Saturday, February 20, 2010

Session 2 -- Control

Whoops! This is what happens when you don't make the post right away. Here I am weeks later!

Session 2 was awesome. We talked a lot about tackling our tasks.

We talked about why taking control is important. We talked about static days (There's a fog on your mind all day, and by the end of the day you don't know what you've done), pinball days (You bounce all over the place, your tasks in control of you), marathon days (You run and run and the day never seems to end), and days when time seems to be against you. Our goal is to take control though an autopilot flight path. You want to take off, land, and know what you'll do in the middle. We sat down with a weekly schedule and blocked off our commitments so that we could fill in the remaining time with regularly occurring obligations. Finally, we talked about the Pomodoro technique as a way to help make sure the time we do spend on homework is productive and efficient.

Listing our obligations made us face up to how much homework 18 credits brings!

Our next meeting will be in a week or so, and I'll do the blog post right after the meeting!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Books I've read

Here are links to the books I mentioned in our first meeting.

Learning Outside the Lines
Getting Things Done
The Now Habit
Learn More, Study Less
and of course, from our mentor Cal Newport,
How to Become a Straight A Student

Winter 2010 Session 1: Capture

Tonight we met and talked about capture, or making sure that we have a place to channel all the ideas that come into our head, particularly ideas on tasks that we need to complete. We heard from Cal Newport and David Allen on why this is important, so that we can stop spending mental-power on remembering our commitments, and start using that to learn and accomplish.

We talked about different ways to capture. We talked about some of the classic advantages and disadvantages of paper and digital capture. Paper can get lost, and once it's gone it's gone. On the plus side, however, it's easy to personalize, and the tangibility of writing tasks down can make them real. No batteries to die or databases to go corrupt, and it's...simple.

So we know the cons of digital, batteries that die, systems that can turn into distraction, and the fact that it looks like you're texting in class when the professor is giving instructions. Make no mistake, however, digital has some distinct advantages over paper. Synchronization systems mean if you lose your phone or laptop you're not necessarily out of all your tasks, and digital systems can be programmed to provide alarms.

While paper can be an easier way to capture multiple tasks coming at you at once, digital is usually an easier way to capture more raw information...because most college students type faster than they write, and everything has a camera in it now.

We concluded that for most people, paper is the superior choice, but didn't completely rule out digital.

Whatever system you use, centralizing everything is crucial. One notebook with many tasks in it will be far more effective than note-cards and post-its spread across your bags.

Because many in our group are already doing effective capture, we talked about some ways to improve it -- like making sure big tasks (Write 10 page research paper) are broken into smaller, bite-sized chunks (Go to library and find book on underwater basket-weaving). We also touched on managing time -- we'll cover this much more in depth in a future meeting. This brought us back to capture, as we all agreed that one effective way to improve productivity is to capture ideas that interrupt work, instead of stopping to jump on those ideas.

Fantastic meeting to launch the semester. Thanks all that could attend!

Out next meeting will be in 2 weeks, January 28th 2010. We'll meet at 8 PM in 1053 JSFB.

If you'd like to join us, please take a second and let us know you're coming by filling out this form.