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Entries from February 1, 2009 - February 28, 2009


Going to Power Shift?

Image Courtesy: 1 SkyHey all, I was wondering if anyone was heading to DC for Power Shift. I'm going to be there on Saturday and Sunday. It should be real good time. The Roots are playing and Speaker Nancy Pelosi is going to be giving a keynote address a long with many others. It would be nice to see some readers. During the weekend I'll put up some greenish college hacking posts.

If you are going hit me up at


Acing the Final Stretch

Whether you started the semester strong or weak, it is most important that you finish strong. This is the time where students and teachers (at the detriment of their students) rush to get everything done during the final weeks of class. Spring fever is in full swing, set off by a taste of freedom known as spring break. During this time of finishing term papers and studying for finals there is a propensity for burn outs.  Here are a few tips to manage the final part of the year and avoid the dreaded burn out:

It's never too late to make a plan

All is not lost if you kamikazeed your way through your pre-spring break academics. When you decide to make a plan, don't multitask while doing it. Sit down with all your syllabi out or on your computer screen. There are a couple of ways you can make a plan. Calendars are usually the best bet.  A good thing to add to you calendar is create date where you should start focusing on assignments not just their due dates. Another way you can manage your end of the semester tasks is by creating a list with the most important assignments at the top descending down to the least important.

Don't be afraid to take a personal day

Most college classes don't take attendance and even if they do, professors usually give you some slack. So, if you feel a burn out coming on take a day and do nothing. If you are going to do something, and you haven't made a plan yet, make one. Lack of planning was probably the cause of this, so using your time to make an action plan to help you rock socks and avoid and another, at least before the semester lets out.

On the personal day don't pig out. Eat healthy. Try not to stay in bed all day unless you're sick. Enjoy some simple pleasures. If something is really bothering you, take the day to talk about it. Vent, by either writing something (poetry, a narrative, even a letter) or call someone you can talk to about anything.

Know when you get your best work done

There are some points of the day where you are more productive than others. The key is to identifiy them and use them for actual work and not for games. For instance, I know I can sit in front of a book longer during the day than if I crack it open at 10 pm. So the trick is that you need to start knowing yourself and how you work. College isn't about the 9 to 5, be abstract with your schedule!

What are your end of the semester strategies? Comment below or email me at



5 Quick and Dirty Anti-Procrastination Tips

1. Leave the house. Go to a working environment, It it may be the library, coffee shop or a designated study area on campus. Regardless, leave the distractions behind and make it hard to lose focus. 

2. Disconnect. Get off Facebook, Twitter and turn off your cell phone. These time sinks are useless, yet the ever updating aspect make them impossible to pull your eyes away from. Most coffee shops make you pay for WiFi, take advantage of this fact. Is Facebook really worth 5 dollars?

3. Isolate. Put on your headphones, put in some ear plugs, listen to white noise. By blocking your hearing, you eliminate a great deal of distractions. The feeling of isolation will help you get your work done.

4. Get dressed. Act like you mean business, if you’re wearing comfy sweats and slippers are you really giving off the productive vibe? Take a shower, do your hair, get dressed for the day, eat breakfast and get in the working mood.

5. Just do it. Don’t set timelines, you and I both know you won’t start that essay in fifteen minutes. Start immediately, the only difference between starting now and in a few minutes is the continuation of the procrastination loop you’ve been in all day. You’ve got work to do, just do it.



GTD Has Never Been So Sexy

The new task management application Things is beautiful.  Not just because it's designed seamlessly with OS X 10.5 Leopard but more because there is beauty in its functionality.  There are so many ways for you and others to get things done. Things also won MacWorld's 2009 Best in Show award.

Most college students are flying by the seat of their pants.  Things allows you to catch the ideas you have on the fly with quick task shortcut. This is awesome cause it can let you get back to what you were doing.  In the quick to do you can direct it to your inbox or you can save it to a project or area of responsibility. You can also add related sites, documents or presentations to go along with the task. This allows for you to quickly get at the presentations you may need to study for a test or for a project you're working on.

The areas of responsibility portion I thought was really nice. I'm involved in many things including HackCollege so, being able to focus on those tasks is really helpful. Being able to separate classes, activites and other life tasks will leave you with a clear sense of mind. 

Each semester, we all have huge projects that might take the duration to complete. Things lets the user create projects, and divide them into smaller tasks. The "Teammate" function keeps your classmates involved, provided they have Things. Having people in the know about your tasks can act as another reminder because it is definitely easier to get on someone elses case, rather than your own.

Like OmniFocus, it does sync with iCal. Unfortunately for those who use mail, Things doesn't sync with mail.  You can take Things with you via an iPhone app. It's setup just like the desktop app's sidebar and allow you to view and add to dos. This is a good compliment that help you capture your tasks as you think of them and not just while you have a computer in front of you.

All that glitters is not gold though.  The price tag is kind of hefty for college students.  It is hard for me to shell out $50 when I could do almost the same thing on Remember the Milk. But, if you have the means to get this program, do it. Also, it doesn't have a time of day function, where you could put in the time something's due. And as Chris said, a lot of what students have for homework is short term. In that way it's kind of not for students.

Do you prefer OmniFocus, Things, or another GTD Application? Comment below or email me at


Prep for Spring Break and Get Things Done - HackCollege Season 3, Episode 3

Chris and Kelly start thinking about a spring break in Cancun to escape from the dreary Los Angeles Weather. Topics this week:
  • JuicyCampus is gone for good.
  • YouTube begins offering video downloads, and a few free lectures.
  • Gina Trapani resigns from Liferhacker and starts a new blog called Smarterware.
  • Chris sits down for an interview with Ashley, an STA branch manager, to talk about hacking spring break.
  • Chris takes it to the chalkboard and explains exactly what GTD is and how to use it as a student.

GTD on Campus: Who To Talk To

Photo Courtesy: GawkerRanting on your blog about how bad the food in the dining hall is will not make it any better. However there are other ways you can change the food on your campus as well as many other things. These organizations, are a great resource for you to fix things but also to get involved.

Dorm Life

The governing body in college dorms is the Residence Hall Association or RHA.  Each residence hall usually has meetings where students can come voice their concerns and stay abreast of events going on around campus. They handle everything from making sure there's urinal cakes in the community bathrooms to giving advice on how to deal with a noisy neighbor.

The Food

Food on most college campuses has a reputation of being sub-par.  Their task is not that easy though; imagine feeding thousands of people. Despite that, most of us are paying thousands for the food. So if your food is below your standards, investagate whether you have a committee that holds meetings for students to talk with the heads of the company that services the school.


Sometimes people that commute get left out of being on top of the same information the students that reside in the dorms do. Many universities employ a commuter association.  This fills a gap because, last time I checked, commuters are students too. Besides having a purpose to help students with their direct problems, they also try (like RHA) to keep people in the know about events on campus.

Student Life

A lot of colleges have Student Life committees. The goal of these committees is to make sure they are providing the best possible experience for you. You are paying them an exorbitent amount of money, right? This applies to more than general student life. Some majors also have a student life committee that holds meetings.   

If you don't have these committees at your school, don't be afraid to create them. Universities welcome the birth of new organizations and invite students to create their own. Also it shouldn't be that troublesome to get members, especially if you are creating it in lieu of a problem. Plus, if you do create a goup, that will look extremely good on your resume.  It shows great leadership and poise.

How do you fix things on your campus? Comment below or email me at


The Valentine's Day Episode - HackCollege Season 3, Episode 2

Chris and Kelly somehow manage to not even bring up Valentine's Day in the week prior to the nerd's dreaded holiday.

Topics this week:


Review -- OmniFocus (Mac) task management for students

OmniFocus is another one of those to-do-list-on-steroids productivity applications, but it's definitely one of the most intuitive ones I've ever seen. If you're a GTD fanatic, this is that missing piece you've been waiting for.


OmniFocus makes it easy to put together your to do list with about a million different ways to “write stuff down” -- between the iPhone app, Quicksilver-esque hotkey entry, the iCal and Mail integration, no matter where you are, if you think of something that needs to get done, it's easy to enter. But OmniFocus really shines when you need to start rattling through that to do list. You can easily sort every task by its most essential parameters: how long it will take, when it's due, what project it belongs to, what resources are at your disposal and tons more.



Considering that the whole point of this application is to ultimately save time, the actual use of it is quite efficient as well. I'm really happy with how easy it is to enter things. Whether I type “in 24 hours,” “tomorrow,” “02/11 at noon” or just about any other combination of thoughts, OmniFocus figures out what I meant. I can leave fields blank and it won't care (which means you can ignore functionality that you don't need).


A super flashy part of the iPhone app includes a location-based action thingie. It's kind of overkill but I still love it. Let's say I'm near the library – since my phone knows where I am, it will only give me to-dos that I can complete in that area. So, I could write an email but maybe not send a document that's on my laptop at home. Or, it would remind me to return a book while I'm here.


But the major efficiency killer is the learning curve. I'm a GTD veteran, but it still took me about a week to completely understand what OmniFocus can do. If you don't know GTD, good luck. There are a lot of extraneous features and there isn't a much easier way to get to know them besides screwing around – the help manual and their screencasts are long-winded and disorganized. Perhaps one day I'll write up a tutorial for it.



OmniFocus is a big rip-off but I'm really happy that they're student-aware enough to give us a discount. For students, the program itself is $49.95 (versus $79.95 for real people). Unfortunately, the iPhone application, which really completes the whole system, goes for $19.95 no matter how you cut it.



OmniFocus was definitely not created with the student in mind, but the application works just about as well with a student lifestyle as GTD does.


Projects can be filed into folders which is great for classes – there's a folder for each class (or just one for all of your classes). That way, you can easily see what the next step in each class is. At the beginning of the semester, for classes with robust syllabuses, you can easily enter all of the assignments for the whole class so that you can always see what's ahead of you. In some classes, I'm more on top of things than my teacher is.


The problem with GTD for students is always the fast turnaround assignments – something gets that's assigned now and due tomorrow afternoon doesn't always get processed by the GTD workflow quickly enough. The deadline integration on OmniFocus kind of solves the problem. Even if a task is poorly organized, as long as it's entered and has a deadline soon, OmniFocus will make sure that you know about it.