Elon Musk’s (un)Surprising Secrets To Success

Elon Musk’s (un)Surprising Secrets To Success

Elon Musk, AKA the real life Tony Stark, gave the Marshall Undergraduate Commencement Speech at my university about three weeks ago on May 16, 2014.

If you don’t know who Elon Musk is, he’s the co-founder of PayPal, CEO of SpaceX, and CEO of Tesla Motors. He is one of the biggest innovators in the world right now—perhaps even in all of history.

Needless to say, I was beyond stoked when I found out that he was going to be speaking at my university’s graduation this year and I couldn’t wait to hear what he would have to say.

But after his speech was over I couldn’t help but think, “That’s it?

His secrets to success were the following:

  1. Work super hard.
  2. Attract great people.
  3. Focus on the things that actually make a difference.
  4. Don’t just follow the trend.
  5. Take risks.

Obviously he elaborated a little bit on each of these points, but this was basically all he said.

While these are all great points, he didn’t say a single thing I hadn’t heard before.

I was expecting something more. Something new and life-changing. Something that I would be able to go home and write an entire blog post about.

But instead I got the same advice I’ve heard over and over again. The only difference was that this time it was coming from a man who currently sits on top of two billion dollar companies.

Is achieving success really that simple?

We like to think that there is some sort of secret formula to success. That all successful people have found this secret and that is why they are successful.

We (subconsciously) tell ourselves that if only we could find that secret formula, then we too could be successful.

But the truth is that we all know what we have to do to succeed. We’ve heard it all before. 

This is why, at first, I was disappointed with Musk’s speech.

Because there was no surprise secret. He didn’t say anything worth writing an entire blog post about.

And that’s when I realized, there was no surprise secret in his speech because THERE IS NO SECRET.

Deep down we know this is the truth.

But then why do we keep looking for “secrets”?

Because it gives us an excuse. It makes us feel better about not being able to achieve the things we want to achieve. It’s a rationalization for our shortcomings.

But I’m tired of making excuses. I’m tired of looking for what I already know.

I don’t want to be successful. I’m going to be successful.

You know how I know that? Because I’m taking action. I’m doing the things that I know I need to do to achieve the things that I want to achieve.

It really is that simple. It’s not easy, but it’s not complicated.

Work hard, work smart, surround yourself by the right people, and don’t be afraid to take risks.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from Mr. Musk, it’s that nothing is impossible.

So what about you? Do you want to be successful, or are you going to be successful?

The choice is yours.

You can watch Elon Musk’s full commencement speech here:

Image Source: Flickr – Heisenberg Media

If You Want People To View You As A Fun Person, Don’t Make The Same Mistake I Made

If You Want People To View You As A Fun Person, Don’t Make The Same Mistake I Made

Has anyone ever said something to you that you just couldn’t get out of your head for the rest of the day?

A few weeks ago I was walking down the hallway of my fraternity house (which is where I live) on my way to class when I passed a room filled with people taking shots of Captain Morgan. Normally this wouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary, except for the fact that it was 9:45 AM.

I stepped inside the room to see what the special occasion was, but before I had a chance to ask, someone shoved a handle of Captain Morgan into my hands and shouted, “Stefanoooo, take a shot!!!”

I immediately responded, “Helllll no. I’m on my way to class right now.”

Then one of my good friends (we’ll call him Jeff) who was also in the room said something that really got to me. He said, “C’mon man. At least play with the idea.”

I laughed it off, repeated that I had to go to class, and went about my way. But for the rest of the day I couldn’t stop thinking about what he had said.

“At least play with the idea.”

Obviously I didn’t want to take a shot, but Jeff had a point. I hadn’t played with the idea at all. In fact, I did the exact opposite.

I had rejected it without even giving it a second thought.

My response made me sound, for lack of a better word, like a complete party pooper.

Now, let me just say that I love to party. I turned 21 in April and celebrated the best way you can celebrate a 21st birthday—in Las Vegas. It was one of the most fun weekends I’ve ever had.

But as much as I love to party, most people in my fraternity don’t see me as the biggest partier, and it’s never been my intention to have that reputation, because I also enjoy doing other things and I like to keep myself busy. Living in a frat house, this means that I have to say “no” to partying a lot more than I would like to. Saying no isn’t fun, but it’s necessary if you want to have time to do the things that are important to you.

That being said, no one wants to be a party pooper—whether you’re living in a frat house or not.

So after this morning shots incident, I started thinking about other ways I could’ve responded.

How could I have played with the idea, while still saying no?

I was struggling to think of what I could have said instead, so I asked myself what Jeff would have said if he had been in my situation. Jeff is one of the most social guys I know. He’s friends with everyone, he’s always got a big smile on his face, and the ladies love him. I’m sure you all know someone like him.

If Jeff had been in my situation, it probably would have gone something like this:

“Jeffffff, take a shot!!!”

“Shots? I’d be super down if I didn’t have to go to class right now. Maybe after!”

Ultimately, he still would have been saying no, just like I had, but only after giving it some thought. It’s a much softer rejection, and it doesn’t make him sound like a complete party pooper. If we compare Jeff’s response to my response, there are several distinct differences.

  • He doesn’t give an answer right away. The first thing he does is set the stage by using a common interview tactic in which you repeat the question (“Shots?”). At this point, we don’t know what he’s thinking. He could either accept or decline the offer—it’s still up in the air. But by repeating the question, he buys himself some time to think about what he will say next. Compare this to my response, where the first thing I said was “Hell no.”
  • He says he would be down, if he didn’t have to go to class right now. The way this is phrased, it sounds like he actually wants to, but simply cannot because he has class. My response, on the other hand, made it sound like I really didn’t want to in the first place, and the fact that I have class is just an excuse.
  • He offers an alternative solution. The last thing he says is “Maybe after!” This reaffirms that he actually wants to take a shot, but just can’t at the moment. He’s not committing to anything, but he’s at least attempting to make a compromise.

This example might be a little bit absurd, but I think the idea is very applicable to many situations we often find ourselves in. Whether we are being pressured into doing something that we don’t want to do or we disagree with someone’s opinion on something, the words we use can make all the difference in the way that people perceive us.

The reason why people love hanging out with and talking to Jeff is because he’s a master at playing with ideas. He can get along with anyone because he’s always open to new ideas. No matter what his own opinions are, he’s always willing to hear what other people have to say first. So even when he says no, it doesn’t really feel like he’s saying no, and even when he disagrees with someone, it doesn’t feel like a disagreement.

I’m not saying that you should try to please everyone by covering up your true intentions, or that you have to agree with everyone and do everything that everyone tells you to do. But I think it’s important to think about how what you say will be heard by those around you.

Understand where other people are coming from and acknowledge their ideas. You may disagree with them, but if you at least attempt to understand their side of the story first, your own opinions will be better received.

Respect other people’s ideas, and they will respect yours.

For example, I may have thought that it was crazy for people to be taking shots at 9:45 AM because I had to go to class. But they probably didn’t have class, so why shouldn’t they be taking shots? (Okay maybe this wasn’t the best example, but you get the point.)

You don’t have to be the biggest party animal for people to view you as a fun person, as long as you’re able to play with ideas. Learn how to play with ideas, and people will love talking to you—especially girls. Flirting is all about playing with ideas.

Here are four ways you can improve your ability to play with ideas and be more fun:

  1. Be open-minded. Don’t rush into judgments. You can still have your own opinions, but try to see where other people are coming from before you jump to conclusions.
  2. Match people’s levels of excitement. When I was offered the shot, the person who offered me the shot was at an excitement level of 10. I responded at an excitement level of 2. Don’t do that. It’s a huge buzz kill. If someone yells at you, yell back. If someone whispers to you, whisper back.
  3. Offer win-win solutions. When you find yourself in a situation that you have to say no, try to offer an alternative solution. Maybe you can’t do something right now, but you’d be happy to do it later. This is the skill of compromise. Don’t approach things from a “one way or the other” point of view. Why not both? Try to find solutions that make both parties happy.
  4. Be spontaneous and try new things. Being able to say no is important, but don’t be the person who never wants to do anything. If you always say no, eventually people will stop inviting you to do things. It’s great to have a schedule and keep your priorities in place, but every now and then you just have to live in the moment. Be open to new ideas everyone once in a while say and yes to something you wouldn’t normally do.

Have you ever rejected an idea without at least playing with it first? How did it turn out? Let me know in the comments below.

Looking for more ways to improve your social skills? Check out How to Approach Anyone with the 3 Second Rule and 5 Ways to Improve Your Social Skills and Conquer Your Ego.

Image Source: pixabay – quadinsan

How to Create a Blog in 5 Easy Steps: A Beginner’s Guide

How to Create a Blog in 5 Easy Steps: A Beginner’s Guide

Last week I wrote a post about why you should start a blog (check it out here – 8 Legitimate Reasons Why You Should Start a Blog in College). Today I’m going to help you with the how.

There are tons of guides out there about how to start a blog, and I remember spending hours reading all of them when I was first getting started with Collegetopia. The problem with most of these guides is that they either have way too much or way too little information for someone who’s just getting started.

That’s why I decided to write this post.

My goal is to make this process as simple and easy as possible for you. I’ll walk you through the entire process step-by-step and teach you everything you need to know while sparing you the unnecessary details. Right now the most important thing is that you start taking action.

Once you’ve got something that you can actually work with, then you can go back and tweak things and focus on the specifics. But for now, let’s focus on getting started.

Estimated Costs

The total cost of setting up your blog will run around $60 (for a domain name, web hosting, and a premium theme) OR $20 if you decide not to purchase a premium theme (see optional Step 5).

While you can create a free blog, if you want to be taken seriously I highly recommend making the investment in buying a domain name and creating a self-hosted blog. There are many reasons why you want a self-hosted blog versus a free blog, but long story short, a self-hosted WordPress blog with your own domain name is a lot more professional and customizable than a free blog.

I use a self-hosted WordPress.org framework, which is the most popular blogging platform on the web. It’s the easiest, cheapest, and most simple way to build a blog. For this reason the rest of this guide assumes that you’ll be using the WordPress.org framework as well.

Making a small financial investment will also force you to take your blogging more seriously. And the way I see it, if you’re going to do something, you might as well commit to it.

If you’ve read this far, you’ve already dipped your toes in the water. And if you’re still reading, I think you’re ready to take the dive.

So let’s get started…

Here’s how to create a blog in 5 easy steps:

1. Purchasing a Domain Name.

What is a domain name?

A domain name is the address for your website. It’s the URL that people type into their web browser to get to your website (i.e. collegetopia.co), but it’s not your actual website. It’s simply a way of identifying your website and helping people get to your website.

Coming Up with a Domain Name

Domain names are important, because they’re how people will remember your blog. But don’t worry about coming up with the PERFECT domain name.

Spend some time brainstorming possible names and then just PICK ONE. Go with your gut, and move on.

Remember that the most important thing for you to focus on when you’re starting a blog is to take action. Don’t get stuck on one thing. You can always go back and change things later (and your domain name is no exception).

Where to Purchase a Domain Name

You can purchase a domain name from a number of different sites, and they usually run between $9-$13 per year.

I purchased Collegetopia.co through GoDaddy.com for $10.99, which I found to be the cheapest (for that particular domain name). But here are some other sites that sell domains that might be worth checking out to make comparisons:

If you decide to buy your domain name from GoDaddy, make sure that you only purchase the domain name…

DO NOT PURCHASE WEB HOSTING THROUGH GODADDY.

You’ll have the option to purchase both your domain name and web hosting through GoDaddy, but don’t do it. GoDaddy is known for having terrible web-hosting. You’ll want to purchase web hosting from another site. I’ll tell you which hosting provider I recommend and use for Collegetopia in the next step.

Something else to keep in mind: domain name costs vary depending on the TLD (which is the suffix part of the domain, such as .com or .net). Generally, “.com” is the most expensive because it’s the most common and familiar TLD. But because almost all “.com” domain names are already taken, you’re going to start seeing a lot more other TLD’s popping up, such as .co’s. This was part of my reasoning for going with “.co” when I made Collegetopia. So don’t worry if you can’t get a “.com”, it’s not the end of the world. If anything, you’re just ahead of the curve.

2. Purchasing Web Hosting

What is Web Hosting?

If you think about your website as a house, and the domain name is your address, then the web hosting is the house itself. Your web hosting provides the server where all your files are stored and made available online.

Where to Purchase Web Hosting

Like domain names, there are lots of different options to choose from for purchasing your hosting provider. Prices vary depending on the type of hosting you’re getting, but for your first site a basic “shared” hosting account is all you need. This will typically cost about $8/month.

I recommend the basic “Hatchling Plan” from HostGator which costs $7.16/month if you pay monthly or $5.56/month if you pay for a full year in advance (recommended).

There are other options out there, but HostGator is what I use for Collegetopia and I’ve never had any problems with them. Honestly, there isn’t much of a difference between most of these basic hosting plans, but when I was originally deciding where to buy my hosting I ultimately decided to go with HostGator because they are known for having great customer service, and I think that’s the most important factor when dealing with a service like web hosting.

[box]If you decide to go with HostGator, you can get 25% off your order if you use the coupon code COLLEGETOPIA.[/box]

How to Get 25% Off From HostGator

1. Go to HostGator.com and click the Web Hosting tab in the top left.
2. Under Hatchling Plan, select from the drop-down menu which payment option you want to choose (monthly, 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, or 3 years) and then click the Order Now button.
3. Click on I already own this domain and enter your domain in the space provided (assuming you already bought your domain from another site, like GoDaddy.com).
4. Confirm that the Hatchling package is selected, and choose your billing cycle.
5. Choose a username and security pin.
6. Enter your billing and payment information.
7. In the Hosting Addons section I recommend un-checking everything. You don’t need any of this stuff.
8. Enter the coupon code COLLEGETOPIA to get 25% off.
9. Review the order details and click Create Account.

3. Installing WordPress

What is WordPress?

WordPress is what’s called a content management system (CMS). Basically, it’s the interface which allows you to create a beautiful website without ever having to touch a line of code. WordPress is the most popular blogging platform on the web because it’s extremely easy to use.

How to Install WordPress

1. Type this URL into your browser: yourdomain.com/cpanel (replace yourdomain.com with the domain name you purchased in Step 1)
Sometimes it can take a little while for your domain to be up and running. If this is the case, use the link for “Your Control Panel” that you were given in the email from HostGator with your Account Info
2. Login with the username and password you were given in the email from HostGator
3. You are now logged into your cPanel. This is the back end of your hosting account. Don’t worry about how complex it looks right now. All you need to do is scroll down to the Software/Services section and the click on the QuickInstall option.
4. In the sidebar on the left, click on WordPress under the Blog Software section.
5. Click Continue.
6. Under Application URL where it says “http://” you should see a drop-down menu with your domain name followed by a blank box. Leave that box blank.
7. Un-check Enable Auto Upgrades. You’ll want to keep your WordPress up-to-date, but it’s better to do these upgrades manually.
8. Fill in the rest of the fields (admin email, blog title, admin user, first name, last name).
9. Click Install Now!

You should now have a fully functioning, self-hosted WordPress web site. If you visit your site you should see the title with the default WordPress theme.

The URL to login to your WordPress “Dashboard” (which is where you’ll be doing all of your publishing) is yourdomain.com/wp-admin.

Once logged in, you’ll see a sidebar on the left which has links to all of the functions for managing your website. Most of this is pretty straight forward so I won’t waste your time explaining everything. But feel free to spend some time just exploring these functions and getting a feel for the interface.

Configuring WordPress Settings

While for the most part WordPress is good to go right out of the box, there are a few Settings you might want to adjust:

General > Timezone (choose your timezone)
General > Date Format and Time Format (choose whatever you prefer)
Permalinks > choose Post name

(These are all accessed by the Settings tab in the side bar once you’re logged into your WordPress Dashboard.)

4. Installing Recommended WordPress Plugins

What are Plugins?

Plugins are addons that expand the functionality of your site (sort of like how extensions add functionality to Google Chrome).There are thousands of plugins available to install, and most of them are completely free.

How to Add Plugins

Adding plugins is extremely easy.

1. Go to Plugins > Add New.
2. Type in the name of the plugin and click Search Plugins.
3. Click Install Now under the Plugin you want to install.
4. Once it says the plugin has been successfully installed, click Activate Plugin.

Recommended Plugins

Limit Login Attempts – protects you from hackers by limiting the number of login attempts
Slick social share buttons – a sweet social sharing slide bar (the one you see floating to the left of this article)
UpdraftPlus – makes backing up your blog super easy (something you should do on a regular basis)
WordPress SEO – the best free SEO plugin (this one takes some configuration – use this guide)

5. Purchasing a Theme (optional)

What is a Theme?

A theme is essentially a template for the design of your site. There are tons of great free themes available in the WordPress Theme Directory (which is why this step is optional), however, you can also purchase Premium Themes from other sites which are usually better designed and offer more functionality than the free themes.

Where to Purchase Premium Themes

I purchased the theme for Collegetopia from ThemeForest.net, but here are a few other options:

http://my.studiopress.com/themes/
http://www.woothemes.com/
http://www.elegantthemes.com/

How to Install a WordPress Theme

1. Go to Appearance > Themes.
2. Click on the Install Themes tab.
3. Click Upload. 
4. Click Choose File and select the theme file (.zip) from wherever you saved it on your computer.
5. Click Install Now.
6. Click Activate.

And there you have it, you’ve just created your very own blog :).

Like I said at the beginning, this guide is intended to help you get the ball rolling. This is by no means an all-inclusive guide that covers everything there is to know about creating a blog, but it’s enough to get you started, and that’s the most important step.

Once your blog is up and running, post a link to it in the comments—I’d love to check it out.

Also feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions and I’ll try my best to help!

Image Source: Wikipedia

8 Legitimate Reasons Why You Should Start a Blog in College

8 Legitimate Reasons Why You Should Start a Blog in College

I first started thinking about starting a blog almost two years ago, but for two years I kept coming up with excuses…

What would I write about? Who would read it? Am I a good enough writer? How do I even get started?

Last summer, on June 30, 2013, I finally decided to stop making excuses.

I bought the domain for this website and wrote my first article (5 Steps to Learning How to Speed Read in 20 minutes) on July 1st, 2013. Did I know what I was doing? Absolutely not. I didn’t know a single thing about creating websites, about writing HTML, or about content marketing. But guess what? I figured it out.

While there’s definitely a lot more that goes into blogging than appears on the surface, the good news is that you don’t need to know about most of that stuff to get started. You’ll figure things out along the way, just like I did.

Creating a successful blog (meaning that people actually read it) isn’t easy, but no matter what I promise you that the return on your investment is more than worth your while. Most of the benefits of creating a blog are independent of having a large readership.

Speaking from my own experience with creating Collegetopia, here are 8 legitimate reasons why you should start a blog, especially if you’re a college student:

1. It will improve your writing (more than your English classes) and make you a better communicator.

We all know how important it is to have good writing skills, yet most students are terrible writers. The problem is that most of us have never written anything other than essays for our English classes. And when you’re forced to write about topics you have no interest in, it can be hard to enjoy writing, which makes it hard to improve. Blogging solves that problem.

When you have the freedom to write about anything you want, writing suddenly becomes a lot more enjoyable. If you can find a topic that you are passionate about, you will enjoy writing about it, and in the process your writing will improve.

Blogging also makes you a more flexible and versatile writer, which in turn makes you a more effective communicator. 

If you’re writing for a blog, you must realize that you are writing for an audience that is not your professor. This means you’ll most likely want to write in a different style than you used in your English classes.  Personally, this was a difficult transition for me to make (and is something I’m still working on), but I think it is a valuable lesson in understanding the importance of having a target audience, and adjusting the way you communicate accordingly.

2. It allows you to connect with like-minded people and expand your network.

A big part of blogging is about connecting with other bloggers within your niche. Doing so is not only an essential part of growing your blog, but it also allows you to connect with other people who clearly share something in common with you since they are writing about similar topics.

In the last 8 months I’ve connected with a number of bloggers through Collegetopia, including Mark Frost of HackCollege.com, Lars King of HolisiticImprovement.com, and Vasco Brazao of VascoBrazao.com. Without Collegetopia, I probably never would have connected with them.

Obviously you don’t have to have a blog to reach out to bloggers, but it definitely makes it a lot easier because it gives you something to show for yourself.

As my blog continues to grow, I hope to connect with many more bloggers and students who share my same passion to succeed in college and beyond. I love meeting new people, so please feel free to reach out to me via Twitter or Facebook at any time!

3. It gives you credibility.

Writing a paper on a particular topic doesn’t necessarily make you an expert. You might feel like one, especially after reading every single Wikipedia page about the topic and managing to write a 5 page paper that’s not entirely bullshit, but let’s be real. It’s mainly bullshit.

But imagine if you wrote 20 articles about a topic. One article probably isn’t the equivalent of one essay, but let’s say 2-3 articles = 1 essay. So if you wrote 20 articles, that’s equivalent to 7-10 essays. How do you think you’d feel after writing 7-10 essays about a topic? Maybe not an expert still, but probably more so than after writing just one essay.

My point is that you don’t have to be an expert when you start blogging. You’ll learn more and your writing will get better the more you write. After you have a few articles under your belt you’ll start to feel like you actually know what you’re talking about and (hopefully) other people will too.

Since starting Collegetopia, I’ve received many emails from students asking for help and advice with certain problems that they’re facing. I’m by no means an expert on productivity, or time management, or socializing, but they read a few of my articles and came to the conclusion that I could provide them with some valuable advice.

Creating a blog allows you to share what you know, and when you consistently share what you know about a particular topic, you will become credible. 

I don’t know everything about succeeding in college, but I’m confident that I know some things that you do not. I’m also confident that you know some things that I do not. Why not share it?

4. It forces you to constantly learn more and to learn it well.

Even if I were to gain nothing else from creating this blog, everything that I’ve learned in the process would still make it all worth it. I’ve learned so much in the last 8 months that I know will be useful to me in my future, no matter what I decide to do.

Here’s a list of some of the technical skills I’ve learned, just to give you an idea:

  • HTML/CSS
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Content marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Copywriting
  • Branding
  • Analytics

Now I wouldn’t say that I’ve entirely mastered all of these skills, but I’ve gone from having absolutely no (or close to no) knowledge about them to at least understanding the basics.

Perhaps more important than these technical skills, I’ve also learned so much more about the topics I write about than I ever would have otherwise. It’s common knowledge that one of the best ways to learn something, and to learn it really well, is by teaching it to someone else. That’s exactly what blogging allows you to do.

Blogging solidifies your knowledge through teaching.

An indirect consequence of all of this is personal accountability. When I’m writing about how to achieve success, I naturally feel obliged to practice what I preach, and to hold myself accountable. You can read blog posts all day, but until you start taking action and applying what you learn, it’s all meaningless.

5. It allows you to be a creator, not just a consumer.

We live in the age of the consumer. Consumerism is and always has been the basis of capitalism, but with smart phones and tablets and all sorts of new mobile devices on the rise, we now consume more than ever. The problem is that most people consume and consume, but never create.

I’ve recently come to the realization that there’s a direct correlation between your happiness levels and how much you create.

We can’t just consume. We need a creative outlet.

[quote]The more you create, the more you deserve to consume. – Tweet This [/quote]

What’s your creation-to-consumption ratio? How much do you create, compared to how much you consume? Chances are you could add a little more creation to your life.

Blogging is my creative outlet. It allows me to add value to the world, and it makes me happy.

6. It gives you something to add to your resume that makes you standout.

Not many people can say that they’ve created a website.

I added this to my resume last semester (just 5 months after creating Collegetopia) when applying to summer internships and I am confident that it was at least part of the reason why I got interviews at some of the top consulting companies in the world and landed a high-paying summer internship. Even though it had nothing to do with the positions I was applying for, it made me stand out.

It showed that I have the drive to do things outside of the classroom. It showed that I can learn things on my own. It showed that I have good writing skills. It showed that I know how to communicate effectively. 

Most students look the same on paper. Good grades, extracurriculars, maybe even some work experience. Anything you can add to your resume that will make you stand out is always a good thing.

So if you want a job, start a blog.

7. It can provide you with a source of passive-income.

Most people don’t realize that blogging is actually a huge industry. There are people who make six-figure incomes solely from blogging. Don’t believe me? Check out Pat Flynn’s website smartpassiveincome.com. He explains everything you need to know about passive-income and even posts his own monthly income reports from the site to be completely transparent with his readers.

So yes, you can make money from blogging. No, it’s not easy.

If you start a blog with the intention of making big bucks, it’s probably not going to happen. Blogging is an extremely saturated market because there is an extremely low barrier to entry. There are 150+ million blogs in existence, and they’re all trying to do the same thing—get your attention. That makes for some pretty tough competition.

That’s not to say that it’s not possible. Thomas Frank, creator of College Info Geek, is a prime example of a student blogger success story. He started his blog while he was a freshman at Iowa State University and was able to pay off all of his student loans (nearly $15,000) by the time he was a senior. Now that would be nice, wouldn’t it?

I’m not quite making enough to pay off all of my student loans, but I did recently monetize this site after one of my articles (How to Approach Anyone with the 3 Second Rule) exploded on StumbleUpon. At this point I’m not making much, but hey, it’s better than nothing.

8. It enables you to help more people than you ever could have imagined.

Blogging gives you the opportunity to share your knowledge and teach others what you know. Thanks to the Internet, your blog has the potential to reach hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world. It still blows my mind to think about how many people I’ve been able to reach through Collegetopia, and it’s extremely rewarding to know that I am actually having an impact on people’s lives.

At the end of the day, a genuine desire to help people should be your biggest motivation to start a blog.

If you’re purely motivated by making money or having something to add to your resume, I guarantee that your blog will not be successful. Successful blogs add real value to people’s lives, just like successful people add real value to the world. If you’re able to do that, everything else will fall into place.

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So what’re you waiting for?

Whether you’ve been thinking about starting a blog for some time now, or if this is the first time you’ve ever even considered it, my advice is this: do it.

Trust me, you’ll wish you had started sooner.

P.S. I’ll be posting an in-depth guide on how to actually create a blog, from start to finish, next week.

CHECK OUT MY GUIDE HERE: How to Create a Blog in 5 Easy Steps

I’ll walk you through the entire process step-by-step and teach you everything you need to know, from start to finish. In 5 easy steps you’ll have your very own blog up and running in no time!

Image Source: Flickr – Jacob Botter

Dorm Room Giveaway 2/28-3/7: Enter to Win FREE Stuff!

Dorm Room Giveaway 2/28-3/7: Enter to Win FREE Stuff!

Do you like free stuff?

Of course you do, that’s why you clicked on this post.

So what’s up for grabs? I’m glad you asked. I’m giving away the following 3 prizes to 3 winners to be announced on March 8, 2014:

1. A Super Comfy Bedrest Pillow

bedrest pillow

2. An Inspirational Wall Poster

Inspirational Poster

3. A Bendy Bright LED Reading Light

LED light

All you have to do to enter the giveaway is complete at least one of the entry options in the entry form below (it literally takes 5 seconds). If you do all four entry options you’ll earn 7 entries and greatly increase your chances of winning.

Entry closes at midnight on March 7, 2014 (aka March 8 at 12:00 am).

Here’s the entry form:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

And a big thanks to DormCo.com for sponsoring this giveaway!

How Ordinary People Become Super Successful People

How Ordinary People Become Super Successful People

Are successful people born with superior genetics? With a higher IQ? With a pre-determined success-filled destiny?

Do you ever think to yourself, “Maybe I’m just not cut out to be successful”?

I used to think this all the time. But then one day I had an epiphany.

To think that you’re not “cut out” to be successful is complete bullshit.

No one was “cut out” to be successful. Successful people are not super-humans. They were not born smarter, or more talented, or more gifted than the rest of the world.

Every successful person was once an ordinary person, just like you and me. In fact, they still ARE ordinary people. They’re human beings. They face the same challenges and temptations and fears as everyone else in the world.

The only difference between ordinary people and successful people is that successful people have learned to develop the habits necessary to make small, but consistent improvements day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.

[quote]If you want to be successful, you can be. The only thing holding you back, is you. –Tweet This[/quote]

Success is nothing more than a series of small, systematic steps towards becoming better every single day.

It’s about creating systems, and turning those systems into habits.

The problem is that people are always looking for short cuts…

How can I get rich fast? How can I lose weight fast? How can I gain muscle fast?

WHAT’S THE SECRET?

Infomercials exploit these desires every single day. And every single day, people fall for these quick-fix scams.

The truth is, there is no secret.

Stop looking for a quick-fix. The only way to achieve real, long-term success is by developing good habits.

Are Your Habits Holding You back?

I recently saw an infographic that displays habits of the world’s wealthiest people contrasted with those of the poor. The infographic makes it apparent that there’s a direct correlation between a person’s habits and their levels of success. Some of the most common habits of wealthy people include maintaining a to-do list, waking up early, and reading every day.

The inforgraphic also shows that 68% of the Americans on the Forbes 2013 “billionaires list” are considered “self-made” billionaires—meaning that they built, rather than inherited their fortune.

Oprah Winfrey, for example, was born in rural poverty and is now the richest self-made woman in America and the first black woman billionaire in history.

[quote]It’s not the hand you’re dealt, but how you play it. –Tweet This[/quote]

Knowing these statistics, I find it fascinating that some people are able to make billions, while the majority are just barely making a living. But it doesn’t surprise me.

We are creatures of habit, and most people have bad habits.

We spend too much. We eat too much. We drink too much. We smoke too much… The list goes on.

But what defines a “bad” habit?

To me, a bad habit is anything that’s holding you back from reaching your fullest potential.

The worst part is that most of us are aware of our bad habits, but will continue to do them for months, for years, or even for the entirety of our lives. Why? Because it’s the easy thing to do. Because it’s the path of least resistance.

But if you want to be successful at anything, you can’t take the path of least resistance.

The key is to make your habits work in your favor, rather than against.

Understanding and Leveraging Habit Formation in Your Favor

Changing your habits is hard. We all know that. But if you’re able to understand the following two characteristics about habits, it might not be as hard as you think.

Characteristic #1: Habits have a steep learning curve.

This is fairly obvious and something that we all understand, but often fail to take advantage of.

Just like if you are learning a new skill with a steep learning curve, creating a new habit is going to be difficult—but only at first. Once you get past the learning curve, it’s smooth sailing. Similarly, once you have established a habit, it requires very little effort at all.

The general rule of thumb is that it takes 30 days to change a habit, but most people give up within the first few weeks. This means that they never make it past the learning curve (even though they sometimes get so close). They give up because they fail to see that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

If you were running a race, would you ever give up 5 feet in front of the finish line? Of course not. Not unless you couldn’t see the finish line.

Keep this in mind the next time you’re trying to change a habit and you’re feeling tempted to give up in the first few weeks. Push yourself to get past that initial lump, knowing that it only gets easier after.

Characteristic #2: The difficulty of changing a behavior is not proportional to how big that change is.

This characteristic may be less obvious than the first, but its implications are extremely powerful.

Scott Young explains this idea well by comparing the following habits: flossing every day vs running every day.

He begins by asking, “Assuming you don’t do either activity regularly, which is easier to do once: flossing or running ten miles?”

Obviously flossing is easier.

But then he asks, “Which is easier to do every day for three months: flossing or running?”

Once again, flossing is still easier. But by how much? Running ten miles for the first time is an agonizing experience, but once you’re in shape it’s not that bad. If you are running every day, it becomes a normal routine. It may still be more difficult than flossing every day, but it is significantly less difficult than doing either activity only once.

Most people, however, imagine the one-time difficulty of a task to be a fixed constant even when repeated over time. So, if we were to say that running 10 miles is 100x more difficult than flossing, then they would think that the habit of running 10 miles rquires 100x more effort than flossing every day, when in reality the difference might only be something like 3x.

Scott argues that “The power of habits is that they take even activities which are extremely difficult to do and make them normal enough that the effort required isn’t considerable.”

Basically, habits can take things that are hard and make them easy. And knowing that the habitual effort is comparable for big habits and small ones, it’s worth going for bigger, bolder changes that will have a greater impact in your life.

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What habits do you want to change in your life? What habits are holding you back from reaching your fullest potential? What habits will help you succeed?

You alone have the power to choose what kind of life you want to live. Stop being lazy. Get out of your comfort zone and start taking control of your life. If you need a little push to get the ball rolling, the 30-Day Cold Shower Challenge is a good place to start. 

Your habits control your life, so make them good ones.

Image Source: Flickr – techonicals

3 Major Problems with Setting Goals and What You Should Do Instead

3 Major Problems with Setting Goals and What You Should Do Instead

Most people begin the new year with “resolutions.” Usually these resolutions come in the form of goals…

  • To lose weight.
  • To gain muscle.
  • To get good grades.
  • To save money.
  • Etc.

First of all, if your goals look like this, I can guarantee that you will not achieve any them. Why? Because they’re not specific.

If you’ve read my Top 5 Productivity Hacks post, you know that when it comes to getting things done, the more specific you can  be, the better.

How much weight do you want to lose? How much muscle do you want to gain? What are “good” grades? How much money do you want to save? And in what time frame do you want to achieve these goals?

Better goals would look something like this:

  • To lose 20 lbs of fat by March.
  • To gain 10 lbs of muscle by May.
  • To get straight A’s this semester.
  • To save $500 by the end of the semester.

But what if I told you that there’s an even better way to achieving your goals and getting the results you want, without setting goals?

Let me explain.

Like most people, I use to set goals for the things I wanted to achieve. When I started this blog, for example, I had goals for how many times a week I wanted to post an article and how many email subscribers I wanted to reach by certain time frames. Guess what happened.

I failed.

My semester got busy, and I didn’t have time to post as frequently as I had intended to. For the entire month of October I didn’t post a single article and over a six month period my subscriber list had barely grown. I was disappointed in myself, and for a while I was even considering dropping the whole blogging thing.

Problem #1 With Setting Goals: Setting Yourself up for Failure

That’s the first problem with setting goals. People often set goals that are beyond their scope, and then when they fail to achieve them, they end up feeling like a failure and giving up.

One solution might be to set more realistic goals. Something that you know you can achieve.

That should solve the problem, right?

Well, let’s say that you decide that your goal is to lose 10 pounds, instead of 20. It’s still going to be tough, but you know you can do it.

So for three months you work you butt off, running, sweating, and dieting every single day. Then, the day finally comes when you stand on the scale and you can barely believe it, but it reads 10 lbs less than it did 3 months prior. With a big smile on your face, you pump your fists in the air and joyfully shout, “I did it!” You reached your goal and you feel like a champion.

But then all of a sudden the joy fades and a strange thought pops into your head… “Now what?”

Problem #2 With Setting Goals: Short-term Motivation

When all of your hard work is focused on a particular goal, what do you do after you’ve achieved it? What is left to keep pushing you forward?

Many people will work hard for months to lose weight, but as soon as they reach their goal, they stop working out, they stop dieting, and they gain the weight back. Usually much faster than they had lost it.

Of course, you could always set a new goal once you’ve reached your first goal. Maybe you’ll lose 10 more pounds. But then what? 10 more? You can see how this can start to become a problem. It’s a never-ending cycle. 

Problem #3 With Setting Goals: Reduces Your Current Happiness

The biggest problem with setting goals is that it creates a mindset that puts happiness off until you achieve your goal.

“Once I reach my goal, then I’ll be happy… Once I lose 10 pounds, then I’ll be happy…  Once I make $1,000,000 dollars, then I’ll be happy.”

Unfortunately, these are all empty promises.

So what should you do instead?

Focus on Systems, Not Goals.

What’s the difference between systems and goals?

Goals are the desired end-result, while systems are the processes that allow you to achieve your goals.

If you’re trying to lose weight, the system is your diet and exercise. If you’re trying to get good grades, the system is your study habits. If you’re trying to save money, the system is your spending habits.

You see, when you’re focused on the goal, you tend to overlook the importance of the system. You view the system as this terrible sacrifice that you must make in order to achieve your goal. You hate going to the gym. You hate studying. You hate not being able to buy all the things you want. But you’ll endure it in order to achieve your goal, based on the promise that once you achieve your goal, then you’ll be happy.

But like we’ve already established, that’s not the way things usually work out.

That’s why it’s much more effective to become a systems-oriented person, rather than a goal-oriented person.

If you ignore your goals and focus only on the system, your happiness is no longer dependent on you achieving your goal. Instead, you find happiness in the system itself. You look forward to working out your muscles.  You look forward to learning your class material.  You look forward to saving your hard earned money. Obviously the hardest part is making this shift in your mindset, but once you are able to shift your focus from the goal to the system, the result is that your goals become a by-product of your systems, not the driving force.

When my goal was to publish an article every week, it stressed me out. What usually ended up happening was I’d put it off another day, and another day, and weeks would pass without me writing a single thing. I felt pressured to have to post something, which made me not post anything, and then I felt like a failure.

So for 2014, instead of trying to publish a certain number of posts each week, or to reach a certain number of subscribers by a certain time frame, I’m just going to focus on writing. Every single day. Even if it’s only for 15 minutes. The point is for me to get into the habit of writing on a daily basis, and to enjoy it.

By focusing on writing, instead of posting, I’m hoping that I’ll not only relieve some of that pressure, but also see better results, and actually post more. It’s a bit of a paradox, I know, but I’m pretty confident that it’ll work. It’s simply a matter of committing to the system.

Now I’m not saying that goals are completely useless.  All I’m saying is that goals should not be the driving force for making progress.

Goals are good for giving you a sense of direction and for tracking progress, but strong systems are the key to actually making progress.

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What are your thoughts? Should we be more focused on goals or systems? Have you had more success with one vs the other? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Related posts:

Image Source: ChristmasStockImages.com

How to Approach Anyone with the 3 Second Rule

How to Approach Anyone with the 3 Second Rule

If you’re visiting from StumbleUpon and like this article, don’t forget to give it a thumbs up! 

Have you ever seen a really hot girl and wanted to talk to her, but couldn’t figure out what to say? Or have you ever walked into a room full of strangers, and felt extremely uncomfortable? Maybe even pulled out your phone and pretended to be texting, hoping someone would come up to you and save you from your awkwardness?

We all have.

When it comes to meeting new people, one of the biggest obstacles for most people is simply building up the courage to approach a stranger and start a conversation.

Last month I revealed in my monthly newsletter that I was taking on a new 30-day challenge, which was to talk to someone new every day.  The idea was that this challenge, similar to the 30-day cold shower challenge (be sure to check out my post on Why I Took The 30-Day Cold Shower Challenge and Why You Should Too) would force me to get out of my comfort zone on a daily basis, and at the same time, allow me to make some new friends and connections while improving my social skills.

Unfortunately, I failed.

Out of the 30 days, I only managed to talk to someone new for 18 days. However, I don’t consider it a complete failure because in those 18 days I probably met more people than I had the entire semester. The days that I actually made an effort to meet someone new I usually ended up meeting at least 2 or 3 new people.

Going into this challenge I thought that it was going to be difficult because I thought there would be some days when I would have very few opportunities to meet someone new. But the truth is, there are always opportunities to meet new people. The days that I didn’t talk to someone new weren’t because I didn’t have the opportunity to, they were simply because I didn’t make the effort. While it was easy for me to meet people at parties and in other social settings, I also met people in elevators, waiting in lines, and even at the library.

When Was the Last Time You Met Someone New?

Just think about how many opportunities you have every single day to meet someone new. Even if only briefly, chances are you see people constantly throughout your day.

Obviously, you don’t have to talk to every single person that you see, but the point is that if you were to see someone that you really wanted to meet, would you be able to walk up to them and start a conversation? Or would you be too self-conscious about what they might think or how they might respond to you?

I use to be terrified of approaching people I didn’t know. Especially girls. I would think of everything I could possibly say, I’d imagine every possible way the conversation could pan out, I’d practice saying it in my head multiple times, and then I’d end up not saying anything at all. Usually by that point it’d be too late. Another guy would start talking to her or I’d just convince myself that she probably wouldn’t be into me anyway.

But why is talking to a cute girl so difficult?

Just think for a second about the worst thing that could possibly happen, and then think about the best thing that could possibly happen.

Worst case scenario, she’s not into you. If that happens, you’ve lost nothing. Learn what you can from it and move on.

Best case scenario, you meet a super cool, super cute girl that’s super into you. And it all started with a conversation.

[quote]You’ll never know what you missed out on unless you put yourself out there. – Tweet This[/quote]

The First Step is Overcoming Your Psychological Barriers

Aside from being able to talk to cute girls, being able to approach anyone and start a conversation, in any setting, might be one of the most valuable skills you can possibly have. After all, as I’m sure you’ve heard a million times, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

While technical skills are important, socials skills are arguably the most valuable skill of all, regardless of what career you choose to pursue. The truth is that talent alone isn’t enough, and if you don’t improve your social skills, you’ll never be able to put your best foot forward. Whether you decide to do something about it or not, the fact remains: people with amazing social skills are more successful than those without.

So you can continue live your life comfortably in the comfort of your comfort zone (that’s a fun tongue twister), or you can overcome the barriers that are holding you back and actually make an effort to learn how to improve your social skills and meet more people.

Personally, my biggest barrier was overcoming my bias against socially adept people. It was a psychological barrier that prevented me from making an effort to improve my social skills. I didn’t want to become one of those “douchebags” and start changing the way I talk. I was stubborn and judgmental. Why should I have to change? People should like me for who I was.

But over the last few years I’ve realized that a big part of being social is less about you and more about others. It’s about exhibiting a genuine interest in others and being able to connect with them. In order to do that effectively, you need to understand some basic principles about social etiquette.

It amazes me that while social skills might be the most important skill you can have, we rarely look at it as a learnable skill that can be systematically improved.

The 3-Second Rule

When I started looking into the challenge of talking to someone new every day for 30 days, I read about something called the 3-second rule.

The 3 second rule happens to be the most powerful pickup tool a guy or girl could have and is often referred to in these terms, but it’s a great tool for meeting new people in any context. The rule requires that if you see someone you’re interested in talking to, you have 3 seconds to walk up to them and start a conversation. It’s very simple, but extremely effective.

The reason why it’s so effective is because if you wait any longer than 3 seconds, you’ll probably end up over-thinking it and never say anything at all. With only 3 seconds, you don’t have enough time to let anxiety get the best of you. If you see someone you want to talk to, you must immediately go over and talk to them.

Stop worrying about what to say. Anything is better than nothing.

Plus, you’d be surprised by how much people actually like being talked to. Think about the last time a stranger started a conversation with you, were you weirded out or were you pleasantly surprised? And if we go back to the anecdote of being in a room full of strangers, how do you feel when someone comes up to you and starts talking to you? You feel great, right? No one wants to be the person who’s standing alone.

To reframe the way you think about talking to strangers, realize that you’re actually doing them a favor by talking to them, because out of everyone in the room, you specifically chose to talk to them. If anything, they’ll be grateful that you chose to talk to them, not weirded out.

Two Lines You Can Use To Start a Conversation

Alright, so you’ve decided to implement the 3-second rule and approach someone you’ve been dying to meet. But what do you say? How do you introduce yourself?

Well, obviously there are lots of different ways you can start a conversation, and depending on the social situation one way might be more appropriate than the other, but here are 2 lines you can use that have worked out great for me. Test them out for yourself, make your own variations, and see what works best for you.

  1. A simple introduction followed by a question.
    “Hi, my name is _____, what brings you here?”
    A variation of this line is, “Hi, my name is _____, how do you know _____ (name of mutual friend or host)”
    This line usually works best in large social settings such as at parties or networking events.
  2. Make an observation or compliment.
    “Whoa, those are awesome shoes. Where’d you get them?”
    This line works great anywhere. People love compliments. However, be careful not to sound phony. Only compliment someone if you really mean it.

Notice that each of these lines starts the conversation with something shared in common—an event, a mutual friend, or a shared interest (i.e. awesome shoes). Connecting with people is all about finding something that each person can relate to.

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The next time you see someone you’ve been dying to meet, give yourself three seconds to walk up to them and start a conversation. Let me know how it goes in the comments below.

If you found the 3 second rule helpful and are looking for more ways to improve your social skills and meet new people, check out my article on How to Improve Your Social Skills and Conquer Your Ego

I also recommend checking out Ramit Sethi’s article “Instant Irresistability: The 7 Keys to Advanced Social Skills” and his 30-minute “Small Talk” Hacks video

Image Source: Elite Wallpapers

How to Become a Morning Person and Never Hit the Snooze Button Again

How to Become a Morning Person and Never Hit the Snooze Button Again

Prior to this past summer, I had never, ever considered myself a morning person.

I use to be the kind of person who enjoyed staying up late and then struggled to wake up in the morning. The kind of person who would hit the snooze button until I only had 5 minutes left to get ready, at which point I’d jump out of bed like a ninja, throw on the nearest clothes I could find and run out the door before you could say good morning.

Sound familiar?

I think it’s safe to say that most people, especially college students, have a hard time getting up in the morning. This was certainly the case for me, up until last summer when I had to start waking up before sunrise because I was working a part time internship from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm on Mondays and Tuesdays. With traffic (welcome to Los Angeles, the only place in the world where there’s traffic at 6 in the morning), it took me about 45 minutes to get to the office, which meant I had to wake up at 5:30 am.

Yeah, 5:30 am. 

The previous semester I was struggling to make it to my 10 am classes, and now I had to wake up at 5:30 am and sit through 45 minutes of traffic to then work an 8-hour day.

Given these circumstances, I knew that I was not going to be able to keep up my hectic morning ritual if I wanted to perform well at my internship, let alone survive it. The only way I was going to be able to get through it was by becoming a morning person. So that’s exactly what I did.

For two and a half months I was up at 5:30 am sharp every Monday and Tuesday with enough time to eat breakfast, pack my lunch, get dressed (business causal) and hit the road by 6:15 am. Although I don’t wake up as early as 5:30 am anymore (I usually wake up around 8 am now), I’ve found that waking up early is one of the greatest productivity hacks of all time.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love to sleep in every now and then, but there’s something incredibly fulfilling about waking up before everybody else. You’re essentially getting a head start on your day, which makes your days feel noticeably longer and gives you more time to do the things you want to do. 

Studies show that those who wake up earlier are generally more proactive, which leads to better job performance, greater career success, and higher wages. Another study of college undergraduate students found that morning type students had higher GPAs than evening types. And if you look at some of the most successful CEOs, you’ll find a common pattern—they all wake up early.

If you want to be successful, the benefits of waking up early are pretty clear. So how can you become a morning person too?

Just like with most other things, learning to become a morning person is largely a mental process.

What are your first thoughts when you wake up in the morning? Are they about how early it is and how tired you are? Or about how grateful you are for your life and how excited you are for a new day?

These first thoughts are crucial, not only for getting up and out of bed, but for setting a positive tone for the rest of your day.

[box]Remember, everything starts with a thought, and you control your thoughts.Tweet This[/box]

This is the most important thing to understand, but because you know that I’m all about giving concrete advice that you can actually apply to your life, here are my top 4 tips on how to become a morning person:

Prepare

Most people set their alarms the night before with the intention of waking up at that time, but then fail to do so. Why? Because when their alarm goes off, their brain is still half asleep and their subconscious mind tells them that they want more sleep. Their conscious mind would say it’s time to get up, but the problem is, they’re not fully conscious.

This is why it’s so important to mentally prepare yourself the night before. Tell yourself that you are going to get up as soon as your alarm goes off. That you’re not going to hit the snooze button. Visualize yourself waking up and immediately getting out of bed. Visualizing will help ingrain the idea into your subconscious.

Once you have developed the habit of getting up immediately when your alarm goes off, it will be so deeply ingrained in your mind that you won’t have to think about it anymore, and it will simply be your default physiological response. If you’re currently a snooze-button addict, however, your current default physiological response is to hit the snooze button and go back to sleep. Changing this behavior pattern will require a conscious reconditioning, but once changed, it will require no effort at all.

Get Excited

Another reason why most people have such a hard time waking up in the morning is because they have nothing to look forward to. But think about the days when you had something exciting planned. Did you have a hard time waking up that morning? I don’t think so. Chances are you probably had a hard time going to sleep the night before because you were so excited.

If you can find a reason to be excited to wake up in the morning, you will learn to love waking up early, no matter how physically tired you might actually be. Start your day off by doing something you enjoy (reading, writing, stretching, etc) and reward yourself for waking up early by having a hearty breakfast. Find something to look forward to later in the day and be genuinely excited for the opportunities that the new day present.

How can you possibly want to sleep all day when life is so exciting?

Smile

This is probably the easiest and most effective way to start your day off right. When your alarm goes off, immediately sit up and smile.

Smile as big as you can. 

Then take a moment to think of a few things you are grateful for. There’s a direct correlation between gratitude and happiness, so start off your day by expressing gratitude. If you’re reading this article, that means that you have a computer with internet access, and are probably better off than the majority of the world.

Be Consistent

If you want to establish waking up early as a habit, you will have to be consistent about it, just like with any other habit. Try your best to wake up at the same time every day, especially when you are first changing your wake-up ritual. This will make it much easier for your body’s internal clock to understand that you are establishing a new routine. Wake-up rituals are self-reinforcing, so the more you repeat your desired wake-up pattern on a consistent basis, the more you condition it into your subconscious. Once you’ve established the habit, waking up early will require no effort at all, almost as if your body is on auto-pilot.

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If you’re a snooze-button addict and you’re tired of rushed, stressful mornings, it’s time to make a change. It doesn’t have to be a drastic change. You can start by setting your alarm just 15 minutes earlier than normal, and then moving down in 15-minute increments until you reach your desired wake-up time.  The most important thing, however, is that you stop hitting that snooze-button. When your alarm goes off, sit up immediately. Don’t give yourself time to think about it, just do it.

Once you’re up, I promise you won’t regret it.

BONUS TIP for starting your day off with your best foot forward:

Take a Cold Shower

I honestly believe that taking a cold shower is the best way you can possibly start your day. It will instantly wake you up and keep you feeling more energized throughout the rest of the day. Check out my post on Why I Took the 30-Day Cold Shower Challenge and Why You Should Too. 

Image Source: cstephen

5 Essential Apps for Staying Organized in College

5 Essential Apps for Staying Organized in College

Staying organized in college is not an easy task.

There’s a million more things to do in college than in high school, and a lot less structure to do them. Classes are spread throughout the day, the workload is sporadic, and the distractions are endless. Without some way of organizing and maintaining a schedule, college can be extremely overwhelming and stressful.

That’s why I’ve learned to take advantage of some organizational tools that help keep my life in order and reduce unnecessary stress. Without these tools, my life would be a mess.

I’m currently taking 18 units (5 upper division classes), working a part-time job, hitting the gym four times a week, and trying to keep this blog growing. I’m not going to lie and say that it’s not a lot of work, because it is, but it’s definitely manageable.

And even though I have long and busy days, I rarely feel overwhelmed or stressed out because I always know exactly what I have to do and when I have to do it.

Thanks to applications like Google Calendar and Wunderlist (which I’ll go into more detail in just a minute), my hectic schedule is neatly organized into daily and weekly to-do lists that I can easily access, edit, and adjust at any point during the day.

Taking advantage of tools like these frees your mind from trying to remember everything you have to do and lets you focus on the actual act of doing.

Relying on your memory to try to remember everything you have to do is not only ineffective, but a waste of energy that usually results in self-inflicted stress.

[box]Staying organized lowers the stress the levels in your life which translates into improved focus and an overall more productive and enjoyable life.[/box]

Although I don’t have a lot of free time, when I do, I make sure to take advantage of it.

As the wise Wiz Khalifa says, work hard, play hard.

The interesting thing is that the harder you work, the more you enjoy your free time.

If you want to live a more enjoyable life, start working harder.

We’re only here for a limited amount of time. And by here, I don’t mean in college. I mean on this planet.

Are you making every day count?

One of the best feelings in the world is going to bed at night exhausted from a long, productive day and immediately knocking out. I hate not being able to fall asleep at night because I sat around all day doing nothing.

We’re all capable of doing more than we think.

A great quote to live by…

[quote]Go as far as you can see; when you get there, you’ll be able to see further. – Tweet This [/quote]

But I digress.

If you’re struggling to manage a hectic schedule and don’t know where to start, or just feel like your life could be a little more organized than it is right now, this post is for you.

Try some of these apps out and see if they work for you. If they don’t, then drop them. No harm done. But if you find that they make your life a little bit more manageable, you can thank me later.

The most important thing is that you find something that works for you, and then stick to it.

Don’t forget that the point of these tools is to make things easier, not more complicated.

Here are 5 apps that I use on a daily basis to keep my life in order:

1. Google Calendar

By far my favorite Google application of all time, and probably the most useful tool I started using in college. While some people only use calendars for events, I literally put everything I need to do on this calendar. There are three reasons why I love Google Calendar so much:

    • Because it gives me a bird’s eye view of everything I need to do on any given day, and at the same time I can look ahead and see what I have coming up in the next week or two.
    • Because you can sync Google Calendar to your phone. Google calendar is compatible with any iOS, Android, or Windows phone. If you’re like 99% of the population and always have your phone on you everywhere you go, you now always have your calendar on you too.
    • Because you can color code events. This makes it extremely easy for me to quickly glance at my calendar and know exactly what I have in store for me.

Here’s a screen shot of what my calendar looked like this week.

Google Calendar

2. Dropbox

Do you still email documents to yourself when switching from one computer to another? Or save your files on a USB and then transfer them?

Dropbox eliminates the need for ever doing that again.

Dropbox is a cloud service that allows you to store your files on its online application and access them from any computer. This is not only a super convenient way to transfer files, it’s also a super easy way to back up your files, for free. With a free account you get 2.5 gb of free space, which is more than enough space to store at least your most important school files. If you don’t already have some sort of back up storage, please create a Dropbox account right now and back up those files!

3. Evernote

Evernote is the ultimate on-the-go note-taking app. Like Dropbox, it’s also a cloud service and can therefore be accessed from any device. What makes Evernote so great is that notes (which can be text, a webpage, a photograph, or a voice memo) can be sorted into folders and then tagged, edited, searched, and edited as part of a notebook. I mainly use Evernote in two ways:

      • On my phone, to write down random thoughts/ideas (or any thing that I want to come back to later) that I have during the day.
      • On my computer, I use the Evernote Web Clipper Chrome extension to “clip” web pages, or parts of web pages, into my Evernote account. This is sort of like bookmarking a page, except since it’s stored in the cloud it can be accessed later from any device. 

4. Wunderlist

IMG_0249

This app is great for creating lists.

Personally, I mainly only use Wunderlist as a planner for writing down homework assignments. I have a separate category, or list, for each class, and at the end of each class I write down the specific homework assignments due for the next class.

I tried using it as my main to-do list app but I just don’t like not being able to see everything I need to do, like I can with Google Calendar. However, I have found it very useful as a planner for homework assignments.

 

5. Unroll.me

How many unread emails are in your inbox right now? If your answer is “too many”, this app is for you.

It’s ridiculous how many emails we receive every single day. I probably receive at least 20 emails a day to my main Gmail account, and another 20 to my junk Yahoo! account. Most of these emails I delete right away, but some of them are actually important, like emails from professors, from my work, or from my university.

I remember at one point I had over 400 unread emails in my inbox, and this seems to be a fairly common sight for most people. Today, however, I end each day with 0 unread emails in my inbox. It’s a great feeling, and I was able to do it thanks to this awesome app.

Unroll.me declutters your inbox by allowing you to unsubscribe from any subscriptions you don’t want to receive anymore with the click of a button. You also have the option to select which subscriptions are still worth keeping, at which point the service will “fold” them all into a single daily email they call “the Rollup.”

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If you found these tools useful and are looking for other ways to declutter your life and better manage your time, you might be interested in checking out these other posts:

Image source: 9To5Google