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6 Questions To Ask Yourself When Choosing a College

6 Questions To Ask Yourself When Choosing a College

Choosing a college requires academic, professional, and personal considerations. However, some prospective students focus too much on a single aspect of college life, to the exclusion of other interrelated (and important!) factors.

Sure, you have your heart set on going to a private university with a strong lacrosse program on the opposite end of the country. But can you afford the tuition, and are your prepared to forfeit frequent trips home?

Maybe you want to avoid living in the city, but as an aspiring veterinarian, know some of the best undergraduate veterinary programs are at urban universities.

You might be someone who already has outside obligations, like being a parent or having a job commitment, and you need a convenient setting for getting your degree quickly without significant financial investment.

Transferring schools can be part of a strategic plan for getting into your dream college, but unexpected switching is costly and wastes time. Get it right the first time by asking yourself the following six questions when determining where to apply to college.

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1. Where is my ideal location?

Is it important for you to see your parents every holiday? If you live more than a few hours away, you might not be able to get home for Thanksgiving. Conversely, if you want a situation where your parents can’t just “drop by” on a Friday night, don’t choose a campus 15 minutes down the road.

A good distance for many students is 3-5 hours from home–you are close enough that you can get back relatively easily when you need to, but not so near that you can run home every time you have a bad day.

Beyond proximity to home, think about whether or not you prefer an urban or rural-based campus. There are advantages to both: living in a city affords you more of an escape from the campus “bubble,” while the rural school provides a more insular college experience and tight-knit academic community.

2. What size school is best for me?

Consider three aspects of a school’s size when applying to college. First, look at the overall student body. Are there 50,000 undergraduates on campus? 1,200? Do you want to meet as many people as possible, or feel like you know most of your classmates?

Second, how big is the campus? Some people want to be able to walk to every class, and need a campus that is relatively easy to traverse on foot. However, most urban campuses will sprawl over a larger area, requiring students to be strategic about getting between classes quickly.

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Finally, look at the teacher-to-student ratio. If it’s important for you to develop relationships with your professors or receive more attention in class, avoid enormous schools where your smallest classes still have fifty-some people.

3. Wait, how much is this going to cost?

You can’t put a price on education. But schools sure can put a price on educating you.

Public schools will almost always be less expensive than private colleges, and if you live in-state, your tuition could be even lower.

Work out a budget with your parents if they are helping you pay for school. If you’re on your own, figure out what you can afford to pay after investigating your options for external funding. Do the schools you’re looking at offer merit-based scholarships or financial aid? Are you willing to take out student loans? Perhaps you might consider a program like ROTC, where you make a service commitment in exchange for a college education.

4. Does the school serve my academic and professional interests?

Maybe you don’t know exactly what you want to do after graduating, but you want to strengthen your analytical and research skills. Look for high-ranking liberal arts programs. Or perhaps you are more technically inclined and want a hands-on environment or laboratory experience; in that case, apply to schools that have a reputation for strong science and technology departments.

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If you know precisely what you want to do during and after college, look for colleges that will support your ambitions. For example, if you are intent on becoming a lawyer, find an undergraduate program with a high rate of graduating students who get into law school. Also consider whether the school’s alumni actively recruit current students for internships and jobs.

5. What kind of social life are you looking for?

Is studying abroad important to you? See how opportunities to travel and study abroad are folded into college programs.

If basketball, football, or rowing is a huge part of your life and makes you happy, look for schools where you might have an opportunity to play–even if that just means in an intramural league.

Or maybe you have a cause–feeding the hungry, working at an animal shelter, or doing volunteer work abroad. Investigate volunteer opportunities at prospective schools so you can continue doing something you value.

Not all schools have the Greek Life system, so if you’ve always wanted to join a sorority or fraternity, make sure they are available. Conversely, if someone couldn’t pay you to join a frat, look into the degree to which Greek Life permeates a prospective school’s social scene.

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6. Can I see myself happy here?

What you want out of school will vary from person to person. If you’re living at home, maybe you need a place where you can still make friends and feel included. But if you are moving to another state to live on campus, it’s important that you feel comfortable calling the school “home” for the next 2-5 years.

More importantly, are there opportunities for you to grow, both academically and personally? If you change your mind about what you want to study or your intended career path, will it be relatively simple to switch tracks? You want a school that recognizes the value in letting students experiment with different areas of study, while respecting a healthy work-life balance.

Everyone is giving me advice. Who’s right?

While it is worth soliciting advice from a trusted parent, advisor, or friend, ultimately it is best to honor your own preferences and needs. You are the one who is going to be going to the classes, writing the papers, and taking the tests. So don’t choose a school based solely on where your favorite uncle went, or where your girlfriend is going.

Apply to schools you actually want to attend.

And choose a college where you will flourish, personally and academically.

How did you pick the right school for you? Leave a comment and let us know.

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Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

  • Are you a great strategist?
  • Are you an effective planner?
  • Is Project Management your strength?
  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
  • Are you the ideas person?
  • Is Implementation your strength?

Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

4. Take Time for Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

You can take the time to think about:

  • What’s the purpose of the project?
  • How Important is it?
  • When does it need to be delivered by?
  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
  • What are the KPIs?
  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
  • Who is working on this project?
  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
  • What tolerances can I add in?
  • What are the review stages?
  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

5. Focus on Priorities

Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

    6. Take Time Out

    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

    8. Stop Multitasking

    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

    9. Work in Blocks of Time

    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

    Then take another 10-minute break.

    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

    10. Get Rid of Distractions

    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

    12. Take a Time Audit

    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

    13. Protect Your Confidence

    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

    Final Words

    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

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