high school just got simpler

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How to: Do Nothing

Let Me Fill to the Full of My Heart With ...No...
I know every teenager has used the expression "Nothing" when asked what they are doing, at least once.

Doing nothing is actually incredible. It is the most simple way to relax. Sure, doing nothing can waste time, but it doesn't have to. It's an art. Actually, doing nothing helps you be more productive.

Baby Steps
First, focus on 5 minutes. Preferably every day, maybe a couple times a day. Practice in a safe place: a bedroom, a man-cave, or even a living room. Cut out all distractions. Turn off the radio, your phone, an mp3 player, everything. And do NOT turn that television on! It helps me to be laying down, or sitting reclined. Close your eyes, and do nothing.

Don't forget this! Breathing is the best place to start when doing nothing. Breathe slowly, and feel your breath. In through the nose, out through the nose. Notice your lungs filling and emptying. Feel the breath in your body. Don't think about anything. Just breathing. Just relaxing. Just nothing.

Work up to 20 minutes, or even half an hour. Doing nothing every day helps clear your mind, and frees your attention. If you need to schedule your do nothing time, then by all means do so. Doing nothing gives you more time to focus on the task at hand.

You will become relaxed, and ready to let the day flow with ease.
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Goals Made Simple


My favorite blog, Zen Habits, did a blog on goal setting. I liked it so much, I started applying it to everything.

I have achieved many goals using Zen Habit's system, but modified it for myself, and still keeping it simple.

My steps:

1. Brainstorm. List everything you would like to achieve. Don't forget anything. Write it all down.

2. Figure out all the benefits. Take a look at your list. Figure out which ones are most beneficial and which ones will change your life most.

3. Keep it SMART. This little acronym, from the Boy Scouts of America, is incredibly useful to determine goals.

  • Specific: Know what your goal is. Run a marathon, exercise more, or get straight A's. Name your goal with 2-5 words or even less. Having a short little saying for your goal will help you stay on track.
  • Measurable: Be able to measure the goal. Know how much is needed to complete it, and what it will take. Is it a large, long term goal, or a small one?
  • Attainable: Is it possible? Make sure you don't need to complete another goal before you start this one. Can you achieve this goal realistically?
  • Relevant: Do you want this? IF you hate running, don't set a goal to run a marathon. Determine whether this goal is relevant to you, your life, and what you want.
  • Timely: Work on a goal that will fit in with what you have time to do. Estimate when you will start and finish. Will it take a year? Six months? How about a week?

4. Prioritize. Make this goal a priority. Put effort into accomplishing your goal. Purpose your day so that you are doing at least one thing towards it a day. Do it in baby steps.

Focus on one goal at a time. It is less stressful knowing that you are working on one thing instead of three or four. Also, doing this creates a habit out of working on that goal. Once it turns into a habit, you can start working on another goal. You won't need to worry about your first goal, you formed a habit. It's now automatic and you can let your mind think about other things.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Give Your Day Purpose

Two Surfers do Pre-stretches on Morro Strand S...I feel at peace at the end of the day when I accomplish something important. I like focusing on three most important tasks (MIT) for the day. These MITs can be anything, like writing a new blog, going to the gym, decluttering, or that big school project. I try to pick three because I like having time to spend on last minute plans, or reflection.

You can do other things during the day, but your MITs should be what you need to get done. At least one MIT should be goal related. The other two are usually work/school related, but they don't have to be. This concept is fantastic. You will get the most important tasks done and out of the way, and your goals will be moving forward.

Try to get as many MITs done in the morning. If you wait until after school/work, then you will end up pushing them off even further. Doing your MITs in the morning gets them out of the way, and the rest of your day will be a piece of cake. 

Implementing this small concept into your day will create amazing outcomes in your life and your goals.
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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Simple Living: Part 1

I have embarked on a journey to cut back on unnecessary things. To live simply. I'm not getting rid of the fun in my life, just what I don't really need. In high school, this is easier said than done.

The definition of "necessary" is really only food, clothes, and shelter. But that really isn't all. You have friends, hobbies, and everything else that makes you happy. Also, I'll look at all the time spent on commitments. Do I really need to be involved with all of them?

In short: eliminate everything that doesn't make you happy.

First is food. This is a struggle for most, and I am still battling this. My goal is to have a whole food diet, consisting of basic, all natural foods. Granted, I won't be able to eat sweets and candies, but a treat every now and then won't hurt. You could say that chocolate, coffee, or french fries make you happy. But isn't that the very thing I am talking about? Do you really need food to make you happy? Currently, I have my coffee intake to about once a month, when I am hanging out with friends at a coffee shop. Sometimes I even get tea, or a smoothie. Those are a treat!

Next is clothing. Everyone has a certain taste and style. I understand that. But spending hundreds of dollars on one "outfit" is just plain silly to me. A shirt, pair of jeans, and maybe a jacket is all I really wear; I am going to clear out all my unnecessary clothes soon.

Finally, commitments. So far, so good. I have already cut out a lot of unneeded commitments in my life. I play violin, and I enjoy it. But I was taking private lessons, and they bored the heck out of me. So I decided to quit. It wasn't doing me any good by continuing to go to them. It was a waste of money. I also am in Boy Scouts. That can take up a lot of time. I am already an Eagle Scout, so there is no need for me to be super involved. I still want to be a part of it, but I can focus on giving back to my troop, helping the younger Scouts, and let others take the lead.

What I've cut out so far:
  • Coffee (still need to get rid of this completely)
  • A few commitments
What I still need to cut out:
  • Unnecessary clothes
  • Knick-knacks in my room
  • Eating out
  • Candy and sweets
  • Other commitments
I have cut out a lot so far. I am feeling less stressed, getting better grades, and spending more time with friends. I have a lot of work to do still, but I am enjoying it.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Focus on Doing

Recently, my high school has allowed cell phone and mp3 player usage during class changes and lunch periods. Once people were allowed to do this, everyone was buried in their phones. At lunch, everybody is either texting or listening to music. I jumped on this opportunity as fast as everyone else.

Being a teen, I would constantly text, and listen to music. Now, though, I resent even carrying electronics in school. If I text in the hallways, I constantly need to check to see where I am going. It's like texting and driving. You shouldn't do it.

After being exposed to the freedom of texting in school, I no longer want to. I'd much rather be present and talk with my friends that are around me. I like being with my friends now more than trying to hold a conversation with someone in a different room (I can catch up with them later anyway).

This brings me to the zen proverb, "When walking, walk. When eating, eat." This concept is so simple, and incredibly easy. While at school, turn off your phone. Be with your friends, talk, have a good time where you are. You won't be penalized for not updating your facebook status at noon. What would you say? You, and everyone else, can wait until later in the day.

Right now you are probably checking facebook, listening to music, and texting friends. All at the same time. So much information is distracting, and your brain misses what's important. We are constantly thinking about last night, what's for dinner, schoolwork, a new movie, and all sorts of things that distract you from what you're doing now.

Focus on doing. Don't focus on what's going on with someone else. It doesn't matter what it is: walking, doing homework, eating, playing, laughing, or even breathing. When you focus on the now and the doing, everything else melts away. This simple way of living is beautiful.

Choose one thing right now. Focus on just that. Clear out everything else. Get rid of distractions. Really, clear your environment of everything but one thing you want to focus on. Once you finish reading this, turn off your Internet. Read a book, write a story, eat an apple. Do whatever it is slowly. Enjoy every moment of what you're doing now.

Everything else is meaningless. Just you, and now.
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Stressful Student Habits

Everyday in school, I see the same thing. People doing homework right before class, rushing to get there on time, and then wondering why they are so stressed.

There can be many reasons why high schoolers are stressed so much, but it all narrows down to one thing: complications. The habits that students form complicate their life so much. Cutting these complicated lifestyles out can form better student habits.

A day in the life: go to bed late, wake up at the last minute, skip breakfast, rush to school, and you know what happens next. If you wait till eleven at night to do homework, you are going to get to bed late. And the cycle continues. You can relieve yourself of so much stress if you just change a couple things:
  • Getting up earlier. Don't get up cold turkey, do it moderately. Set your alarm two, maybe five minutes earlier every day (or every other if you are not a morning person). Doing this gradually lets you ease into it, eventually letting you get so much more done in the mornings. Like:
  • Eating breakfast. Breakfast not only wakes you up, it keeps you awake. They don't call it the "most important meal of the day" for nothing. Key proteins, vitamins, even just carbs in the morning can help relieve that morning hassle.
  • Doing your homework right after school. Doing this immediately when you get home is almost common sense when you think about it. The material is fresh in your mind, and you will definitely still have a school mindset. Doing it when you are home is less distracting as well since most parents will be at work. You won't be tired right after school, unless you play an after-school sport, so make use of that time.
  • Slowing down. Don't rush through things. Take your time to make sure to get that good grade, or say "Hey" to a friend in the halls, but arrive to class on time! If you are constantly worried about the next class, or what you are doing after school, you aren't giving the present your full attention. Slow down, and give it your best quality work.
*This list is not complete with every change needed to get rid of stress. The purpose of this is to introduce you to the kinds of changes you need to make.

Once these changes are made, new ones will appear to you, and happen on their own. Grades will increase, you will have more free time, and most of all: you will have less stress.