3 Rules for a Successful Study Routine

I was kind of an over-achiever in high school. Yearbook committee, school newspaper, concert choir, art club- I did it all while taking advanced English, and studying all of the languages my school had on offer (much to the chagrin of my guidance counselor). Oh, did I mention that half of my electives were in French? (Canada is bilingual, so English-speaking students required to study French until a certain grade and have the option of enrolling in an immersive language program.) My GPA was pretty high. And the worst part was, I wasn’t even trying.

Is this you?

See, I was just always kind of good at school. Making top of the class was easy for me so imagine the shock that I got when I went to university and realized that everyone there was at the top of their class, too. Suddenly, I didn’t seem so smart anymore. It really did a number on my self-esteem.

I don’t want this happening to you.

My problem was that I never learned how to study. I wasn’t sure how to organize my workflow, and I couldn’t identify any issues I had with the material until it was too late, and I’d end falling behind.

If this is your problem too, here’s my best piece of advice: your school probably offers workshops on a variety of things that help you do well in school. Take them all. Glean what you can. There is no one magic formula for studying that works for everyone, so try everything until you figure out a strategy that’s best for you.

I narrowed down some of what I learned until I had it crystallized into three rules for successful studying:

Study like it’s your job. Treat your school day like a 9-5 workday and find time in between classes to catch up on assignments, reading, or studying.

Assess the type of learner you are. Do you respond well to tactile things like flash cards, or copying something out? Do you need to draw a chart to connect ideas, or colour-code your notes for memorization? Maybe you do best when you explain a concept to someone else, or make up a song in order to remember terms for a test. Knowing how your brain works will help you select more useful and productive ways of studying instead of just trying to adopt a method just because someone says it’s the “right” way or the “best” way. There’s no such thing.

Assess your personality type. This can provide the framework for when, where and how often you study, as well as who you should choose as study partner. (Or maybe you don’t do well with them at all!) Are you easily distracted and find it hard to sit still? Study in short bursts. Are you a morning person? Wake up early to find time to review notes before class. Easily distracted? Then high thee to a library, and sequester yourself in a dark corner with your phone on airplane mode.

Also, there’s this thing known as actually hunkering down and doing it, which is probably the most obvious route to successful studying. You’d be surprised though at how many people let it fall by the wayside in favor of completing more immediate, pressing assignments or class readings. Do yourself a favor and don’t break study dates with yourself, or with your study buddies. Good intentions are great, but unfortunately they don’t usually help you pass an exam.

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5 Things I Learned from Being a Bridesmaid

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I’m no Jane in 27 Dresses, but once I did have the pleasure of participating in the wedding of a good friend of mine several years ago. She was one of my first friends to get married and her wedding felt like it was a milestone in my own life, marking that transition from crazy college student to actual adult.

I have to admit at this point that I’m really not a wedding person (although I like wedding movies), but I was wildly excited to help my friend out with hers. I thought I’d be running around helping to schedule dress fittings, sample wedding cakes, and pick out favors. Kind of like in 27 Dresses. (Did I mention I used to be really obsessed with that movie?)

Being a bridesmaid, however, ended up being more like starting a job without reading the employee manual first. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it, or that I didn’t have fun at her wedding, but afterwards I wrote a little piece about my experience as a bridesmaid to not only pass on some of my own knowledge to other first-time bridesmaids, but to process my own feelings on the subject.

Years (and many weddings later) I still stand by what I wrote; now that wedding season is fast approaching, I thought I’d share them again here with all of those bridesmaids-to-be that are out there- even those not obsessed with 27 Dresses.

Don’t expect to look attractive. I already knew the dress was horrible on me (as per the tradition of the bridesmaid dress) but I was still shocked when the first photos were posted online. That make-up, that hair, that general pasty awfulness? That I was not expecting.  Try and not let your ego be bruised too much. Your friend’s wedding day is more about her looking good than it is about you looking good. Years down the road, people will look at her wedding photos and forgive you for the hairstyle that makes you look like you have a giant cupcake on the top of your head. (At least, that’s what I’m hoping.)

Bridal showers are super boring. No one loves little sandwiches with the crusts cut off as much as I do, but other than that the bridal shower will more or less consist of you watching your friend open presents for two hours straight. I was happy for her, but it was kind of like spending two hours at your favorite housewares store and not buying anything. (Or maybe you torturing yourself like that!)

The bachelorette party may not be the party of a lifetime. They never show this in any of the movies (well, maybe with the exception of Bridesmaids) but you’d be surprised at how a seemingly innocent night of drinking can rapidly deterioriate into a night of screaming, crying and drama.

You’re not going to know anyone. Literally. After the ceremony you’ll be hanging out at the head table and all sorts of family and friends will be wandering up and congratulating the happy couple. They’ll smile vaguely at you because you were introduced when you entered the hall, but other than that you’ll probably be left to your own devices- and to the bottle of merlot the bride and groom are going to leave untouched because they’re too busy greeting everyone.

It’s going to make you really sad. Don’t get me wrong- I was so ridiculously happy for my friend that I found myself holding back tears several times during the wedding planning, throughout the ceremony and at the reception. No one really tells you what an emotional experience being a bridesmaid can be. It’s lovely and romantic and also bittersweet. Whether you’re decidedly single, or you’ve been married for several years, I don’t think that feeling will ever go away- that realization that you’re watching a person blossom into themselves; the sensation that they’re beginning the rest of their lives. We grow and change and get older, and having the privilege of watching a few select people grow and change along with you is both painful and wonderful all at the same time.

I know the above seems like I’m being all Negative Nancy, but fear not future bridesmaids: when all is said and done, being a bridesmaid can be a wonderful experience that can (hopefully) bring you a little bit closer to the bride-to-be and can help solidify a friendship between two people transitioning into a new phase in their lives. If you get the opportunity to try it sometime, do it!

Just never mind the ugly dress.

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Do you have a horrible bridesmaid story you’d like to share? Or even better, do you have a photo of yourself in your ugly dress that you’d like to share? (We won’t laugh, we promise!) Email me at keepingbusyb@gmail.com or comment below with your story and we’ll commiserate.

When You Just Need a Sounding Board

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Everyone needs at least one important person in their professional lives that has nothing to do with your boss, your co-workers, or your employees. Whether you’re the person who runs meetings or the person who cleans up after them, we all as professional people need a sounding board to get us through our professional crises and challenges.

Swapping work horror stories over margaritas with friends may be a fun way to unwind and let loose all of that nasty stuff that you’ve been holding in all week, like how tired you are of hearing your co-worker swoon over her new boyfriend, or how poorly-dressed the new supervisor was last Thursday.

Having someone to act as a sounding board for you is a more meaningful experience than that. It’s useful to be able to gossip (and depending on your relationship with your sounding board there may be some sniping involved). But more importantly, your sounding board is someone you should be able to go to in times of real difficulty; someone who knows you well enough to understand how you operate and which professional goals mean the most to you. They can help provide an objective perspective on your own unique challenges at work while keeping your personal and professional well-being in mind.

This person may be a trusted friend, a former colleague, or an acquaintance met through work connections. Maybe it’s a friend of yours that has similar career goals, or a relative who may have experience in your particular field. Whatever your relationship is to your sounding board, they ultimately should be someone you trust and ultimately someone whose opinion you respect. Ideally, your sounding board should be drawn from your pool of acquaintances outside of your own workplace (if you have one). Work relationships run the risk of going south quickly if sensitive or potentially harmful information is shared. Open communication between you and your sounding board is key; it’s important that you choose a sounding board with whom you can be candid, and who can return your candor in a constructive way.

A mentor may be someone with whom you share a working relationship, or hope to someday; a sounding board is someone with whom you can maintain a somewhat professional distance. You never want your own personal feelings or opinions to get in the way of a potential client or partnership. A sounding board is someone who will understand that you are not the sum of what you do to make money and that your career is not necessarily based on the current job you have.

I’m lucky enough to have a couple of different sounding boards in my life- people who I can rant to, people who can give me guidance when I’m feeling stuck, even people who are willing to look at my work with a fresh pair of eyes when I’m feeling like my brain is made of mush.

Choose your sounding boards carefully and you can find yourself in one of the best relationships you’ve experienced in your working career.  I know I have and as I continue to dream and grow (and mostly dream) my business, I hope to meet many more.

KBwB-BFlower-50Do you have a sounding board in your life? Give them a shout-out below, or if you’ve got a special story to share, email it to me at keepingbusyb@gmail.com and I may decide to include it in a future post (with you and your sounding board’s permission, of course).

I look at careers and working life a little differently than the rest- probably because I spend most of my life working and then reading books that are about working. To see where I get some of my inspiration, click here to read some of my business book reviews. If you’re looking for more ways to balance your professional life, I write a lot about doing business here.