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Posts Tagged ‘organization’

Hiking up mountains always has a nice clear goal.

Over the last few years I have found myself acquiring new hobbies and activities, however my free time has oddly gone down in the same time period. I run into the problem where I have a lot of different things I want to do but only time for one or two, this creates a sort of activity paralysis where I then want to do none of them and just play a computer game instead.

I asked the question, why does a computer game have a much greater appeal then all of the other activities? Achievements and clearly tenable goals. When faced with practicing piano for an indeterminate amount of time versus unlocking a single achievement on Steam it is easy to get motivated for the achievement.

So I developed my own achievement system for my hobbies and activities.

As I am currently playing Neverwinter Nights 2, I modeled it off of the skill and feat system (nerdy, I kn0w). Where every hobby is given a category such as Fencing, Piano, and Reading. Under each category is a list of ways to “level up” that particular skill. In a separate list are a list of feats, or achievements, that I have not yet unlocked. Here are some of the skills of achievements for my life:

Skills

Fencing (++)

  • + Fencing Practice
  • ++ Equipment upgrade
  • +++ Fencing Tournament

Piano (+++)

  • + Complete lesson
  • + Practice sheet music
  • + New sheet music
  • ++ Memorize Song
  • +++ Perform to an audience

Writing (+)

  • + Post a blog entry
  • + Write a journal entry
  • + Record a dream
  • ++ Fictional writing

Achievements

Sport of Kings – Place in fencing tournament

On the Road – Odometer reacher 100,000

Trekkie – Watch The Original Series

Stickshifts and Safetybelts – Drive over 10 hours in one day

I made the rule that I cannot add any achievements or skills retroactively from before I started, however I can add if I come up with something new. If I do something I deem as awesome, interesting or noteworthy I will create a new achievement. Likewise if I do something that adds to a skill, I may either add an appropriate skill or new way to skill up. Once I reach ten “+” in a single skill I will mark it as leveled up to be “Level 1 Writing ()”, with all skills starting at level 0.

One category I may add is Programming with an achievement to write a program to keep track of everything. Currently I am using text files.

Now I get to skill up my writing.

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The online portion is fairly repetitive.

The online portion is fairly repetitive.

In conjunction with starting to contact school I also started with the only applications. For the most part the applications are fairly standard asking for contact info, GPA and sometimes deomographic information. Like all parts of the process it is really important to simply keep track of everything.

I listed every school with important information such as:

  • Link to online application
  • Login and Password
  • Due date
  • Unfinished sections of online application
  • Non-online documents required

While normally it is not a good idea to write down passwords I did it for the school since each one had a different requirement, some needed non alpha-numeric characters others required longer length. It is just easier to copy and paste, especially when you have an assigned username.Make a quick reference list of commonly asked information

When pulling out information from an application the required documents are either listed on the application or on the page linking to it. In some cases it is done either on the departmental website or that of the graduate school itself. I know that some of my school provided handy checklists while others sort of buried the information in odd corners.

Early on look for the requirements for the personal statement such as topic, length and formatting. I thought I was done with my personal statements and then I reread the prompt that actually required two separate essays, if I had waited until the last day to turn it in it would have been bad.

A surprise was the requirement of a resumé on a few applications. I had a resumé already made but a full year out of date, it was also written towards getting my a desk job instead of a graduate position. So this had to be rewritten and refocused to a research position highlighting independence, practical skills (machine shop, computers) and ability to overcome challenges. The resumé should complement the personal statement but not repeat material extensively.

Creating an easy reference of the following helps expedite the filling out of numerous forms:

  • Graduate date (estimate it)
  • Physics GPA
  • Overall GPA
  • Last 2-years GPA
  • GRE Scores with percentile
  • Recommender names, positions and contact information
  • For calculating GPA I used my schools GPA Calculator (written for the quarter system).

Do the online applications a little at a time and as a way to take a break from personal statements and GRE study while still progressing forward. Also start to brace yourself for the fees that come due at the end of the application.

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Tivoli is more fun then graduate applications.

Tivoli is more fun then graduate applications.

One of the challenging aspects of applying to graduate school is not the application or the tests or the overwhelming sense of unknown (it could be a variable sense or even a mild perturbative feeling) rather the keeping it all organized. At first I tried to keep everything in individual folders but soon found that a lot of information is not a document but text.

For keep ideas organized, especially for my personal statement, I used a FreeMind, which I mentioned before. The other two important organizational tools has been my mail client (Apple Mail, but Thunderbird would also work) and a note organizational program such as MacJournal.

Within my note program I found it best to organize two ways: the first is a file for each University and the second is for each requirement. For instance my Personal Statement file has what each University needs for its personal statement and related notes. For the University files I list all of the e-mails I have sent and notes of professors that I want to contact. 

Luckily my program also has color coding of the files for easy recognition for what needs to be done.

Overall these programs have helped in organization and from there they have helped in the entire process.

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