Say Hello to Ambiversion

Although I hate being labelled as much as the next 90’s kid, there come times when you discover a word and find yourself hugely relieved and validated- as in, “I knew I was not the only one to miss winning ឆ្គិះសត្វ and watching badly-translated cartoons in the morning this much”. *Hint hint*, the label, 90’s kids, anyone?

There is also another label that recently made its way into the cold bottom of my heart and snuggled in close. And that label is ambivert.

For those of you who are not sure, an extrovert is defined as someone who actually get energy (mental and physical) from being around people. They mostly get their inspiration from interacting with things/people outside of themselves.
In contrast, introverts get energy from reflecting. Large social gatherings sap their energy, and they think best when they’re left alone.

But then there are people, like me, who like to spend time alone (very much) but also have no problem getting excited for a huge event. And those people are called ambivert.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s obvious no one can be strictly extroverted or introverted since it’s a continuum. We’re all ambiverts, somewhere in between, to a certain degree.

However, if you, like me, who like parties, but also have down days. Who like to talk to new people, but sometimes would rather binge-watch a show for three days straight. If after several attempts at the 16-personality test, and you still get like 52% extrovert, then you, my friend is quite strictly an ambivert.


Here are some social life hacks I’ve found that suit the ambivert personality and can hopefully give you some ideas:

1. Seasonal fog:
There are times when you just want to get out and party every single day. Then there are times when you want to wrap yourself up in a big blanket and not meet a single soul for a month. That’s what I call seasonal fog. You just have to let go and accept that it’s part of your cycle. The moon has days when it’s full and days when it’s not. You’re also part of nature; it’s only normal to have your own cycle as well. I find it very helpful to just accept and go with the flow. Feeling social? Let’s click “going” to all those Facebook social invitations. Feeling introverted? Time to lost yourself in the glories of shows your friends have been nagging for you to see for months.

2. Social quota:
Apart from the seasonal fog, most of the time, you are both introverted and extroverted in the same freaking day. You might get up, full of energy, ready to socialize. Then 6pm comes, and suddenly the thought of you rotting in your coffin is more tolerable than running into an acquaintance and having to make small talks.
And that is perfectly acceptable. Try to observe your daily social energy pattern and you’ll come up with a quota time soon enough. For me, it’s mostly at 6pm. Schedule dates and meetings when you know your social quota will be full. And put all those writing, and reflecting activities when your social quota is down! Win, win.
3. Gathering with a large group of strangers:
When you are contemplating if you should join a new social gathering with complete strangers, it’s helpful to ask yourself if you’d have a common goal/interest to discuss or not. I bet if it’s just a casual party where everyone is there to get drunk, then you might not find yourself all that comfortable in repeating the same “Hi, how are you?” to ten different strangers. Make sure the group of strangers have a common purpose. Maybe it’s an art gathering, or social politic café. I find myself extremely charged whenever I get to talk to strangers who have the same concern/common interest. Also, if the place has a dog, you’re good to go.
4. Party:
Maybe, I’m being in my comfort zone here, but sometimes it’s great to be comfortable, you know. Parties can sometimes be your best goddamn time, or your worst cringe fest because you will be meeting all these beautiful, interesting or down-right crazy people, and what should you do? For me, I like to make it absolutely sure that I either have a close friend with me, or that more than 30% of the attendants are my acquaintances, or again, that there’s a dog there.

Well, there you go! Small tips that have made it much easier to not judge myself for my crazy social energy spikes and fall. Would appreciate it if you could also give me some of your coping strategies as well!

Worshipping Idols

“You’re so cool, idol. I love you.”

“I’ve seen you in that video today. So idol!”

“I. D. O. L.”

“អាយដូល!”


Here are just variations of how people have been jokingly employing the term “idol” repeatedly for about 300 times to me now. I know it’s all a trend and show because honestly? I’ve done it to quite a few handful of unsuspecting victims too. You have to admit it’s refreshing to be creating this culture of admiring and shamelessly admitting your respect and pride for someone. I mean, what sort of people DO NOT want to be praised for their efforts and hard work? However, just like with many things, if done wrong, this mere idolizing can mean serious trouble because if you have not noticed already, idol doesn’t just mean someone whom you have considerable admiration for, it also means this.

Screen Shot 2017-04-01 at 6.07.34 PM Yeah, that’s right. It also means something that you pray as part of your religion. If there’s one thing I know for sure about this implication, it is this, you think of someone as FAR, FAR above you- this enlightened know-all being who’s leisurely hanging out in the clouds spewing one genius work after another without so much as a sweat. Lowly earth-worms like you can never aspire to be half that successful.
So what do you do? You idolize them. You say, oh, he’s born a genius. That’s why. She’s been doing it for 10 years; of course, she’s fluent in it. I can never ever be that committed. Oh, you know, his mind is extraordinary. It just can’t be explained.  No, of course, he doesn’t have any flaw. There’s nothing that she can’t do; maybe save for being a failure.

You call them gods. You do whatever it takes to convince yourself that no matter how much you work, you, a chanced mortal can NEVER achieve that level of excellence.

You know what you’re subconsciously doing by practicing this sort of idolizing? You’re setting a huge air cushion ready for your future fall. Instead of crawling your way to success, you’d rather label that success unattainable; thus, relieving you of any blame for not attempting. And the result? Without the goal of achieving success, instead of practicing, instead of putting in the work and time needed for improvement, you waste your life burrowing from one hole to another, convincing yourself all the way that you can never be a god after all, so why try?

Besides demotivating you to achieve greatness, this idolizing of humans also means you are effectively removing yourself from their friend list. there-are-two-ways-to-dehumanize-someone-by-dismissing-them-and-by-idolizing-them

By idolizing someone, you’re choosing to see them as immortal instead of blood and veined humans with flaws, biases, emotional distress, and childhood trauma (everybody has those; especially artists). That’s why many fans lament about being disillusioned after getting to meet their favorite idol (mostly celebrities).
“I don’t know who he thought he was. He was not all that impressive.”
“She didn’t even know what piece of writing I was quoting! And I’d thought she was smart!”
Well, can you blame them though? You set up this perfect standard for someone, and then blame them for not fitting into the cloud-pacing goddess image that you’ve created for them?

And without leaving room for them to be flawed, to be irrational, to be dumb, you’re effectively cutting all bridges to connect with them on a deeper level. You may be able to hold a decent small talk with them every once in a while, but without giving them the chance to be vulnerable, good luck getting close to them.

Conclusion? I think what I’m trying to get across is this: it’s very tempting to put labels on people, to give them a two-dimensional mask and write them off as perfect or dumb, but humans aren’t nearly always so neat, are they? Before calling someone your idol again, ask yourself, am I merely respecting one aspect of their life, or am I effectively shining their statue and putting it on my shrink?

White Pailin Rose

“I can’t believe it took us this long to finally make the trip,” said Khun Neary, pulling Chet from his musing of the lone semi-ruined cottage in the middle of a green field.
“Oh, yes, considering how much our friends tease us,” he replied, head shaking slightly thinking about the hundreds of times they’ve heard the phrase, “Chao Chet and Khun Neary” by literally everyone who knew their names, even by that quirky colleague at work upon receiving their wedding invitation a week ago.
In a way, it seemed like they had been made for each other.

God was a cruel playwright. Chet learned this when his father died of a needless traffic accident twelve years ago. He supposed from then on, he might have subconsciously setting himself up to meet his soul mate, his Khun Neary.
She would be the woman of all his dreams- pretty, witty and bold. The young Chet grew up waiting for his lead actress, the goddess to complete his shrine. His life would not start, Chet felt, not unless he’d found his other half.
And when a charming-looking new colleague introduced herself as Khun Neary, Chet knew at once. This was her. This sweet looking woman with black flowing hair and a hint of permanent smirk on her face who spoke with a tilted Siem Reap accent was literally the Khun Neary to his Chao Chet.

Chet looked back at his newly-made wife, bathing under the warm September morning sunshine which was sipping stealthily into the tiny car they’d rent for their trip to Pailin. Arrays of light made her rosy cheek a shade darker, like a rose ready to bloom. In a way, she had always looked like a rose to him, full of thorns, but beautiful, oh so beautiful, to behold.
To call her his was probably what it felt like to be the master of a garden full of perfect roses- proud and content.
Struck by a thought, Chet rummaged through his backpack to find his forgotten treasure, a single white rose which he’d manage to purchase this morning without Khun’s knowing. His wife’s brown sultry eyes lit up with surprise. Hand grasping for the flower, she gave him a quick peck on the lips- a noiseless thank you to a noiseless offering.
They did not need further acknowledgement; both knew the other was content.

With Khun laying her petite head on his shoulder, Chet steadily fell into an easy nap to the rhythm of his wife’s cute little snores, and the silent hum of the car’s engine. If this was what being in love felt like, he could easily do it every single day for the rest of his life.


The couple were woken up by the soft persistent call of the driver. Of course, they’d just got a flat tire, in the middle of lunch time, no less.
“I’m so sorry, sir,” apologized the driver, sweat running down his cleft lips. “I’ll fix it as soon as possible.”

Grumpily, Chet nodded. They both decided to get out of the small rented taxi to sit under the shade of a huge umbrella tree near the road. The heat was prickling on Chet’s back, and he felt like despite the enormous amount of gel in it, his hair would shoot up like bed springs any minute now. As if she’d read his thoughts, Khun smoothed his sweating head in a familiar gesture, perfected by regularly practices. She’d always liked it sleek- simple and sleek. Controllable, predictable, not like his originally curled black locks, wild and full of literally surprising twists.

This was not supposed to be how it should go. They were supposed to have a smooth ride to Pailin, the province where their respective fictional characters had fallen in love and fall in love all over again. This taxi was not supposed to stupidly die in the middle of everything!

“We should get something to eat,” urged Khun, peeking from under the big pink scarf he’d given her on their first month-versary. To this day, nearly 6 months later, Chet still felt that moving sensation in his breast every time he saw the batting coal-black eyelashes of his wife’s, or the way she scrunched up her eyebrows every time she was troubled.
Again, Chet was shot with a pang of ecstasy. This wonderfully beautiful woman. She’s all his. She’s all his.
They had the rest of their lives to be happy.

“We were supposed to stop at the provincial town for lunch. Now, what?” Khun asked again, now with an unmistakable tint of frustration laced in her smooth voice.
If only you knew how to cook, then we’d not be sitting here and complaining about food, thought Chet. Though he knew better than to say it out loud. It shouldn’t have bothered him, her not knowing how to cook, but it was hard to ignore the nagging disapproval of your heart when your stomach was also in the chorus.

“Did you know that white roses are considered to be the opposite of red roses even though they are both roses?” Chet asked, looking at the snow white rose Khun kept in her pale, veined palm.
“You know I love your literary musings, but I’m really not in the mood for story times right now.” But Chet could not stop. He had to go on; he had to. He felt like he was being chased by an invisible monster close behind his heels. His wife had always been fond of his idle musings, and now he was afraid, incredibly afraid that if he stopped now, the monster would catch up.
Must go on. Must go on.

“Red roses symbolize love whereas white roses symbolize… death.”
Khun glanced at him and steadily held her gaze for a good solid minute. Her face went from pure wide-eyed surprise, to puzzled, then to surprise again. For some reason, Chet knew. He knew she’d also seen the monster. The monster which was chasing them both.


Tap, tap tap.

Hundreds of droplets of rain suddenly fell from the seemingly clear sky. Chet and Khun hurriedly scurried back into their small grey taxi. Panting, Chet tried to desperately combed back his unruly curly hair back into its place. It was no use, the angry locks shot up from the roots of his head like bamboo sticks, coiling like springs in every direction imaginable.
He glanced up, half astonished, half ashamed to see mascara-stained eyes looking back at him. Underneath the eyes, powder and blush all blended in and rushed away from Khun’s cheeks like a city under flood.

They both laughed.
The monster had caught on.

How to Start a Blog?

How to start blogging?

Now, one of the most frequently asked questions I’ve got after young people found out I’m a blogger is,
“Jeje, how do I start blogging?”
And I almost always jokingly tell them to just start. In hindsight, maybe they only needed a technical guidance, or some practical advice. And my answer definitely was not enough, so at them is this article aimed.

Now, I like to keep things simple, so if you are full of hot blood, wanting to get your voice echoed around the void that is the internet, then just follow these two very simple steps: first, you have to have SOMETHING to say, and second, well, SAY it. Easy peasy.

  1. Have something to say

You can have the prettiest verses, the ability to string the most beautiful sentence, but if the content is hollow, I’m sorry but your writing will not stick in the minds of people for more than three days. Iconic work of art is not just praised for their execution, though it plays a big part, it also has to tell something memorable.

Well, then, how to have something to say? You’re on your own here, pal. It’s both the magic and the curse of writing (or of any creative pursuit, really). Yes, you can write about anything and everything you want, but there’s no guideline life support to drag you through the void when you are hit by a solid writer’s block.

If you want some practical suggestions from me, it’s this. Look into your life and your environments. Find an issue that is bugging you or your community, analyze it and write about it.

A word of caution, though, I personally don’t like to just put forth a problem without offering a tentative or proven solution to the issue unless it is made to raise awareness. So again, it’s up to you. Do you wish to raise awareness to a particular issue, or do you want to share practical tips you’ve gathered on how to combat one? Again, your call.

  1. SAY it

Now, after fleshing an outline for what you want to say, it’s time to get down to the business and just write. It. Down.

There are literally courses, books and blogs dedicated to make your writing better. Find some of them and read if you must. For me though, what helps shape my writing skills the most is reading and actually paying the utmost attention to how authors write.

A year before I started blogging, I’d thought my writing skill so hopelessly mediocre that I almost decided to just give it up altogether if it weren’t for this quote from the lovely Virginia Woolf.a7481e7cf51fe1ed61c09622883aba34

Since I respected her and loved her writing dearly, I struck a bet with myself. I would set myself up to read 1,000 books and if my writing is still crappy by then, I would just give up and be a goat farmer in the rural provinces or something.

It’s been 5 years since and I’ve read a few more hundred books and believe me when I say reading (and actually GENUINELY paying attention not just to the content, but to how authors employ words and twist phrases) have helped me tremendously in becoming the author I want to be. So, my not-so-practical tip to you if you want to improve your writing is this, literally read a thousand books.

Quotefancy-52168-3840x2160There’s also another pitfall that hangs upon the minds of anyone willing to try anything new, this doom cloud that veils the will and makes it extremely easy to just procrastinate writing the first sentences down. From what I’ve learned through personal experiences and reading about other authors’ writing lives, they all have this one advice: write. Write even if you don’t feel like it. Once you have an idea, write it down. Shitty first draft makes a less shittier final draft.

 

Now that you have your article on the go, here are some blogging platforms you can try and see if they suit your needs! (Personally, I use WordPress and am pretty content with it.):

 

Welp, that’s all. Happy blogging, and if you wish, send me your first articles in the comments!

Latrine Is the Shit

*Funky commercial tune for a video before cutting into the main topic*

(Seriously, watch the video first)

Fortunately, born and raised as a lower-middle class city gal, that was not something I ever had to face. No matter how old, manually or automatically flushed, I had been lucky enough to never stay in a house without a toilet. Even my grandparents in the province had that old manual toilet where you had to squat (which I learned years later that it was actually better for your intestines, but that’s another matter).

Open defecation was, in my mind, something of the near past. There were stories of how my parents squatted in the bush and used banana leaves as their trustworthy toilet paper, well, in this case, toilet leaves. I linked open defecation to barbaric war-times necessities which should not exist in our peaceful time of the present. And boy, was I wrong.

That whole assumption changed, when I had to live with a host family for a few days before our journey into the Prey Lang Forest in Kratie Province in 2015. Not a single one of the dozen of houses in the village had a working bathroom, or a toilet for that matter. We had to bathe in the river, and defecate anywhere we saw fit.

I’ve learned a lot during my stay there; perhaps the most memorable one is to never poop in the place where many others also like to poop. I also learned that instead of being a past necessity driven by war time desperation, open defecation is still a reality for some Cambodians.

Further research breaks that delusional assumption because according to the World Bank, as of 2015, open defecation is still a reality for more than half Cambodians as only 42% of the total population had access to sanitary latrines.

That is 8.67 million people who have to rely on the old fashioned squatting bush-leaves style and risk poop mines in the dead of the night to relieve themselves!

Hopefully that shall not be how things will stay and we are expecting the numbers of latrines to grow because according to the Phnom Penh Post, the government has a goal to bring the number of people without latrines to 40% by 2018, and to 0% by 2025!

And that’s a wise choice because open defecation, well, the lack of hygiene in general, is an important cause for diarrhoea, which results in the deaths of more than 750,000 children under the age 5 every year worldwide.

According to a report from World Health Organization, in 2013, an estimated 14% of the deaths of Cambodian children aged under 5 is due to diarrhoea-related diseases. That’s about 2,000 children who could have lived and grown up to be a limitless possibility of personnels had they had access to clean water and simple latrines!

As if killing children (and sending their parents into fright) is not evil enough, diarrhoea, and poor hygiene in generally is also linked to growth stunt!

Though not directly deadly, stunted growth has been found by the WHO to cause a greater risk for premature death, delayed mental development, reduced cognitive capacity, and what’s more? It can even be passed on to the next generation.

You may think children who are victims of stunted growth are so because they lack the necessary nutrients to grow healthily.

That is the case, but not the whole case.

Apparently, a review article found that the lack of WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) also plays an important part in the development of stunting (oh, the irony). Children who lacks access to WASH face more frequent bouts of diarrhoea, parasitic worms, and environmental enteric dysfunction (short as EED which is a disease that causes chronic inflammation, reduced nutrient absorption of the intestine and also weakens the function of the small intestine).

Appropriating that to the Cambodian context, it has been found that, in as late as 2010, 40% of children under 5 were suffering from stunted growth! That’s 600,000 children that might grow up to have delayed mental development and reduced thinking capacity just because of malnourishment and lack of WASH! One wonders just how many of the irrational people one sees on the street and online everyday, struggling to form an appropriate justification for their environmentally-and-socially destructive behaviour might just be an unfortunate result of such simple causes.

It is now time, ladies and gents, to keep our eyes glued to the very simple yet largely ignored cause of supplying each household with a suitable latrine, not only for the sake of relieving all mothers of the bride an embarrassingly shitty moment (puns intended), but to also relieve children of the future unnecessary deaths, and needless stunting of their very-well-deserved growth!

My Mindful Week- Day 3: Dealing with Social Validation

You don’t want to be doing this, really, you don’t, but your finger itches and you’ve gotta snap that yummy home-made lunch of yours and post it to Instagram before it’s ruined. It’s great day, gathering up with your close mates, and you feel like you’ve gotta show everyone how great your hang out has been.

Where does this need for social validation come from? The need for others to perceive us as cool, hip, or simply good? These attempts don’t just happen in social media (although God knows it’s compounded in this platform), but it happens in our social life as well.

We fret over our outfit before going to a social event.

We spend hours putting together a cool outfit just to change our minds at the last second for fear of being judged.

Sometimes, we overshare too much of our achievements and accomplishments in a first meeting out of insecurity.

We buy that 5-thousand-dollar bike to impress our biking group members even though we’re pretty sure our old bike did just fine to our liking.

You know, the fear of being judged, the need to impress, to boast, these all stem from our need to be socially validated, to be patted on the head for conforming to a certain norm in a certain group.

And before you get all toasty and claim you’re a hipster who follows no rules, let me make it clear. It doesn’t have to be a norm that the majority follows. Whether you admit it or not, we all do this, but maybe with different groups. Even the hipsters who claim to follow no rules actually follow the rules of hipsters. (flashback to all the hipster mustache, glasses and boots).

Yup. I do it. You do it. We all do it. It’s just in our nature to want to belong to a certain group of people, and it’s useless to claim otherwise. However, it’s helpful to be aware of just which of our activities are being influenced by this need and whether we really truly want to do it or not.

Mindfulness can come in handy and here’s how I’ve used it to weed out the activities I truly enjoy and those that I do to just seem as cool:

  1. Look deep into the nature of the need for social validation. The thing is when you look deep enough into any negative emotions, it usually comes from fear. And when you zoom in enough into your fears, it all comes down to two major fears that every mortal have: a/ the fear of dying and b/ the fear of being alone. Actually, the second major fear, I think, also stems from the first major fear. When you are alone with no one to help you, your chance of surviving is likely diminished, so that’s why humans have this need to fit in, to belong to a group. As you look deep into that fear, continue to breathe in and out and just acknowledge that fear inside you.
  2. Look deep into each action and the group you’re trying to seek validation from. Don’t judge yourself for this. Just look. For example, I, myself had doubts about my enjoyment of painting. I was not sure if whether I did it to appear cool, or I was genuinely enjoying it for the sake of creating. Turns out, most of my works up to that point had been done for the sake of getting them likes on my social media, and that i only wanted validation from my social media followers.
  3. It’s very important to not judge yourself as an attention seeking whore. You have to remember being mindful is all about non-judgmental awareness. If your thoughts are caught up in judgment, don’t judge yourself for that either. Gently nudge your thoughts back to the base of your breathing and continue to acknowledge your emotions and the reasons behind.
  4. Now it’s time for action: you should at this point, find out how needing validation from certain groups (family, friends, neighbours, classmates, strangers on the internet) have driven you to commit certain actions. It’s time for you to decide if that validation is worth having, and to decide whether you want to continue that action or not. With regard to the above painting example, after finding out that I was doing it mostly for the likes, I took a break. Instagram likes were simply not worth the frustration and hair loss from all the hair-pulling of producing each piece of work and the likes would always become meaningless after a few days anyway.
    But something strange happened, after a few months of not painting, I found myself drawn back to the freshness of paint, to the softness of brushes. But this time? This time, as I pick my brush and dab it into the swirling green palette, I know I’m doing it out of pure enjoyment, out of the pure need to record my thoughts in brush strokes instead of a few hollas from internet strangers and painting has never been more liberating. I know it’s hard, especially if you grow up in Cambodia where you’re taught from day-one to seek for social validation. To be honest, I’m still in the process of weeding out the validation-motivated actions and the love-motivated ones. It’s a long and excruciating process and one worth your time because if not, whose life are you going to lead? If you want it to be yours, it makes sense to do what you really enjoy!

This is part of the My Mindful Week series. Read why it’s important here, day 1 here, and day 2 here.

Prep for College Part III: How to Study

In the previous posts, I’ve touched upon the subject of what to have and what to generally do in college for those who are just fresh out of high school, and here is the last post of the series which aims to give you some tips on how to study more effectively.

Now, I’m no expert on the subject, and without saying, here are just suggestions. You are more than welcome to adopt or scoff at them, but I urge you to at least give it a try because studying right makes matter much easier in college. That’s for sure.

  1. you need to plan your time and energy efficiently. In high school, you pretty much have your days planned out by either your school’s schedule, or your parents. However, in college, you’re given more freedom to choose how to use your time. I believe with great freedom comes an equally great responsibility. And nothing is as liberating or as challenging as our attempt to control how we spend our time. Annie Dillard said, “How we spend our days is of course, how we spend our lives,” and God knows there are a few struggle more challenging, or more rewarding than learning to spend our lives correctly.

Here are some of the few tools I’ve found helpful in helping me to plan my time:

  • Have a calendar: you can either note your schedule down in your pc, phone or the good-old notebook and pen. I find myself being more motivated if I note down my days on paper, but try them all out to see what you prefer the best.6e7b076c7b89acb59bb379a4211abf07
  • Block time for the most important things: In his book, First Things First, the legendary self-improvement guru, Stephen Covey said if you had a bottle and you put small stones in first, you won’t be able to fit in the bigger ones. However, if you put the bigger ones in, and put the small ones in later, the smaller ones will disperse and find nooks and crannies to settle into. When you schedule your time, block solid chunks of time for your most prioritized tasks. Since this is a post about studying, I’m assuming you’d like to get better grades or study more efficiently, so yeah, block time for your classes. I’d encourage you to show up in classes that are worthy of your time.
  • Block off time for your reading time: your lecturer wouldn’t be able to cover an entire subject in the span of 40+ hours assigned for their courses per semester, if you want to really attain knowledge, read the textbooks, recommended readings, and whatever the hell you can grab your hands on. I like to read the night before class. Reading before actually studying it in class also helps you question. Write your questions down and ask your lecturer during the class.
  • Block off time for review and note writing: after each class, it’s ideal if you can just review the notes, and main points in the lecture. See if your pre-class questions are all answered to your satisfaction, and if not, aim to ask your lecturer later. Also, if you regularly review your notes, it will make it way easier when the exam comes. The material sticks better than being crammed in a short amount of time, say, 1 night before the actual exam.
  • Set smaller deadlines: you’re not in college if you don’t get big group assignments. Talk to your teammates as soon as your group is formed. Set the final deadline on your calendar, then reverse engineer the project by dividing the tasks. For example, if it’s to write a paper that’s due in three weeks. You should set smaller deadlines for brainstorming, researching and draft writing. Say, you will have to finish brainstorming in a week, and researching in two weeks.
  • Use the Pomodoro Technique: basically, it’s found out that we can’t possibly pay attention all the time. Most people find it effective to pay solid attention for 45 minutes, then take a 15 minute break, and repeat the process. I find it helpful myself to pay attention for 30 minutes at a time, and take smaller 5 minutes break between the 30 minute chucks. It’s all about trying and finding out what’s best fit your attention span. I like to use Tide because it’s just all sorts of wonderful in customizing your focus time without needing you to be connected to the internet.
  1. Now that’s all the time management thing you have to deal with, on to the real study.
  • Before class:
    • Read before class. Don’t just read passively and highlight half the text though. Practice active reading by asking questions all the time. A useful technique for me is pre-brainstorm before the actual studying. I like to ask myself what I know of the topic beforehand. For example, if the topic is about ancient philosophy, I would spend a couple of minutes just trying to recall what I know of ancient philosophy. With these fresh knowledge in mind, reading makes it easier for me to detect any new knowledge and add it to to the existing store of information.
    • Learn to skim. Skimming is essentially reading fast to get the general idea of something. Of course, you will have to practice it wisely because some courses require slow and critical reading. This comes in handy when you have to read long texts from a boring book that won’t really give you any new information except for its bold headers.
    • Read notes from your previous class and highlights from your reading just to make sure your brain is prepared for the actual class.
    • Do you homework: of course, it’s up to you, really, to do the homework assigned or not. If the class is easy, you don’t really need to do it. However, for classes you find difficult, doing homework and asking your lecturer where you went wrong will help tremendously.
  • During class time:
    • Attend the lectures: again, this is not absolute. Maybe you are already well-versed in a subject, then there’s really no reason to show up. For classes you’re struggling with though, show up! Show up and pay attention to what the lecturer teaches.
    • Sit in front: I can’t stress how much this is ignored. If you sit at the back, you have the chance to slack off. Sitting in the front of the class will 1) make sure your lecturer actually know who you are, especially in big classes. This might come in handy when you need their help either in class material, or for, say, reference for a project.
    • Take notes: take notes of the important information during class. If you’ve read your chapter before class, you should know which info is in the book and which is extra info from your lecturer.
    • Ask questions: if you have any doubt over anything at all, ask questions to your lecturer. Chances are, they are more than happy to answer.
    • Grab chances to discuss: discussions can be boring, or it can be mind opening; it just depends on the people, to be honest. Take initiative in discussion by trying to put your thoughts as eloquently as possible, ad also try to listen and understand other people’s arguments. This is what you can’t get from reading books alone.
  • After class:
    • Revise your notes: put together your book notes and lecture notes. If you have the time, it would help tremendously to combine the notes and write them down neatly. It will surely help prevent cramming for exams.
    • Talk out loud: it’s actually very helpful to recite out loud what you’re learning with your own words. Bonus if it is to teach another person. If you can’t make something simple, you don’t understand it yet.

Well, these are all the tips I’ve tried and found helpful! Tell me yours in the comments! Have fun studying!

Complimentary reading on: how to be more productive  and how to deal with challenges.