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6 Lessons about Life That I Didn’t Learn in College

6 Lessons about Life That I Didn’t Learn in College
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There’s a lot of useful stuff you can learn in college if you’re the right kind of student, but it doesn’t teach you everything there is to know about life. There are all too many things that I didn’t learn in college, and you probably didn’t either. Here are 6 of the biggest shifts you’ll experience once you leave the college setting.

1. You don’t have a straight path.

Freshman year. Then Sophomore year. Then Junior year. Then Senior year. You do that on a semester-by-semester basis for four years, and then you’ve graduated from college. You probably didn’t learn in college how your path becomes a lot less clear after that. Even if you get a job right out of school (which isn’t easy nowadays) you’re still adjusting to that job, probably living in a new place and getting used to life without a GPA. It’s a whole new environment that you have to get acclimated to, and one that doesn’t come with any syllabi.

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2. You can’t meet people as easily.

Once you and your friends are out of college, expect people to start moving away. What you didn’t learn in college is that once you’ve graduated, you and your friends are no longer congregated in the circumference of a school campus. Most of your fellow employees at your job probably aren’t going to be in the same age group as you, either. Life, at least at first, is probably going to become a bit lonelier. Over time you’ll build back up a group of people you can depend on and socialize with, but you probably didn’t learn the feeling of isolation that’s awaiting you in life after college.

3. You have to attend everything.

You can miss a class or two or ten at school, as long as you make it to your exams and turn in your term papers on time. You didn’t learn in college that that particular luxury evaporates once you’ve graduated. Your employer is not going to be okay with you missing a day of work, or even with you being late more than once or twice. You were rewarded for your perfect attendance record in high school, and benefited from it in post-secondary education. After that, it’s absolutely mandatory.

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4. You can’t have any incomplete assignments.

Professors are sometimes willing to give you incompletes instead of Fs. You didn’t learn in college that you can’t expect that kind of lenience in the workplace. If an assignment at your job is due on Friday, you damn well have that project finished and polished by 5 p.m. on Friday. Earlier, if you know what’s best for you.

5. You won’t get new bosses every semester.

At least I hope not. Professors come and go. Even though people don’t stay at job positions as long as they used to, you’re going to typically have the same employer for more than a semester. That means you can’t risk getting on the wrong side of your bosses. Whereas spirited differences with professors are largely encouraged, conflict with your employer is almost always looked down upon. Make a good impression and stay in their good graces for as long as you stay at their place of work.

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6. Success is defined by something other than a letter grade.

College, though complex, is in so many ways a simple thing. You get out into the real world for the first time. You make friends. You experience life to its fullest. All the while you find yourself getting a score from your professors at how you’re faring in school. You probably didn’t learn in college how to get a clear idea of how you’re doing. Even if you’re getting progress reports at work, you will probably never have as definitive an idea of what your boss thinks of you as you did in college.

Featured photo credit: Ralph Daily via flickr.com

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Matt OKeefe

Matt is a marketer and writer who shares about lifestyle and productivity tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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