How to make the most of the “Lazy Days of Summer”

We’re deep into summer now. Last semester feels like a distant memory and we’re still a month out from the new school year. I’m sure the last thing you want to be thinking about right now is getting back into coursework, but here are a few things to keep in mind as you begin preparing for your return to campus.

1. Check out Canvas. Some professors already have their Canvas pages live for the Fall semester. You may be able to see the syllabus or get a head start on some of the early readings. It’s always good to know when the big assignments are due ahead of time so you can start planning around them. Plus, if you’ve registered for more classes than you plan on taking, you might be able to decide ahead of time based on the available syllabi.

2. Spend some time reflecting. What went well in previous semesters? What didn’t go well? Think back to your last round of finals and how you prepared for them. What would you want to do again in the upcoming semester? Accruing exam preparation techniques over the summer will put you in a better place when the first round of exams happens.

3. Have fun! Now is the time to catch up on sleep and activities that you enjoy but might not get a chance to partake in during the school year. Go for a hike or catch up on that science fiction book you’ve been wanting to read. Binge on a new Netflix series. Spend time with friends and loved ones. This way, you’ll come back to campus refreshed and ready to take on the challenges of a new school year.

Remember, if you are in the area this summer or want to do an online appointment, we are open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and we’d love to work with you! We are also already accepting appointments for the Fall, so give us a call once you know your class schedule!

Staff Writer: Cassie Lo

Welcome Boot Campers

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“Writing begins when our fear of doing nothing at all outweighs our fear of doing it badly.”

     ~  Louis de Bernieres

So, how about a hearty shout-out to all the members of the Spring ’17 cohort of Dissertation Boot Camp.  Whether you are at the stage of proposing, or data crunching or actually dissertating, congratulations – you’ve made it this far, and like we’d say back in the day, that ain’t nuthin’.

For those not in the know, Dissertation Boot Camp is brought to you by your Graduate Student Center.  The boot campers resolve to arrive on-site every morning for two weeks, turn off their email/social media, and get right down to it and have at it until early afternoon.  They also get the opportunity to meet one-on-one with a Weingarten instructor to discuss their project, timelines and any unique challenges.  Dissertation Boot Camp has become a popular program, and has been running for more semesters than your blogger can count.  I mean, your humble blogger could count semesters, but that would require needless additional research, and procrastinating on the writing of this blog post by engaging in needless additional research would be setting a bad example.

For those of you who couldn’t do boot camp this semester, fret not, here are a few helpful hints from your learning center:

  • Inviolable Writing Time – Essential and non-negotiable, inviolable writing time is the basis for Dissertation Boot Camp and the “secret” to completing any writing project of considerable length. This means you set your weekly writing time and then you guard it ruthlessly.  Nothing and no one gets to intrude on this time.  If something comes up that needs time, steal the time from something else.
  • Log Off, Sign Out – Writing time can never be inviolable if you are obsessively checking email or social media. For three or four or five hours, you must remain out of the loop, away from everything that is not related to your project.  And let’s have none of that nonsense about multitasking; your project demands as much focus as you can muster.   Besides, in your blogger’s humble opinion multitasking is a sinister plot created by rogue elements in the human resources industry to make writers feel insecure about their “efficiency”.  Confirming this notion, however, would require additional needless research, and since we’ve already dismissed needless additional research, I’m moving on.
  • Visit Your Learning Center – Dissertation support is a popular service here at Weingarten. We can help you with managing the project or thinking through research strategies.  We provide you with a totally confidential, non-judgmental space.  Just think of us as the human embodiment of a hot bowl of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich – soothing.

 

Pete Kimchuk

Senior Learning Instructor

Resolutions for a Fresh Start

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“And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!

            And gie’s a hand o’ thine!

And we’ll tak a right gude-willie waught

            For auld lang syne.”

~  Robert Burns

Have you ever wondered why, when the ball drops at midnight, nobody seems to know all the words to the song, other than the pressing question of whether or not the auld acquaintance should  be forgot, and that bit about the auld lang syne?  Well, now you know.  Above is the 5th verse (yes, really, there are five verses) in all of its Scots glory, which now allows you to feel better about New Year’s Eve, and which now allows me to type the phrase “right gude-willie waught” one more time and drive spell check into wiggly red underscore frenzy.

Go ahead:  sing the 5th verse.  You know the melody.  Give it spin.  I’ll wait here.

Fun, huh?

Anyway, now that we got the melody looping in your head for the rest of the day, let’s talk Resolutions.

The problem with most resolutions, especially those of the improving-my-academic-performance variety, is that our planning can be overly ambitious.  It’s like resolving to whip yourself into shape by adopting a plan where you work out three hours a day, seven days a week and, falling short of the lofty goal, abandon the initial resolution for yet another shameful period of slothful anti-health.  It’s supposed to be a resolution, not a guise for self-punishment.

If you’re looking to post better grades and/or learn more, start with small, simple strategies.  Let’s get back to basics:

  • Review your lecture notes after class within 24 hours. This needn’t require a massive amount of time; 20 to 30 minutes max.  Couldn’t get to the notes in 24 hours?  Don’t abandon the resolution, adjust the plan and get to them in 48.
  • Go to class.   Even if you think you don’t get anything out of lecture because A) I hate the professor  B) The lecture makes no sense and I just get more confused  C) Life is so much better in bed  –  lecture is still three hours a week with the course material.  At the very least, if you’re not replacing missed class time with study time, you’re falling further behind.
  • Read more, especially if it seems like you don’t read at all. I’m not saying read everything.  Remember the whip yourself into shape thing earlier?  Same principle.  Start with Power Point slides, or chapter summaries.  And don’t just read for the sake of reading, think about what you’re reading.
  • Come to Weingarten. Our friendly learning instructors know their way around all kinds of academics-related resolutions.  At least one of us knows what a right gude-willie waught is.

Now sing the fifth verse of Auld Lang Syne one more time.

 

Pete Kimchuk

Senior Learning Instructor

Notes from a Long-Time Student: StayFocusd

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In a previous post I talked about the app SelfControl. The Learning Instructors at Weingarten and I love SelfControl. The only downside to the app is that it is only available for iOS users. However, there are other great apps that work for both Mac and Windows powered computers that serve the purposes of, and may even surpass, SelfControl. One of these innovations is StayFocusd, a Google Chrome add-on that promotes productivity by limiting the amount of time you spend on distracting sites. Ranked at 4.5 stars by 4,048 users as of this week, StayFocusd is a promising feature for anyone looking to–you guessed it– stay focused.

So, how exactly does StayFocusd increase your productivity? In a nutshell, StayFocusd allows you to set usage time caps–weekly and daily–for specific sites. As you can see from the image below, the “Max Time Allowed” function of the program allows you to set a cap for the time you’re allowed to browse the sites you’ve indicated on your Blocked Sites list. This is a great feature for those of us that would like to continue to be social, on social media, for example but would rather not spend any more than 20 minutes per day.

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StayFocusd doesn’t only allow you to limit your time on sites on a daily basis, it also allows you to pre-program those settings for different days of the week. Say you don’t have class on Thursdays and want to allow yourself a little more virtual social time, simply unclick Thursday from your “Active Days.” Now, your blocked site settings will apply every day of the week, except Thursdays.
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If that’s not enough to keep you focused, you can try to limit the time frame during which your pre-allotted time on the sites is available for use with the “Active Hours” function. This function is super easy to set up and is precise up to the minute.

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If you find that your settings are still not quite working the way you’d like them to and you need to stay away from additional sites for even longer periods of time you can use “The Nuclear Option.” This function sounds a lot more intimidating than it is in reality. Independent of your “Active Hours” and “Active Days” settings, The Nuclear Option will block/allow the sites you indicate for a specific amount of time. Once you click “NUCKE ‘EM!” there is no going back, until your timer runs out. This is a great function because you are also able to schedule these blocks/allowances ahead of time.

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Now, all of these functions are great but what if you absolutely have to go back to one of the sites that you’ve blocked? You can request a challenge! Challenges essentially ask you to complete a more or less tedious task in order to change your settings. Below is an example of what you may be asked to complete.

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Perhaps the only downside to StayFocusd is that it is directly linked to Google Chrome. However, this partnership also makes the add-on very accessible; the logo shows up on your browser and is easily available for changes. To test out StayFocusd, I used it to schedule my virtual time online throughout the week, and it worked seamlessly.

Add-ons and apps like StayFocusd and SelfControl are great at promoting efficiency and productivity throughout the school year. However, remember that the internet is only one source of distractions. Be conscious of where you are working, when, with whom, and your study habits. If you would like to discuss how these features can work for you schedule an appointment with a Learning Instructor at Weingarten.

Staff Writer: Erica Saldívar García