Set your Priorities: Putting First Things First

Putting first things first is likely one of the most important and most difficult challenges we face as adults. There are so many pressures and all of them come with the insistence that they are the MOST important. When everything is the MOST important, paralysis ensues and nothing gets done.

Earlier this week I was speaking with a student in the elevator about her day. She commented that it was a busy day, but that she was there to finish a degree she had delayed years earlier. She went on to explain that when she had her daughter, she stopped school to focus on her daughter with the intent of starting back when her daughter started Kindergarten. Her daughter started Kindergarten this fall and she started back on her degree, determined to get it finished. She obviously knows how to prioritize her life and understands how to put first things first. While her choices may not be the same for you, it is still up to you to make conscious choices about your priorities.

While you are in the season of getting your degree, don’t be easily pulled away. Jesus, in talking about the cost of discipleship in Luke 14:25ff, urges those listening to count the cost with the realization that following him will be costly, but will also be worth everything.

The same concept applies, although with obviously lesser consequences, regarding the pursuit of your academic goals. You have counted the cost and started your degree. Don’t treat this casually by missing nights unnecessarily, or coming late unless unavoidable, by not completing your homework, or plagiarizing your work. This is YOUR future; Put first things first.

Everything is not of equal importance, and the importance of different priorities changes over time. Keeping the first things first is the surest path to success. Take the time at least yearly, but preferably once a quarter to evaluate the different priorities in your life. You can always find an excuse to delay your goals and procrastinate, but the one who suffers when you do that, in the long-run, is you and potentially your family. Put first things first.

 

Be Present in the Moment

Being present in the moment is one of the secrets of level 5 leaders. This is a skill that is often ignored or discounted by those aspiring to leadership who are busy trying to be all things to all people. Great leaders know how to come fully into the moment and focus their attention, intelligence, and relational energies in working with people and issues.

For more on this check out the short video below:

Multitasking = Mediocrity

Multitasking is doing two or more things at the same time. For example, watching television, reading a book or playing a video game, while listening to a lecture.  A LOT of people swear that when they do this they are able to concentrate better, learn more, and are more productive. However, studies have shown that when you attempt to multitask, both activities suffer. That is, neither activity gets 100% of your attention.

For more on this check out the short video below:

5 Tips on Succeeding at College

Ok, you definitely DON’T want to drop out or quit before you graduate. Doing so will only leave you with a debt to pay back and no degree to support a better job or give you employment options. But, there are a lot of pressures on you: family, work, relationships, parents, kids, car problems, sitter problems, and on and on and on, which definitely can make quitting seem like an option.  IT IS NOT AN OPTION (say that a couple of times). You have invested too much to quit, and you are strong enough and smart enough to make it through to the end.

Here are a few tips that have worked for me.

  1. Don’t forget to pray. It may sound simple, even cliche`, but God does give strength and help. Praying can be a casual conversation that you can have at any time.  I also highly recommend some stray moments when you find a quiet place and write out your thoughts and concerns. I have found God really uses these times to help me find a perspective which can be easily lost in all the day-to-day pressures. Trust me in this, PRAYER does make a difference.
  2. Don’t miss a class except in an emergency. I know you can potentially miss a class without it affecting your grade, but when you do you are only short-changing yourself. The information in that class session could unleash the thought that could transform your understanding of the subject or even your life. Part of the benefit of any class session isn’t just the lectures and discussions, but how God works through them to give you epiphany’s of thought that be transformative.
  3. Take notes. You may not think you need to take notes, but that would be WRONG. Taking notes helps embed the information more firmly in your brain, allowing you to have better retention for tests, but more importantly allowing your brain to have fuel for solving real-life problems outside of class. Taking notes is one of the major secrets of those who succeed.
  4. Keep in mind that “all of life can be reduced to relationships.” This is something I believe with all my heart and soul.  No matter where you are at, God will use the relationships you have with those around you to improve you, or so that you can benefit them. We are never alone in our walk, although it can seem that way sometimes. Take a risk and reach out to the other students in your classes.  Begin to connect with them and you will find the class itself more enjoyable and your ability to stay the course enhanced.
  5. Speak up. Ask a question, get clarification, share an example that agrees with or disagrees with the point the Instructor is making. Make it a point to speak up, relative to the course, at least once each class session. There are several benefits that you reap by doing this: 1) You are more engaged in the discussion and will gain a better understanding, 2) You will retain the information better because you are making it more relevant to your own life, 3) Depending on your attitude, the Instructor will begin to see you as someone who wants to learn which creates a positive impression. Be genuine, but speak up!

Hope these tips help.  We are ALL pulling for you to finish the race and get that degree.

 

6 Tools to Clip, Annotate, and Save Online Content

The ability to clip and save online content is a necessity for our day. The article below appeared originally in Educational Technology and Mobile Learning. I personally use Evernote as my preferred web clipper and hardly a day goes by that I don’t clip an article or several from different web sites to add to my files, all easily searchable. Check it out, and then try it out.

Below is a collection of some good Chrome extensions that can help you maximize your productivity and make the best of your online browsing experience. These are web clippers you can use to save important materials you come across online such as webpages, PDFs, images, videos, etc and have them handy when you have time or when needs be. More importantly, using these extensions will enable you to annotate your clipped content and read it in a clutter-free space. Also, you will be able to access all of your saved content across various devices ( laptop. tablet, and phone).   READ MORE

Everyone has the same number of hours in a day

Here is an interesting exercise which I have found quite enlightening the times I’ve done it.  Keep track of your day in a log accounting for every minute of your day in 15 minute blocks for a week.  Log how much time you spent answering emails, on Facebook, talking with coworkers, making phone calls, eating, driving, watching TV, surfing the internet, etc.

For more on this – check out this short video:

Staying Organized

I am guessing you are busy. Probably VERY busy. Possibly near drowning in busy.  I’ve been there and I have discovered a way to keep myself organized and along the way become extremely efficient.  It starts with a program/application called Todoist.  I’ve recorded a short tutorial about Todoist below which spells out what it can do and shows you the basic screens.  As I mention in the video, I like this program for several reasons:

  1. It is free. While there is a paid version, you don’t really need it.
  2. It is cross platform, meaning I can have it on my desktop on my computer (I always keep a tab open in my browser to Todoist, which I consult several times a day) and on my phone or tablet.  By having it on my phone, I can easily add to it anywhere I’m at and it syncs up with my other versions.
  3. It can connect with Outlook or Gmail or Google Calendar – meaning I can take emails and send them to Todoist
  4. It works with virtual assistants such as Alexa or Google Assistant.
  5. I can easily add repeating events – this is a big plus and one almost impossible to do on a paper list.
  6. It is EASY – this is not a complicated program.  It is extremely easy to use – which means that I actually use it!

The only thing that was difficult in switching from paper lists was committing.  To get the most out of Todoist you need to go “all in.” Once I did that I couldn’t have been happier.  I add to my list easily. I can rank the items on the list for importance.  I check off what I’ve completed, and what I haven’t completed I simply move to the next day.

Check out the video and give it a try – I think you’ll love it!

Using the Cloud Effectively

I would consider this to be one of the most important tips for anyone, but especially for students. I’m still a student, although not in a formal program, as I am constantly learning and adding information. Two of my Strength’s Finder strengths are related to this: Learner and Input. The largest problem we face is how to effectively manage the information that comes to us through our classes and life in general.  I have four strategies for you:

Here is a quick summary of each and how I use them:

Dropbox. It has a downloadable application for your computer which makes it appear as another folder for you to save files to.  What happens in the background is that it automatically syncs with the cloud so my data is always backed up. I use this for all my personal files and rarely store anything to a different folder on my computer.  It also has cross-platform compatibility so I can access those files from my android phone, my iPad, or where ever I can access a web browser.

Google Drive. Google Drive also stores files and has an application for the computer which makes it available for storing documents/files, which are synced automatically with the cloud.  It also has cross-platform compatibility so it has apps for Android, iOS. What I like about Google Drive are the build in applications, e.g. word processor, spreadsheets, presentation, plus a bunch of others.  These apps are all built for collaboration so multiple people can work on them at the same time from various locations. Very Cool and Very Useful.

Evernote. I’ve been an Evernote fan for a long time.  Essentially think of it as a file cabinet. That would be interesting but think of it as a file cabinet you can easily put things into and carry with you so that you always have access.  In some ways, it is similar to Dropbox, but it has a little different functionality, e.g. you can download a web clipper for your favorite browser and “clip” web pages or articles directly to your Evernote account.  I have a folder titled “Web Articles” full of things I’ve saved over the years.  There is also a download which allows you to “clip” emails to Evernote. Everything is fully searchable and you can allow sharing (which all these programs allow) with whoever you like.  For the geeks among us, IFTTT works great with Evernote.

Finally OneNote – it isn’t linked like the others are, since you already have access to it through your free version of Office 365. (Yes, if you didn’t already know it, as a student at Belhaven University you have access to Office 365). OneNote functions almost exactly like Evernote, including web clipper and email clipping.

Honestly, I use these four applications weekly, if not daily.  I am able to store stuff, share it with whoever I like, find it when I want it. Here is an example. I have a folder in Evernote labeled Recipes.  I take pictures from a magazine of recipes I like with my phone and add them to that folder, or I see it on the web and “clip” it to that folder, or I type it directly into a document, even including a picture of the finished dish.  Then I can share it with others in my family, either one recipe or the whole folder.  Think of the possibilities!  I’ve been doing this for years.

These applications will make you more efficient in practically every aspect of your life.  Because they are well known, most other programs can link easily to them in one way or another.