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Why Your Classes are Boring

Why Your Classes are Boring
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    Does your textbook make your eyes glaze over? Is the desire for a degree or diploma the only thing keeping you focused on your classes? I’ll admit the lecture format most schools use to teach material isn’t the best way to hold your attention. But I think there is a more important factor when deciding if classes keep you interested:

    Are you actually using the information you’re being taught?

    Find a practical purpose for the courses your taking. Not only will this help your attention span, it will help your grades. If you can actually apply the information from your courses to daily life, the significance will help the information stick.

    Here are some courses you might be taking and potential uses for them in your life:

    1 – Statistics

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    Do you run any personal experiments? Knowing statistics can help you in designing your own tests and interpreting the data. Personal experiments are a great way to make targeted improvements. The foods you eat, things you buy and time you spend can all be tracked. Statistics can help you become more self-aware about the experiments you run.

    2 – History/Culture

    A history class may seem far removed from your daily life. I’ve found that classes that examine historical events or other cultures can give you a different perspective for viewing your life today. Going into Ancient Greece, India or Africa can be like a cultural exchange without leaving your home.

    The practical value of this new perspective can be in recognizing your assumptions. Different cultures look at the world in different ways, the ability to switch how you view your own world is powerful. Especially if the current lens you are using isn’t enough to solve your problems.

    3 – Economics

    Few courses break down how a society works more than economics. Whether you run your own business, want to understand political debates or invest in the stock market, basic economics is a must.

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    If you’re creative you can apply economic ideas to situations without money. Relationships, time-management or health can take on new perspectives if you start looking for the relative scarcity in a problem.

    4 – Psychology

    Psychology and sociology courses can be excellent when trying to understand your behavior and what makes people tick. Almost two-thirds of the psychology course material I’ve studied could be easily applied to my life. Operant and classical conditioning when changing habits. Cognitive biases and heuristics to improve my decision-making.

    Some universities are even including pop-psychology or “how to be happier” classes. I haven’t taken one of these courses, but I’m sure it goes a step further in connecting psychological principles to practical issues.

    5 – Computer Science

    Learning how to program computers can have many applications (no pun intended). Programming can help you solve technology related problems and when merged with your other creative skills it can be a valuable asset in a career or business.

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    Beyond the straightforward uses of programming, I’ve found it gives many useful metaphors for looking at everyday problems. Is your time-management system buggy? Do your habits produce the output you want for the given input?

    How to Find Hidden Applications in Your Courses

    Those five subjects are just a small fraction of the ways you can apply courses to your daily life. The best way to find practical uses is to start looking. If you believe your course has no practical purpose, it will be impossible to find one. Even the most abstract courses can be transformed into a useful study with a bit of creativity.

    Here are some different ways you can use information you learn in school:

    Give Yourself a New Box

    Thinking outside the box has become a tired cliche for thinking creatively. But the image it conjures is accurate. All of our problems exist within boxes of thinking. The assumptions form the walls of this box, and solutions outside the walls are ignored.

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    The best way to apply courses in your daily life is to take the problem solving methods you use in one setting and apply it to another. How would you solve a relationship problem if it were in an economics class? Psychology? Computer Science?

    Most people don’t think outside the box because they don’t realize its there. You actually have many different boxes, all for different types of problems. You spent good money and study time to make a new box for a subject, why not apply it to a different type of problem?

    Expand Your Abilities

    Courses that teach a practical skill (accounting, computer science, design, etc.) can be helpful in giving you new tools to tackle daily life. When I began learning statistics, the new abilities expanded what I could do when running my own personal experiments. Instead of relying on intuition and guesswork to interpret data, I could use statistical methods.

    My challenge to you is to go through all the course material you’re currently taking. Look for one way you can apply one idea from a course in your daily life. This could be writing a simple computer program to track information for yourself. Or it could be using operant conditioning to change a habit.

    Once you get into the pattern of applying academic concepts to the real world, the information sticks. The difference is in just viewing an idea inside your mind and actually holding it in your hands. Experiencing an idea for yourself will make your classes less boring.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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