Friday, October 24, 2014

Are you studying in the right place?

Where do you study for college? 

When you're in that environment, do you feel really productive? When you finish do you think "ahh...I got even more accomplished than I thought I would"?

Do you feel like you're at your best? 

Are you getting the grades you know you can get?

If you answered "no" to any of those questions, then it might be time to change where you're studying for college. 

For me, the best study place, the place where I could easily answer "yes" to all the questions above, was the college library. 

I almost never did college work or studied from home. I scheduled time before and in-between my classes to spend in the library each week, without fail. From the cozy corner cubicles surrounded my books to the quiet buzz of the computer lab, that is where I felt at my most productive - and I really was.

But here's the thing - I didn't realize until recently how powerful this actually was. Let me explain:

I've been working from home for almost three years now, and recently I found myself feeling restless. I wasn't feeling like I could answer "yes" to the questions above anymore. Even though I was still working hard, at the end of the day I still felt antsy, like I wasn't accomplishing what I needed. And at the beginning of the day I felt sluggish. What was up?

When an opportunity arose for me to rent an office, something inside me clicked - THIS is just what I need! I realized all this time I had been fighting against what I had known so instinctively in college - I work best outside of my home. 

My new office!
Environment matters. Just walk on the beach, into a dance studio, or onto a sports field, and see how those environments make you feel. What do they make you want to do?

For me, home has always been the place where I like to read, sleep, eat, eat, eat, watch TV, and relax. It's never been the best "work" environment for me.

I can't tell you what the "best" environment is, because I think it can be different for every person - and you might even find you need different environments at different times. 

I just want to encourage you to take the time figure out what really works best for you. Notice how you feel when you're working and preparing to do well in your college classes. If you aren't feeling that sense of flow, try changing your environment.

Because trust me, when you find that place that inspires you to do your best work, work doesn't feel like work anymore. It feels more like art.
My new favorite inspiration spot near my office. :)

Monday, October 20, 2014

The easiest thing you can do to make a difference on your college campus

Have you ever smiled at a baby who smiled back? 

It's a pretty wonderful feeling. 

And it's something I do every chance I get (so far no parents have thought I was least...I don't think... ;))

I travel a lot and there are a lot of little kids flying in and out of my hometown airport (also the hometown of a famous mouse). 

And I love to smile at them. Because they always smile back. And it makes me happy, which is especially helpful during what can sometimes be the stressful hustle and bustle of travel.

One of the reasons babies smile back, so I've read, are because of mirror neurons. It's the same thing that makes you model the expressions and emotions of people in movies (stop and notice your expression during a sad part of a movie...mirror neurons are for real!)

But I think it's also something else. Now I don't know exactly what babies are thinking, but I do think there'ssomething to the power of human attention. A smile with eye contact says, "I see you; you matter." I think, from cradle-to-grave, that is something we all crave every day. 

And while I spend a lot of time speaking to faculty and staff about the importance of these kinds of habits when working with students, I also think it's something you can practice on campus.

I'm not saying to walk through campus with some big fake smile plastered on your face (that would be creepy...) but I am saying, smile even when you don't feel like it. Notice people around you. 

Instead of burying your face in your phone while walking to class and waiting around for the professor, try looking up and giving someone a small, authentic smile. Something that says "Hi, I'm not crazy, I swear, just nice, just trying something this crazy blogger lady put into my head...also, I see you; you matter." ;)

Seriously, though. Try this. 

When I was in high school I once read in a magazine that the best way to be popular was to smile. It wasn't talking about the kind of "popular" that requires money or rebellion. It was the kind where a lot of people, from all different walks of life and cliques, genuinely like you because you show that you care about them. You make them feel important. 

You have more power on your campus than you realize to affect things. The first section of my book is about "Peers" for a reason. You matter on your campus, and the way you show up and the attitude you bring affects others around you.

You never know who might be on the brink of dropping out. Who might be going through a family tragedy. Or who might have just gotten a soul-crushing test grade. 

Smile at people. Make them feel important. There are more students on your campus than you know who are just dying for someone to "say:"

I see you; you matter.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What to say when someone invites you to something in college


Let me explain. 

Last week I woke up in such a good mood. It was just one of those days where you actually feel motivated and energized. I work like I feel that way every day, but I don't always feel that way. Today I did, and on days like that I don't like to be alone. 

So I texted a friend whom I know has some flexibility in her day (she's a college professor) and asked her if she wanted to meet me for tea that afternoon. I didn't have a car that day so I needed her to drive pretty far to come pick me up. I didn't think she'd be able to, but I had to ask because I really needed someone to bounce all the energy and ideas I was having off of. 

To my surprise, she said she'd head over soon to pick me up!

When I got in the car, I told her how excited I was that she just said yes, and she told me this:

"I made a rule for myself in college that anytime someone invites me to something I should just say 'yes,' and I still use that rule today."

I love this!

And okay, so of course there are exceptions. I'm not talking about dating or parties or doing anything dangerous or any other kind of other college shenanigans. ;) 

Nor am I saying you need to say "Yes" to everything. You don't need to do everything in college. But when someone first invites you to something, you should make it a rule to say yes. The "rule" part helps re-train your brain that's probably conditioned to say 'no.' Your brain says, 'new is scary,' and 'routine is safe.'

And once you there it doesn't mean you have to keep saying yes - yes to the friendship, yes to joining a club, etc. But if you don't say yes initially, you'll never know what you might be missing. 

This is especially for all the commuters out there:

Stop going to class and going home!

When someone invites you to a club meeting or event, say yes and go.

When someone invites you to lunch or coffee, say yes and go. 

And if no one is inviting you, start inviting other people until someone says yes.

Don't take the no's personally, but don't be the one who's saying 'no' either.

Nine times out of ten you may not have a life-changing wonderful time. But you create opportunities for that one time that changes everything. That new best friend. That club you become an officer in that wins you a scholarship or gets you into your dream transfer university. That really fun time in college that you'll talk about for decades to come. That idea you get from a great conversation. 

When I started community college I just went to class and went home too. I didn't know there was more.

Then a girl invited me to a Phi Theta Kappa meeting. 

I said yes. 

I became an officer. Then President. 

At one of our Phi Theta Kappa meetings I learned about the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship.

And then I won it - $110,000 that paid for my bachelor's degree and master's degree. 

That would have never happened if I'd said 'no.'

Don't wait until you're not scared or it seems easy - because you might be waiting for ever.

Just say yes.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Why you should go into airplane mode even when you're not on an airplane

I've always been a somewhat late adopter when it comes to technology.

For example, when I purchased my second smart phone ever last week it was already two versions ahead of my current phone. 

I've always been slow in this area because I never wanted to feel like I was a slave to my phone, to it's updates and bings and notifications and constant connectivity.

But alas, I can't fight it anymore. It's here, and here to stay, and the addiction has taken hold. When I hear a "bing" I just have to read it. I have to know what just happened!!! Was it a retweet?! A text?! A new LinkedIn connection?! I MUST KNOW NOW!!!!!

So yeah...I know, I know, "Welcome to the 21st Century, Isa." I've finally arrived, and while there are a ton of advantages to all this connectivity, there are still times where I need to just zone out and FOCUS.

As a professional writer and speaker this is especially vital. I almost never give the same speech twice, as every one is customized to the specific audience and event, so there are times where I have to focus deeply to get into the "zone" of creating something new. 

Same with writing of course. And for a while I found myself actually procrastinating this work - something I never used to do.

And I realized it was because it was just so hard to focus. I was avoiding the strain not of the work itself, but of the effort it took to focus despite all the distractions around me.

Recently I decided to try something that I think might help you too when it comes to studying. 

I turned my phone on airplane mode. Now, of course you can just turn it off too, but to the addict, that just feels wrong. ;) 

So now when I need to get important work done I turn my phone on airplane mode, and sometimes even turn the wifi off on my laptop.

The result? I've felt re-energized in my work and have created some of the best speeches I've ever done, if I do say so myself. ;)

So give it a try! 

(I also downloaded a bunch of classical music meant for studying on iTunes that I also use when I need to zone out the sounds around me too; just search 'classical music' and 'study' and you'll find a ton of results).

You may be surprised at how much you might accomplish, and what your brain can do when it's released from the constant "bing" for a little while.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The SKiNNY on Non-Traditional Students

Non-traditional is becoming the new normal, but that doesn't mean it's easy. This episode is dedicated to any student who doesn't fit the "full-time-18-year-old-freshman-with-a-HS-diploma-who-doesn't-have-to-work-and-doesn't-have-kids" mold.