Student using ruler to plan out their productive study schedule.

5 Unproductive Things Students Do During Exams (That Don’t Involve Netflix)

By: Neya Abdi | @neyaabdi

Ah exam season. That time of year when students everywhere teach themselves a semester’s worth of material in two weeks. It’s a testament to laziness and resourcefulness all at the same time. But there are a few especially unproductive activities students participate in while studying for exams that don’t get them anywhere. This exam season, take a good look at some of the behaviours listed below, consider the solutions, and then cut them out!

1. Obsessively Calculating What Mark You Need To Pass

It makes sense to do this – once! If you had a less than admirable semester, and you are relying on the final to turn things around it makes sense to crunch the numbers quickly to figure out if it’s even worth showing up to the exam. But once you’ve received that confirmation, ditch the calculator. (Unless you’re studying for calculus or something.)

Solution: Why do students spend so much of their study time calculating their possible marks? It’s because when they do it the first time, they calculate the best possible scenario. For example a student may think, If I get 100% on the exam, I can get an 80% in the course. While it’s great to set your sights high, it can be counter-productive this late in the game. Once the sheer magnitude of the work you have to catch up on sinks in you will keep minimizing your expectations by intervals and turning to your calculator to see how low you can go.

Cut to the chase. If you’re in a tight marks situation like this, calculate the MINIMUM mark you need in order to pass the course and then forget the number crunching entirely. Dedicate the rest of your energy to studying. You’ve already got an idea of how much work you need to put in to pass and hopefully will study enough that you earn a higher grade than that.

2. Doing Something Else While a Textbook is Open and Convincing Yourself That That’s Studying

Since we’re on the topic of exams, here’s a quick test for you.

Which of the following is an effective way to study?

a) Texting your friends that you can’t come out to study and then texting them throughout the evening about how much you have to study (with a textbook nearby)

b) Refreshing Facebook every fifteen minutes to check how many people liked your status about how you’re just gonna drop out and open a dog petting shop (with your lecture slides minimized)

c) Meeting up with a classmate at Starbucks to make study notes, post a picture on Instagram, and then decide it’s too noisy in there and postpone

d) None of the above

Answer: d) None of the above

Ditch the picture-perfect notions of studying and do not fall into the trap of thinking you’re studying just because you didn’t go out.

Solution: If you know that you will spend twelve hours at home to study on Saturday only to focus for ten minutes each hour, then be realistic. Work rewards into your study routine, and enjoy ten minutes of scrolling through Instagram guilt-free. Even if it’s mindless, it’s scheduled in and is not eating into your study time.

3. Studying With Friends Before Obtaining a Basic Understanding of the Material

Students forming a study group.
Study groups can be useful, but be careful that they don’t become an excuse to socialize with open textbooks. (Image via Pexels)

Studying with classmates is a fantastic way to discuss the material so that it is learned instead of memorized. But studying in a group can be a disaster, especially with friends. It won’t feel like a disaster at first, because you’re having so much fun. But once it’s 9pm, and you’re all tired the panic will start to set in when you think of how little you’ve absorbed for your 8am exam.

Solution: Do not assign a disproportionate amount of your study prep to a meet-up. Familiarize yourself with readings and concepts beforehand. That way, you won’t feel the temptation to get distracted during the group study session. You’ll be eager to discuss what you’ve learned and have an intelligent conversation about the material.

Bonus solution: If you really want a study session where you actually learn the material as a group – for bio or history majors that are memorizing a lot of dates or Latin names – assign chapters and come up with an activity. It could be as simple as each person coming up with 20 questions for a specific topic. As a result, each individual becomes familiar with one area and the rest can quickly learn through a quiz bowl style study session.

4. Waiting Until You Feel Like Studying

Here’s the thing: you’re never gonna feel like studying. Studying sucks. Reading’s fantastic; absorbing materials on a deadline is a pain in the ass. If you don’t feel like studying, buying nicer supplies or toting your laptop to Starbucks won’t make you feel any more disciplined. Simply recognize that it’s gonna be hard work and remember the goals that put you on this path of academia in the first place.

Solution: Commit to making notes for fifteen minutes. Just fifteen. Tell yourself you can do whatever you want after fifteen minutes – go shopping, get drunk, watch a movie – and put your phone in a drawer. Guarantee you that after the first fifteen minutes are up you won’t care to get up. And if after an hour of work you start feeling restless again, make the same “I can do whatever I want in fifteen minutes” deal. This has helped me with cleaning, exercise, dull freelance assignments, and everything in between.

5. Missing Out On Sleep

Student sleeping after studying for exam.
Get some rest. Your brain and your body will thank you. (Image via Pexels)

We live in a society that admires exhaustion. How tired you are is an indication of how hard working you are and the number of coffees you throw back is a sign that you’re busy and have shit to do. But sleep is unbelievably valuable, and like many simple solutions people just don’t want to hear, it solves A LOT of problems.

Mild anxiety about all the studying you have to do? An earsplitting headache? Hell, feeling nauseous? These are all possibly exam-related symptoms that can be addressed by getting eight hours of sleep or fitting in a quick cat nap.

Solution: If you do not usually get eight hours of sleep, you’re likely the kind of person who will go all the way down to no hours of sleep during exam season. So implement a habit of getting those full eight hours at the beginning of the exam season, instead of staying up to watch TV or go out. That way it’s a habit when things really start to pick up towards the middle and the end of exam season.

Tip: If you have trouble falling asleep, try avoiding all screens (yes, that includes your phone) a half hour to an hour before you plan to go to sleep. Make some chamomile tea to get calm and drowsy, and read a book, preferably one not related to your studies.

Here’s to a healthy and productive exam season!

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Featured image via Pexels

 

Student sits on bed and makes a budget on her laptop.

Students Can Create a Budget In Less Than 10 Minutes

By: Neya Abdi | @neyaabdi 

Budgeting is the simplest proactive measure we can take to guarantee our financial security, but we don’t take it as seriously as we should.

A big reason for this is the lack of personal financial education in schools. Many of us simply aren’t taught how to handle our money by our parents. Unfortunately, our parents may not know what they’re doing either – the average Canadian has $21,348 in consumer debt, according to TransUnion. And about 56 percent of Canadians say they have less than $10,000 stored away in an emergency fund. Forty-four percent have less than $5,000 and 21 percent have less than a grand. Financial experts recommend having at least three months of expenses (the ideal is six months) tucked away to touch only in an emergency.

Making a budget doesn’t just allow you to save up for a trip; it allows you to save up for the unexpected as well. So why are a lot of us hesitant to create one?

It’s Not As Complicated As You Think

For people I’ve spoken to, the biggest reason they don’t make a budget is because they simply don’t know where to start. They don’t know whether they should be aggressively paying down their debt, stockpiling money to paying off their student loans, or living on only bread and water. So they abandon the process before they’ve even started. If you’re just starting out, here are two key pieces of advice:

  1. Don’t be extreme.
  2. Just get started.

Your budget is a flexible tool that you can adjust periodically to meet your financial changes. Create a budget that gives you room to buy the things you like and do what you enjoy. Your budget shouldn’t be a financial straitjacket. Prioritize so that you are giving up things you care less about in order to spend on the things that you enjoy.

On that note, just get started! Your first budget will not be perfect, and it will likely be a reflection of how idealistic and ambitious you are about saving money. Following a budget takes practice, so just start off simple.

Implement the 50/30/20 Rule to Quickly Make Your Budget

Uncertain about:

  • What to start saving for?
  • Whether you should tackle your debt first?
  • How much you should put towards discretionary expenses or “fun money”?

Start off with the 50/30/20 rule. It’s the budgeting rule of thumb. Only 50 percent of your income should be spent on needs (this includes rent, hydro, metropass), 30 percent on your wants, and 20 percent should go towards savings and debt repayment.

If you do not have to worry about rent because you live at home, then throw a couple of fixed “wants” in there like your phone bill. If you have the extra money, maybe start contributing a couple hundred dollars a month to your parents just to get into the habit of paying “rent”. But try not to consider your fortunate situation a free for all to allocate 80% towards wants instead of just 30%. You can even put some of that leftover money towards your savings.

It’s as simple as striking two lines across your paper and making three categories: Wants, Needs, Future. And then fill in the sectons accordingly. It’s a quick and simple process.

If you are spending too much on your needs, moving may not be an immediate option, so see where else you can shift your budget. The 50/30/20 rule serves as a no-brainer starting point that you can organically adjust to fit your personal situation.

Should I Pay Down My Debt or Build Up An Emergency Savings?

This depends on your current situation.

If you can only depend on yourself in case of an emergency (you can’t pay rent one month, you need a repair) work on building your emergency fund up first and once you have about three months, start chipping away at your debt.

If your basic needs are met and you don’t have to worry about your food or shelter, prioritize paying off your credit card debt. Interest rates on credit cards are very high and whatever interest you earn in a savings account will never outpace the money you lose paying interest on your credit card. Beat that down as soon as you can, and allocate a smaller portion towards savings.

Whichever option you choose make sure you ALWAYS MAKE YOUR CREDIT CARD MINIMUM PAYMENTS ON TIME!!! You can live with carrying a balance, but missing your minimum payments can very negatively impact your credit score.

Respect the Effort It Took To Make Your Money – You Earned It!

Setting aside a specific amount of money for eating out or shopping quickly teaches you the value of a dollar. You’ll quickly learn the price of that pre-made salad you casually buy and wonder whether it’s worth it when you can put a bit towards that dress you wanted to buy. And you’ll become much more aware of the hard work that went into earning that cash and be less willing to give it away.

To keep up with the latest articles about budgeting and personal finance, like our Facebook page or follow @todiscursive on Twitter & Instagram

Networking in the City: It’s About Who You Are, Not Who You Know

Every post-secondary program is served with a side of advice to network aggressively.

“It’s about who you know, not what you know,” we’re told, “so you’d better start marathon shaking hands”.

Well, not so fast. Sure, people with an extensive network boast a unique advantage when it comes to landing jobs. They can save time by sending resumes to people they know will look at them. But for the most part, if a hiring manager or executive doesn’t believe you’ll vibe with their company, chances are you’re not getting the job.

Don’t believe me? Consider this: according to 67 percent of consultants surveyed by Workopolis, the top reason people don’t get the jobs they want is because they fail to set themselves apart from the competition. 

Let that sink in for a moment. The top reason isn’t lack of experience or a company insider’s referral: it’s a compatibility problem.

The Importance of Values in the Startup Scene

But what exactly does this mean? Differentiating yourself isn’t about standing out by any means necessary. If this were the case, we’d all be showing up to interviews drunk, toting a karaoke machine with every intention of using it in the name of making an impression. Clearly, companies are looking for something specific. And that something specific is:

Whether your values are aligned with theirs.

Nowhere is the urgency about values stronger than in the startup scene, particularly in Toronto’s flourishing tech ecosystem. Ninety percent of startups are expected to fail. With a fun statistic like that, startup founders are more interested in working towards their vision than convincing new recruits that their vision is great. Teaching you company policy takes the work of a week. Teaching you to share a company’s convictions, while not impossible, can take forever and even after that investment there’s no guarantee you’ll care. Consequently, who you are and what you value is very important to companies.

Companies Are On the Lookout for People Who “Get It”

The recent TechToronto Meetup powerfully drove this point home. The beauty of this monthly meetup hosted by TechToronto is the mini-presentations given by members of the tech community – just enough variety to leave you satisfied, but short enough to keep you engaged. The most recent event was a veritable smorgasbord of speakers ranging from a marketing manager in a biotech company to the married co-founders of a beauty review site to the hilariously straight-talking, potty mouthed CEO of a healthcare tech startup. While on the surface they could not be more different, what they all shared in common was a strong belief in the importance of people with shared values for the success of an organization. In each presentation, the speakers emphasized the importance of company culture and building solid teams.

Of course, a shared passion for eating is not going to overcome the fact that you don’t know how to code if you are applying for a developer position at a food delivery startup. On the other hand, if you have the necessary hard skills and demonstrate a commitment to creativity, user experience, and healthy eating, it’s clear to the person doing the hiring that you get what the organization is trying to accomplish.

At the end of the day, everyone’s just looking for people who “get it”. It’s why couples with seemingly opposite interests can work so well: they likely share core values about communication and personal growth. And it’s why an organization with teammates who fill different roles – technical, public relations, sales – can come together to make something greater than the sum of its parts.

The TechToronto Meetup and afterparty takes place every month for those looking for a job, those looking to hire, and those who just love learning about tech. The next event takes place December 5. Early bird tickets are $12, regular tickets are $20, and you can buy them at the door for $25.

To keep up with the latest articles on networking and student life, like our Facebook page or follow @todiscursive on Twitter & Instagram

Featured image via Pexels

The Power of Positive Affirmations for a Happy, Successful Week

By: Neya Abdi | @neyaabdi 

It pays to be positive. It’s been said that positive thoughts lead to positive outcomes, and a large part of changing your circumstances is about changing your attitude towards those circumstances.

Instead of waiting for productive change to happen overnight or for a supportive somebody to fall into your life, you can act as your own catalyst and your own cheerleader. Say affirmations out loud to yourself while you’re getting dressed in the morning or repeat them in your mind if you’re in a social situation where you feel less than adequate.

The great thing about affirmations is that they are unapologetic. They make no qualifications. We have a tendency to tack on exceptions to all of our positive thoughts or statements.

“I’m a great, funny person even though I’m a little annoying…”

“I’m gonna get a lot done this week, unless I wind up being lazy as usual and do nothing.”

Thanks in large part to their simplicity and straightforwardness, positive affirmations can be terrific for:

Boosting self-confidence.

Repeat as needed: “My high self esteem enables me to respect others and beget respect in turn.

We would never let others speak to us the way we sometimes speak to ourselves. If anyone ever told us we were a fraud, not beautiful, or not good enough, we would instantly become defensive.

If there is truth to a negative statement, repeatedly telling yourself that “you’re not good enough” is not doing anything to make you better. Identifying where you think you’re lacking and actively working towards bettering yourself (whether it’s as a student, friend, or employee) is the proactive (and preferred) approach to take. The beauty of affirmations about self-confidence is that you eventually try to live up to the positive things you’re saying about yourself.

Improving your work ethic and self-discipline.

Repeat as needed: “I’m the kind of person who just doesn’t stop until I reach my goal.

Student have a terrible habit of repeatedly saying that they are lazy, that they procrastinate, and that they are full of shit. I have been guilty of this, too. What’s the result? You end up in a situation where you constantly allow yourself to be lazy, a procrastinator, and full of shit.

Start telling yourself that you’re a hard worker, that you get things done, and that you follow through by finishing what you’ve started. Eventually, you’ll be compelled to make reality match your thoughts.

Letting go of debilitating emotions like jealousy and resentment. 

Repeat as needed: “I release and remove my envious thoughts.

You’ve heard the expression, “Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Resentment, jealousy, and all their relatives are not helpful emotions. They hold us back and convince us there’s something to make us upset even when we’re feeling mostly satisfied and fulfilled. Most people know this, and want to shake this, but find it difficult to let go of injustices they feel they’ve suffered or disadvantages they’ve had to contend with.

In cases like this, affirmations are like a salve you can apply to an irritating rash. Whenever you feel the green-eyed monster creeping up behind you or the burning fire of resentment, repeat a few positive affirmations to push them out of your mind.

Helps You Recognize Your Self-Worth and Right To Be Present.

Repeat as needed: “I am a well loved and well respected person.

How many times have you been in a class where you were convinced everyone was smarter than you? At a conference or networking event where it seemed everyone was more interesting and more outgoing? These are not helpful attitudes, and they can prevent you from demonstrating your worth and brilliance.

In instances like this, whenever the cold grip of anxiety starts grabbing hold inside your chest or you feel yourself tempted to run away out of fear that you are a fraud, take a deep breath and repeat a few of these affirmations in your mind.

And if you just need an affirmation to get you though this week you can always go for the all-inclusive:

“This week I will work hard, be happy, and forgive myself for any shortcomings.”

To keep up with the latest lifestyle articles and stories, like our Facebook page or follow @todiscursive on Twitter & Instagram

Featured image via Pexels

10 Acts of Self-Care For Your Extra Hour on Sunday

By: Neya Abdi | @neyaabdi 

We often put jobs, school, and even friends ahead of taking care of ourselves. Presumably under the assumption that those other things will pay off towards our happiness in the end. But small personal sacrifices in the name of a happy boss or a perfect grade can add up, and even have a detrimental effect on our life goals. Embracing your Sunday by performing these ten acts of self-care can help set the tone for a relaxed, healthy, and fulfilling week.

1. Prepare Healthy, Delicious Meals for the Week

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Eating healthy is so much easier when you cook your meals in advance. Do all of your shopping and cooking Sunday afternoon to prepare simple, grab-and-go meals during the week. In fact, you can limit the amount of energy you put into meal prep and planning. Think about which foods you enjoy eating most and then decide to eat the same meals every day. You’d be surprised how much time this saves, and the amount of energy it allows you to put towards things you care more about.

2. Put on a Hair Mask or Conditioner (Especially If You Have Curly Hair!)

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It’s not the case for everyone, but Sundays are traditionally the laziest day of the week. Put either a store bought or homemade conditioning mask in your hair so it can soak up some essential moisture. Leave it in for as long as you think your hair needs while you do other things like prep meals or clean your room. Making sure your hair is moisturized and conditioned is especially important for keeping your locks shiny and luscious if you have curly hair.

3. Read a Non-School Related Book to Unwind

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When you’re a student and you have hundreds of pages of dense academic articles to read each week, it can be easy to forget that once upon a time you adored books. Find a book that you enjoy simply for the sake of the story and dedicate an hour to reading it. Even if it takes you a month of Sundays to finish one book, you have a weekly reminder that books don’t have to be a stressful word count you’re obligated to plow through, but an enjoyable afternoon as well.

4. Get Your Nails Done

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Nails are an underserved part of our personal appearance that others often judge us by. You could have an entire outfit perfectly pulled together, but if there is dirt under your nails or they are chipped and peeling you run the risk of failing to make a good impression on that date or interviewer. Quality nail care doesn’t require a trip to the salon and a tip. Simply keep them neat, trimmed, and filed. If you don’t care for coloured polish, put on some nail strengthening formula or a clear topcoat.

5. Do Some Stream of Consciousness Writing

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We can get so caught up in our day-to-day responsibilities that it can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. You may be stressing over an assignment that is worth 10 percent when there are bigger academic fish to fry. And at times we carry around a lot of anxiety without getting to the root problem of what is causing our distress. Dedicating a few minutes at the start of your week to writing your thoughts without worrying about sense, sentence structure, or punctuation, can help you get all your plans and worries down on paper where you can tackle each issue head on.

6. Take a Walk Around the Block

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Fresh air plus physical exercise is a terrific combo and a tremendous way to clear your mind. It’s also a fantastic way to explore your neighbourhood. You’d be surprised at how little you know about your community, especially if you often zoom in and out of the area to work or school. A half hour walk around the block can help you discover little local treasures and maybe even say hello to a neighbour for some much needed community connection.

7. Remind Yourself of Your Goals and Dreams

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You may have gone into Environmental Science with a dream to change the world by starting an NGO, but now you’re up to your ears in course work that it’s grown difficult to see the forest for the trees. Each Sunday, take a moment to reflect on your higher level macro goals. Taking a step back to remind yourself of what fuels your curiosity can help re-motivate you to tackle your week of part time jobs and essay writing.

8. Take a Free Class at Your Gym

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If you have a gym membership at a place like GoodLife there are a number of classes that come included in your membership. If you’re someone who doesn’t like directing their own workouts or has no clue how to use any of the equipment, find a Zumba class or a group cycling workout to get those endorphins flowing.

9. Prepare a Weekly Budget

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This is especially important if you just got paid. Decide how much you are going to spend that week before the week really starts. If you are at a complete loss as to how to allocate your money, use the budgeting rule of thumb: the 50-30-20 rule.

50 percent of your income goes to fixed, necessary expenses like rent, utilities, and groceries (although groceries can be a variable, necessary expense)

30 percent of your income goes to variable expenses like unnecessary groceries, eating out, entertainment, your cell phone

20 percent goes towards saving for your future or towards debt repayment

Doing this on Sunday can help ensure you go into the week with a more mindful, purposeful approach to your money that honours the hard work you put in to earning it.

10. Spend Some Time With Your Family

Whether we live at home or on our own, it’s amazing how little time we actually get to spend time with our families. They may drive us crazy, make us laugh, or give us a hard time, but at the end of the day they are the people we come home to (even if we don’t live with them). You can even combine quality time with your family with some of the other items on this list. Do a deep conditioning treatment with your mom. Some meal prep with your dad. Or even choose something as simple as watching a show on Netflix. It may seem small, but these cumulative moments of bonding will mean a lot later on.

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Why I Chose to Leave School (And How I Strategically Planned My Departure)

By: Kiera Dinsmore | @kieradinsmore

These past few months, I’ve seen a flurry of back to school posts on every social media platform. They feature everything from new haircuts to school supplies, class schedules, degree countdowns, and “back-on-track” goals for fitness, self-care, and the ever-elusive straight A average.

I give these online declarations a big thumbs up, hoping to encourage my peers as they hit the books once again. However, I feel a slight tug whenever I do so knowing that this time around I am not joining them.

This fall, I did what many of my peers consider to be the unthinkable – I didn’t go back to school.

During the first three years of my degree, life was an absolute roller coaster. There were times when I absolutely excelled in my studies, soaking up knowledge and theory like a sponge.

And then there were the times that outnumbered those shiny, happy moments – long periods of feeling rushed and anxious as I watched my mental and physical health swirl down the proverbial toilet bowl of life.

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“I need a break.”

This year, I took the plunge and studied abroad for six months in Brussels, Belgium. I thought it was such a phoney, cliché thing to come back and be “a changed person”. Those people who “found clarity” made me roll my eyes at the predictable “eat, pray, love” endings. I was certain of who I was and what I wanted my life to look like; no plane ticket or trip of a lifetime was going to change that. 

Nevertheless, I uprooted my life. I left my relationship, my friends, my family, my jobs, my apartment, and my little campus – all the things that made me feel secure. I moved into a crappy, overpriced apartment in a rainy, cold city that I didn’t like all that much in a country I knew practically nothing about.

I spent the next seven months living in french, learning about journalism and migration and European parliamentary decorum. I made new friends entirely different from the crews I had back home. I experienced firsthand the ways in which a country and its society responds to acts of terror. I lived out of a backpack as I travelled to eleven countries, throwing myself into cultures and traditions totally foreign to me.

As I felt my time abroad coming to a close, I grew increasingly nervous about the thought of returning to my old routine as an entirely different person. I wasn’t ready to give up my risk-taking, unorthodox ways just yet.

A Choice Just For Me

Taking a time out from school carried a huge appeal for me.

I could take a break and really refocus where I wanted to direct my studies and efforts. I could be sure that my time in school wasn’t rushed, and the massive amounts of money and time and energy paid off with meaningful knowledge – not just a piece of paper.

I could pay off debt that I had accumulated from the last three years of studies and a very expensive travel season. If I was successful, I could spend my last period of study breathing easier about my financial obligations.

I could work in my field, or even just try my hand at gigs I’d never had the guts to pursue. I’d gain some more experience in the working world before graduating and having to “get serious”.

I could finally dedicate time to accomplishing goals and developing skills that weren’t covered in the classroom, like how to play the guitar or obtaining my TEFL certificate.

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The Nagging Voices 

Ever since I was about 13 years old, I’ve felt like there was a “track” I was supposed to stay on. Finish high school, get into a reputable university, graduate, find a job that paid well and pushed me further up the career ladder, make waves in my field, and retire happily as part of the loyal legion of an XYZ corporation.

I already started university a year after I was “supposed to”. I didn’t excel or pass all of my courses like I was “supposed to”. I was watching my friends head towards graduation and real life, knowing I would never really catch up. Why was I trying to move at a pace that didn’t work for me?

Yet, I worried myself sick about a decision I felt so instinctively confident about. I started to doubt myself in every way – was I making a terrible mistake?

Would I be able to find a job that paid the bills? Would I make enough to cover my OSAP and other loan payments?

Did I want to be 25+ when I graduated? Was I putting off my “real adult” life?

What if I didn’t go back to school? People warned me I would lose motivation, that once I stopped it would be so difficult to restart. Would I lose momentum forever?

What about the technical aspects of school? Would I be kicked out? Would the university honour the work I had done before my time off? Would I be punished long-term and be forced to retake credits?

Would the workforce stress turn out to be worse than academia for my health?

Would I lose touch with the school community? With my academic, professional, and personal contacts?

And the thing that generated a heavy guilt…

Would people think I had failed?

That I was too stupid to work through school like everyone else? That I was lazy? That I wasn’t ambitious? That I had given up at the first sign of something difficult?

I was doing something unconventional, that people don’t talk about or see as a viable option.

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A Promise to Myself

I knew that even if university and I were on a break, I would need to fulfill my curiosity in other ways and eventually finish what I had started.

I promised myself three things:

  1. I would give myself a minimum of one year off, and then re-evaluate.
  2.  I would pay off my debt first and foremost – if I didn’t have the financial stability to support myself, then I would defer my studies until it was feasible.
  3.  I would commit myself to learning in other ways – signing up for yoga classes, guitar lessons, and TEFL courses as soon as I could afford to do so.

I threw myself into the job hunt – found recruiters, sent out stacks of resumes, pored over job postings, scoured Facebook ads, and pounded the pavement until I scored a string of interviews.

It’s All a Process

All of my hard work paid off as the mess started to fall into place.

I worked at a tour agency and a bar throughout the summer, with unconventional hours and jobs that filled the financial quota until I could find my dream job. Ultimately, I made incredible friends and finished my summer with ridiculous anecdotes and memories.

I now work a 9-5 dream gig in a high rise building in travel and tourism. I use my second language every day. I put away my savings, chipping away at bills as I go. I have a routine and purpose and an obligation to an enterprise and consumer base I believe in.

I’m learning and living outside the box of standard student life, and frankly I’ve never been happier.

Ultimately, I’ve learned that dreams have no expiration date, and it’s better to enjoy and trust the process than fret about the final product.

I will make it across that convocation stage one day. Maybe wrinkled and weary, but content and experienced just the same.

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How to Stay Motivated Past The First Month of School

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” – Zig Ziglar

If I could come up with an object or solution with magical properties it wouldn’t be an elixir that preserves youth, an oil that prevents hair loss, or a stone that turns metal to gold.

You know what I’d develop? Motivation in a bottle.

Can you imagine? If we could take that combination of hope, fearlessness, and drive that consumes us before New Year, at the start of the school year, or after great words of encouragement and turn it into a perfume we could spray on at will we’d be doing some great things – like writing multiple drafts of our essays.

But until an adorable nerd somewhere whips up this magical concoction we are forced to stick with tried and true methods to do the hard work required to accomplish our goals. Here are a few strategies to keep you grinding well past mid-terms.

Maintain a Neat Work Environment

Your physical surroundings have a significant impact on your mental state. Have you ever decided you were going to go home and tackle a reading only to remember the mess waiting for you? That image instantly drains your energy and convinces you that you can’t get to work until you clean. So you turn on music, start cleaning, look around at all the clothes to hang up, sink to the floor and mumble, “Nope.”

There’s no need to aim to become a domestic god or goddess. Commit 15 minutes each day to picking up everything off the floor. A little bit goes a long way, especially when it comes to cleaning. As you witness the tremendous impact a small amount of cleaning every day has, you will become more motivated to develop a rigorous cleaning schedule and by extension, get things done in your work space.

Attend Every Class (Even If You Can Get Away With Skipping)

When 3 out of 4 of your professors are just reading slides off a screen, it’s hard to find the motivation to drag your butt to their 9am class. In theory, you could read all the slides later and show up for the exams, but the key words there are “in theory”.

As the number of slides to catch up on grows larger and larger, the amount of work you’re faced with will get even more overwhelming. You’d be surprised at how much you can absorb by simply showing up. And even if you do wind up slacking on the readings, when you eventually decide to tackle the syllabus and play catch-up, you won’t be starting from nothing.

And remember: you picked these classes for a reason. With the exception of a few pesky mandatory classes, you chose these lectures because the subject matter seemed interesting. Follow up with that initial curiosity by attending.

Stop Joking About How Lazy You Are

It’s as simple as this: if you keep saying you’re lazy, you are going to act lazy. If you spend time joking with your friends about what a bum you are, you will cultivate a social group within which self-pity is acceptable and poor performance is not embarrassing. If you do nothing else on this list, start telling yourself that you are a hard worker and that you get shit done, even if it is not true in the moment. Your actions will catch up with your words.

Set Micro-goals to Make Your Larger Goals Manageable

Saying “I will get an A in all of my classes this semester” is a lovely statement, but it lacks something important: a plan. If you made this same goal last semester and you didn’t get the marks you desired, consider what behaviours brought you up short.

Was it often difficult for you to get started leading to procrastination and then hastily submitted work?

Instead of deciding you will spend every evening in the library, commit to spending at least ten minutes on a given activity. Reading an article. Studying a chapter. Even cleaning your room. Promise yourself if you can perform that activity for ten straight minutes, you can watch Netflix or go out, guilt-free. Chances are after ten minutes, you’ll be on a roll and hesitant to slow your momentum. If you feel your thoughts drifting to social media or your phone, tell yourself you can look at it in ten minutes (or five if the itch is particularly strong).

When the chemical engineer and the botanist I’m keeping – uh, hosting – in my basement finalize the formula for liquid motivation, I’ll hit you all up with some prices. In the meantime…

GET TO WORK!

With Your Woman Wednesday: Naomi Wolfe

This week on with your woman Wednesday we’re chatting with Naomi Wolfe. Leaving school doesn’t mean the end of your education, and for a lot of people deciding to take a break from college or university is a frightening step. Naomi was generous enough to share her current experience navigating her academic career, and she provides thoughtful insight about making honest decisions when it comes to pursuing post secondary studies and looking after your mental health.

Please give me a brief outline of your academic path after high school.

  • Started at the University of Toronto in September 2012
    • Decided to leave the following year (September 2013)
  • Returned in September of 2014 with a major declared in Women and Gender Studies and Environmental Studies
  • Left midway through the first semester of the 2015/2016 school year

Deciding a program is not for you or not in line with your goals is something a lot of students go through. Deciding to make a change is so much scarier, and something few students actually do. Tell me a little bit about your thought process that led to this transition.

In my first year of university, I struggled with some mental health issues that really pushed me to re-examine why I was in university, or rather, why I was in such a rush to figure it all out. Leaving high school, I really had no concept of what it was like to exist outside of an education system that was structured to teach us in a very specific way. Despite that, I went right into another educational institution that had been pre-ordained by that same system. While what I learned in university was hugely eye-opening and beneficial, something didn’t seem to click, so when the time came to decide to stay or go, there was a thrill in leaving that meant exploring a side to me that maybe I hadn’t thought of before.

The idea of making that jump is pretty scary, because there really is no plan when you finally do it, but that’s also part of the excitement. It presents new challenges and forms of stress, but in doing so, also teaches you the skills to manage them. When I left, however, I knew that I would go back to University at some point. I guess I hadn’t completely let go of the structured system to which I was so attached. When I returned to U of T in 2014, I expected to be a new version of my academic self – one that was more committed, engaged, and maybe slightly less of a procrastinator. I was very wrong. It turned out to be the worst academic year of my educational career. The confusion and self-doubt that came out of it really sucked, for lack of a better word, but instead of letting it consume me, I forced myself to again re-examine the choices that had led me there. When I finally decided to leave my program a second time, I was less certain I would return. In some ways it was scarier, and in others, not scary at all.

While I didn’t know what I was going to do, I knew that I was finally open to exploring new options and experiences. It’s important to allow ourselves some room for creative, personal growth outside of the things we know, and more often than not, this can lead to amazing things. While I don’t have more certainty, answers, or even direction, I can safely say that I’m confident in the decisions I’ve made. It’s amazing how believing in those choices really helps you understand the personal strength we all have.

What program are you considering now, and what things do you want to do before diving into it?

I am currently hoping to pursue a career in midwifery, but since it is quite a jump from my plans earlier in life, there is some catching up that is required. In high school, I was determined to be a lawyer, and ignored the sciences to follow other passions. Unfortunately, this now means I have to complete grade 12 biology in order to meet program requirements. I never thought that high school, of all things, would be such an experience in self-motivation. I also need to start saving toward the program itself. Luckily, having taken time off has helped me build some work experience and an understanding of how to manage work and leisure in a way that allows for some balance. So on the whole, I’m just trying to learn and save, while leaving room to continue exploring my passions.

What are the biggest lessons or takeaways from your time in your previous program?

I think that I can safely say that the most important thing my previous program taught me was how to critically think about the world in which we live, and how to apply that thinking in a way that promotes positive change. So, I guess I would say that the lessons were both personal and academic. In the realm of academia, it has allowed me to further explore and challenge the material with which I engage, in a way that has changed how I think about information in relation to the greater social, cultural, and political contexts. On a personal level, however, the takeaway has been so much more. Critical thinking allows for a re-examination of our own beliefs and preconceptions in such a way that we are able to form, and continually re-form, our opinions. I guess you could say that before university, I had ideas of what my opinions should be, but after I left, I could believe in the things I was preaching. I think that believing in what you say is so important in the process of knowing and liking who you are, and so this skill has been valuable in some of the most important ways.

What are you currently doing for work, and how does your current job allow you to learn new skills and stay challenged?

 I currently work for a couple of farmers who both grow organic food and produce baked products for farmer’s markets around the city. It is a job that not only continues to challenge me both on a creative and social level, but also has a customer service and management aspect that works together in building valuable workplace skills. As someone who hopes to pursue a future career that focuses on relationship building and one-on-one interaction, I have found it to be an invaluable experience. I have also had some amazing opportunities to get involved in Toronto’s neighbourhood communities and meet some interesting, dedicated people. Interacting with people who are passionate about food systems and ethical farming has not only taught about a realm of labour about which I had previously never thought, but has also increased my awareness about local environmental and community issues. It has pushed me to re-examine the way that I exist within these systems, and has opened my eyes to an important economic and lifestyle choice.

What are some issues or causes you are passionate about, and how do you plan on incorporating them into your future work or career?

I think that part of the reason that I left my program was that, while I was passionate about the topics I was studying, they were fields into which I was already engaged and exploring on my own. While I loved the information I was learning, it felt like my time could be better focused on a career that put those principles and beliefs into action. I think that midwifery appeals to me for this exact reason. Issues surrounding female health, support, and access on a local level are hugely important to me, and as a career, it focuses on the importance of self-agency in decision making, allows for healthcare access where other options may not exist, and can be a great opportunity for building positive female relationships.

If you were a trust fund baby with terrific connections, and you could work at any organization or on any project or initiative, where/what would it be?

 It would probably be a mental health initiative. Having seen so many people struggle with mental health issues, I see the major problem to be solved being that of communication between, and for, those who are living with what can be debilitating illnesses, or just simple day-to-day life. Often, the conversation surrounding mental illness is about eliminating the stigma of the illness itself, but I don’t think that’s enough. Part of eliminating that stigma is about allowing for people who go through these experiences to feel able to connect with others who may be experiencing similar things. Medication has been something that has hugely helped me in my daily life. While mental illness itself has started to be destigmatized, certain forms of treatment are still often frowned upon. I think that people being able to share their narratives with others who may be struggling means a break down of those prejudices. It means that we can fully understand the tools and resources available, and continue working toward positive relationship building that allows for different experiences and informed decision making.

What are your favourite spots for getting things done in the city?

I have to say, I love the UC Junior Common Room at U of T. It’s cozy, has lots of outlets, and is home to some leather couches that are GREAT for naps. (Just remember to bring some headphones!). Otherwise, I tend to be a coffee shop kind of girl. I like to visit a small cafe in my neighbourhood and get my work done, or visit some beautiful parks around the city, and pray that my computer battery doesn’t die in the process. That can really prevent you from getting things done.

At Your Man’s House Monday: Darryl Gentil

This week on At Your Man’s House Monday we’re speaking with budding entrepreneur Darryl Gentil. With his mind focused on market trends and his heart set on helping others, Darryl is presently engaged in shaping the future of e-commerce. He talks to us about the pursuit of success, the productive power of fear, and the importance of surrounding yourself with driven people.

You started your post secondary studies in International Studies and Political Science at York before transferring to Ryerson’s Ted Rogers School of Management to study Business Administration. What prompted this transition?

Well I realized that social sciences would limit me in terms of what I wanted to accomplish. I realized at an early age that business was the way to go if I wanted change to happen quickly. Ryerson and Ted Rogers offered that opportunity to me, and it was a simple decision.

You have a very enterprising spirit, and that’s evident from talking to you or simply observing your posts on Facebook. What jobs are you currently working, or projects are you pursuing on the side?

This is a great question. I’d like to admit I’m only working on one or two things, but the truth is, I’m working on various projects, simply because my circle of friends are constantly inspiring me and themselves to achieve what they’ve always wanted – from fashion bloggers such as 53 marcel to small to medium size business owners. I realized that I couldn’t limit myself to what I wanted. Being an entrepreneur in this day and age seems like a logical thing to do. We are not living in our parents’ age where a typical life would be working for 45 years, to repeating the same routine day after day, year after year. My goal is to live my life to the fullest while I’m young, and to stay young. Over the next three years, I will create something that no one has ever done, and that’s creating my own economy on an e-commerce platform. It will take time, there will be challenges, but I can assure you of one thing, with the help of my friends and family, this goal is certainly achievable.

Aside from profit – we’re all trying to make money – what draws you in to a project or a job? Is there a certain passion or interest you have that you try to incorporate into your paid work?

First of all, money has never been a priority for me. I know what I want and I know that it has never revolved around money. I will invest my time in an idea or project if it means it will help the greater good. If there’s one thing I realized, as long as you do the right thing, by helping the right people and serving a purpose, money will always follow.

One peek at your Instagram suggests you’re definitely on the path towards getting what you want. That said, there is a very glamorous perception of entrepreneurship and hustling where people think all there is to it is inspirational quotes, and they launch into it with their sights set on the rewards, but no real conception of the work involved. What have been some of the toughest skills to pick up, or lessons to learn, so far?

This is a very interesting yet crucial question. I say this because we’ve all experienced different situations, we all come from different walks of life. Mine was like no other; it wasn’t easy, and it’ll not be easy. Three lessons I’ve learned since I’ve decided to jump into the unknown are as follows. One: keep your ideas secret and work on them secretly, and focus on them. Ask yourselves: who will benefit from it? What are the challenges you’re going to face? Who can you trust with this idea? If you’re willing to trust people with the idea, you have to make sure that they are worthy, and they agree with the vision that you have for this idea. Two: fear. A lot of people would look at fear as a bad thing, as an obstacle. The truth of the matter is, fear is a friend. Fear for me is fuel. Fear of failure is what keeps me going, and what’s kept the negativity and haters away because I realize that at no point do I want to fail. Because if I fail, the people who doubted me won’t be affected. The person that will be affected is myself. Therefore, I have no choice but to keep going. I’m working on bettering myself. Three: consistency. For something to become a habit, it needs to be done repeatedly, and I truly believe that. Consistency is to do a little bit of something everyday, and eventually those little things will add up to a greater thing – whatever it is. Regardless of fear, the naysayers, challenges, if you consistently challenge yourself to be the best that you can be, then you’ll achieve what you want.

On LinkedIn you say that you want to “learn as much as I can while helping others along the way”. Have there been important people who have guided you along the way, and what is one significant thing you learned from a formal or informal mentor?

Wow. To be great, you have to follow greatness. At different stages of my life, I had different people impact my decisions ­– from my girlfriend, Sophie, challenging me everyday to my first girlfriend’s parents encouraging me to get a job, from my high school teachers and coaches to my dear friends such as Benson Li and Andrew Chee, and my mom. Mentorship is crucial to someone’s personal development. You cannot achieve something without knowing the challenges that it takes. I find that mentorship is what guided me to the success that I’ve had so far, and there’s no doubt that mentorship will guide me to where I want to be. You have to understand that mentorship is given through many experiences. For example, I was on a plane to Miami for an e-commerce and technology conference, and the person that I happened to sit beside on the plane taught me the importance of family and balancing my life through business, friends, and loved ones. Truth is, you’ll have those people that will be physically near you, but what I value ultimately are lessons from strangers.

What advice would you give to people who are hesitant to reach out and seek mentors?

A simple lesson with a simple word: jump. Steve Harvey explains what “jump” means. It simply means, that to get where you want to be and to achieve what you want to achieve, you simply need to jump; take that leap of faith. Envision your goal and work at it, because if there’s one thing I can tell you, the right person, the right mentor will come. When they come, you’ll have something to present to them.

Is there a specific issue or cause you’d like to dedicate your energy to working on throughout your life and career?

I have to say that over the course of my adventures, I realized in order to get things done, I have to surround myself with strong and ambitious women. My mom has been working since she was 19 years old. She studied and worked her way up the corporate ladder, took care of me everyday and motivated me to be more than average. For success to occur in my life, I need to empower women to be at their best because if you can empower women to realize their vision for this world, I truly believe that we’ll be in a better place.

What’s the ultimate goal? Is there a particular industry you’d eventually like to wind up in, or large-scale idea you’d like to develop?

The one thing I can tell you is that I won’t invest my time in something that’s already been done. To be a successful entrepreneur you need to evaluate where the market is going, and the current trends. Clearly the trends now are strictly online. Through our innovative platform, we’re able to build something that will last a lifetime. With partnerships with Wal-Mart, Nike, Under Armour, Victoria Secret, and so on, e-commerce is the thing, and will be the thing, and I don’t anticipate that changing. Ultimately, I can tell you that I have one vision and one goal, and that’s to retire with my team. And by team, I mean my girlfriend, my brothers, and my family.

What are your favourite spots for getting things done in the city? 

  • Le Gourmand (Queen/Spadina)
  • Kensington Market (in general)
  • Anywhere where I’m able to observe people and to have a conversation with them