The Flow State: How to Enter Your Brain’s Most Productive State

Have you ever experienced a time when you felt like you were “in the zone”? Where you were so involved in what you were doing that everything else around you melted away, and time stood still?

Psychologists call this experience “flow”, and it’s essential to doing meaningful deep work. It’s such a powerful concept that all the productivity blogs and business websites have taken the concept and run away with it, offering tips to achieving flow in order to be more productive.

But many of these bloggers have missed the point of the original book that started it all: Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. As the book’s subtitle implies, flow is about so much more than being more productive. Increased productivity is a side effect of flow, but achieving flow is ultimately about leading a more enjoyable, happier life.

In today’s post, I’ll explore the truth of flow, straight from the source. I’ll explain what it is, why it matters, and how you can cultivate flow in situations you encounter as a student.
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How to Write High-Quality Papers and Essays More Quickly

I’m not gonna lie: writing papers can suck. Even as someone who basically writes papers for a living these days (like this article), I still viewed every college paper with a tinge of dread.

After all, writing a paper isn’t like working math problems or reading a chapter of a book. As frustrating as those activities can be, they always seemed more finite than the monumental task of “writing a paper.” You can’t just open the book and start working: you have to brainstorm, research, outline, draft, edit, and add those pesky citations.

As I moved through college, however, I developed a system for cranking out papers in record time. This let me spend more time on things that I enjoyed, such as writing for this blog and taking long walks through the woods. Today, I’m going to share this process so that you too can write papers more quickly (without a decrease in the quality of your writing). Read More…

Why You Should Embrace Boredom and Learn to Do Hard Things

Today’s post is not about something sexy.

It’s not about some cool trick that will instantly transform the way you study. It’s not about the one hack that will land you your dream job. It’s not about the one small change that will quadruple your productivity.

It’s not about any of these things…and yet it’s about all of them…just without the quick fixes.

Today’s post explores a couple of the central concepts from Cal Newport’s new book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World . These concepts (along with a few others), are key to the “mental superpower” that, with a lot of hard work, can help you achieve all the ambitious goals mentioned above.

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6 Lessons I’ve Learned from Studying Music in College

Although I don’t talk about it much online, music is a major part of my college life.

I play saxophone in a variety of ensembles at my college, and I also take private lessons. I even got a scholarship for it (this might be the subject of a future post…).

After participating in college music activities for almost two years, here are six lessons I’ve learned that you can apply to just about any area of college life:

1. Scheduling Specific Times for Tasks Gets Them Done

I have a complicated relationship with practicing saxophone. I dread the idea of it, but when I finally get my ass in the practice room, I remember how much I love it.

The issue, clearly, is getting said ass in said practice room. The best way to do that, I’ve found, is to schedule a specific time for practice each day (or at least for each weekday, if I’m being realistic). That way, I have no excuses.We recently had an awesome saxophonist come and give a masterclass to all the saxophone students at my school, and his suggestion was this: treat your practice time like a class. You’ll be much less likely to skip it. Read More…

The Apps and Tools I Use Every Day To Build College Info Geek

I’ve always been fascinated with finding out what tools people use to do things.

There’s a relatively new site called StackShare that lists the technology stacks used by startups like Airbnb, Twitter, Dropbox, and others.

There’s also Homescreen, which lets people share their iPhone homescreens and discover new apps. I love scrolling through both of them (Here’s my homescreen if you’re curious).

I don’t think I’m alone in this fascination. One of Batman’s most interesting features is his utility belt, and our eyes light up when we see James Bond get a cool new gadget. I also get this question quite often:

“Hey Tom, what tools do you use to keep everything running at College Info Geek?”

Consider this post my answer to that question. It’s also just a chance for me to geek out. There are 29 major apps on this list, plus a few supplemental ones that are tiny or used less often. Read More…

Beat Procrastination By Eliminating Your Choices

It’s time for you to become a robot.

Robots operate on pre-defined instructions; every action they take is the result of prior programming done by their operators.

In fact, the word robot is a adaptation of the Czech word robotnik, which translates directly to “worker,” an in older Slavic languages, “slave”.

Workers and slaves do not typically take care of the planning aspects of a projects. However, when motivated properly, they do get down to business and get stuff done.

As a student, you’re not often forced to go into worker/slave mode. Jorgen von Strangle, the toughest fairy in the universe, is not standing behind you in preparation to put his boot up your rear every time you have to study.

A pity, that… because it’s often exactly what you need. Your freedom of choice is one of the most devious culprits in the sabotage of your productivity.

In this post, I’ll show you how to eliminate that freedom when you need to get down to business by planning ahead. You may not have Jorgen around to motivate you, but you can essentially become him. Here’s how. Read More…

How Captain America Helped Me Go From 97 Unanswered Emails To Inbox Zero

Over the course of 24 hours, starting on Sunday and ending Monday, I went from having 97 unanswered emails in my inbox to sweet, victorious inbox zero.

When the inbox count hit zero, it represented freedom from a 2-month cycle of misguided optimism, anxiety, and guilt. And I’ve got my favorite Avenger to thank for the liberation.

This post will explain how I did it and why Captain America played a vital role, but first I have to make an admission – as much to myself as to any of you reading this:

I am not the Hulk. *sheds silent tear* Read More…

Two Whiteboards, 24 Post-It Notes: My Physical Task Management System

Over the past few months, I’ve slowly shifted a lot of my content planning and task management onto real, physical whiteboards.

This is a pretty marked change, as I’ve traditionally used computer-based systems to manage almost everything. I still use these for certain things, but I no longer keep my task management exclusively electronic.

In this post, I’ll show you my new system based on whiteboards (and Post-It notes), and explain why I’m liking the change.

Who knows – maybe you’ll find it useful as well! Read More…

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