Getting out of your own way
By Constance Bennett-Williams, director, Columbia College-Mesquite
It is a trap that is easy to fall into. You juggle your job/career, your family, your health and college. There are times you may struggle to keep all the balls in the air and wonder if it would be easier to just let one drop. Should you keep them all in the air? Which one would drop? Are you overthinking it? I can’t answer any of those questions for you. However, I can give you three simple tools to help you get out of your own way and maybe allow you to keep juggling them all: plan ahead, manage your time and communicate.
Plan Ahead: Every instructor in every college course I have ever taken made a course syllabus available to me on the first day of class. That syllabus normally describes everything you will have to read and every piece of homework you will have to complete along with their specific requirements, as well as the deadline for it all. My advice to you — Read it! Know it! Always remember where you put it. Use it to plan out your term. Know what reading needs to be done before you get to class, then actually read the material. The more you are familiar with the topic before you get to class, the better chance you will have of understanding what your instructor is talking about when you get to class. Use the syllabus to determine when your biggest workloads will be so that you can plan your time accordingly.
Manage Your Time: Manage your week. When I was in school, I took my books with me wherever I went. I would sneak in a few minutes of reading whenever I could, whether it was while I was waiting for my turn at the doctor or the dentist or some government agency with huge waiting lines. I made sure to schedule a block of uninterrupted time for times when I knew I needed to focus. Everyone in the house respected my schedule because they knew I had also included time for them at some point.
Determine what time of day you study best. Personally, I knew if I planned a study time during the afternoon, it would most likely start with me cleaning my desk and end with a nap and/or being distracted by any shiny object or roving squirrel. Try and pick a time of day when you learn the best and don’t wait until the day before your assignment is due. You may think you work best under pressure. I think that just may be your rationalization for procrastinating. When you are planning your study week, don’t forget to plan for family and relaxation time, too. That is just as important to your well-being.
Communicate: Last but not least. I can’t count the number of times a student answered “no” when I broached the question, “Did you talk to your instructor?” If you have an unexpected life event or just can’t connect all the dots, talk to your instructor. They can help you but only if you let them know you need it. Don’t forget your classmates, too. You are all trying complete the work and learn something new. I found that I learned quite a lot just by talking things over with classmates and sharing the problem solving with them.
Planning how you are going to get through your course is no different than planning anything else in your life. Know what the problem is and know what is expected of you. Do the research and come up with a solution you can live with. Plan how you are going to get it done, then manage your time in such a way so you can avoid that last-minute panic when you realize you waited too long to execute. If you run into a speed bump, communicate — ask for help.
Paying attention to these three things will go a long way toward moving you forward and helping you to get out of your own way. And if you ever need any help, the staff at Columbia College-Mesquite is happy to assist.
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By Maria Haynie for Ready.Aim.Hire.
Finding the time you need to get through your to-do list, let alone your wish list, can seem impossible for working adults and students. Here are four time management tips from Columbia College managers to help you tame the calendar.
Build your team
Assuming that time management problems are yours alone to fix can be problematic. Taking the time to express your goals and your situation to others can help them understand how important your education is to you and how hard you are working to achieve your goals, said Debra Hartman, Region II and Crystal Lake location director.
“When others see, they are much more likely to make sacrifices on your behalf,” Hartman said.
Jean Simmons, Evening Campus and Region I director, agrees that sharing your struggles and successes is important to help you find support. “Get your family on board. If they feel like part of the solution, it makes life easier for you, and they will tend to be more supportive,” Simmons said.
Tools for you, tools for the team
Whether you prefer pen and paper for scheduling or type it all into your digital calendar, you need something to help you keep track of dates, block out hours of time and keep you aware of what’s coming up. But more importantly, your team needs to know, too. If you can communicate the big test you have coming up on Friday to your team, they will understand why you need extra time to prepare that week and can work out a plan. Because digital calendars such as Google Calendar are so easy for multiple people to share, they’re a great option for families.
“My husband and I share documents, calendars and message all day long so we stay on the same page about where to be and when and who’s picking up which kid from where,” said Brandi Herrman, instructor of business administration. “We also have Google Hangouts on our phones — making sure that it’s easy to contact each other and we have a record of it.”
Only balance the right things
It may be tempting to try to keep everything on the schedule and treat school as an add-on, but that will lead to “emotional and physical wear and tear,” said Mark Bowles, Student Support Services director.
Instead, consider a blank weekly schedule. Add in your most essential items, such as work hours, child care hours and most important appointments. As you add each item, consider the impact it will have on your day and if there are any ways to reduce the amount of time or effort it would take to accomplish that task.
Hartman encourages the use of carpools as one schedule-saver. Then schedule school time in, right with these essential activities, to show yourself and your team that it is a priority.
Before you try to squeeze in anything else, carve out space for a little self-care and family time. “When one steals from downtime to try to catch up somewhere else – that’s a cure that does more harm than the disease itself, which is the problem of not having enough time for other responsibilities,” Bowles said.
When you schedule in time for some fun with your family, “this gives everyone something to look forward to as they work through the responsibilities of their week,” said Becky Gordon-Bocklage, director of the Fishman Center for Entrepreneurship.
See the big picture
With any luck, after essential activities, school and a bit of downtime are on your calendar, there may be a few hours left. Decide what you will spend on social life, volunteer service, personal projects and other activities. If you don’t have as much time as you’d like to dedicate to those aspects of your life, be patient with yourself and remember that you won’t be in school forever.
“Do not hesitate to explain that you may need to take more than you give at this time,” Hartman said. “We all go through seasons in our life when that imbalance occurs and when you are able, when the degree is done, it can be your turn to give more than you get.”
By Department of Student Success and Money Stacks
It’s never too early to start thinking about preparing your taxes. And, with tax day a little more than three months away, the time will be upon you before you know it.
With that in mind, Rachel Smith, Project & Student Services Specialist for Columbia College’s Department of Student Success and Money Stacks, has some advice on what you need to stay prepared.
Consult a checklist
Articles such as this one on NerdWallet.com run down all the things people need to have handy in order to fill out their taxes. A checklist can help you keep track of what you need to know about your personal data, yearly income and possible deductions and credits for your paperwork.
Detailed rundowns like this can also help alert you to deductions and credits that you may not have known about, such as claiming a deduction for tuition and fees for your schooling and applying for American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning credits that benefit college students.
Have last year’s tax documents available
This is especially handy, according to Smith, when you’re receiving a number of tax documents from different sources.
“I personally find it helpful to pull out my tax documents from the prior year so I can remember what forms to expect in the mail or what I might need to log in and print out,” Smith says. “Sometimes just reading a list of documents isn’t enough to spark my memory. I need to see the form from the organization from the prior year to really remember what I’m waiting on.”
Check into IRS resources
If you’re planning on preparing your own taxes, seek out software that could help you along the way. The IRS has a Free File site that includes a list of free software tools for applicants who meet certain criteria.
Understand your withholdings
Have you ever gotten a bit of an unwelcome shock when your taxes come back and you see what you owe? Want to do something about it?
The IRS has a site that can help you understand how to fill out your W-4 form and the withholding options for which you could be eligible.
If you need any more guidance about preparing for tax season, the Columbia College Department of Student Success and Money Stacks is here to help. You can contact the Department of Student Success and Money Stacks at (573) 875-7860 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Grossnickle Career Services Center
All except one, the one they usually save for last: “So, do you have any questions for me?”
The staff at Columbia College’s Grossnickle Career Services Center gets this all the time: people who come to them seeking advice on how to respond when asked if they have any questions for the interviewer.
“It’s critical that you ask questions during an interview,” director of Career Services Dan Gomez-Palacio says. “If you don’t, the subtext might be that you just want the conversation to be over ASAP and that you really aren’t curious about the position.”
But you shouldn’t just ask any question that comes to your mind. You should prepare with questions beforehand, much as you’ve prepared answers to the questions your interviewer might pose of you.
Articles such as this one from Forbes.com offer helpful advice on the right and wrong types of questions to bring to a job interview.
If it’s a first interview, “anything that smells even a little bit like it’s self-serving,” in Forbes’ words, should not enter the equation. It’s too early to start asking about salary, vacation time, work schedule and other logistical questions.
Instead, focus on questions that delve more into the opportunity the job presents, as well as the work environment at your prospective place of employment.
Gomez-Palacio suggests questions such as:
- Can you tell me what you enjoy about working here? What do you appreciate the most about working here and if you could change one thing about your company, what would that be?
- What attributes make the ideal candidate for this position?
- What do your clients say about your company?
- What are the opportunities and challenges the organization will face in the next six months?
These questions could serve as an opportunity to further align yourself with the employer, as well as opening the door to more information into the company’s culture and the expectations placed on the position. Alternately, they show a deeper level of thinking, consideration and interest in the job that is attractive to interviewers.
So don’t fret about that dreaded “any more questions?” portion of the interview. Prepare yourself and seize the moment!
If you’re in need of advice, you can also reach out to the Grossnickle Career Services Center at (573) 875-7425 or email email@example.com.