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5 + 2 Things To Try This Semester

Starting FreshBack to School

The new school year has begun. These first few weeks are a time of heady possibility: exams haven’t yet sucked your will to live; conflicting paper deadlines haven’t yet made you curse the invention of written language.

I want you to take advantage of these golden days by committing to try some new and exciting things this semester. Make these resolutions now, before life gets too tough. To help you in these efforts I’ve listed seven suggestions for things you should try — five you’ve seen before and two are brand new. Now is the time to upgrade your college career. Take action while you still can.

Five Things You’ve Meant to Try But Haven’t Yet

  1. Adventure Studying
    Just because everyone else studies in the library doesn’t mean you have to as well. The adventure studying philosophy says you should decamp to the most exotic possible places — from the beach, to the forest, to art museums. (See also this case study of adventure studying in action.)
  2. Launching a Grand Project
    Are you working on something so compelling that when you describe it to people they exclaim: “wow!” If not, you should be. Not only does it keep life exciting, but it will help unlock outstanding opportunities down the line.
  3. Calculating Your Churn Rate
    If you’re the type that has lots of big ideas but not lots of accomplishments, then you need to rethink how you measure productivity. Forget endless lists of small tasks, and focus instead on your churn rate, a metric that captures the speed with which you actually complete projects.
  4. Fixing Your Schedule in Advance
    The concept is simple. Fix the number of hours you want to work, then move backwards from there to construct a lifestyle that matches this goal. It might require drastic cuts to your schedule. Your double major might go out the window as might most of your activities. You might start saying “no” a lot more than before. But you’ll be in control of your own life and live the lifestyle you want to live, not what was forced upon you.
  5. Seeking Randomness
    Entrepreneur, writer, blogger, NPR commentator and college sophomore Ben Casnocha has a simple rule for launching an interesting student career: seek out randomness. Lots of it. If you schedule every minute of your day you’re going to miss out on the opportunities that really catch people’s attention.

Two New Things to Add to Your List

  1. Travel Somewhere Alone
    It’s a crazy idea. Get on a train. Go to a new city. Spend a couple days by yourself. Wander the streets, think big thoughts, figure out your life, maybe even get some real concentrated studying done. We’re so busy we often forget to take time to reflect. Do so while you still have the flexibility to get away.
  2. Sign-up for a PE Course
    There’s something therapeutic about working your muscles, in the company of other people, two or three times a week. It burns away stress and clears the mind. Joining a PE class is a simple way to hold yourself accountable to this goal. For me, at Dartmouth, it was raquetball. For others its basketball or tennis. Whatever seems like fun; just get yourself out of your dorm and to the gym on a regular basis.

8 thoughts on “5 + 2 Things To Try This Semester”

  1. For me a new concept would be to travel with friends!

    The idea of seeking randomness is very appealing. What is the saying life is what happens while you are making other plans? Something like that.

    Journaling in a museum is always a good idea.

  2. Cal:

    So day 4 on the system and the bottom really fell out here. I’m realizing why I became a “grinder” in the first place. I have no sense of objective understanding of how long tasks are going to take me. if most people are off by a factor 2 then i’m usually off by an order of magnitude. Your system has really helped me identify tasks and know which deadlines are coming up when. But I find that unless I sit down and lock myself in a location and say “you cannot leave until this assignment is finished” then i have a very difficult time actually accomplishing any complex task. The system is fine for things that I know how to do already, or even for things i know that i don’t know. But the problem is the unknown unknowns are what dominate the length of time I spend studying and by definition they aren’t on my calendar at all. The result is, I completely missed the deadline for my first assignment, due today while i got all sorts of other smaller tasks done for other classes.

    I really would love to have a life man and your book inspired me to think that was possible, but its not looking good here…

    -Sleepless in Ithaca

  3. Your system has really helped me identify tasks and know which deadlines are coming up when. But I find that unless I sit down and lock myself in a location and say “you cannot leave until this assignment is finished” then i have a very difficult time actually accomplishing any complex task.

    I don’t accept when people assign themselves certain set-in-stone limitations — e.g., I can’t do work unless forced. Humans are flexible and complicated; few traits are hardwired, especially those dealing with some some high-level as time management. You’re dealing with preference and mindset — both easily fixable.

    My advice would be to practice time blocking. See this article:

    Next, think about starting to rev up an auto-pilot schedule for the work you do know how to do:

    Finally, just start everything early and work in smaller chunks:

    I have faith in you here. It’s about starting to take the small steps, like those listed above, and letting the benefit accrue!

  4. Seeking randomness contains much more wisdom than what it may appear at first glance.

    For instance, last year I attended a career’s fair which didn’t caught the attention of my classmates and friends. In that fair, apart from talking to a varied set of engineers from different countries, I got to know the possibility of working at the biggest particle physics lab in the world.. where I am right now.

    Don’t get fooled; focusing on your grades and projects is your first goal. But make sure that you search (and ultimately find) opportunities that match your academic accomplishments.


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