Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Best Study Method to Boost Your Productivity

If you're anything like me, you're probably finding yourself in that mid-semester, unmotivated, I-don't-want-to-do-anything slump. It's just that time of the semester ~ spring fever is kicking in, we can almost taste the end of the year, and everyone is nearing their "so done" point. Which is particularly bad for me, since, as I've mentioned, I'm working on my junior thesis this semester.

But, unmotivated or not, I need to get stuff done, and I'm sure you do too ~ and we all don't have much time to waste. So how can we help ourselves be more focused and productive? This is a question I've struggled with for a while now. But I recently found an amazing study method that I've begun using this semester, and I've had so much success with it: the Pomodoro Technique.

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management technique by which you work in 25-minute increments (called pomodoros), with each increment followed by a 5-minute break. So basically: work for 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break; work for 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break; and so on. After four sets like that, you take a longer break for 10 minutes. You can buy timers that are specifically for this method, and there are also online timers that you can use ~ like this one.

Using this method when I study has proven to be super effective for me. Before I started using it, I would sit down to a 2-hour chunk of study time and proceed to be painfully unproductive almost the entire time. Subconsciously, I was hesitant to take the plunge and actually start studying, because 2 hours seemed like such a long time. And indeed, I was expecting myself and my brain to concentrate for much too much time at once.

Breaking up your studying into smaller increments, separated by quick breaks, is so much more doable. By doing this, you trick yourself and your brain into thinking you're working for almost no time at all: "25 minutes? Psshh, I can spare 25 minutes to do this reading or work on my paper." So you sit down and do it, and guess what ~ you actually make a lot of progress in those 25 minutes. Then when the 25 minutes are over, you think, "That wasn't so bad! I could totally do that again or keep going." And you do keep going, working in those short increments and continuing to make lots of progress during each increment ~ and before you know it, you've gotten so much done!

It's much more reasonable to expect your brain to concentrate for 25 minutes at a time than for 2 hours at a time. You focus much better during shorter spurts of time than you do in one long period of time. And therefore, you are much more productive.

So next time you sit down for a study session, I highly recommend giving the Pomodoro Technique a try. I promise it will boost your concentration and help you get stuff done!

Have you ever used the Pomodoro Technique? Do you have any tips for boosting productivity?


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Coffee Shop Drinks for Non-Coffee Drinkers

I absolutely love going to coffee shops ~ despite the fact that I intensely dislike coffee. Call me crazy, but no matter how spruced up a coffee drink is, I just despise that bitter coffee taste! However, I’m a big-time tea drinker ~ and, luckily, coffee shops always have plenty of amazing tea-related options!

So if you’re a fellow coffee hater, or if you’re just looking to expand your coffee shop beverage horizons, read on for some of my favorite coffee shop tea items.

1. Chai Tea Latte
The ever-classic (and my favorite-ever) chai tea latte! I’ve never been to a coffee shop that doesn’t sell chai lattes, so it’s one non-coffee drink you can always count on being able to get. A delicious blend of sweet and spicy, chai tea lattes are perfect for an afternoon study session, for a crisp fall day, or for when you just need a hug in a cup. Try it hot or iced! (My preference is hot, but I will say, an iced chai can be quite refreshing.)

2. Vanilla Chai Tea Latte
If you want to add some more excitement to your chai tea latte, try ordering it with a shot of vanilla. Starbucks in particular makes an amazing vanilla chai ~ my best friend introduced me to it and I never looked back! Sometimes regular chai tea lattes can be too spicy for my liking, but ordering one with vanilla adds just enough sweetness to make it deliciously perfect.

3. London Fog (or Earl Grey Tea Latte)
Guys, if you've never tried one of these, please do so asap. It’s earl grey tea in steamed milk with a shot of vanilla ~ and between the wonderful earl grey taste and the sweet vanilla flavor, it is heaven on earth. Not every coffee shop makes London fogs, but if/when you come across one that does, order one! I was introduced to the London fog a couple years ago, and it quickly became my favorite tea beverage. Give it a try ~ you will not be disappointed!

4. Green Tea Frappuccino
Don’t let its murky green color scare you away ~ it’s actually a deliciously sweet and refreshing drink, and is a perfect cold non-coffee option. Starbucks makes this drink under this name, and I’ve also seen it called a green tea chiller (or a name along those lines) at other coffee shops. Next time you’re making a coffee shop stop on a hot day, try a green tea frap!

5. Hot or Iced Tea
When in doubt, just go for straight-up tea! Coffee shops always offer hot tea, with multiple kinds to choose from, as well as iced tea. So if you’re not feeling like a tea latte, or you just find yourself in a tea mood (as I often do), a good ole cuppa tea never disappoints! As far as iced tea goes, I particularly like several of Starbucks' iced teas, Wendy’s Honest Tropical Green Tea, and Panera's iced green tea, to name a few. In terms of hot tea, these are some of the best types ever, and you'll definitely be happy with any of them.

Do you prefer coffee or tea? Do you have any non-coffee / tea-related beverage recommendations?

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Joining in on this week's Tuesday Talk linkup!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Currently: March

Here we are, already several days into March! To kick off the beginning of the new month, I shared with you a recap of how I did on my February goals, as well as my March goals, in this post. Now today, I'm joining in on the monthly "currently" linkup over at Gold & Bloom, and letting you in on a bit of what I'm up to lately!

Currently // 3.3.16

W I S H I N G  that it was warm here in Michigan. I'm now so used to the climate in Florida that wintry Michigan is just soo.cold. I miss my sunny, moist, warm Florida weather (not to mention my t-shirts and sandals)! Next time I'll try to bring some warmth with me ;)

C R A V I N G  a chai tea latte. (Then again, when am I not?) Something about this winter weather just makes me want to go to a coffee shop and cozy up with a big, hot, delightful chai.

G O I N G  back and forth between Michigan and Florida over the next two months. I'm heading back to Florida on Sunday, only to come back home 2.5 weeks later for Easter, then back to Florida again for another six weeks, then back to Michigan for the summer. I don't much mind all the back and forth, though ~ it makes for a fun balance of school / school friends and home / home friends / family.

W E A R I N G  jeans and a big, cozy, burnt orange sweater. A very appropriate outfit for this snowy, 30-degree day here in the Mitten.

L E A R N I N G  lots and lots about John Donne. I'm writing my thesis on him and his poetry, so I've been learning quite a lot about him lately ~ and will only continue to do so in the coming weeks as I write the paper!

What are you up to lately ~ wishing, craving, going, wearing, learning?


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

February Recap and March Goals

And just like that, it's already March ~ so crazy! March is an exciting month though, because it includes the beginning of spring and, this year, Easter! For me personally, March is a big month because my thesis is due at the end of it... eeek! So on one hand, I'm looking forward to this new month, while on the other hand, I'm bracing myself a bit!

With a new month comes a new set of monthly goals. I mentioned in this post and in this post, 2016 is all about focus for me, and about delighting in being a student. To help myself grow in these ways, I'm setting concrete, baby-steps goals for myself in some key areas of my life. This includes monthly goals, which I started in February and which I share here on the blog, partially to hold myself accountable and also in hopes that it will encourage you in your goals too!

So today, I'm joining in on the With Grit & Grace link-up and sharing with you my February recap and my March goals.

F E B R U A R Y  R E C A P

Academic Goals: 
1. Work on my thesis for 90 minutes every day.
Okay, so I definitely did not spend an exact hour and a half on my thesis every single day. However, I did work on it for a chunk of time on most days (except for one week when I was totally in an unmotivated slump). So while I didn't accomplish this goal precisely, I did accomplish it to some degree. Progress!

2. Stay on top of readings.
I wasn't horrible with this goal, but I definitely wasn't perfect at it either. For example, I fell behind in my reading for my class on novels, because the reading consists of, well, novels...which are long. Nonetheless, I was pretty good about keeping up with the reading for my other classes, and when I fell behind, I made efforts to catch up. So once again, progress!

Personal Goal: Limit my spending.
Guys, I did great on this one ~ I'm super proud of myself. I only spent money unnecessarily like three times all month. It helps that I included avoiding spending money unnecessarily in my Lenten resolutions, to better keep myself on track and focused on bigger, better, and more necessary money-spending in the future.

Spiritual Goal: Discern and stick to my Lenten resolutions.
As I just mentioned, I gave up spending money unnecessarily for Lent, as well as taking the elevator (I live on the fourth flour of my dorm). These have proven to be helpful and fruitful sacrifices for me so far this Lent!

And now, here are my academic, personal, and spiritual goals for March:

M A R C H  G O A L S

Academic Goal: Work on, write, and finish my thesis.
It's getting down to crunch time, guys: my thesis is due right before Easter. So I need to renew my February goal of working on my thesis every day, and take it up a notch. I want to, and need to, put work into this paper every day, write it, and finish it!

Personal Goal: Try a capsule wardrobe.
I've been thinking about and looking into the idea of a capsule wardrobe lately, and I've decided I want to give it a try! It'll have to wait until I get back from spring break (which I'm currently home for), but I'll jump into it as soon as I can. Hopefully I'll post about it here on the blog along the way!

Spiritual Goal: Finish out Lent strong and celebrate Easter.
I want to stay strong these last few weeks of Lent, continuing to stick to my resolutions and striving to grow spiritually. I want to maintain a disciplined, penitential, and meditative spirit to prepare for Christ's passion and death. Then when Easter comes, I will rejoice in and celebrate his resurrection with great joy. (Can't wait!)

How did you do on your February goals? What are your goals for this coming month?


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