Writing Resources

 

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 6.00.05 PM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 5.33.34 PM.png

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 9.09.28 PM

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

 

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 5.05.41 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 5.10.15 PM

 

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

Mind Maps

Mind maps are a great tool for visual learners. They are much less rigid and more customizable than other note-taking methods. Not only can mind maps be used for taking notes, they also come in handy for studying, brainstorming, and planning. Here’s how to use this intuitive technique for all areas of your life.

HOW TO MIND MAP

Mind maps start with the main topic in the middle of the page. That central idea then branches off into several subtopics. Those subtopics then branch off into smaller subtopics and additional points and elaboration, and so on, until you have as many branches and as much detail as you need. The best thing about this method is its flexibility. You can draw clouds or boxes around your text, doodle, add color, and change the structure as you wish. You can also keep your map simple and clean and black-and-white, and it’ll work just as fine. To give you a better idea of what I’m talking about, here are some great examples of mind maps.

image
A mind map about how to mind map? That’s super meta.
image
image

You can make mind maps with pen + paper or with digital apps. My favorite digital mind map maker is a website called Coggle.

NOTE-TAKING

image
Start with the topic or chapter you’re studying in the middle of the page. Branch off into smaller subtopics– these would usually be the bolded headers in your textbook. Here are some ways the topics and subtopics could be applied in various classes:
  • “Communist Russia” as a main topic; “Government”, “Economy”, and “Society” as subtopics
  • “Romeo and Juliet” as a main topic; “Characters”, “Themes”, and “Symbols” as subtopics
  • “American Government” as a main topic; “Legislative”, “Judicial”, and “Executive” as subtopics
  • “Sustainable Energy Sources” as a main topic; “Solar Power”, “Wind Power”, and “Water Power” as subtopics

Although mind maps can work for any class, they are usually best suited for non-technical, conceptual classes such as history and English. They’re great for getting the big picture, but they might not be the best for writing lots of nitty gritty little details. Here’s the mind map I made based off of traditional outline notes from the Cornell notes post:

image
made using Coggle

More mind map notes examples can be found here, here, and here!

STUDYING

This is my personal favorite way to use mind maps. My classes tend to be very detail-oriented and there’s simply too much information to use mind maps as my daily note-taking system. However, I still love the broad overview that they provide, so I use them as part of my active learning process to study for exams.

All I do is close my textbook, put away my notes, take out a blank sheet of paper, and try to create a mind map of the chapter/topic from memory. I use a ton of branches and arrows because I attempt to include every last fact I can remember. This forces me to recall all the information, reinforcing it in my memory. It also helps me organize everything I’ve learned into a cohesive structure inside my head. I usually do this process a couple days before a big test and again the night before, and it’s worked wonders for me!

BRAINSTORMING & PLANNING

image

You can also use mind-maps to generate ideas and create a plan of action for both academic and non-academic areas of your life. Some ideas include:

  • “Goals” as a main topic; “Family/Friends”, “School”, and “Health” as subtopics
  • “Business Ideas” as a main topic; “Babysitting”, “Lemonade Stand”, “Walking Dogs” as subtopics
  • “Things to Do” as a main topic; “Academics”, “Events”, and “Errands” as subtopics
  • “Birthday Party” as a main topic; “Guests”, “Refreshments”, and “Games” as subtopics
  • “English Essay” as a main topic; “Introduction”, “Body Paragraphs”, and “Conclusion” as subtopics
  • “Places to Travel” as a main topic; “Europe”, “South American”, and “Asia” as subtopics

The possibilities are truly endless. Go nuts and have fun with your mind maps, because they’re meant to be a reflection of you, your crazy ideas, and the unique way you think. Best of luck!

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

Cornell Notes

Cornell notes were invented in the 1950s by a professor at Cornell University. The system allows you to quiz yourself directly from your notes and to quickly reference your lectures in the future. It’s comprised of three sections: the main notes, the cue column, and the summary. The diagram below shows how the three parts fit together:

image

SETTING IT UP

Split your paper into three sections according to the diagram above. I’d recommend setting up the system on several sheets of paper before class so you don’t have to worry about drawing straight lines in the middle of a lecture. Alternatively, you could print out a template or buy a Cornell notes notebook.

MAIN SECTION

This is the largest section of your notes. Here, you’ll write the contents of your lesson just as you would normally. I usually structure this in a bulleted outline format, with a hierarchy of broad topics and little details, although you don’t need to make it so rigid. Feel free to space things out, draw boxes, connect things with arrows, etc. Put the teacher’s lecture into your own words. Use straightforward language and lots of abbreviations to write more quickly.

CUE COLUMN

At the end of class or later that day, fill in the left column with some questions and cues. Reword important concepts into question form (6CO2 + 6H2O + sunlight energy = C6H12O6 + 6O2 becomes What is the formula for photosynthesis?) Formulate the types of questions your teacher would ask on an exam. Write down vocab words, big events, influential people, and key facts.

When you’re studying, cover up the right side of the page and quiz yourself with the cue column. Don’t simply read each question, think “Oh, I know that”, and move on. Instead, force yourself to say the answer/definition/explanation out loud, and elaborate on your response as much as you would if this were a test question. This quiz-and-recall is an active learning technique that’ll strengthen your memory more than passively reading your notes over and over.

SUMMARY

Either at the very end of class or within a day or two of the lecture, write a brief 2-3 sentence summary at the bottom of the page that includes the most important points from your notes. You can write a summary for every page of notes or for every lecture, depending on how specific you’d like to get. Finding the big ideas in what you’ve learned and seeing how they tie into the big picture will reinforce them in your mind. The summaries will also help you find a particular topic when you’re flipping through your notes.

EXAMPLE

Lastly, here’s a sample notes page I made to show you what a finished product might look like!

image

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