Archive for the 'Productivity Hack' Category

How to Say No and Not Feel Guilty

Harvard students do too much

Sometimes, you just get that nagging little feeling that tells you that you should stop doing something because it’s too hard, too time-consuming, not interesting etc. etc.

BUUT, then you’re alter-ego kicks in and says, but you’ve spent so much time on it already! If you quit, it’ll all be for naught.

OR, they are relying on you! You need to be dependable or else it’ll look bad.

OR, if you suffer through it….it’ll look GREAT on your resume!!!

Here’s a few tips I’ve learned over the years on saying no gracefully and shamelessly. It’s improved my standard of living muchly so, thank you.

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Social (Media) Networking 101′s for the Harvard Student

Social Media NetworksAh, Facebook. It encapsulates both the joy and despair of a college student’s existence. It can gobble up your soul while you’re composing that perfect wall post to your (maybe he / she likes me) crush.

You might spend more time crafting your perfect Facebook profile and finding that awesome Facebook profile pic than ALL of the time you spent preparing for college applications. Scary.

Not that I’m any avid user of social networking sites by any means, here are some useful ground rules for not completely messing up your internet trail forever.

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Driving Change Without Authority Part II

Influencing without AuthorityThere’s a fine line between being annoying and being assertive, just like there’s a fine line between being a pest and being someone who responsibly follows up.

People might not tell your boss if you did a great job of being respectful of their time, but trust that the feedback will get to your superiors’ ears if you’re not, even if you’re talking to someone in the most distant corner of the organization who technically has a lower position than you.

How do you position yourself so that others willingly help you?

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Driving Change without Authority Part I

Sky-high leadershipIt’s easy to get things done when you’re in charge. Hell, you’re the boss, it should be easy to get things done. But, what if you’re a gear in the corporate cog? No direct reports, just colleagues and higher ups. How in the world are you supposed to make an impact?

One of the most valuable things that my work experience has taught me is negotiating that delicate balance of getting people (who in all honesty have no real reason to help you) to help you.

Being able to effect change without actual power is an important life skill, not taught in the hallowed halls of Hahvahd.

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Surviving the Post-Midterm Blues

If you’ve just gotten your midterms back, perhaps you’re not too happy with your performance on some of them. Many people at Harvard are in fact disappointed with at least one midterm grade (or two). Sometimes, the midterms just don’t test what you thought you should know. Other times, you just didn’t attend lecture. Then there are those times, when the midterms cause mass damage to an entire class’s morale.

Regardless, it’s useful to sit back, relax and reflect a little, now that the crunch period is over.

Whether you want to pull up your grades or keep them strong, taking a few minutes to figure out what the hell your courses want from you will, maybe, save your arse in the long run.

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Surviving Midterms

Of particular relevance is how to survive midterms. Those nasty things that generally happen 2-3 times a semester, despite their name-sake. Whether you’ve survived? your first set or are anticipating midterms next week, this post is relevant for you.

Midterms generally count from 20-40% of your grades in whole, and while that is a lot, the bulk of your grades are actually coming in after the “midpoint” of the semester. (Finals and final papers are worth a ton, and you still have all those response papers / psets.)

So, I’ve just survived my hellish batch of 3 midterms in 2 days (why I haven’t posted in a while). This post will touch on the strategies you can use to make your studying more efficient.

(A post on surviving post-midterms will be coming up soon). Read more…

Plan Backwards from the Deadline

Suppose you have a paper due the last week of classes. You can plan to handle that paper in a few ways:

  • Closing your eyes and dealing with it the week before
  • Planning your next steps
  • OR, planning backwards from that deadline

How often do you miss your own deadlines? You’ll say to yourself, ahh, I have time, I can start researching this next week! But soon, the weeks close in, and you’re left cramming everything together at the last minute in your dining hall, with a large cup of joe.

 Next time you have an important project, try planning backwards from the deadline.

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Stop Planning Your Mind Away

One of the best pieces of advice that freshmen receive is: Do not try to plan out your four-year academic career. This piece of advice will be tucked away in that guidebook that freshmen get, in a section addressing course selection and academics.

The guidebook will then continue in a reassuring tone: Just make sure you’re taking the classes you need to take in order to set yourself up properly for your classes next year.

As I’m looking forward to my junior, senior years and my career plans, I’m realizing just how wise that advice is.

There’s no need to stress yourself out by planning each detail of your life.

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Hacking the Mental Supply Chain

The supply chain and distribution network behind a simple product, like a lamp, is ridiculously intricate and complex. Chances are the lamp had to cross the seas, move through customs, hit a warehouse, get distributed via trucks or planes, hit the stores, get deboxed and brought out to the sales floor for a given store. And somewhere along the way, all of this needs to be coordinated.

Think of the sheer number of people involved, the time, the effort. But, somehow, we can keep massive grocery stores perfectly stocked with a few thousands different types of items. So, although the supply chain is exceedingly complex, the network becomes more efficient with increases in scale and follows a few basic principles.

If you consider the end product of thought and action — be it a novel, new business etc. — it too follows a mental supply chain of sorts, going from conception to finalization.

This post examines ways to improve the mental supply chain — decreasing the time/effort between thought and action and increasing efficiency overall.

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Presentation Skills: What Harvard Doesn’t Teach You

People are shocked when I tell that the only time I give presentations at Harvard is for my Chinese class. “Business” majors everywhere else in the country are working on group projects and giving final presentations for pretty much all of their classes.

If you’re shy and/or socially awkward (which may or may not be the case for a Harvard student), then you may need some tips on how to sound confident and competent when you’re presenting your recommendations for a multi-million buck project. While Public Speaking is a natural given for theater geeks, it CAN be learned. I somehow managed to learn it even though I was that kid who would never speak in class unless called upon.

Presentation skills are essential in today’s work force. Don’t let your Ivy League education hold you back from presenting yourself well.

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