Monthly Archives: October 2009

5 Ways to Just Carry Less

Sometimes the biggest stress when you’re walking around university is the amount of stuff you’re carrying. Textbooks, papers, sheets, planners, food, water, phone, wallet/purse…the list goes on. It weighs you down, sucks your energy and can damage your back in the long run if you’re not careful.

It can create stress from not being able to find something, or forgetting to take something with you because you thought it was ‘somewhere in there’.

Why not only carry the minimum amount you need with you for that one day? Here are 5 steps to help you out:

1. A thin folder. Instead of carrying all of your sheets from the whole week, or an entire pad of lined paper, just carry what you think you will need for that day – a few notes and a few pieces of paper. When are you going to use a whole pad of 150 sheets in one day? Do you really need those sheets from last week today? Each night, take out all of the things you don’t need and add anything you do. This will help you keep things filed away and it will  shave off a bit of weight off your back.

2. A smaller purse/wallet. It’s easy to fill up a purse or wallet if there’s lot’s of room. Receipts and loose change are some of the main culprits. Keep those pennies in a jar at home or only take a few around with you. Try to carry only the amount of money you will probably need that day, as well as any cards or ID. Discard receipts straight away if you know you don’t want them (eg. for food) or make sure you put them in away as soon as possible if you want to keep them for a while (eg. clothes), but don’t forget to throw those away after a while too.

3. A smaller bag. Carrying on from the previous point, downsizing your actual bag or rucksack can help you to carry less as well. It will make you question yourself when you can’t carry all of your textbooks and your laptop with you that day. Do you really need to have that book? Or can you use the library’s one? Do you have to have your laptop, or can you use the computer clusters? If you really do need to have that stuff, at least a smaller bag will mean you might be able to find things easier instead of wasting time rummaging about.

4. A smart phone. I am a big advocate of writing things down because I think it helps you remember things better. But sometimes, if you can afford it, a smartphone can store a copy of your timetable, or help you set reminders and book appointments, instead of having it all on a million bits of paper or in a thick planner. Also, if it is connected to the internet and has some basic functions, it can also replace your laptop for surfing as well as a separate voice recorder, if you use one.

5. An ebook reader. Digital books will always only weigh the amount of the ebook reader, no matter how many you carry. And you don’t have to worry about forgetting, damaging or carrying your expensive and/or heavy books. Also, because the books don’t have to be printed, distributed and stored, they usually cost a little bit less and are much greener.

Minimalism in this case isn’t about making your life harder because you won’t have all the materials you need. It’s about carrying only what is essential, because isn’t that all you need?

Greatness and Impermanence

Colleges and universities are full of examples of people wanting to make it. They want their names to be written down in history. They want to be remembered for the great things they wrote, the great things they discovered or the great things they built.

Just take a look around you at the names of the buildings and libraries. They were paid for by people who wanted their names to be remembered long after they are gone.

But, as great as they were, did they realise that nothing can ever be remembered forever? That everything in life is impermanent and constantly changing?

Nothing really belongs to us. Our favourite pair of shoes are only in our possessions, until they become worn or lost. Our bikes and cars are only ours until they are stolen, sold or passed on. Even our names are not really ours because they are just labels attached to our physical bodies – which will eventually be gone too.

And yet, some people dedicate their whole lives to financial or intellectual greatness, at what cost? So that a few generations of people will remember them. But what will happen when those people forget? Was your life wasted?

There isn’t an answer or solution to impermanence. After all, everything is impermanent except for impermanence itself. So, what can you do?

You can be the best that you can be, now. Live life to your full potential, discover and write great things, cultivate amazing relationships, help people, be inspired, inspire others and don’t worry about after. Just think about what you can do to make life better for people today, and do it.

If you live a good life, other people will know it, and maybe they’ll write it down, but the most important thing is that you did your best, and that is something nobody can take away from you.

5 Great Habits of Successful Students

keysuccessIf you look at the kind of people who have achieved ‘success’ in their lives, presidents, Olympians, millionaires, great artists, world leaders, you will find that there are a few things they all have in common.

Now, there probably isn’t a secret ingredient to success (if you find one, let me know) but rather ‘success’ as most people see it, is a result of combining great habits that incrementally lead to a successful and fulfilling life.

I’m no expert, nor am I ‘great’, ‘successful’ or ‘perfect’, far from it. These are simply the habits that I have incorporated, or at least planning/trying to in my life because I know that I can become a better person by doing so.

1. Wake up early.
There’s a feeling you get about the peaceful silence of the early morning that you can’t feel at any other time of day. It’s the feeling that you are the only person in the world, solitary and ready to take on the world, whilst everyone else is sound asleep. When nobody else is awake, there can be no distractions, which makes it ideal for focussing. Combined with the fact that (hopefully) you had a good night’s sleep, your mind should be feeling calm and clear. Early morning is also a great time to practice some meditation.

This is a habit that requires discipline and dedication. It can be hard to wake up early after a late night out, but you don’t have to do it everyday if you don’t have to. Waking early is supposed to clear your mind, not make you feel grungy of uncomfortable. Sleeping a little earlier the night before can help too, if you really want to start waking up early, just try 20 minutes earlier, and build up from there. You won’t regret it.

2. Stay healthy. For some reason, it’s easy to forget to stay healthy, especially as a student. You have a deadline, so you stay up late, your bank balance is flashing red so you buy something ready-made and cheap, and social law dictates that drinking is a minimum requirement to be cool.

Most of these can’t be helped, and because they are pressing and urgent, they get bumped up to the top of the priority list. Your body, on the other hand, is stays almost silent. It can’t shout or persuade or threaten, so it slowly suffers whilst you put other things first. The only way it can tell you it’s suffering is by that tiredness you feel during the day, or that headache you feel the ‘morning after’.

Your body is your tool to life. Imagine if you didn’t have one, you wouldn’t be able to speak, hear, see…you wouldn’t be able to experience the great things in life, so why not take care of it? Eat well and exercise.

3. Learn new things. Life is what you make of it, and if you just stick with the things you know, it isn’t going to be much fun. The fact that you are at university is a good step towards the right direction, but there are so many opportunities that universities offer, don’t let them pass you by. Read books, join societies and try out new things. Step out of your comfort zone. Be careful not to overwhelm your timetable, but for certain things try to think of them as part of your timetable. Expand your horizons, you get out of life what you put in.

4. Be proactive. Great people seek their own opportunities. They don’t wait for them to fall on their laps. If you want something, go and get it, it probably won’t come to you. The great presidents didn’t get their seats because they sat around at home, the great Olympians didn’t get their amazing bodies from watching it on TV and the great writers and musicians didn’t create their art from just daydreaming about it. Go out and do it, even if it is just a tiny step towards the right direction. Do something today that will move you towards your goals.

5. Be compassionate. Often we forget about the people that surround us everyday and how much they shape who we are. Even perfect strangers on the street have an impact on your life, whether you realise it or not. When people hurt you, you want to push them away, but it will only hurt you more in the long run, being alone is one of the most terrible feelings in the world. Real, true and genuine relationships are the stuff of life.
Be kind. Forgive. Smile. As Mother Teresa said, “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier”. That is what success really is.

Further Reading
I found a fantastic post about how to cultivate greatness via the Daily Mind. Many of the ideas I have are shared here.

Do you have any other ideas about what it takes to be a successful student? Share your ideas below.

5 Ways to Cut Down on Social Networking

This is a subject that particularly relevant to students. How much time does social networking suck out of your life? An hour a day? A week? You already know you should cut down, here’s how.

1. Turn off notifications.
One of the biggest disturbances to work is getting notifications via email or instant messenger. Most of these things don’t have to be dealt with straight away, so turn off instant notifications if these make you click through and waste another half hour replying and checking around.

2. Refuse invites.
If you receive an invitation for a new social network, consider refusing the invite, at least until you know how many of your friends will join it. But then again, even if a lot of them are on it, will they use it in the long term? Because if not, then what is the point of joining another site and making a new profile when the one you have now will do just fine? Pause for a moment before blindly clicking yes to invites and signing up. Also think twice about sending invites out to friends on your email contact list when you join a new social networking site. You could be roping them in into the same dilemma that you are in right now.

3. Block out time.
This can work both ways, either block out time for work, or block out time to deal with social networks if you really have to. Choose a time when your brain is least productive, such as in the late evening if you are a morning person or vice versa. Leave all of the maintaining until this time of the day. Knowing that you will have time to deal with everything later should free up your mind to do what is really important right now.

4. Delete old accounts. I wasn’t of the Friendster generation, but I know that there are still old accounts floating about on it that people haven’t checked in years. Kind of like boxes in the loft – they don’t get in the way, but they’re still there, and totally useless, so why not get rid of them? The same goes for social networks you haven’t used in a year or more. If you haven’t even checked it in that long, then maybe you won’t for another year or two, so delete it now before you get roped back into it, or someone finds something embarrassing on it from a while back.

5. Connect in the real world.
Get out of your room and hang around with your room-mates. Cook up a dinner, or call up a fellow classmate and have a chat. Do something that involves real life interaction. One of the reasons why people interact so much on social networks is because they don’t in real life. So the best cure is to, well, go out and do it in real life. Use social networking to keep in touch with old friends/family or connect with new people but not as a substitute for a real life relationship.

Do you have any handy tips to keep social networking at bay?

Embrace Change

Leaving home is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my short lifetime. Even though I didn’t want to admit it, I knew that I was too young and naive to be able to handle everything on my own. I put on a brave face, organising everything that needed to be done, packed everything and even said goodbye, barely shedding a tear. And now I’m here, I can’t help but feel slightly alone.

But, even so, I’m not unhappy. In fact, I’m having the time of my life. I’ve never had so much fun before. All of the worrying was basically for nothing, now that I’m enjoying every moment I’m here.

I do miss home, but I’ve learnt that hanging onto the past and ‘what used to be’ can only lead to remorse and sadness. Instead, I’ve managed to let go and embrace change. Of course I still love my family and friends, but nothing is permanent, and when change comes, which it inevitably will, the best thing to do is to take it head in and learn to make the most of it.

How do I make the most of it? I make sure I appreciate every moment. Even the simple things like walking through campus or sitting in a lecture hall. These were the kind of things I dreamed about when I was younger. Spending a moment to take a deep breath and say to myself ‘I’m actually here‘ reaffirms the fact that I want to be here and that not only did I choose to be here but that I worked my ass off to do it.

So, when I’m feeling blue because I’m thinking of home, I might give my parents a quick phone call, but instead of thinking about how much I miss home, I should think of the happiness I can create for myself right here.