Monday, March 30, 2009

How have you grown?

Hi All,

Life is busy, for sure. However, I encourage you to pause sometime today. Take a few minutes and consider -- how have you grown? In what ways are you different than you were a year ago? Think about yourself before you started your academic program, compared with now -- how have you changed?

We all have a lot on our plates, however sometimes the most important thing we can do is to take a few moments and reflect. Stop and take stock of how all of this hard work is moving us forward.

Until next time,

Friday, March 27, 2009

My red light green light theory, a.k.a. be where you are

In response to my last post, Ininda commented that one of the challenges she faces (and others too) is that we get distracted by other issues when trying to do school work. This is such an important point. How many times have you been trying to write a paper or do some reading and you can't concentrate because you either feel guilty about what you aren't doing (time with family or friends, work around the house, etc.)? Or the converse -- have you been in the midst of time with family or friends and realized you aren't enjoying it very much because you feel guilty that you aren't doing school work? Then on top of that there is worrying about the future -- courses, papers, new job, and on it goes.

I believe strongly that being present to whatever we are doing, increases our effectiveness and happiness across the board. When we work hard and with focus (as opposed to trying to work while replaying regrets), chances are we'll do better work and get done a little sooner and have time for the fun stuff. And when we're doing the fun stuff -- do it and enjoy! The time away from school can be rejuvenating and make us more effective when we return to readings, papers, etc. In addition, I believe the brain does good work when ideas are allowed to simmer. So doing some work and stepping away can bring new clarity.

I haven't mastered this yet either, it is a tough one. But I continue to work on it because every time I am able to be more present, I work or play with more energy and effectiveness.

The red light green light link is this.... did you play red light green light when you were a kid? If you didn't stop running when the leader yelled red light, you were out of the game. You didn't get ahead by continuing to run. So my point is, when you are running (or working) -- run. And when you have decided to stop -- then stop. Be where you are.

Thoughts? How do others handle the distraction of stress, other time demands, and anxiety about the future?

Good luck with the work this weekend! To send you off, here's one of my favorite songs. Enjoy!

More soon!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Do something every day, a.k.a. build and maintain momentum

Working and going to school full-time is a tremendous challenge. For many of us this means balancing work, family, school and other commitments.

I believe that one of the most important strategies for success is to do something school-related every day.

How many times have you sat down in the evening to do school work, after a long day at the office and an early evening with your family, and looked at your books and decided you just didn't have the energy to read the chapter you planned on reading. Or you thought, "there is no way I can start this paper, I'm just too tired"? In these cases, do something, even if it is something small and not what you had planned on doing.

Too tired for a full homework session? Here are some alternatives: read half of the chapter instead of the whole thing; print articles you have been needing to print; search for articles for an upcoming paper; work on your reference list or a table or any other part of a paper that doesn't take quite as much concentration as writing; check those APA questions that you know you need to resolve; post to your discussion group or complete other online work that is a little more active than heavy reading; grab the easiest or shortest article on your reading list and read that; or read just a few pages of the next chapter that is due.

Printing articles, or reading a few pages may not sound like much, however at the end of the week, those little bits of work add up and you will still have more accomplished than if you had said "I'm too tired to work, I'll do it this weekend."

In addition, doing something (almost) every day, helps you build and maintain momentum. Getting restarted on a Saturday morning after you haven't opened a book for four days is typically more difficult than getting started when you have at least some momentum from having done something every day.

A word about "(almost)" every day... I also have ideas on the importance of breaks and days off... I'll save these for another post.

Thoughts? What kinds of work do you do when you are tired for the most intense work? How do you keep yourself moving?

You can do it! One day at a time!


Friday, March 20, 2009

Getting unstuck - Strategy #1

You are trying to start a paper and you just can't generate that first paragraph. Or you are trying to synthesize theories -- you know there are connections but you just can't piece them together. Getting mentally stuck while working -- we've all been there.
I believe this is one of the biggest challenges in graduate work so I will return to this topic frequently in this blog.
Today's strategy -- step away from the computer and change media. Move your thinking away from the confines of black and white text and the printed page. Instead get out a big piece of paper and colored pens, pencils, or even crayons! Next, try to visually represent the topic you are addressing. You may do this with a diagram that portrays relationships among ideas -- which ideas sit in close proximity to each other, which overlap, etc. Or, if you are so inclined, you may even make a quick sketch. Either way, you will engage your brain differently than when you are simply sitting at the keyboard and this is likely to shift your thinking.
Good luck and let me know how it goes.
Until next time,

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

jump shots and confidence...

Here's a little mid-week fun. Even if you don't like basketball, this clip is entertaining. Hope it gives you a smile as you make your way through the week.

more soon,

Sunday, March 15, 2009

High-energy visuals!

Hi All,

Here is your tip of the week... working on a powerpoint presentation, or some other project where you need images? Forget about clip art - we've seen it before. Instead, check out:

Stock xchng is a terrific site for stock photography. Some images on the site are for sale, but most are absolutely FREE as long as you aren't using them in a for-profit situation.

The photography and image quality -- both terrific. These images will energize your presentations, handouts, and other class projects.


p.s. a few of the images on this blog are my own photographs, the rest are from stock xchng

Thursday, March 12, 2009

rhythm and life

Happy Friday! I threw you some theory mid-week so for my Friday posting, I'm going to ease up a bit. Check out this short video about world-class percussionist Evelyn Glennie who offers wisdom, inspiration, and fantastic energy. She is the most famous solo percussionist in the world, was awarded the OBE (Officer of the British Empire) for her work in music, and is deaf.

Enjoy the words, enjoy the drumming, and have a good and productive weekend!


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The art and science of positive emotions

Today I would like to introduce you to the work of Dr. Barbara Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina. Dr. Fredrickson is a leading scholar in the field of positive emotions and human flourishing. I first read some of her work while reviewing literature for my dissertation. I was particularly taken with her broaden-and-build theory (Fredrickson, 1998). Broaden-and-build suggests that positive emotions are not simply the result of having positive experiences, but that positive emotions position us to be more likely to have positive experiences. For example, anger and fear are emotions that put us in survival mode and thus narrow our thinking. Positive emotions, on the other hand, emotions like joy, gratitude, and curiosity, expand our thinking, we are more open to new information and thus are better able to think creatively and solve problems. Working from a positive emotional state gives us more options.

Let me be clear, everything I am saying here is Dr. Fredrickson's work, not my own thinking. Further, positive psychology may sound like the latest self-help trend, however, Fredrickson's work evolves from research and offers wonderful complexity, though the reading is accessible. Her work is not a how-to, but instead offers research-backed theory and much to consider.

See Dr. Fredrickson on YouTube:

Visit her site for more information, publications, etc.:

Until next time,


Sunday, March 8, 2009

So that others can make music

I read this story in this morning's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about a Pittsburgh-area teenager who created a process to collect used musical instruments and donate them to local programs that have limited budgets. Very cool.
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