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7 Awesome Websites to Plan Your Freshman Year

7 Awesome Websites to Plan Your Freshman Year

You’re about to go off to university and you’re not sure what to do. That’s a scary time in your life. Fortunately, there are a lot of tools out there to help you along. Today we’re going to take some time to talk about a few of the best ones out there so that you can make the most of your freshmen year.

Because, as they say, a good start is half the battle, so…

1. Xmind

01_-_x-mind_mind_mapping_service

    The first step to getting going is to build a good plan. I personally swear by mind mapping, as this really lets you get into the ins and outs of what you need to do. For example, it allows you to visually represent what you’ve got going on and thereby spot faults in your thinking, see where you can delve deeper and slowly but certainly get a true idea of what ahead of you and what you need to focus on.

    It is definitely worth using a good mind mapping tool to know where you’re at and get a better idea of where you’re going.

    Xmind is a great choice, but there are plenty of others out there as well.

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    2. Essay Thinker

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      Here you can get help with essay writing, so that you can get the knack of writing the perfect essay. You see, essay writing isn’t something people are intuitively good at. It’s not like speaking. Instead, you’ve got to practice, learn and study how to do it better.

      One of the best ways to do that is to look at some perfectly executed essays.

      And that is something that you’ll find a great deal of at Essay Thinker. So, get help, get better and get the GPA you deserve.

      3. Roomsurf

      03_roomsurf_service_for_finding_college_roommates

        Another vital part of making university live great is making sure you bunk with the right person. Now at some universities you don’t get a choice as you’re assigned a place. At others, however, it’s up to you to figure out where you’re going to stay and who you’re going to stay with.

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        In that case, you’ve got to check out Roomsurf to find the right person to bunk with.

        Because if you can’t sleep and you can’t study, then university life is going to be brutal!

        4. Unigo

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          Haven’t yet figured out what university is for you? Then check out Unigo, as it will match you with the best university that fits you and your expectations. And that, with the sea of information that’s out there in terms of universities, is something absolutely vital to get to grips with your future and to make the most of these wonderful years you’ve got coming up.

          As an added bonus they also include scholarship program, so that you can come out of university with an education but without a crushing mountain of debt.

          5. iTunes U

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            Not sure what courses you’re supposed to take? Then start out with something like iTunes U where you can take courses from all over the world and some of her best universities for free. In this way you’ll have a leg up in deciding what courses do actually appeal to you and which do not.

            That means you’ll be spending far less time trying to figure out what you want to do during the year, as you’ve already done most of that before it! What’s more, if you keep following the courses beyond the ‘am I interested’ stage you’ll actually get a serious leg up on the rest of the students in your class and be far more likely to get good grades with minimal effort.

            And that means you’ve got more time for a part-time job or a social life.

            And that has to be at least half the fun of uni, right?

            6. Rate my Professor

            06_rate_my_professor_service

              Classes are not just the subject matter, but equally the professor that teaches the class. Some people have the ability to make something utterly boring become utterly fascinating, while some people have the ability to take something that was a defining moment in our species’ history and make it seem as boring as watching grass grow.

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              For that reason, don’t just select your classes based on what you’re interested in, but also based on how good the professors are, by taking a look at Rate My Professor.

              7. TomatoTimer

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                And finally, you’ve got to make sure you actually do the stuff that these tools all outline for you. For that reason, you’ve got to get some motivational apps. TomatoTimer is probably one of the best. It’s simple and effective.

                The idea? If you can work for 25 minutes in a concentrated manner on a task, you can actually do a heck of a lot. Do it a couple of times throughout your day, without allowing yourself to get distracted, and you’re going to be able to blast through most of your work. And so the timer demands that you spend 25 minutes on a task, after which an alarm rings and you can once again slack off a bit (though obviously, you don’t need to).
                In this way, you’ll actually get the stuff done that you need to get done and will actually have a plan in place for your first year of university. And that has to count for something!

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                Last Updated on April 23, 2019

                How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

                How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

                Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

                While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

                For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

                While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

                I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

                Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

                Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

                Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

                The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

                Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

                What Is a Stretch Goal?

                A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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                In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

                For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

                This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

                It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

                The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

                The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

                I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

                Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

                1. Get Outside of Your Head

                If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

                If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

                I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

                Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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                2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

                When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

                I see this in so many areas of life:

                When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

                In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

                “Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

                Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

                3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

                When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

                The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

                For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

                We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

                From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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                When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

                Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

                4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

                S.M.A.R.T.

                is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

                While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

                Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

                For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

                By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

                5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

                I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

                The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

                When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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                One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

                Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

                I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

                A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

                As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

                From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

                The Bottom Line

                These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

                For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

                Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

                Reference

                [1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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