mornings perfectly. They have included setting daily goals as one of the 8 ways to get a head-start in the morning.

I’ve written about evernote before. I cannot tell you how much it has helped me (I didn’t take money from them to promote, trust me). I know staying organized is a little pain to start with but in the long run it avoids big breakdowns. I’m thinking of writing a post about it. I’ll update here if I do.

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In conclusion, staying organized and taking care of things when they are small is a key step to success. Setting reminders for tasks you tend to forget can save you on time as well as other resources, like gas.

So, SET REMINDERS. AND DO TASKS ON TIME. 

Do tell me your ideas on staying organized. I’d love to include them in my post.

Think like the examiner

Preparing for exams is perhaps the most daunting task for a student. Today I want to share a valuable tip which can help you ease over the exams.
When you think you’ve studied enough, try asking questions to yourself. What would you do if you were a teacher? How would you set the paper?
e.g. I would have analyzed previous year papers to judge the level and pattern of questions asked. Some of you might start by framing questions on most important topics first. Typically, 80% of the questions are easy and aimed at average students. 20% are there to separate extraordinary minds out of the average.
Start thinking like the examiner. Start framing questions and analyze patterns in previous papers. You will definitely see some of the topics get repeated and get a “feel” of what the question paper could be like.
Best of luck!

How to apply for an undergraduate research position

Being in research is a piece of work. As an undergraduate, it is very difficult to get a training or short term project work in a reputed research lab. I’ve been going through this for a while and thought I should share some points with you:

The most common reasons for rejection:

1. The professor didn’t read your email.
2. He rejected because he isn’t interested in undergraduates. Usually professors dislike training a newbie. They like people who are experienced.
3. The professor is away, out for the summer.
4. His lab is full.

In any of the above cases, persistence is the key. If you keep on mailing, he is forced to reply.
Your letter should be very concise but include important details like your name, institute, education, experience and most importantly why you want to work under him. The GPA score isn’t necessary. You need to convince that guy that he must employ you. 

Some tips:

1. Write a personalized email. Go through the professor’s recent work and tell him what you liked in it. Ask him questions about his research. Most people love to talk about their research.

2. Attend conferences/workshops/seminars. They are a great place to get in touch with experts. No amount of electronic communication can replace face to face communication.

3. Another way to quickly get in touch with a professor is through recommendation. Tell your teachers about the field you are interested in. They might recommend you to someone they know!

3. Show them appreciation and respect. The tone of your letter is a big factor in the decision he makes.

4. If he doesn’t reply in a week, write a follow up email. If he doesn’t this time, remind him next week.  If he rejects, find out why and if you can solve the problem, do it.  However, if he doesn’t reply for more than a month or so, it is best to give up for now.

5. Don’t panic if you don’t know much about his field of research. There is a reason you are a student.

6. If everything else fails, start a project in your institute. Make the best out of what you have.

Here is an excellent post about writing emails with sample.

I hope you get the best out of your college life. Share with me your tips. I’m always curious!