Let’s Talk About Organization

August 25, 2014  |  Guest Posts  |  No Comments

Believe it or not, you need to be more than smart to do well in school. You also need to be really organized. If you aren’t organized, you’re likely to forget assignments, miss appointments, procrastinate so much you don’t study for a test—all that not so good stuff.

Obviously, it’s easy to say you have to be organized if you want to do well in school. It’s much harder to set up the systems you’ll need to actually be organized enough to do well. Here are some tips that you can use to help you with that.

1. Write Everything Down

Well, in today’s age, it’s more like “type everything in.” You know what we mean. When you write something down, says Dustin Wax on LifeHack.org, you’re using your spatial memory to help record that thing in your brain, which makes it easier to remember later on because often—like with the case of taking notes during a class—you’re forcing the different parts of your brain to communicate with each other and that tells your brain that what you’re writing down is more important than everything else you’re experiencing and subconsciously committing to memory.

Plus, if you write it down, you don’t have to work so hard to remember it: there’s a written record of its importance that you can refer back to…provided you can find that note. This brings us to our next tip.

2. One Thing is Easier to Find than Two

Keep all of your notes, schedules, and lists in one place. Seriously. This is easier to do now that there are digital storage lockers for our files and notes. For example, Meridian offers a student eplanner solution by which students can keep all of their homework assignments organized.

Yes, having one file for this and another for that is helpful and—if that makes it easier for you to track details you can set those up too—as secondary receptacles for your information.

Basically, you can set up your planner to be like the top box in a factor tree. Put everything there first. Then copy/paste details down. For example, under your catch-all box, you can have breakdowns like “daily assignments” “extracurricular stuff” “personal appointments” “when I have extra time”, whatever you need.

3. A Place for Everything and Everything In Its Place

That annoying thing your Mom told you was true: it really does make life easier if you know where everything is…and the best way to know where everything is, is to put everything away as soon as you’re done with it. Try to get into the habit of straightening up your room each night before you go to bed and taking the extra two seconds to put things where they belong over the course of the day instead of letting it all pile up. Do the same with your locker at school. If you keep things in the same space in the same order, finding what you need (and recognizing when something is missing) becomes a much simpler feat.

This is true for your time, too. Set up a schedule for yourself and stick to it. When you get into the habit of say, doing your homework at the same time (maybe right after school, just to get it over with), eventually you won’t have to force yourself to sit down. Your body will just want to sit down and work naturally.

Obviously it takes time to develop good habits like organization so it’s okay to build these skills slowly. Just work on them every day and before you know it, you’ll be the most organized kid in school!

StudySuccessful Interviews Episode 2 – Douwe Hooijenga

April 7, 2014  |  Interview, Personal Development  |  No Comments

In my life I talk with a lot of people, lot of friends of course, but I also meet a lot of new people. Most of these people have an interesting story to tell. A couple of those interesting stories are about how to live a successful college life. Their story resonates with the message I try to communicate on this website: You can get a lot out of college life.

Listening to these stories I was looking for a way to share these with you. I’ve tried doing something with a podcast, which was too hard to maintain. I tried something with video as well on a Flip Camera. That camera broke. Of course I’ve been working on writing these stories down and although I think the written word can be very strong, I think a story needs a voice of it’s own. I needed an interview.

With that idea, and a roommate who knows a thing or two about film, the StudySuccessful Interviews were born! Today I would like to share the first episode with you. The idea is just two people talking over a couple of beers about getting the most out of your college/twentysomething life. Nothing fancy, just an interesting conversation with interesting people. Every episode I will invite another guest and we will talk for 20-30 minutes about their story.

StudySuccessful Interviews Episode 2 – Douwe Hooijenga

This time I invited Douwe Hooijenga. I met him at the Groningen Talent Group, where we meet regularly with a group of young people from Groningen. We’ve been working on some cool stuff together, had a lot of conversations of all kinds of topics. It was time to do an interview.

Douwe is an established character in Groningen. He runs his own company, just finished his last classes and is in the city council of a town in the north of the Netherlands. How? Because Douwe simply knows how to network. And that is exactly what we are going to talk about in this interview.

Douwe explains what networking is (and what it isn’t). He talks about how he got into networking, shows some real life examples and gives a lot of good tips about how to network. And apparently he is a great quote machine as well, I got a ton of quotes from him.

Check it out.

By the way, we made a little intro at the beginning. That ukulele player is me. Don’t check out the outro. That ukulele player is me as well..

Items mentioned in this show

I love how Douwe just shares everything he knows, in English. Good to know: we are both Dutch and English is our second language, we try our best, hope you enjoy.

What are your tips regarding networking? Share it in the comments!

5 Life Lessons We can Learn from Richard Feynman

5 Life Lessons We can Learn from Richard Feynman

February 15, 2014  |  Observations, Personal Development  |  No Comments

Richard Feynman passed away 26 years ago on this date. I was not even born 26 years ago (1990, what’s up!). Richard Feynman was one of the greatest professors of all time. Let’s sume up a little. He studied at MIT and Princeton, where he was invited by Niels Bohr to work on some special project called ‘the Manhattan Project’. For everybody who doesn’t know: this is the group of scientists which invented the A-bomb.

During his time at the Manhattan Project he kept joking around, having a lot of fun in his life. One of the many examples of this is that he breached the security of the Project by lockpicking a safe of one of his bosses.

Later on in life he became a professor and was very successful in the field of quantum mechanics. He kept on entertaining and he kept on teaching. He teached students, as well as regular people  with written works on his life, on quantum mechanics and how to stay away from the regular path.

Oh and did I mention he won a Nobelprize for Physics?

One of his written works is ‘Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman‘. Here he described a lot of situations where he did something, which seems very logic out of context, but is hard to understand for people who work with him. A big recommendation for everybody who is aspiring a successful professional (and/or academic) life, as well as a lot of fun. This post will focus on some of the biggest lessons we can learn from his life.

Study by Creating Examples

“Another thing I did in high school was to invent problems and theorems. I mean, if I were doing any mathematical thing at all, I would find some practical example for which it would be useful.”

When studying Feynman always created examples to understand the concepts of what he was studying. This is a fairly odd way to study such an abstract field of science, but it seemed to work for him. You can do this in any field and it will probably work in every field. It might take some practise though in work like Math or Rocket Science.

Always be on the lookout for examples. Examples give you a grasp on the material through reality.

He also does this when talking to other people:

“I had a scheme, which I still use today when somebody is explaining something that I’m trying to understand: I keep making up examples.”

With this scheme he was always able to ask really good questions to his sparring partners in discussions, something which is frustrating for his colleagues at first, but very valuable on the long term.

In the book he describes some really interesting (and most of all funny) conversations with colleagues while using this scheme.

Keeping an Open Mind

A painter once explained how to make yellow paint by mixing red and white. Feynman said it was impossible and couldn’t see how it was done. Eventually the painter simply did it by adding some yellow paint. Feynman should have had an open mind and he would understand. He later acknowledged he had problems with this in his academic life as well.

“I’ve very often made mistakes in my physics by thinking the theory isn’t as good as it really is, thinking that there are lots of complications that are going to spoil it-an attitude that anything can happen, in spite of what you’re pretty sure should happen”

Always expect anything can happen and every result will seem logic to you.

Always Do Important Work

About teaching a class in physics at CalTech:

“I have to have something so that when I don’t have any ideas and I’m not getting anywhere I can say to myself, “At least I’m living; at least I’, doing something; I’m making some contribution” – It’s just psychological”

Feynman made it a point to always teach. Always do some sort of important work, even when you are not doing anything else at all. This way you will always have something to show for, something to be proud of.

If you combine this with the idea of Identity Capital, you always will have motivation to do some sort of meaningful work. To always take some sort of step in the forward direction in your life.

Discuss what You Are Studying

Richard was offered to teach a class in Brazil for a period of time, which he gladly did as it gave him a chance to study another language. He saw something interesting in these students:

“So you see they could pass the examinations, and “learn” all this stuff, and not KNOW anything at all, except what they had memorized.”

In Brazil, the students only study definitions, formula’s. They didn’t use actual examples in them, they didn’t discuss what they are learning. Questions in class would only delay the class and it costs time for the rest of the students in the room.

Interesting enough when he asked questions the class could reproduce the definition, but they could not use it into practise. They were never thought to neither were they motivated to.

When you are studying a concept or a formula, discuss it with friends. Put it into practise and see what you can do with it.

Go. Act. Do.

Richard Feynman was, as you wouldn’t expect of a scientist, fairly good with women. How he learned this? By doing. He went to night clubs when he was giving lectures somewhere, out of boredom and out of curiosity. He saw how other guys could simply talk to the ladies and how some other guys could only gaze at them and giving them drinks. He analyzed what the successful guys did and actually talked to a couple of these guys. He understood and he knew what to do: practise talking to girls. And he did.

“At first I was a little bit afraid: the girls (show girls in Vegas) were so beautiful, they had such a reputation and so forth. I would try to meet them, and I’d choke a little bit when I talked. It was difficult at first, but gradually it got easier, and finally I had enough confidence that I wasn’t afraid of anybody.”

He trained himself in getting out of his comfort zone. By this he did something a lot of people are too afraid of to do. By getting out of your comfort zone you are growing fast as a person. A nice side-effect for Feynman was he talked to some very beautiful girls.

Feynman was a great scientist, an amazing professor and a fun guy to be around. Check some of his videos on physics, read the book ‘Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman‘ and you will learn some valuable life lessons. By this we will keep the legend alive.

To get an example of who and how Richard Feynman is, check out this hour long interview with him.

My Three Words for 2014

My Three Words for 2014

January 7, 2014  |  Personal Development, Study Hacks  |  1 Comment

Of course, 2014 has already started, but I don’t think I’m too late for defining and publishing my three words for 2014.

This exercise is something I picked up from a Dutch friend, who learned of it from Chris Brogan.

The exercise is not very simple and requires some deep thought beforehand, something I did during a flight of a couple of hours.

Chris puts it like this:

“The idea is that the words you choose will go past being a simple goal and will become part of the way you identify yourself, and thus, a guiding light for your efforts.” – Chris Brogan

The idea is that you define three words, which will function as a daily reminder of your goals. So they can remind you to take a certain action, or be a certain way.

My Three Words

No. I have a tendency to say yes to everything. Help everyone, do work on projects and work out every idea I have. This goes against my pretty lazy nature and it results in a lot of work on my part. I want to say no more, so I can focus on the work which I do right now and choose what I want to do later. Another part of this is say no more to simple urges, like checking Facebook, messengers and watching television shows before going to bed.

This no doesn’t mean negativity, it means more thoughtful choices of where I spend my time and valuing my time appropriately.

No: Work with attention on the current task and choose consciously what to do next.

Deep. Although I am definitely satisfied with what I accomplished in 2013, maybe even proud, I feel like I’ve been lacking ‘deep work’. Deep work is a concept described by Cal Newport where you work with attention on a mentally demanding tasks:

“Deep work: cognitively demanding activities that leverage our training to generate rare and valuable results, and that push our abilities to continually improve” – Cal Newport, ‘Knowledge Workers are Bad at Working (and Here’s What to Do About It…)

Most of my work was fairly shallow, with quick results. I feel the lack of deep work shows both in my online life (StudySuccessful for example) and in my academic/offline life. I want to create a habit of working deep two or three times a week. Where I will read a scientific article, or where I think about a concept for a blog post.

Deep: Practice with cognitively demanding activities.

Structure. In the end of 2013 I started using the ‘Weekly Review’ where I go through all my inboxes, calendars and notes of the past week and review whether I am still on track. This gives me an up-to-date feeling every week and I love these little 30-60 minutes in my week. (More on the weekly review including a detailed list on what I review later.)

This little extra piece of structure in my week helped me a lot in finding continuity in my projects, being up to date on meetings and follow-up with these meetings (emails to send, people to connect with on different networks). I love it. Although spontaneity is great, and a lot can be found in chaos, structure is needed to deliver great work. Structure can be a foundation on which you will personally excel.

Structure: Finding a structure in my daily life on which I will excel.

What are your words?

No, deep and structure are my three words for 2014. I hope to be reminded of them on a daily basis and I hope they will remind me to be a good person. What are your three words?

7 Minute Workout – The Workout for the Busy Student

September 23, 2013  |  Productivity, Study Hacks  |  1 Comment

With a busy student life one of the things which you can easily forget is working out every once in a while. A schedule with classes during the day and extracurricular activities in the evening doesn’t have much space for gym sessions, football practise or swimming a mile or two.

Even though we understand how important regular exercise is for your mental health as well it can get out of focus. Therefor you can try the 7 Minute Workout.

“The Scientific” 7 Minute Workout

The idea behind the workout is very simple. A set of exercises you each do for 30 seconds with 10 seconds of rest. In total? 7 minutes. Check out an elaborate article about the workout.

How it works is easy as well. There are a bunch of iPhone apps available to use as a guidance during the workout and all you need is a chair. I summarize the workout in this Vine (a 6 sec video, I’m doing more of these simple explanations, check out my channel :))


So that’s all you need. Sporting gear, an iPhone app and a location. And I’ve talked in a serious voice to you, which probably helps.

How to implement the workout?

Having a way to do this every couple of days is key. You need to find a moment during your day where you can do this workout, just to get some regular exercise.

Try in the evening before going to bed. A good reason for a before-bed shower as well. Or try right when you get up. What is a better way to start the day?

I’ve been working with the morning-routine. Try to get up 15 minutes before you get up regularly, as that is around the time you need to get your clothes, go to the location and get back. Now try to do this 3 days a week (monday, wednesday and friday).

How did this work for you? Any thoughts?

Build your own Personal Website – Free Guide UPDATED!

August 19, 2013  |  Ebooks, Personal Development, Study Hacks  |  2 Comments

The last two years I had a simple PDF file online, it was called ‘How to build a Blog as a Student.’ It was a guide on building your own website, with screenshots explaining the several steps.

It was a pretty neat guide, even though I am biased. It was simple, it was complete and it was probably helpful.

There were also a couple of things wrong. First of all, the name. The guide was in the first place on building a BLOG, while what most students need is a WEBSITE. Although this guide showed you how you can build a website as well, it was focused around the word ‘blog.’ This resulted in more information on blogs (case studies for instance), while most of the people were interested in case studies about websites. I changed this, the guide is now COMPLETELY focused on building a website, not a blog (although you could still use it).

Second of all, how I promoted the guide. Nothing more than a simple sidebar ad, while I think it is really important to build a website for yourself. A personal hub, a go-to place for employees and a portfolio is important for everybody who is looking for a professional career. How I am going to change this? It is getting a more prominent place on my website and I will refer to it more.

Third of all, the aftermath. I made the guide, set it up and I forgot it somehow. This came to a point where I even removed the sidebar ad, as I didn’t want people to read it anymore. Now I am going to handle it a little bit more professionally, working on following up with the people who downloaded it to help if necessary.

And now the v2.0 version of the guide is ready!

Build your own Personal Website   Free Guide UPDATED!

How to build your own Personal Website

Enough meta-talk. I have a cool guide to share. Why should you have your own website?

There are three main reasons:

Full Control of your Google Results

By owning your own website you will instantly gain a lot of access on the results people get when they Google your name. Google’s algorithm responds very well on the exact match in a domain name. Which means StefanKnapen.com gets a lot of love from Google for the search phrase “Stefan Knapen.” By owning your own domain you get a lot of control over your search results.

No matter what your job will be, owning the first page of Google for your name can mean a lot. The most important thing? You are not the only one who can register your name as a domain name. By claiming your own name in a domain right now you prevent other people from doing so. You could see it as online protection of your brand.

Personal Social Hub

With a personal website you’ve created a ‘hub’. A place where people can find you and a place where you can link to from all your social media accounts. This hub is the place where you can tell everything about yourself, show who you are both on- and offline.

The hub would be the place where you can put a résumé (partially or complete) and where you can show off your portfolio.

Social Proof

With a personal website you can show off examples to possible employer’s or potential customers. If you incorporate a blog into your personal website you can show off thought processes, writing skills and how you are up to date with the latest trends in your field.

For instance, you can use the blog as a business student by talking about recent developments in the online world. You could write posts like “5 Take-Overs by Social Media Giants.” These type of posts have a high chance of being shared by your readers and could generate some buzz around your brand.

The HOW part

  • A Step by Step Guide. Starting at the process of getting a domain name and ending at your first published page!
  • Screenshots of every step. Technical talk can be hard to understand, I believe visual can help a lot here. The screenshots show clearly what to do and how.
  • The Workbook. I’ve created a simple workbook to make sure you are starting in the right way. A couple of simple assignments so you know what you are going into.
  • Discounts for HostGator. With a simple coupon code you can get the hosting and domain name for a lot cheaper!
  • YOUR PERSONAL WEBSITE. Downloading this guide (and an evening of work) will result in your own, personal website. This gives you the opportunity to say to people: “Well, yeah.. I own my own website, Google me.” (Don’t do this, you will be a douchebag.)

Sounds good? Cool. Download the ebook NOW. It’s free Build your own Personal Website   Free Guide UPDATED!

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