We’re Open for the Summer!

Congratulations! You made it through the Spring semester. For some, Summer classes will be starting up in a few weeks. For others, class is a distant memory until the Fall semester begins in August. Regardless of your course situation, we wanted to let you know that we are open for the summer! The Weingarten Learning Resources Center is staffed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday all summer long and we’re able to meet in person or over the Bluejeans online platform if you are not on campus. While your next set of courses may seem far away, we are always here for you to get a head start on planning or to help tie up any loose ends from the semester. Here are some ways we can support you this summer:

  1. Resolve incompletes:

Work with a learning instructor to create a plan to finish any incompletes you may have. We can make a schedule with realistic, manageable goals that you can accomplish during your summer vacation. We can also discuss how to communicate your action plan with professors.

  1. Time management/exam preparation strategies for summer courses:

Summer courses are unique because they meet several times a week for many hours at a time. Midterms and finals are also closer together due to the short timeframe of the summer session. Because of the time demands for each summer course, it is helpful to set up a study/work schedule in order to get everything accomplished. We have summer planning calendars available at the office!

  1. Prepare for the upcoming Fall semester:

Spend some time reflecting on what went well during this past semester while setting goals for the upcoming semester. You can also discuss new study strategies that you hope to try, or new time management tools that may work for you.

Once you’re back on campus in the Fall, be sure to reach out to us for an appointment ASAP. We are excited to help you prepare for the new academic year. Have a great summer!

Staff Writer: Cassie Lo

Time Management/Study & HW Strategy: The Tomato Method

With readings days fast approaching and finals week close behind, we are all struggling at the end of the semester to find motivation for this last push before the summer break. Ugh, why can’t it be here already? If you’re like me right now, who is so close to feeling burned out, finding the patience and determination to stay focused on small or large tasks seem daunting and unrealistic. One method that I have heard and used as a great strategy for those with short attention spans or low drive would include The Pomodoro Technique, also more simply and commonly known as The Tomato Method.

This time management technique was developed in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo. It’s super easy to implement and can increase productivity when doing tasks. Look at it this way: it’s like you have to run miles and miles to get to your destination, but with the Tomato Method, you accomplish this by doing many sprints with short breaks in between. That way you don’t just procrastinate and give up at the beginning of the line. There are tasks when we can just fly through them, but others times, its just such a drag. In a way, this technique is a lot like chunking your time and task. Check out this short 2 minute video that explains how to get started. Here is a quick summary on how to it all works: tumblr_nnjxvcPVbz1senxz2o1_1280

If you want to use some other websites or other apps on your tech besides a simple time keeper, here’s a list from LifeHacker.com that might be useful as well:

  • Marinara Timer (Web) is a webapp we’ve highlighted before that you can keep open in a pinned tab. You can select your timer alerts so you know when to take a break, or reconfigure the work times and break times to suit you. It’s remarkably flexible, and you don’t have to install anything.
  • Tomighty (Win/Mac/Linux) is a cross-platform desktop Pomodoro timer that you can fire and forget, following the traditional Pomodoro rules, or use to customize your own work and break periods.
  • Pomodorable (OS X) is a combination Pomodoro timer and to-do app. It offers more visual cues when your tasks are complete and what you have coming up next, and it integrates nicely with OS X’s Reminders app. Plus, you can estimate how many pomodoros you’ll need to complete a task, and then track your progress.
  • Simple Pomodoro (Android) is a free, open-source timer with a minimal aesthetic. Tap to start the timer and get to work, and take your breaks when your phone’s alarm goes off. You can’t do a lot of tweaking to the work and break periods, but you get notifications when to take your breaks and when to go back to work, and you can go back over your day to see how many Pomodoros you’ve accomplished over the day. It even integrates with Google Tasks.
  • Focus Timer (iOS) used to be calledPomodoroPro , and is a pretty feature-rich timer for iPhone and iPad. You can customize work and break durations, review your work history to see how your focus is improving, easily see how much time is left in your work session, and the app even offers a star-based rating system to keep you motivated. You can even customize the sounds, and hear the clock ticking when you lock your phone so you stay on task.

Say “bye bye procrastination!” with this technique. Try it out! Or come into Weingarten to try it out with a Learning Instructor.

Staff Writer: Victoria Singh Gill

Scheduling to Reduce Stress Part 2: Google Calendar Edition

As promised, here is part 2 in the scheduling series. This time we will be focusing on the features of Google Calendar to schedule, plan, create and keep track of tasks.

Calculating Hours and Setting up Google Calendar

As in the last article, I recommend starting with a list of your classes and calculated estimated weekly hours needed to maintain academic success. A typical schedule may look like this:

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The next step involved is also the same as before with a few extra steps that will save you time in the long run. Create a schedule in Google Calendar on an hour by hour basis starting first with weekly events (such as classes, meals, meetings, etc.) that are consistent from week to week. Set each weekly item to repeat by clicking on “edit event” in the event creation pop up box. Below the time and date you’ll see a checkbox to repeat the event. Once you check the box, you’ll see a pop up that allows you to select different options:

Repeat box

 

I recommend setting the repeats to automatically end on the last day of classes. This is an important step because when you set up notifications later on, you won’t be left with notifications over the summer that you get used to ignoring.

 

Once you’ve finished building the schedule, it should look something like this:

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Calendar Notifications and How to Use Them

Google calendar has a multitude of notification options and I suggest trying out different ones to see what works for you. There are options for SMS notifications, traditional phone notifications and a daily agenda. The daily agenda is a rarely used and well hidden feature that I highly recommend. The daily agenda is an email agenda sent automatically every morning at 5am to your Gmail account that gives you an hour by hour schedule to follow for the day. You can turn on the daily agenda by clicking the small gear icon at the top right of the screen under your Google avatar then select the following: settings> calendars. Then find your main calendar and on the same row select “edit notifications.” On the next screen you’ll see many options to add notifications but scroll to the bottom to find the “daily agenda” and click the checkbox to activate it. The other options are available for both hourly events and all-day events with distinct options for both including email, SMS and notifications (via phone or browser).

Using Google Tasks with Google Calendar

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 2.45.07 PMIf you’re using Google Calendar for your scheduling, I highly recommend using the integrated Google Tasks function along with the calendar. It is somewhat limited in that tasks are only available on the desktop version and not the app, but the seamless integration is worth the minor inconvenience. By default, Google Calendar integrates “reminders” in place of tasks. To use tasks to you have to click the small triangle next to the reminders option and choose “switch to tasks” as seen in the screenshot above. Once you switch to tasks you can now add a task either by adding an item to the task list on the left-hand side or to a specific day. To add a task to a specific day, click on the day the same way you would to add an event and you’ll see an option to switch from event to task in the create an event popup widget.

Once you add tasks they will show up on the task list, and on the calendar day if they are added to specific date.

 

Staff Writer: Randall Perez

 

Bigger Pictures: Make a Note

“I don’t know what I think until I’ve written about it.” ~  Various Attributions

Of all the things I talk about here at your learning center, the one I always feel a little bit guilty about is notetaking. I always feel like the subject is like a benignly neglected child in a big family, the kid who basically raises herself in a household that is far too stretched and busy to worry about someone who is more or less okay. That’s notetaking.

Lombard_scribeAcademic notetaking has been largely conscribed by one thing:  the lecture. And historically, this makes sense. Back in the mists of time, professors would intone and, well, profess, and students would scratch away, trying to get down every word. It wasn’t uncommon for “serious” students to learn how to take shorthand in order to get down every word.  This technique can be described as truly Mediaeval, with its roots planted firmly in the monastic scriptorium, where sacred text was read aloud while Brother Scribes took down copy. What a gig.

Academia has embraced a few technological advances since the Monastic era, most notably the slide deck. Ah, yes. PowerPoint. Our frenemy. No matter where you come down on the ubiquitous deployment of PowerPoint in the higher ed classroom, there is one undeniable plus: the mad rush to get down every word has been alleviated, at least somewhat. So long as the slides are made available, you don’t have to worry about copying out the entire slide during class. All you really have to worry about is what is said off slide.

But there is another part of notes that gets routinely neglected, and that is the notes you make to yourself, and if you don’t do that now, I’d encourage you to give it a go, especially if you are currently in the type of humanities or social science courses that require you to come up with your own paper topics. These notes capture what you think about the lecture topics or reading material. Think of these kinds of notes as the record of what you think.

And one more thing: these types of notes don’t have to be declarative. Solid questions arising from the reading material count as notes too.

Staff Writer: Pete Kimchuk, Senior Learning Instructor

Scheduling to Reduce Stress

Many of the students I see in the Weingarten Center come in because they feel like they are not using their time efficiently or are studying all the time. When I ask them how they schedule their day and manage their workflow, many students pause then explain that they keep their schedules, deadlines, and assignments in their head, referring to planners or schedules as too rigid. There are many stated reasons that students dislike the rigidity of keeping a planner or calendar, but the most common objection is that the perceived rigidity stresses them out, or they feel they don’t have enough time in their day as it is, so planning daily would be another burden added on to an already stacked plate. The reality is that it takes time to develop new habits and planning sufficiently should reduce feelings of stress over time. There are a variety of resources students can use to fit all working styles such as Google Calendar, Apple iCal, a traditional paper planner and methods of planning referred to as “unscheduling.” This last one tends to resonate with students most hesitant about traditional planning methods.  This blog post is the first in a series that will cover each one of these methods in detail. This first post will focus on traditional paper planning with electronic planning (via Google Calendar and iCal) and unscheduling to follow in subsequent posts.

For most students, my preferred approach to planning includes a combination of setting a regular but flexible weekly schedule, combined with making a daily task list. The first step I suggest to students is to make a list of all of their classes and then estimate a total number of hours of study time necessary to maintain academic success in each class. A typical schedule for a Penn student might look like this:

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 7.23.36 PM

The next step in the process is to map a typical week on an hour by hour basis including class schedule, meals, work study, athletic requirements, sleep, and any other regular weekly meetings other commitments you might have and then fit in study time and self-care/free time in the remaining space.  A typical student schedule may look like this:

Sample Schedule

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 7.26.11 PM

This approach is also helpful when registering for classes. It is important to consider the demands of each class and how demanding they are of your time. There is only so much time in a day and making time for things such as self-care, exercise, sleep and free time is essential to prevent burnout and promote academic success. You may have noticed that I scheduled in general study time instead of assigning work for specific classes in each of those spaces. This is to allow for the flexibility that is necessary for the changing workloads typical in classes throughout the semester. A heavy week in one class may be paired with a light week in another class. I suggest students spend the first 15 minutes of their study time each day making a task list of work for the day. Make sure to break up assignments into smaller tasks of approximately 45 minutes for each task. This is referred to at Weingarten as “chunking your work” and should help to mitigate the desire to procrastinate. You should also take frequent study breaks of about 5-10 minutes after every 45-60 minute work session. This will help maximize productivity and increase knowledge retention.

Staff Writer: Randall Perez

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