Posts filed under 'productivity'

3 Tips to Help You Graduate Early (or At Least on Time!)

Did you know that over the past few years, more and more students have been graduating “late”? It’s true–they’re taking more than the typical 4 years to graduate college, and you know what that means: extra years of studying, and extra years of tuition.

No thank you.

Wondering what’s going on? For many students its a combination of several factors, from difficulty wading through boring GEs to trouble getting in to their upper division courses to switching majors mid-way through college. Don’t get caught with a second Senior year! These 3 simple tips can help you make sure you graduate on schedule (or maybe even a little early!).

Cash in AP Credits

If you took AP courses in high school and passed the national exam with a 3 or above, you could earn college credit for those high school classes. Check out your school’s AP policy to see if you qualify, and make sure they received an official record of your test scores so you get your maximum course credits.

And once you’ve got those scores logged, don’t forget to make them count toward your GE requirements! My AP U.S. History score knocked two full classes off my GE requirements, so I only had to take one more history class to complete my GE history section. Don’t let those credits go to waste!

Make Time for Academic Advising

Even straight-A students need help understanding the ins and outs of college major requirements, so stop by your academic advisory office before you set up your classes for next semester. Your academic advisor can not only help you ensure you are on the fast track to your major, but also talk to you about opportunities like studying abroad or pursuing a minor. And they the inside track on classes, so if you’re having trouble getting in to a coveted upper division, your advisor may actually be able to help!

“Crash” Courses

Every quarter I signed up for 16 credits, plus one extra class (this gave the the freedom to drop one!). Sometimes that extra course was a “crash” class–one that had so many students already enrolled that I couldn’t be admitted without showing up to a few lectures and getting signed off by the professor. It takes a little extra work at the beginning of a quarter or semester, but most of the time I got into the class by the third or fourth class day–which meant I was able to fulfill my major requirements quickly, and rarely ended up taking a filler class instead of one I really needed.

If you are still having trouble after several crash days, don’t forget to pay your academic advisor a quick visit to see if he or she can help you get in!

These three tactics combined helped me graduate in under four years–which also let me get a jump on the job market as a new grad. Give them a try!

Good luck and happy studying. 🙂


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5 comments April 29th, 2010

5 Productivity (or Social Life) Boosting Gmail Features

Since you now all know that I’m a geek, it shouldn’t surprise you that I’ve scrolled through and checked out all the optional features found in Google Labs (that little green beaker in the top right corner of your screen) in the darling of all webmail, Gmail. It’s time to click on that bright green icon () and see what you’ve been missing–these 5 features are a must have for Gmailing college students.

Mail Goggles

Ever get home late–really late–and suddenly decide it’s a great time to send an email to your ex? Oops. Mail goggles is a ridiculous (but, honestly, probably pretty effective) way to make yourself think before you send. You set up your schedule to determine when it goes into effect (like maybe just for emails sent between midnight at 6am, prime returning-from-a-party times), and during those hours you have to solve three basic math problems before your mail will send. If you’re having trouble with the email-equivalent of drunk dialing, this one’s for you.

Undo Send!!!

Already hit send, huh? If you have this feature enabled, it’s not too late to take back that snarky remark about your prof–which you accidentally sent to the whole class. (Curse you, Reply All!) With Undo Send, you have a couple of seconds after your mail is marked “sent” to, well, Undo!!!

Text Messaging (SMS) in Chat

Want to text your BFF without having to search for your cell? (Or need a quick way to text yourself when your phone gets lost in piles of laundry?) Text messaging from Gchat lets you click on your friend’s name, open a chat window, and if he or she is offline, send a quick message right to their phone.

Mark As Read Button

Have you noticed how much work it is to mark an email as “Read” in Gmail? It takes a silly number of steps. The Mark As Read feature puts a button right beside your Delete button so you can quickly manage your mail. So simple, but such a big timesaver.

Google Docs Gadget

Access your most recent documents right from Gmail with a click of a button. A list of your 5 most recent docs appears on the left side of your inbox so you can go from reading your prof’s thoughts on your essay to editing it in one simple step.

Any of these features (or others) make your hit or miss list? Are you using different webmail that you love? Fill in your fellow students in the comments!


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1 comment April 26th, 2010

Prioritizing & Balance: Your Personal Mission Statement

Do you ever feel like just when you’ve finally got your act together, life throws you a curve ball? Whether it’s a hostile roommate, a sick parent, or just the demands of maintaining a healthy job/academic schedule/relationship, the shifts and changes of life can really throw a wrench in carefully laid plans.

Last week I shared some of my simple life-balancing secrets to success, and this week I want to share another one. Bear with me, because it sounds totally cheesy, but now that I’ve done it, I love it.

Man (or Woman) on a Mission

Let’s say you’re the CEO of Nabisco. You know you’d like to make some money, but you haven’t really planned out how you want to get that done–you just know there might be Oreos involved. You figure, you’ll just wing it. How’s that going to go for you?

Probably not so well.

One of the ways big companies stay big (and successful) companies is by defining what they want–exactly what they want–and then breaking it down into small pieces so they can get there.

(And I don’t actually know anything about Nabisco, so sorry, econ majors, if that was a poor example.)

You: a Definition

So now that I’ve hopefully talked you into doing this thing, it’s time to sit down and figure out what your mission statement is – in words. Start by visualizing where you want to be–in one year, five years, ten years. What do you want people to think about you? What do you want them to feel when they’re with you? How do you want to affect your family, your friends, your community, the world?

Basically, what do you want to DO with your life–NOT necessarily your CAREER–but your life.

Write it Down

Go ahead and roll your eyes (I probably would, too, if I hadn’t already done this) but when you’re done, write down your mission statement. It might take some finessing to get it right, but write down your mission statement. Google “mission statement” plus the names of some companies (or even your school) to get an idea of what yours might look like.

Apply It

So, once you’ve got your ultimate lifetime mission statement, what are you supposed to do with it?
Simply put, you apply it. Start looking at your day-to-day activities and tasks from the perspective of how it helps you reach your life mission–and think about that when you are tempted to waste time messing around on the internet or even staring at the ceiling (it has been known to happen!).

So if you felt your life mission was to effect political change, you might spend time researching, networking, volunteering with a political party, etc. If you want to make people happier, you might focus on smaller things like making a phone call to your lonely grandparent or holding open the door for someone at the caf. If you want to write a book, you might shift your classes to focus more on writing techniques, or spend time you used to spend blogging working on a manuscript.

Keep it in Check

That said, now that you’re looking at life with your mission statement in mind, remember that the mission isn’t everything. Your mission statement is not a ruling force of life, but instead a reminder of where your free time could be spent. Don’t give up your job, relationships, or, uh, stop washing your laundry… Just think about your mission statement when you’re building your week schedule, or find yourself with a few extra minutes.

In the end, its all about making the world a better place–and getting to your goals–one step at a time.


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2 comments November 2nd, 2009

Easy Recycling for Old Electronics & Cell Phones

Every time I’ve moved, even just going home for the summer, I find a bunch of stuff I don’t need. In fact last time I started packing up, I came across not one but TWO old cell phones, which I kept because I know you’re not supposed to throw them away (they’re hazardous) but I didn’t know how to recycle them.

Until now!

Drop it Off

Old PDAs, cell phones, batteries, and lots of other electronic accessories can be dropped off at:

Ship It Out

If you don’t feel like making a trip to the store, just make a trip to your mailbox. These retailers and groups have mail-in programs, too, and some offer free shipping.

Check out’s Wireless Recycling page (where I found some of these links) for more information and updates.

Do Some Good

The above recycling programs are a great start, but did you know that your old cell phone could actually help other people? Programs like Cell Phones for Soldiers ( and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence ( have donation programs that put cell phones into the hands of people who need them. Also check out:

photo by erwinbacik

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1 comment May 23rd, 2009

Time Saving Keyboard Shortcuts

I’m on my laptop a lot, for work AND play, so I’m always looking for a way to make that time more efficient. One of the best ways to streamline your process is to learn the keyboard shortcuts so you don’t have to waste time searching through toolbars with your mouse!

So, in the hopes of helping you save a little of your time, I thought I’d collect a few of the most useful PC shortcuts for you. Enjoy! 🙂


  • F1: Opens help
  • ALT+TAB: Toggles between open programs
  • Windows Logo+R: Opens the “Run” dialog box
  • Windows Logo+M: Minimizes all
  • SHIFT+Windows Logo+M: Undo minimize all
  • Windows Logo+D: Minimizes all open windows and displays the desktop

And of course the most basic shortcuts…


  • CTRL+C: Copy
  • CTRL+X: Cut
  • CTRL+V: Paste
  • CTRL+Z: Undo
  • CTRL+B: Bold
  • CTRL+U: Underline
  • CTRL+I: Italic

Want more? Check out these handy shortcut lists:

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4 comments April 7th, 2009

Productivity: Managing Your Time With RescueTime

In college (and after, too) time is precious. Think what you could do if you had an extra thirty minutes every day. You could study so you know the answers to three more mid-term questions, take time to cook something more exotic than Easy-Mac, or schedule in that gym class you’ve been wanting to take.

So guess what? You probably have that extra 30-minutes around, you just need to find out where it is.

Time Tracking

I’ve mentioned RescueTime before (in a post along with a lot of other tips about getting productive)–it is a free software that helps you keep track of what you do with all the time you spend on the computer. (And just so you know, I’m writing this because I think it’s cool–they haven’t contacted me or paid me or anything).

How it Works

RescueTime is built on the idea that we could all trim a little time off our computer usage (*cough*Facebook*cough*) to have more time to spend studying, watching American Idol, or talking to the cute guy/girl across the hall.

It’s a pretty basic setup, too. You install a piece of software, sign up for an account at, and then work as usual. RescueTime tracks what programs you use and sites you visit, and then graphs out your time for you in your online account. (If that seems to Big Brother for you, their privacy policy is here .)

In essence, the software helps you:

  • Track time spent in different applications & on websites,
  • Tag sites and apps,
  • Track your efficiency,
  • Set goals or limit the amount of time you spend using applications or on websites.

For example, if you want to limit your blog browsing to an hour, you can set a “goal” and RescueTime can alert you to your limit. The tag feature will allow you to tag certain sites and applications based on their use, like “Chem 6BL,” “goofing off,” “work,” and “social networking.”

I’ve just started using it, and I’m kind of exited to see how it goes. I’m sure I could spend a little less time facebooking and a little more time getting things done. 😉

image from Rescue Time

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6 comments March 19th, 2009


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