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Fear of Criticism and Failure

October 14, 2020

Once upon a time, I had to defend the “prospectus” or plan for my dissertation to my committee members. I spent many months researching, drafting, and revising my prospectus. I focused on making my ideas clear. I memorized the main points of my argument. When my prospectus defense began, I shared with excitement everything I had learned and planned to do. And the first question a committee member asked me in response was: “So… what’s your dissertation about?”

Rocking a Paper with Scissors

October 5, 2020

It was late one night in December, and, with what seemed like hundreds of other people, I was in the library. I had been working on a paper about the U.S. intelligence community for weeks—reading articles, finding book chapters, and typing page after page of notes—and my head was spinning.

Staying on Track with MultiTimer

September 30, 2020

I have a confession: I’ll set my phone timer to remind myself to drain some pasta before it gets mushy only to completely forget about the garlic bread burning in the oven. While phones are helpful kitchen companions for finding the newest recipe on Instagram, they just don’t cut it when it comes to a crucial element of cooking: timing. Even when I open multiple tabs to keep time for different components of my meal, I still can’t remember if the roasted potatoes or the chicken thighs need to cook for another ten minutes. (Spoiler alert: the timer was for the broccoli.) I found myself thinking that there must be a better way! Enter MultiTimer.

A Day in the Life: Online Learning Edition

September 23, 2020

When virtual classes were announced, I immediately thought about how this meant four more months without my favorite Chapel Hill study spots. As a senior, I owe a lot of my success to the environments that have fostered my creativity (I’m looking at you Wilson Library steps, Meantime Coffee Shop, and the courtyard outside of Swain Hall). Having relocated to Newport, Rhode Island for the semester, I spend a lot of time curating study spots that help me stay motivated. Anything to help me avoid slipping into the monotony of daily routine.

Scrivener: My New Favorite Word Processor

September 16, 2020

Normally, the papers I write for class don’t require exhaustive research, so I can get by just keeping everything in my all-purpose Word document (or, as my roommate calls it, the “portal of chaos”). This spring, though, I was assigned a final paper that required me to sift through a lot of primary sources, and I was getting tired of scrolling. So, to keep everything organized, I turned to a program that I’d purchased a few years ago: Scrivener.

Keeping Motivated with Rewards

September 9, 2020

I love the feeling of sitting back after a long day and having a sense of accomplishment and progress. In this new normal of working and learning from home, this feeling can be very difficult to achieve. I often find myself feeling burned out, distracted, and generally unproductive. The first hour or two of studying often goes pretty smoothly. However, soon after that first hour I begin to really lose steam.

Tackling Online Classes

September 2, 2020

To say the least, the transition to remote learning this past spring was anything but ideal for me. Amidst the strange times, focus went right out the window, and I did what I could to scrape by in my classes until the end of the semester. When planning for the fall semester, I was less than thrilled to discover the majority of my classes would be completely online.

Daily Work Logs

August 26, 2020

Even in the Before Times, I struggled to hold myself accountable for getting work done. Big term paper for a class? No problem. I’d write it the night before. Final project with classmates? My motivation to contribute to the group kept me going. I found that even my master’s thesis could be knocked out with a few weeks of intense effort, as long as the pressure of an impending, high-stakes deadline was there. But unfortunately for me, the same strategy isn’t exactly feasible for a 100-plus-page dissertation where I’m fully responsible for motivating myself for years at a time. As I progressed in graduate school, I eventually realized that something had to change.

Optimizing Attention: A Guide for Effective Study Plans

August 20, 2020

Have you ever felt the desire to do anything but study, especially when you have an exam coming up? I can relate. That was me this week. Anything seemed better than sitting down and being productive. I had to somehow get out of my procrastination zone and into the study zone. To do that, I decided to try the Optimizing Attention worksheets from the Learning Center–I was amazed by how effective they were. I was able to re-think my study conditions and make a study plan that helped me thrive.

To Iraq and Back: A Veteran’s Writing Journey

August 19, 2020

When I came back from Iraq in July 2010, I was eager to enter college. It wasn’t that I desired to learn all that I could but that I felt behind. Most of my high school classmates were starting their second year of college when the 747 that delivered me from Iraq to America landed in Gulfport, Mississippi. I wanted to get my college education started because part of me felt that, if I didn’t start soon, I would never go.