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On board: things happen

Travelling alone is a very entertaining experience. Some people may also term it to be an irritating one, but strictly speaking, we might be talking about synonyms here.

You start watching movies during the flight. Into your 2nd movie, you suddenly realize that the passenger next to you is watching the movie you watched first. Into your 3rd movie, you realize that she's watching the 2nd movie you watched. What's going on? You find this mildly interesting, but keep watching anyway.

There's a fat guy sitting next to you? Be afraid. Be very afraid. At some point of the journey he is certainly going to nod off and doze intermittently almost on you, taking up more than half of your seat and making you inch away and wish you were a turtle so that you could withdraw into your shell and therefore optimize space. He is also going to snore pretty loudly. Needless to say, by the end of the flight you have bloodshot eyes and a splitting headache. And of course the person in front of you finds it his sacred duty to recline his seat almost all the way backwards, so your legs are cramped as well. Turtles, I tell you. Great survival advantage.

And then there is the question of the seat handle. Who does it belong to, really? What happens if you're in the middle seat and both of the passengers are occupying the seat handles on your left and right, respectively? Nothing happens. Your hands are meant to be hanging in air.

You're trying to get out of your seat and go to the washroom, and the person beside you is sipping a drink. Perfectly innocent scenario. Except when he spills that orange juice all over your marble-white jacket and jeans, and it's not exactly a good scenario to be up and about.

If you do get to sleep (gasp! What great luck!), you'll find that you were asleep the whole period during which lunch and snacks were served, and no one bothered to 'disturb' and therefore wake you up. So you must wait till all the landing and immigration stuff are over before grabbing a bite somewhere.

The flight is over. But the suitcases weren't this heavy when you packed, right? Oh well.

By Anika Tabassum

Time management

TIME is possibly the most scare commodity in today's fast-paced world. All around us we see people pressed for time, struggling with an eternal backlog, hardly ever finding time to spend on things they enjoy instead of resolving one crisis after another. This ubiquitous problem has generated interest in time management getting more done in less time and possibly less effort. At the core of it, time management is essentially a set of tools you use to plan ahead and make the most of the limited time you have to work with.

The biggest irony here though, is that the people who need to develop these skills are the ones who can barely afford to spend any time on learning more about it. Most of their time is spent reacting to one urgent matter after another, and there is simply no room left for planning ahead and working on one's own productivity. They are like the woodcutter who keeps hacking away at trees with a blunt saw, because he feels he has no time to “sharpen the saw”.

The benefit of time management is being able to get more out of every hour, but this comes at a price: the time spent trying to learn new time management tricks. In the worst possible case, you could be spending so much time trying to make head and tail of your flashy time-saving tricks that you will barely have any time left to actually get anything done. Like in all walks of life, the trick here is to keep it simple. Also, you could spend hours reading books on time management and get nowhere unless you actually try the suggestions and see how they work for you. As the cliché goes, no one ever learnt to ride a bike by reading about it.

Time management is a multi-faceted, multi-layer problem. Depending on how well you deal with your time now, it could take from weeks to years to get at a level where you truly feel effective and content with how much you are getting done. However, every step taken towards learning to optimise your time is a clear win. Today, I will start with some very basic advice, something you will hardly find useful unless you do absolutely no planning ahead. Nevertheless this is a good place to start, and will be required in later instalments, so I might as well ensure we are on common grounds.

The very first step in time management is to figure out where your time is going. We all know the feeling I just sat down on the report and it's already midnight? Ok, so it is midnight, but why do I have just one paragraph? Sure, I checked my mail a few times, and there was that YouTube video that was kind of neat, but whoa?! Midnight?!

This brings us to our first tool a time use chart. Beneath the fancy name, all this helps you do is figure out how and where you spend your time. If used honestly, this can help you figure out where most of your effort is going, and which small offhand activities are chipping away at your block of time. A sample chart can be downloaded at http://www.d.umn.edu/kmc/student/loon/acad/strat/time_use_chart.html, but do not feel compelled to stick to this template. If you already keep a journal, by all means feel free to use it to take a closer look at your time usage habits.

Every time you sit down to work, note down the start time. When you are done, note down the time again. Write down the duration you spent on this piece of work, as well as the value of whatever it is just you did. The value, I must add, has to be realistic and take practical considerations into mind. I value Smallville a lot more than a term paper, but my professor may not understand where I am coming from.

Now comes the important part. The time use chart is only as effective as you make it. For this to be useful, you will need to be brutally honest with yourself. If you sat down to study your notes, and then read ten emails for a half hour, do not count that time as being spent studying notes. Write down that you spent time reading email instead. If you took five bathroom breaks that took away ten minutes from the hour you set aside to write a report, make sure your time chart reflects that. Only that way will you be able to locate the small activities here and there that steal your time and make you less productive.

In order to be useful, I suggest you maintain the time use chart for about a week, and then review it over the weekend to find out the problem areas, as well as areas where you seem to be most effective. Clearly you are doing something in the latter areas that could be useful in all other areas of your life as well. For that week, do not worry about being optimal or clever with time. Just gauge how you actually use time, and then we can work on how to use this knowledge. Until the next instalment, good luck!

By Hammad Ali

American college applications

Regardless of when this article is published, just keep one thing in mind. College applications should have started two weeks ago- the panic button should be pressed right about now. However, the process itself is not too difficult thanks to the Internet and, hopefully, this article. There are a few things that you have to remember during the college apps procedure- standardized tests, the actual applications, and the other extraneous forms these universities require.

The SAT Reasoning test is the MOST important test that you will EVER take in your ENTIRE LIFE. When I say the MOST important test, rest assured, I do not mean the second most important, or tied for the most important, but it is, hands down, sans competition, the MOST important test you will ever take. You can register for the SAT Reasoning test on the College Board website- however; you'll need a credit card that will work in the America. For those of you who do not have one, I do not know what to say- ask a friend maybe? Another standardized test you can register for on the College Board website is the SAT Subject Test. Most colleges will require two, but some will require three. Remember to research your college on the internet- their online office of undergraduate admissions will have all the information you need. Finally, for those of us who have not lived in the United States our entire lives (which I presume is the majority of my audience), there is the TOEFL. The TOEFL is offered by the ETS and registration is on the website. Those are pretty much all the standardized tests needed for the college application procedure. For the cooler kids who want to take the ACT, I say you're cool enough to figure out how to do it on your own.

The applications themselves are quite intimidating. There is the pressure, which is greater than 1 atmosphere at a standard temperature, of that college essay. There is something called the Common Application, which compiles the applications of over 150 United States Universities. Check the Common App website for a list of the schools and make sure the school you want to apply is on that list (if you're interested- MIT is not). If the school(s) you want to go to is/are a Common App school(s), your life is so much easier. You have to fill out the general Common App, and your respective school supplement. If your school is not a Common App school- don't worry. Just check out the website and look up the undergraduate admissions procedure. The forms are pretty self-explanatory- it's just finding them that's sometimes challenging.

Finally, there are the teacher recommendations and the secondary school report forms. Give your teacher the teacher recommendation form and the equivalent of your high school counselor should get the secondary school report form. For the GCSE students this could prove challenging, but your counselor should be able to help you out.

To all the potential applicants- I wish you luck!

By Ihsan Kabir


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