101 Study Snacks

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Today’s post is exactly what it sounds like– a list of 101 tasty, fun, and (mostly) healthy snacks to keep you fueled while studying. Recipes are linked! :)

  1. apple slices with peanut butter
  2. frozen grapes
  3. nice cream
  4. plain popcorn
  5. no-bake energy bites
  6. raw veggies with hummus
  7. watermelon fruit bowl
  8. yogurt
  9. roasted pumpkin seeds
  10. fried rice in a mug
  11. nuts (ideally unsalted!)
  12. pita bread/pita chips with hummus
  13. nutella energy bites
  14. string cheese
  15. fruit salsa and cinnamon chips
  16. dried figs
  17. yogurt-covered blueberries
  18. oatmeal
  19. chia seed bowl
  20. sweet potatoes
  21. homemade potato chips
  22. cauliflower pizza
  23. fruit salad
  24. dark chocolate (actually healthy in moderation!)
  25. roasted chickpeas
  26. acai bowl
  27. cherry tomatoes
  28. english muffin pizza
  29. edamame
  30. cheese and crackers
  31. broccoli bites
  32. mango lassi
  33. pretzels
  34. cereal (cheerios are great!)
  35. raisins
  36. green smoothies
  37. rice pudding
  38. pigs in a blanket
  39. melon balls (the fruit, not the cocktail!)
  40. banana chips
  41. oatmeal banana cookies
  42. soup
  43. caprese salad
  44. strawberries with fruit dip
  45. chips and guac
  46. fig newtons
  47. apple sandwiches
  48. dried cranberries
  49. unshelled sunflower seeds
  50. kale chips
  51. butternut squash chips
  52. apple chips
  53. zucchini chips
  54. carrot chips
  55. beef jerky
  56. egg-in-a-hole toast
  57. rice cakes
  58. ants on a log
  59. hard-boiled egg with black pepper
  60. cucumber rollups
  61. chocolate-covered almonds
  62. wasabi peas
  63. fruit and lemonade popsicles
  64. nori (seaweed)
  65. dried mango
  66. banana bread
  67. muesli
  68. homemade muffins
  69. roasted fava beans
  70. parmesan cheese crisps
  71. egg baked in avocado
  72. pomegranate seeds
  73. turkey wraps
  74. mini pancakes
  75. fruit leather (look for the kind w/o added sugar!)
  76. snap peas
  77. sweet potato fries
  78. applesauce
  79. veggie pockets
  80. fresh fruit with whipped cream
  81. vanilla almond smoothie
  82. chia seed pudding
  83. apple ladybugs (these are adorable!)
  84. clementines
  85. deli meat with cheese
  86. fruit parfait
  87. golden milk
  88. dates
  89. angel food cake
  90. vietnamese spring rolls
  91. avocado spread on toast
  92. mocha latte smoothie
  93. bananas dipped in peanut butter
  94. strawberry cheesecake trifle
  95. trail mix
  96. omelet in a mug
  97. mango with shredded toasted coconut
  98. baked zucchini
  99. almond butter banana bites
  100. apple slices with cinnamon
  101. water!! (okay, this is kind of cheating, but it’s so so important to stay hydrated!)

Thanks for reading! All of my reader interactions and personalized advice can be found on my Tumblr. If you have questions, feedback, or post requests, feel free to drop a Tumblr ask or contact me.:)

—Sophia

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Multiple-Choice Exams

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Hey guys! Today’s short-but-sweet post is about the best ways to study for and take a multiple-choice exam. So without further ado…

1. STUDY APPROPRIATELY

Multiple-choice exams generally focus on facts and little details, so your studying should be adjusted accordingly to reflect this. My favorite way to study for multiple-choice is to use flashcards. Space out your study time into short, regular review sessions so your brain has time to absorb all the new information. Make up your own practice tests (it’s relatively easy to predict multiple-choice questions), find some online, or have a friend quiz you. Acronyms, mnemonics, and making creative associations (i.e. putting vocab words into funny sentences) can also help you memorize faster.

Make sure to pay special attention to these things when studying for a multiple-choice test:

  • important people
  • significant events and their dates
  • vocabulary and definitions
  • theories
  • formulas

2. AVOID TRAPS

Formulate an answer before looking at the choices. This will prevent you from being thrown off by deceptively worded answers.

Read all the choices before answering. Oftentimes, all the answer choices are technically correct, but you’ll have to compare them together to determine which one best answers the question. You might also miss out on an “All of the Above” option if you latch onto the first answer without looking at the others.

Identify the differences between answer choices. Many choices look similar except for a few subtle differences. Watch out for absolutes such as “always” and “never”, similar words such as “hypotension” and “hypertension”, and opposites such as + and -.

Check to make sure you’ve answered the right question. Especially for math questions, test-makers will try to trick you by asking for the value of, say, 2x, as opposed to x. Always double-check to see if your answer actually answers the question. If it’s a fill-in-the-blank question, read the question and the answer together to ensure it makes sense.

3. TRICK THE TEST

Use the test to take the test. Sometimes you can get hints from information contained in other questions.

Watch out for grammar. Look for pronoun-antecedent and subject-verb agreement issues. Sometimes careless teachers only read back over the correct answer without also checking incorrect answers. You might be able to eliminate a few choices if they don’t make sense in the context of the question. Disclaimer: this will only work for in-class assessments, not standardized tests. I also don’t recommend this strategy unless you’ve got a very solid grasp on grammar already– don’t go looking up what an antecedent is for the sole purpose of “tricking” a test.

Choose B or C when in doubt. Again, this will not work on standardized tests, where all the answers are distributed randomly, but studies have shown that teachers tend to make the correct answer B or C more often than A or D.

4. SAVE TIME

Watch your time. Look up at the clock every so often to make sure you’re on target to finish in time. Give yourself the last 5-10 minutes to check your work.

Skip it and move on. Usually all questions on multiple-choice tests have the same point value, so don’t dwell on one question for too long, or you won’t have enough time to get to the rest. If you read a question twice and still have no clue how to go about getting the answer, leave it blank for now. You might be able to come back to it at the end.

But don’t skip around too much. Try to complete the test mostly in order so you don’t waste time shuffling paper and turning pages.

Mark questions as you go. If you skip something, need to double-check an answer, or want to come back to that question for any reason, make a mark on your paper (a star or question mark works nicely) so you can easily find that question later.

Thanks for reading! All of my reader interactions and personalized advice can be found on my Tumblr. If you have questions, feedback, or post requests, feel free to drop a Tumblr ask or contact me.:)

—Sophia

Time Management

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Properly managing your time is a skill that every successful student needs. In today’s post, I’ll be sharing ten of my most effective time management strategies. Let’s go!

1. DEVELOP THE RIGHT MINDSET

First things first, get rid of the “I just don’t have enough time” mindset. Managing your time starts with taking responsibility for conquering the challenges in your life instead of giving up and resigning yourself to accept less-than-ideal amounts of sleep and/or study. In the following activity, I’ll show you that there is absolutely a way to fit rigorous studying into a balanced schedule.

There are 168 hours in a week. Let’s see how that time might be spent:

  • 40 hours at school (8 hours x 5 days) (**Post-high school students will likely only spend 12-18 hours in lectures every week!)
  • 56 hours sleeping (8 hours x 7 days)
  • 14 hours eating, bathing, etc (2 hours x 7 days)
  • 21 hours socializing, extracurricular activities, etc (3 hours x 7 days)
  • 5 hours commuting (30 minutes each way x 5 days) (**See Tip #10 to learn how you can make this time productive!)
  • 3 hours exercising (30 minutes x 6 days)

Add all that time together and you get a maximum of 139 hours spent on all of the essential components of a healthy, balanced life– regular exercise, a full 8 hours of sleep per night, plenty of time for socialization and hobbies, and so on.

But that still leaves 29 hours of your week remaining, which is the equivalent of a part-time job! Nearly thirty hours a week is more than enough time to finish your homework and studying, guaranteed.

So recognize that there are indeed enough hours in the day to get everything done while maintaining your sanity! Developing this mindset will empower you to take control of the way you spend those remaining 29 hours. Make sure to check in with yourself often. Be mindful of how you’re spending your time, and regularly reevaluate to see if you’re on track to hit your goals.

2. PLAN THE NIGHT BEFORE

Each day, invest a few minutes in planning to save yourself hours in execution. While you don’t necessarily have to do this at night, I find that planning the next day right before I go to bed helps me to clear my mind, sleep better, and wake up with a purpose so I can hit the ground running in the morning. Pack your bag, set out tomorrow’s outfit and/or gym clothes, and make a few preparations for breakfast. Then, take a moment to assess the day you’ve just had. What went well? Where could you have made better use of your time? Were there any tasks you didn’t get to that have to be finished tomorrow? Using your mental reflection along with the rest of the tips in this post, create a schedule or a to-do list for the next day.

3. PRIORITIZE

Once you’ve made a list of everything you need/want to get done, sort them by priority to help you direct your focus towards the right tasks. For students with academic obligations, there are three main ways to prioritize tasks:

  • Urgency: Check the due dates for your assignments and prioritize those that are due the soonest. Study for tomorrow’s test before you practice for next week’s presentation.
  • Significance: Prioritize assignments that make up a higher percentage of your class grade. If your English homework is worth 5% of your grade but the essay is worth 50%, place a higher priority on the essay.
  • Potential consequences: Let’s say, for example, that you will most likely end up with a B in science– you have an 83% in the class, your test scores have been Bs throughout the year, and it’s unlikely you’ll score high enough on the final exam to end up with an A average. But maybe in history class, you’re hovering at the edge between a B and an A, and if you study hard for the final exam, chances are good that you can knock your class grade up to an A. In this case, any amount of effort spent on the science final will probably result in a B grade, whereas studying for the history final could put you up an entire letter grade. Therefore you should prioritize studying for your history final over studying for your science final.

4. GO STEADY

While you should knock out your prioritized tasks as soon as possible, also try to work on something that is important, but not urgent, every day. Start on an essay that’s not due for another month. Review your flashcards daily so you’re not scrambling to cram the night before the test. This also applies to activities outside of school; I, for example, make an effort to write a bit of a blog post daily in addition to completing my homework assignments.

Making steady progress on long-term projects will prevent you from getting stuck always rushing to finish urgent tasks (“putting out fires”).

5. BREAK IT UP

When writing your to-do list or creating a schedule (more on that later), break up your assignments and projects into small, actionable steps to make them more manageable. Avoid vague words such as study, work on, or practice when creating the actionable steps. Otherwise, you’ll drift aimlessly through your work with no clear guidelines as to what exactly you need to do or when to stop. Here are some examples of how you might break up your assignments:

  • study for trig test –> watch lecture on module 4.7, complete review problems 15-35, drill unit circle flashcards 2 times through
  • work on history research –> find 3 primary sources from library archives, annotate article 1, annotate article 2, annotate article 3, brainstorm possible thesis statements
  • practice French –> complete demonstratives lesson on Duolingo, drill Anki deck 3 times, write 10 orignal sentences using new vocab

6. EAT THAT FROG

This tip comes from author Brian Tracy, who was inspired by the following Mark Twain quote:

If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.

This means that you should work on your most dreaded task first, when your energy and motivation levels are highest. Your frog doesn’t necessarily have to be the hardest task, just the one you’re looking forward to the least.

Don’t sit there looking at the frog and cringing. Just eat it. Take action. If you can get the most horrible assignment out of the way first thing in the morning, the rest of your to-do list is downhill from there!

7. USE ENERGY-BASED TASK MANAGEMENT

On a similar note, it’s a good idea to plan your entire day around your energy levels, not just the frog. I call this technique energy-based task management, and it can be summarized in three simple steps:

  1. Determine which time(s) of day you have the most energy. Are you a morning bird? A night owl? Do you hit a slump after lunch?
  2. During your high-energy times, work on the difficult, thought-intensive tasks such as brainstorming, writing, annotating, and active studying.
  3. During your low-energy times, take care of the menial things that have to get done but don’t require a lot of energy, attention, or skill. This includes tasks such as creating flashcards, cleaning the house, exercising, and running errands.

Energy-based task management helps you make the most out of your energy potential instead of wasting your peak productivity times on easy, mindless tasks.

Click here to read my full post on energy-based task management!

8. BOX YOUR TIME

If you’re someone who needs a bit more structure than a simple to-do list can provide, timeboxing may be exactly what you need! Timeboxing is simply allotting tasks to certain periods of time. I’d recommend using a digital task manager to do this (Plan is my tool of choice), but you can also use a table or spiraldex.

Here are some guidelines for using timeboxing to schedule your day:

  • Schedule your fixed times first. These are all of the events you’ve already committed to, such as appointments and rehearsals. It also includes the absolute essentials such as times for sleeping, eating, and taking breaks.
  • Use your priorities (Tip #3), frog (Tip #6), important-but-not-urgent task (Tip #4), and general planner/calendar to create a rough list of things you need/want to get done the next day.
  • Estimate how much time each task will take you. When starting out, you are likely to actually need more time for tasks than you estimated, so add some wiggle room to prevent throwing off your entire schedule. As your estimates become more accurate, try scheduling slightly less time than you think you need in order to challenge yourself to get things done more quickly.
  • Use energy-based task management (Tip #7) to place high- and low- energy tasks in their respective places on your schedule.
  • Batch tasks whenever possible. Group similar items together so you’re not constantly switching between unrelated things.
  • Schedule your downtime. Putting fun activities on your schedule will motivate you to stick with the plan and get your work done faster.

Timeboxing is such a big topic that I’ll most likely make an entirely separate post about how I timebox, so stay tuned for that!

9. LEARN TO SAY NO

However tempting it may be, don’t take on every opportunity that arises. Don’t let others pressure you into signing up to take all the hardest classes and joining a gazillion extracurriculars. Turn down parties and social obligations with people who are negative, draining, or simply incompatible with you. Reject activities that don’t bring you real happiness, such as TV, social media, or games on your phone. Watching your favorite show is a great way to unwind, but consider if your time spent scrolling half-heartedly through Instagram could be better spent hanging out with friends.

Know when to stop working. Particularly when it comes to organizing and other mindless tasks. Your supplies are never going to be 100% neat and your notes won’t be perfectly pretty. Let go of perfectionism. In my experience, the amount of studying required increases exponentially as your goal grade rises. While I always believe in working hard, the blunt truth is that at a certain point, straining yourself to get a certain score makes no difference. So don’t spend 10 hours studying to get a 100% if you can spend 5 hours to get a 95%. And learn to settle for “good enough.”

10. FILL THE GAPS

Look for little gaps of time throughout the day during which you can work on tiny tasks.

Take advantage of:

  • downtime at the end of class
  • breaks between classes
  • waiting in line/in a waiting room
  • workouts on a treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike, or similar
  • commute time (if you’re driving, please be careful to focus on the road!)

The above are great times to:

  • start doing homework
  • drill flashcards
  • brainstorm new goals or ideas
  • listen to recorded lectures
  • listen to an audiobook or podcast
  • check/edit a completed assignment
  • update your planner
  • mentally rehearse a presentation
  • read a bit of an easy text

You can also put some homework in a clipboard and carry it around, filling out a bit whenever you get the chance.

A few minutes here and there may not seem like much. But even doing a couple homework problems at the end of class will make it easier to finish the rest when you get home, since you’ve already started. Plus, since the time quickly adds up but seems short and spread out, you can get a lot of work done without feeling like you’ve done any.

That’s all for today! I’ve got lots more advice to share, but hopefully these ten tips will send you on your way to becoming a time-management ninja!

Thanks for reading! All of my reader interactions and personalized advice can be found on my Tumblr. If you have questions, feedback, or post requests, feel free to drop a Tumblr ask or contact me.:)

—Sophia

Writing Resources

 

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Whether it’s for an academic essay or your first novel, the writing process is often long, grueling, and filled with equal amounts of writer’s block, procrastination, and caffeine. Luckily, I’ve compiled some resources that will help you write and edit efficiently.

GET INSPIRED

Random First Line Prompts: Exactly what it sounds like. Generate a random first line to kick off your story.

StorySpark: Randomly generates crazy story plots.

Read high-quality writing: Sometimes a good story or poem is all it takes to refresh your creativity. Plus, reading quality writing on a regular basis is the best way to improve your own writing.

Do nothing for two minutes: Close your eyes, take a break, and let your worries melt away. When your mind is calm and clear, you may find that writing becomes a breeze!

Read some inspiring quotes: Learn from all the writers before you, and know that if you’re struggling, you’re not alone!

GET WRITING

ZenPen: A minimalist online writing zone that allows you to quickly get writing without distractions.

Written? Kitten!: One of my personal favorites! This website will display a picture of an adorable kitten for every 100, 200, 500, or 1,000 words you type, depending on your choice. You’re motivated to write more and those kitties will make your heart melt. It’s a win-win. If you’re not a kitten guy/gal, there are puppy and bunny settings too! :)

Typewriter: This app silences your inner critic by not allowing you to use the backspace tool. You can’t delete miskates mistakes, only strike them out. So instead of worrying about fixing things and rewriting a sentence seven times to make it perfect, you can focus on just continuing to write. It’s perfect for first drafts.

WordWar: You’ll need a friend for this one! This website allows you to hold a virtual race with other people to see who can write a first draft the fastest. Great if you and a pal both have a dreaded essay you’ve been complaining about for weeks.

Write or Die: Finally, for the most extreme one of all… This website puts pressure on you to write by threatening you with consequences if you’re writing too slowly, such as unpleasant sounds, terrifying images of spiders (*shivers*), or even deleting what you’ve already written if you stop. If it sounds extreme, that’s because it is, but it’s also remarkably effective at getting you to pound away at those keys.

These tools are best suited for first drafts, not for conducting your entire writing process. The idea is to get a rough draft done as efficiently as possible, because that’s the hardest part. If you have a first draft, however crappy, making it better is all downhill from there. Editing and rewriting should be saved for your regular Word/Pages/spider-devoid word processor of choice so you can fix your writing as carefully as possible.

GET IT RIGHT

Dictionary/Thesaurus/Reverse Dictionary/Rhyme Dictionary: All rather self-explanatory. Make sure the language you’re using is accurate and appropriate.

EditMinion: Copy and paste your writing into this website and it’ll point out common mistakes, passive voice, and clichés in your writing. It even shows words of Greek, Latin, Germanic, and/or Shakespearean origin, if you’re a total nerd interested in that.

Hemingway: Similar to EditMinion, but it’ll highlight sentences that are hard to read or unnecessarily complicated so you can make your writing more clear and succinct. It’ll also calculate a readability score, estimated read time, and character/letter/word/sentence/paragraph count.

And that’s it! With these tools, you should now be able to fight off writer’s block and write an awesome finished piece.

Thanks for reading! All of my reader interactions and personalized advice can be found on my Tumblr. If you have questions, feedback, or post requests, feel free to drop a Tumblr ask or contact me.:)

—Sophia

Journaling

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Today we’re discussing something that isn’t strictly school-related, but that has many benefits and is an activity I wholeheartedly recommend for all students– journaling! I was inspired to write this because I actually just filled up my first journal ever a couple days ago. I’ll be talking about types of journals you can keep, benefits of journaling, supplies I recommend, advice I’ve accumulated, and my experience with keeping a journal for the first time in my life.

TYPES OF JOURNALS

There are many types of journals you can keep, including, but not limited to:

(click links for more information)

  • Traditional “diary” journal: This is what you probably associate with teenage girls and pink gel pens, but it’s a popular choice amongst all kinds of people! In it, you could write what happened that day, your thoughts and emotions, fun memories, rants, and anything else you would talk about with a friend.
  • Bullet journal: An analog task management system and a studyblr favorite! Consider starting a bullet journal if you’re looking for a flexible, customizable way to organize all aspects your life.
  • Travel journal: Whether you’re going across the world or to the next town over, keeping a journal can be a great way to record your trip. In addition to writing memories, you can paste in photographs, ticket stubs, and other souvenirs/memorabilia.
  • Reading journal: If you’re a bookworm, you may like to keep a reading journal for recording book summaries, after-reading reflections, ratings, and reviews. You can keep similar journals for movies, TV shows, podcasts, etc.
  • Gratitude journal: In an increasingly hectic world, a gratitude journal can help you appreciate all the joys of life. Recording things you’re grateful for, whether big or small, encourages mindfulness and positivity.

BENEFITS OF JOURNALING

Journaling has countless physical, mental, and emotional benefits such as:

  • strengthens immune cells called T-lymphocytes
  • decreases stress, anxiety, and depression levels
  • helps you work through problems, decisions, and conflicts
  • provides a safe, non-judgemental place to vent
  • builds self-confidence
  • increases your self-knowledge and provides insights about yourself, your relationships, and your goals
  • harnesses creativity
  • preserves your memories and thoughts for you to look back on and see how far you’ve come
  • makes you a better writer!

RECOMMENDED SUPPLIES

You can begin to journal in all sorts of mediums with any notebook/pen/app you choose. Don’t hesitate to start because you don’t have the fancy markers and shiny washi tape you see on Tumblr. Download a free journaling app right now, or grab a $0.50 composition notebook and just start writing.

However, if you’re ready to commit to journaling and you’re somewhat sentimental, I’d recommend investing in an acid-free, archival-quality pen and notebook to ensure your writing won’t fade or disappear over time. These are a little pricier than regular supplies, but they’ll ensure that your journal entries will be in good condition for decades down the road.

I recommend the following archival-quality supplies:

  • Sharpie Pens (NOT the permanent markers!): These are my personal pen of choice. They’re available in an assortment of colors. They’re relatively inexpensive and can be found at almost all Target, Walmart, and Staples stores.
  • Sakura Pigma Micron Pens: I used these before I found the Sharpie Pens and loved them. The black ink is a much deeper shade of black than the Sharpies, although they also come in a variety of colors. They offer several tip sizes while the Sharpie is limited to just one. However, the tips tend to flatten extremely quickly and they don’t last as long for what they cost.
  • Moleskine Notebooks: These are the notebooks I use for my journals (I’m on my second one now). The binding is durable and the size is perfect for carrying in my backpack. Both the Sharpie Pens and the Sakura Microns will shadow/ghost through the paper, but they’ve never bled through, and it’s not severe enough to bother me.
  • Leuchtturm1917 Notebooks: Never used these myself but I’ve heard good things about them. Generally seem pretty comparable to the Moleskines, although a tad bit bigger and available with dotted paper.

Of course, if you want to keep a digital journal, archival-quality materials aren’t an issue! Search for some app recommendations to find a journaling app that’s accessible, reliable, and suited to your needs.

JOURNALING TIPS

The following are some pieces of advice that I’ve accumulated while keeping a journal that can help you get started.

DON’T feel pressured to write every day. Journaling is supposed to relieve stress, not provide another burdensome commitment. If once a day is too much for you, it’s perfectly fine to write once a week, once a year, or simply whenever inspiration strikes.

DON’T filter your thoughts. Write anything and everything that strikes you. Don’t worry about sounding whiny or frivolous or repetitive or annoying or weird. If you’re having trouble with self-criticism, try using pen-and-paper instead of a digital notebook, which will make it harder to edit and filter yourself.

DON’T get hung up on aesthetics. All the “journal inspiration” on Tumblr and Pinterest with beautiful pastel stickers and perfect handwriting made me scared to start journaling at first, afraid of “ruining” my notebook with my chicken-scratch. Only decorate your journal if it’s helping you express yourself, not because you feel pressured to conform to an online aesthetic.

DO experiment with several styles. Along with your standard “here’s what I did today” entries, try mixing in journal prompts, doodles, and other various forms of self-expression. Write about silly things like “What would I do if I won a lifetime supply of ice cream?” as well as deeper personal things like “What advice would I give to my younger self?” Eventually you’ll figure out what you like journaling about best, but when you’re first starting out, it’s a good idea to give everything a shot!

DO make it a habit. As mentioned above, it’s absolutely fine to journal randomly and spontaneously. But if you’d like to make it a regular ritual, make sure to set aside time that’s devoted to journaling and nothing else. For me, this is at night just before bed, so I can reflect on the day that’s passed. Maybe you’d like to journal in the morning, so you can set the day’s goals and start off strong. Whatever time(s) you prefer, it’s important to block off parts of your schedule and make journaling a priority.

MY JOURNALING EXPERIENCE

I began journaling on January 1st, 2016 as one of my New Year’s Resolutions. It started off as a half bullet journal, half diary in which I wrote some personal reflections underneath the day’s tasks. However, the bullet journal system didn’t work out so well for me– setting up the layouts was too time-consuming, I never remembered to refer to it, and it didn’t do anything that my planner couldn’t. So I gave up on bullet journaling a couple months in and started keeping solely a personal diary-type journal instead. I try to write in it every night but I don’t beat myself up if I miss a couple days. In my journal, I write memories from the day, my thoughts and feelings, and prompt responses. I also put in movie tickets, dried flowers, small mementos I come across, and cute labels from items I buy.

Although I’ve only been journaling for about six months, I’ve already experienced many positive changes. Writing each night is a fantastic stress-reliever and helps take my mind off school and responsibilities so I can sleep better. If I have an argument with a friend, writing out the entire conflict helps me see it from a more objective viewpoint and enables me to determine the best course of action. I can now let out and work through all my frustration, anger, jealously, fear, etc instead of bottling it up inside me. I recently read back through my first journal after filling it up and it was amazing to revisit all the joys and pains of the last half year of my life. I could see all the places where I started writing faster out of excitement, where my hand trembled, where tears fell. As I flipped through the pages, I could literally see myself growing up and changing, just like a book character would as the novel progresses. Keeping a journal has allowed me to read the story of my own life, and I think that’s a beautiful thing.

So long story short: journaling has changed my life. Now I encourage you to give it a go and see if it changes yours.

Thanks for reading! All of my reader interactions and personalized advice can be found on my Tumblr. If you have questions, feedback, or post requests, feel free to drop a Tumblr ask or contact me.:)

—Sophia

Energy

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Our energy levels are constantly fluctuating throughout the day. One moment you’re on top of the world; the next, you just want to curl up and take a nap. This post will explain how to track your energy from day-to-day, apply this information to better manage your tasks, and increase your energy on the whole.

TRACKING ENERGY

Everybody has different times when they’re most and least energized. Perhaps you’re an early bird who’s most creative at the crack of dawn. Or maybe you’re a night owl who prefers to burn the midnight oil. Either way, it’s important to be aware of when your energy levels peak and dip so you can schedule the right tasks for the right times and increase your productivity.

The best way to find your “biological prime time”, or the time of day when your energy levels peak and you work the best, is by tracking your energy at regular intervals in the course of a day. There are many ways to go about tracking this, but my preferred method is to use a spreadsheet, which I’ll be showing you how to set up and use in this section.

Example spreadsheet

 

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Here’s an example of a weekly energy-tracking spreadsheet that took me less than 5 minutes to create using Google Sheets. The days of the week are listed across the top and each day has 7 am through 11 pm running down the side. In every hour of every day, I’ve rated my energy level on a 1-5 scale with 5 being the highest. I have daily averages under each day and hourly averages to the right of each time interval.

You could also make an analog spreadsheet by drawing a table on a piece of paper and carrying it around with you, but you’ll have to calculate your own averages at the end of this week. This digital spreadsheet automatically averages whatever numbers you fill in so it’s super simple to see trends in energy levels. Now I’ll show you how to make and use the same thing for yourself!

Make your own spreadsheet

The spreadsheet format is quite easy to set up, but to make it even more convenient, I’ve made a template that you can download and personalize to your heart’s content. To use this template, you’ll need a Google account and a few minutes to spare. Follow the directions below:

  1. Make sure you’re signed into your Google account.
  2. Click the picture below or on this link to take you to my Google Sheets template.Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 6.02.52 PM.png
  3. Go to File and click Make a Copy. Change the document name if you want.
  4. You should now see a new spreadsheet that looks like the picture below. Don’t worry about all the #DIV/0! errors. They’ll disappear as you add more data.Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 6.02.52 PM
  5. Customize the spreadsheet to suit your needs. The template goes from 7 am to 11 pm because those are the hours I’m awake, but you may need to change the times if your schedule is different. You can also change the days of the week at the top if you’re starting this spreadsheet later in the week. Double-click a cell to edit the text inside.
  6. This spreadsheet runs for 16 hours every day, but your day may be shorter. To delete rows, right-click the gray number on the very left of that row and click Delete Row.
  7. If your day is longer than 16 hours, you’ll need to add more rows. To add rows, go to a row that’s directly above or below the new row you want to add, right-click the gray number on the left, and select Insert 1 Above or Insert 1 Below as needed. When adding rows, you must apply a new averaging function to your new row. To do this, drag and highlight horizontally from the first day of your week to the last, click the sigma symbol on the far right of the toolbar, and select Average. Do this separately for each new row you add.Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 6.04.29 PMScreen Shot 2016-07-15 at 6.05.01 PM
  8. If you have questions about setup or experience technical difficulties, please send me an ask on Tumblr and I’ll try to help.

Now your spreadsheet is all set up and ready to use! Every hour, go to the appropriate cell and rate your level of energy on the following scale: 1 = Braindead, 2 = Tired, 3 = Eh, 4 = Just Peachy, 5 = TOTALLY AWESOME.

To help you remember to rate yourself, I recommend downloading the Google Sheets app on your phone {iOS//Android} and setting repeating hourly alarms on your phone. It’s fine if you miss a few times, too– blank cells will be excluded from the daily and hourly averages.

Fill out the spreadsheet for at least a week, but 2-3 weeks is ideal. You can keep adding more columns to fit the duration of your tracking. The more weeks you have, the more accurate your data will be. After you’ve finished your spreadsheet, continue on to the next two sections to learn how to analyze your data and improve your energy levels!

EXPLOITING ENERGY

Now you can use the data from your spreadsheet to figure out when your energy levels are the highest and lowest. Knowing when you tend to be most and least productive will help you determine which tasks to do at which times, a technique I’ve dubbed energy-based task management.

Analyzing the spreadsheet

To find your “biological prime times”, or peak energy times, look for averages that are a fair amount higher than your daily averages. To find your low energy times, look for averages that are a fair amount lower than your daily averages. My daily average was around 3.5, so I chose 4.5 and above to be the cutoff for my peak energy times and 2.5 and below for my low energy times. This is all fairly subjective though, so it’s up to you to decide what counts as high and low for you.

In my example spreadsheet below, you can see that I hit an energy peak (marked in green) at 9 am-12 pm and again at 6 pm-8 pm. I tended to have low energy (marked in red) from 1 pm-4 pm and 9 pm-11 pm. I had high energy throughout the day on Sunday and low energy on Friday.

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Energy-based task management

The premise behind energy-based task management is that you should schedule your most important, most creative, most energy-consuming tasks for your peak energy times. This sounds fairly obvious, but the vast majority of people don’t abide by this rule. Most people hit an energy peak, feel all motivated and revved up, and attempt to cross off as many things on their laundry list of to-dos as possible. Ticking off dozens of boxes might make you feel more productive, but using your peak times to do small and quick tasks is actually wasting much of the potential of your energy.

High-energy times

So what should you do during those biological prime times? Important, difficult, detailed, immersive, creative, and/or thought-provoking tasks, which might include:

  • brainstorming ideas
  • writing an essay
  • reading a novel for class
  • taking a practice test
  • doing homework for a subject you struggle in
  • conducting research
  • practicing a sport/instrument/hobby
  • participating in spiritual/religious activities
  • doing some active studying

Low-energy times

During low energy times, on the other hand, you should either recharge to get more energy OR take care of the small, relatively menial tasks so they don’t cut into your high-energy times.

Here are some ways you can recharge:

  • if you’ve been working for a while, take a break!
  • read for pleasure
  • exercise
  • take a shower
  • take a 10-15 minute nap
  • get a lightly caffeinated drink, such as green tea

And here are some small tasks you can take care of so you can save your high-energy times for more important things:

  • organize your workspace
  • clean out your binder or folders
  • type up and print handwritten assignments
  • update your planner
  • make flashcards
  • pack your bag and set out your clothes for the next day
  • run errands (groceries, pharmacy, bank, dry cleaners, post office)
  • do laundry
  • take care of phone calls or emails

BOOSTING ENERGY

If your energy levels are consistently low (i.e. below 3 on the 1-5 scale), you may need to be improving your energy in general. Ways you can feel more energized overall include:

  • Use the natural energy boosters everyone knows and loves– lots of water, good nutrition, and exercise. Don’t skip meals, try to limit sugar, and avoid heavily caffeinated drinks whenever possible.
  • Get lots of high-quality sleep.
  • Don’t fight your body’s clock. You may want to get up earlier because “the early bird gets the worm”, but if you’re naturally a night owl, struggling against your genes might do you more harm than good. This is especially true for teenagers, who are biologically programmed to go to bed late at night and wake up late in the morning.
  • Spend more time outside in the sunshine.
  • Take cold showers.
  • Laugh! Sometimes Buzzfeed videos and Thomas Sanders vines make it all better.
  • Cut out anything in your life that drains you emotionally. Deal with anger or stress by venting to a friend, writing in your journal, punching a pillow, talking to a therapist, listening to music, or creating art. Find emotional and/or spiritual fulfillment by reading good books, meditating, and hanging out with inspiring people.
  • If you lead a healthy lifestyle and still feel constantly tired, it may be worth taking a trip to the doctor to make sure your thyroid and blood count are normal.

Now that you’ve found your biological prime times, learned about energy-based task management, and improved your energy levels, you’re all set! Hopefully these tips will help you lead a healthier, happier, and more productive life.

Thanks for reading! All of my reader interactions and personalized advice can be found on my Tumblr. If you have questions, feedback, or post requests, feel free to drop a Tumblr ask or contact me.:)

—Sophia

Taking Breaks

Unless you’re some sort of academic superhuman, you can’t study 24/7. At some point, your head will start hurting, your focus will peter out, your blank wall will become incessantly fascinating, and you’re going to take a break. Guaranteed. Now, that break could be spent aimlessly scrolling through Tumblr, checking your phone “just for five minutes”, or giving in to any other vices that you know you’ll regret later. Or, your break could be carefully scheduled ahead of time and actually increase your productivity and be rejuvenating for your mind/body. This post will teach you how to take breaks that fall under the latter category. You could say these tips could make or break your study session. (*ba dum tss*)

SHORT BREAKS

These are the small breaks you would take within one study session or one day. This includes the popular Pomodoro technique, in which you work for 25 minutes, break for 5 minutes (1 Pomodoro), and take a longer 15-minute break every 4 Pomodoros. Other variants include work for 50 minutes, break for 10 and even the somewhat random work for 52 minutes, break for 17 method. I suggest starting out with shorter work sessions if you’re having difficulty focusing for an extended period of time. Over time, your focus will increase and you may find that, say, working for 90 minutes and breaking for 30 is ideal for you. But whichever work:break ratio you choose, the gist is the same– take frequent breaks to recharge yourself so you can do better work.

If you don’t know what to do during your short breaks, try mixing and matching the activities below to suit the length of your breaks and your personal preferences:

  • stand up and stretch!
  • open up a window to get some fresh air
  • if you’ve been staring at a digital screen, spend about 30 seconds looking out the window or another faraway object to give your eyes a rest
  • refill your water bottle
  • eat a healthy snack (fruit, yogurt, veggies with hummus) for more fuel
  • perform simple bodyweight exercises (squats, push ups, jumping jacks) to raise energy + get your blood flowing
  • take a 10-15 minute power nap
  • meditate
  • listen to music
  • read a book
  • do something fun and creative, like solving a Sudoku puzzle, doodling, sketching, working on a Rubik’s cube, coloring, or playing an instrument
  • update your to-do list by crossing off things you’ve completed and adding new tasks

Avoid Tumblr/Instagram/YouTube/Twitter/Snapchat if you can help yourself! It’s really, really easy to get quickly sucked into the Internet. And if used excessively, social media will only harm the quality of your focus and attention. You can catch up with your friends later, but focus on taking care of yourself and your health during these short breaks.

LONG BREAKS

Long breaks are breaks that last an entire day or more, such as weekends, holidays, and summer/winter break. These provide the perfect opportunity to get in some serious rest and fun. Here are some tips for how to spend this time.

Automate your schedule.

If you tend to maintain a relatively consistent schedule throughout the week, consider dedicating certain times to the same repeating tasks. For example, I do all of my tedious, mindless tasks, such as making flashcards, updating my planner, and organizing my workspace, on Friday evenings when I’m too tired to concentrate on more challenging assignments. I try to complete most of my readings/textbook notes for the upcoming week on Saturday afternoons. On Wednesdays, when I don’t have any after school activities, I use the extra time to finish the math problem sets I’m assigned every Monday/Tuesday. Having an “automatic” schedule like this is helpful because it gets me in the habit of doing the same things at the same times. Buckling down to finish your essay on Saturday is much easier when you’ve been devoting Saturday to be your writing day for the past few months.

Maintain a consistent sleep schedule.

I talk more in-depth about sleep in this post, but basically, don’t become nocturnal during an extended break. Try to sleep and rise at around the same time each day, and catch up on whatever sleep you missed during your normal hectic school schedule.

Have fun!

Obviously you’ll want to work on your assignments so you’re in good shape when returning to school, but don’t go overboard and stress too much about studying for next year’s classes and all that. Hang out with friends, go on outdoor adventures, read lots of books, binge-watch OITNB, do that thing you’ve always wanted to do but never had time for, and just let loose, because burnout is very real and very serious. Play hard so you’re ready to work hard!

Thanks for reading! All of my reader interactions and personalized advice can be found on my Tumblr. If you have questions, feedback, or post requests, feel free to drop a Tumblr ask or contact me.:)

—Sophia