Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Secrets to Study Success

Hard to believe but true - I spent 11 years at University studying. That was definitely in my 'younger years' and I continue to gain more vocational qualifications. There are certainly a few key things that I learnt over this long period of time that helped me immensely in submitting assignments, compiling documentation and sitting exams. And helped me to reach my dream job....

1. The study timetable gets ditched way too often. Build your timetable in reverse - by this I mean, place the times and dates in to your schedule when you are NOT going to have time to study. Then, build your timetable around those 'exclusion zones'. In this way, you don't have to stop socialising or de-stressing via other activities. You can still watch your favourite shows and have time every day for other things you love doing.
2. Being busy does not equate to achieving your outcomes. It is often easy to hide in 'busy - work' as you avoid the tougher tasks that await you. On the face of things, you do indeed appear to be busy as your computer is on, you are reading or typing. Ultimately, if you look back at the morning, you realise that the major piece of work that needed to be submitted is incomplete because it might be challenging or not in your comfort zone.
3. Reward yourself. To overcome the busy-work phenomenon, motivate yourself. Adult learners have no parents to tie them to the desk or set up suitable motivation. It is up to us to have very clear, tangible goals. Write down on a page: This is what I want to do and this is how I am going to achieve it. Make this page visible or type it in to your phone as a daily reminder. Once we achieve a mini-goal, give yourself a small reward: a great treat, extra time out or anything that you really enjoy. Sounds basic AND it works!
4. Set up the right habits. I would say that this is probably the most important study tip that I ever followed. Once you have a routine, there is less to worry about. Just follow the routine and very soon, before you even realise it, your work is well under way. Researchers have noticed that if gym-goers have a strict routine, even on days when they do not really feel like exercising, they nonetheless go to classes and maintain their fitness levels. Ian Thorpe has often said that he did not always feel in the mood to swim up and down the pool doing his set practice laps. Nonetheless, his alarm clock went off at the same time and the same routine kicked in. The same applies to studying. Each day must have tasks that regularly get done. Even if it is a simple task such as reading an article, do something every day.
5. Combine what you do and what you don't know. It is not realistic to expect yourself to maintain your levels of motivation when every single thing that you are studying is completely new and unknown to you. If possible, in your study period, combine a few areas that you are familiar with together with areas that are totally unexplored territory. Your life experience does count - and you can draw on these experiences to complete your studies.
6. Practice relaxation or mindfulness techniques. You will find heaps of information on these techniques and how to practise them on the internet. Start in a small way and then build up your ability to de-stress and also focus on the tasks at hand. There is very strong and recent research that validates this approach and statistics to show just how our levels of concentration improve by applying meditation or mindfulness.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Yes, change does work out well in the end!

Change - not usually our favorite topic. And certainly not at the start of the year! A series of changes have occurred in my life and I learnt some valuable lessons along the way. I am after all a change consultant who loves to preach to other people about the value of change and how to manage change. That is, until it happens to me personally and then the change process goes right out the window.
Lesson #1: You will find the positives in the change
Fearing change is often far worse than the change itself. We moved to new offices and the usual dramas were all happening at once: the removalists let us down, the servers went down and not everyone was happy with their newly positioned desk. Sound familiar?
Yet, after the first few hiccups were smoothed over, everyone started loving the new office even though it was not as swish. There were more people to connect with and more buzz in the air. We promptly forgot about the whole move and by day 3, no one even mentioned the original office.
I was stunned - no harking back to how much better it was in our original abode? No sense of 'woe is me' in the team? Huge lesson that once the change has happened, life moves along and we can find the positives in the change if we look for them.
Lesson #2: The change might improve your possibilities
I have been regularly going to the same gym class in the park for over 5 years. Dedicated to fitness... The time was suitable, the venue was just right and the fellow gym mates were great. Out of the blue, an email announces that the gym is closing.
I eventually found a new gym and with much trepidation went to the first class. Would I measure up at my age with all the youngsters in the room? Would I be able to keep the pace without embarrassing myself and all the fat wobbles spilling over in to everyone's face?
As it turns out, I realised that I had become very complacent in the old class: I was certainly capable of doing a whole lot more and pushing myself that bit harder. So, 1 kilo lighter and less flap in my chicken wing arms, I am so happy I switched and I don't look back for one moment.
Lesson # 3: At least give it a try!
There was the most lovely fruit stall outside our building in the city CBD manned by a delightful chap who brightened our day. He knew all the gossip and shared wonderful tales with us to start our morning on the right note.
And after 43 years in the business, he sold out. We were gutted: who would put a smile on our face every day? Who would give us advice on the best fruit of the day? We even cried when we said goodbye to 'our' fruit man.
Well, little did we know that the new owner of the fruit stall was more than happy to meet us. He immediately assured us that he was also a great guy and would take good care of all our needs. And we gave it a try with very pleasantly surprising results. The fruit is presented far more attractively and there is a greater variety available.
This is not to say that all change works out well in the end - it is just at least worthwhile to follow the good old adages and 'go with the flow', 'trust the process' and look for the upside.