Category: Advice

Resolutions 101

2011 is here. We are over halfway through January….have you made a New Year’s Resolution yet?  Or are you still trying to think of a goal that you can, well, actually commit to? Making a resolution is hard, and sticking to it is even harder, especially for a college student. Personally, I love New Year’s resolutions. What better way to begin a brand new year than with a newfound determination to improve yourself for the better as a person?

I’ve listed five steps that I’ve used for the past few years that are guaranteed to help you choose a resolution that is both bold and possible.

1) Want V.S. Need…or Want & Need? Make a resolution that is both pragmatic and desirable. If you want to start jogging at 7am in the morning but you aren’t a morning person, then what’s the point? Morning exercise is ideal, of course, but if you don’t like getting up early then maybe nighttime bike rides are better. Make a plan to do homework in between classes instead of waiting until after dinner, and then your evening will be free! The best resolution gives you material benefits as well as personal happiness. Besides, you’ll be much more likely to stick with a goal that you personally enjoy working towards as opposed to a goal that you don’t.

2) Be Realistic. You want to lose thirty pounds, eat all organic foods, and learn to cook in a single year? My dear friend, although I admire your fervor, it takes a lot of work to do each of those things…either you’ll have a mental breakdown by August from trying to do everything at once, or you’ll lose steam. Fast. Your resolution needs to be realistic and attainable. Why not aim to just lose ten pounds? If you’re feeling particularly bold or motivated, you could tie cooking to your weight loss resolution and work towards cooking on the weekends instead of eating processed foods or take-out, which already cuts your calories by a lot if you learn to ditch the butter and oil. Bottom line is, don’t get too greedy with your goals without considering the work that must be done to reach them.

3) Be Specific. If you decide to “be healthier,” what exactly does that mean? Do you want to lose weight, start a daily exercise routine, eat organic food, or what? You can take action in so many different ways in order to “be healthier,” but if you try to focus on too many smaller goals you will lose sight of everything because it will simply be too much.

4) Make a Plan. Let’s say your goal for 2011 is to “avoid procrastination by doing your work when you say you will.” After a while, though, it’s way too easy to simply…give up. Facebook, Twitter, and CNN News are calling to you. By using month-by-month progress checks, you can make sure that you stick with your resolution. For each month, add a new mini goal to your resolution. For instance, in January you may start out easy by simply telling yourself to do work when you get tired of procrastinating (yes, that’s possible). Then, by February, perhaps you’ll create a daily schedule to list what hours to do homework and what hours to surf the ‘Net. Each small step will slowly become a habit.

5) Share It. There’s nothing better than sharing your resolution with a good friend who has a similar goal in mind. It’s best if your friend has a resolution that is slightly different from yours; otherwise, a friendly partnership may become a major competition. What’s great about working towards a resolution together is that you’re able to provide each other with healthy doses of moral support, constant motivation, and positive peer pressure. Plus, it will bring your friendship up to a whole new level that is even more meaningful and enjoyable than it was before.

-Wendy Lu

How to Seriously Organize Your Life

My tips for ending procrastination inspired me to search for innovative electronic ways to organize my daily and weekly activities, as well as take more efficient, legible notes.

The Ultimate Notebook

While sitting in my Japanese Religion class and fidgeting in my desk, my eyes wandered to a classmate’s laptop, where I witnessed her vigorously typing notes onto Microsoft Word. What kept me interested in her seemingly ordinary task of typing notes? The page layout that appeared on her MacBook screen was a notebook!

Screen shot of Microsoft Word's Notebook Layout

How many times have I sat through lecture, typing notes on an ordinary layout, only to look at them later and feel confused by my scattered, sloppy and unorganized notes, never referencing them again for future studying because it is too painful to read such chaos?

  • Word’s notebook layout creates instant clarity and organization. I can create titles for each subject and break up my notes into sections.
  • I am actually excited to take notes in class because of Word’s notebook feature, and it will definitely be easier for me to comprehend my notes when referencing them later.
  • I showed a couple of my friends this layout and they exclaimed, “Wow! The digital Notebook would make my class notes so much more easier to read. How do you get that?” Simply click on ‘View’ and select ‘Notebook Layout’.

Turns out, my curious nature and wandering attention span is sometimes beneficial.

The Ultimate Planner

In my article on procrastination, I advised using a planner to jot down upcoming assignments, due dates, to do lists and activities; however, most of the time, I loathe having to carry more in my school bag than necessary. The less books and journals weighing you down, the better. (I even download electronic textbooks into my virtually weightless Amazon Kindle so that I can read multiple subjects on-the-go just to avoid the burden of carrying a heavy load). My schoolbag consists of a laptop, charger, Kindle and a planner. I wanted to figure out a way to eliminate the planner, but still be able to view my to do lists and appointments in an organized, concise fashion.

I Googled ‘planner widgets’ for my MacBook, and came across the Assignment Planner application! This is a must-have download for college students, which will elicit fascinated expressions from all of your intelligent friends on campus (and we can all agree, that includes most, if not all, of the student body attending UNC-CH! Go Heels!) Aside from impressing your friends, the Assignment Planner will enable you to organize your weekly assignments with ease.

To download this application, simply copy and paste the following into your browser:

Once on the site, register for the application by paying a one time $8 fee. You can justify this fee because you would pay just as much for a paper planner, which can only be used one time, and therefore must be purchased annually.

Screen Shot of the Mac Planner

The screen shot above shows the Assignment Planner.

  • You simply add an assignment and enter the Due Date, Name of Assignment and Course.
  • Then you select a priority level 1-5.
  • A convenient feature of Assignment Planner is that the assignment is colored red when past the due date, orange when close to the due date, yellow when you have some time left and black when the due date it is very far from approaching.
  • Each assignment gives you the option to write notes.
  • You have the ability to switch views from weekly to monthly, but still click on the assignment and see the information on the sidebar, while viewing a weekly or monthly calendar beside the info on the side.
  • If you click on the Courses and Textbooks button, you have the option of entering in your professors’ office hours and contact information, which may come in handy if you’re ever in need of extra clarification about a topic covered in class.

I hope that these two digital organization features make your day most productive!

– Kristen Cubero

Get ‘Er Done… Today

You log into Facebook and read friends’ wall posts, when you know you should be reading Lolita for class. You start organizing the clothes in your closet by color, and even start folding your delicate unmentionables, placing them inside your top drawer in careful squares. You’re so desperate for anything else to do, instead of diligently working on the seven-page English paper that is due in three days. Now you’re watching reruns on Hulu, and then you may pause Hulu, respond to your Facebook updates, replay the youtube clip of “Marcel the Shell with Shoes on” for the umpteenth time, laughing hysterically with your roommate and quote the shell as if the words he utters express your new religion. You begin to unravel a tangled necklace, and wonder when motivation will find you; maybe you will have an epiphany while peeling apart your split ends. More likely, you will have to face the facts: you’ve boarded a one way train to Procrastinationopolis, located in the heart of Distractionville. Feeling hopeless and stranded? Don’t worry: that’s only more wasted time. Be proactive, take simple actions and you will be striding down Productive Street with effortless swag.

K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple Stupid:
Prioritize your life by using the K.I.S.S. Method. When you Keep It Simple, Stupid, the main benefit is that you will be finished with whatever basic task or goal your extravagant ideas were inhibiting you from completing on time. We should never give up on our dreams to expand upon lavish projects we long to accomplish, but for the purposes of excelling in school, we must prioritize. Get simple projects out of the way first, and leave a block of time to work on a bigger project, little by little everyday. This means, if I have simple homework assignment due on the computer by 11pm, and a difficult essay due in 2 weeks, I should do my computer homework first, and then work on a little bit of the essay every single day for 2 weeks. Do not leave all of your assigned textbook reading until the day before and the morning of the test. To do so would be breaking the K.I.S.S method.

Change your study environment
… to a place with minimal distractions. Since I associate my bedroom as my sanctuary to get away from the daily grind, I am psychologically incapable of studying in that particular space. My sheets call for me to get under them, and all of a sudden every electronic I own is spread out on my bed (laptop, mp3 player, kindle, cell phone, sometimes even my camera) all turned on; my mind turned off to studying altogether! An intelligent way to fix this scenario is to leave the bedroom and go to a quiet place where other students are studying. If like me, you are a lazy-bone to the core, so do not sit in a big, comfy chair; this will only remind you of your bed, it may be even cozier than your bed (depending if you have a residence hall mattress, ouch.) and you will be dreaming in no time. Instead sit at a desk, with other people sitting next to you. They are intently focused and studying, and suddenly your competitive edge comes out and you want to excel along with your peers in the library. Wilson, Undergraduate, and Davis libraries are all great places to buckle down, with no distractions.

Put away your communicative electronics
…in small increments each day.
It may be challenging to wean yourself from engaging in facebook, texts, BBM, skype, Windows Live Messenger, emails, and phone calls, but if you can manage to go just one hour one day, and two hours the next, you will eventually be able to focus on the present moment. This may even make you a better friend, because you will become a better listener to your friends without having to respond to a half-dozen forms of social media. You will definitely become a better student because you will not have distractions to take you away from your interesting studies. Let the words in your textbook talk to you.

If you must listen to music
…listen to calming music with a slow beat. So save your fist pumping Tiesto mega mix for the club, and instead download songs with a serene, laid-back beat. The I-tunes store has a whole list of music to listen to while studying. A few of my personal favorite tracks to study to include, Desree—You Gotta Be, Mellowdrone—Orange Marmalade, The Wallflowers—One Headlight, Cutting Crew—I just Died in Your Arms, Sade— And I Miss You (Okay, pretty much all alternative music from the 90s is going to make your time studying the most relaxing task you accomplish within your day!)

Get a planner, and use it.
If you already have one, take it out of your junk drawer. Most smart phones come with applications for taking down notes, and to do lists. These come in handy for short term goals, but make sure to write down long term obligations in your planner, and refer to the dates ahead of time so you don’t have to waste memory space thinking of everything that has to be done. Some successful individuals even keep post it notes everywhere throughout the house, so that if an idea pops in mind, you never forget and the constant visual reminders will help you “get er’ done.” I have a digital post it note on my desktop, which reads: Stop Procrastinating! It serves as a great reminder for every time I sit down with my laptop. Post-Its reinforce making a decision to waste time or use it to your advantage.

These tips will enable you to stop avoiding hitting the books, and make a productive student out of even the worst procrastinator, me. (Hey, did anyone catch that writing this blog is a form of procrastination from schoolwork on my part!) It would be wise if I start taking my own advice.

– Kristen Cubero

Trust the process

Project 365 is a year-long blog series about being a senior at Carolina, going through the senior bucket list, job search, applying to graduate school and just life in general, told in countdown form.

Good morning, Seniors.  In the spirit of Health and Wellness, I’d like to take this opportunity to discuss the seemingly stressful journey that we have in front of us.  The next 7 ½ months are going to be some of the most exciting and simultaneously terrifying months of some of our lives. But one of my professors gave my class the best advice.  Trust the process.  Sure, we were talking about the writing process but you know what?  It seems to be pretty relevant advice.

Trust the process.

Trust the Process.

Trust the Process.

When I graduate, I might not have a job.  A lot of us won’t, and that’s okay.  It’s the reality we live in and we need to prepare ourselves that we might be the (gulp, I hate using this word) victims of the economic recession.  So what can we do? Trust the process.  Trust that things will work out eventually for the best, even if they aren’t working out now. The recession won’t last forever and eventually the job market will rebound.

Here’s the thing: we have enough to stress out about as seniors because while the job market is on the back of our minds, we still have exams, projects, papers, homework… not to mention, countless extracurricular activities.  Don’t ruin the fun with stress.

According to WebMD, stress can lead to:

  • Heart Disease
  • Headaches
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Decreased sexual performance
  • Weight gain
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Mood swings
  • Shaking

Really… who wants all that?  And it’s true, stress is a part of life and no matter what happens, there will always be something to stress about.  So what can we do to deal with stress? WebMD suggests:

  • Avoid sources of stress
  • Exercise regularly
  • Engage in problem solving
  • Take responsibility for situations
  • Lower your expectations and accept that there are some things out of your control.
  • Have supportive friends.
  • Learn relaxation techniques (I love yoga at the SRC, personally)

So let’s not stress this year.  Let’s continue on with our lives, work hard, and trust the process.  Good luck everyone!

Countdown to Graduation: 222 Days!!!

– Samantha Ryan

It’s 2 a.m. and you’re on the 6th floor of Davis Library, chugging Red Bulls and cramming for the test and presentation you have tomorrow – or is it today?

This scenario is a common one on campus.  With midterms and papers fast approaching, many students are nearing the breaking point.  At this point in the semester, it’s easy to become completely consumed by stress, which can affect your eating habits, exercise routine, sleeping patterns and mental health.  In times of stress, it’s important to stay calm, focused and optimistic. But have no fear – there are countless easy ways to relax and unwind.


Working out is a great way to let off steam.  Do yoga in the quiet of your dorm room, go for a run around campus or participate in a group exercise class like Zumba or Cardio Pump. You’ll be able to briefly take your mind off of the things causing you stress while also doing something productive and healthy.  The endorphins exercise releases are known to improve mood, too.

Drink something

I’m not talking about alcoholic beverages.  Enjoying a warm drink on a chilly day can be a soothing treat. If possible, escape from the library for a few moments to clear your head and refuel.  Hot chocolate, lattes and green tea are just a few options.  I never feel calmer than when drinking coffee and people-watching in the Pit.

Forest Theatre

Spending time outside is a wonderful way to alleviate stress.  Fresh air and sunshine will make any bad day seem better. Whether walking through Coker Arboretum, sunbathing in Polk Place or sitting outside of the Daily Grind, stress will seem to drift away with the autumn breeze.


Although we tend to get by on much less, it’s crucial that college students sleep for at least seven or eight hours per night.  Being well rested has been shown to improve cognitive functioning and academic performance.  Getting enough sleep is also necessary in that it helps to stabilize mood.  For example, sleep deprivation has been linked to depression.  It’s almost always better to study a little less if it means you can sleep a little more.

Take a break

If you’ve been studying for hours and think you will spontaneously combust if forced to read another sentence, it’s probably time for a study break.  Grab a healthy snack, watch a few minutes of TV or play a game. Sudoku and crossword puzzles are my personal favorites, but any other entertaining game or puzzle will suffice.  Just be careful your five-minute break doesn’t turn into an hour-long YouTube or Facebook session.

Listen to soothing music

Turn on your favorite channel on or go to, a website at which you can pick a playlist that corresponds to an emotion you’re feeling. Make a list of go-to songs in times of intense stress.  Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and tune into the sound of the music.  When I’m a bundle of nerves, I listen to “Breathe Me” by Sia in order to release tension.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by stress, but that doesn’t have to be the case.  If balancing academic pressure, extracurricular responsibilities and a social life is about to give you a mental breakdown, step back for a moment.  Do something that makes you feel calm, whether that may be walking around campus, reading a novel or listening to a favorite song. Before you know it, midterms will be over.

And then you can worry about finals.

– Georgia Cavanaugh

Project 365

One year from today, the class of 2011 will be graduating from Carolina. This is a terrifying realization because as much as I’m excited to join the real world, I don’t want to leave Chapel Hill.  Sure, being done with classes may sound great (especially after finals week), but I love this whole “being in college” thing.  I can still remember moving in, August 18th, 2007, bearing the 100-degree heat while trying to get my stuff to the ninth floor of Hinton James and to think that I’m now 75% done with my undergraduate career is absolutely terrifying.

This coming year is going to be one of excitement, stress and confusion for all seniors as we try to get through and find out what life has in store for us.  Careers?  Graduate Schools?  The dreaded unemployment? In this economy, nothing is for sure. I know I’m trying to prepare for anything – studying up for the LSAT and GRE because in case I don’t end up getting a job, I want some sort of backup plan.

But this is also a year that we should take advantage of all that Carolina has to offer us.  Do everything we’ve always wanted to do, whether it’s joining a new club,  taking that class that’s always looked so interesting but we’ve never had the time to take (for me, it’s Milton and Chaucer), discover a new favorite restaurant on Franklin Street or explore around the castle (YES!  We have a legitimate castle just off campus!  More details on that will follow, I promise).

I want to officially challenge the class of 2011 to, in the next 365 days, make the absolute most of our time at Carolina, because no matter what happens in our lives, when we look back on this time spent at UNC, we don’t want to have any regrets.

365 days, Class of 2011.  Let the countdown begin.

– Samantha Ryan

Something in the Air

Well… I would have had a quad-time book review for you, except I didn’t spend too much time in the quad this week. Why?  Plant sex.

The pollen this year has gotten to be quite a nuisance for everyone who exists around campus and it always shocks me when I get to my car in the afternoons and find that instead of a nice, shiny silver, it is thoroughly yellow. It does not help that the road on which I park my car is lined with high-pollen producing trees.

But what is with this year?  Alright, I am certainly no native of central North Carolina so I have limited pollen seasons to compare with, and honestly I have been blessed to have not been affected by allergies in the past, but it seems that this year is exceptionally worse than last year.  Well… that’s because it is.   This is the worst pollen season since 2003.

What’s really behind the extreme pollen this year is a combination of weather factors, including the very cold winter we had back in January and February and the lack of any serious rain (and while Thursday night helped a little bit, it wasn’t enough). Unfortunately, there is little that we can do except hope for some rain. However, if the allergies have got you down, there are a few things you can do to ease your suffering:

  1. Stay indoors. Trees can’t pollinate the inside of your apartment as well as they can the outside.
  2. Keep your A/C running. The fan will filter out the air.
  3. Drink lots and lots of water.
  4. Over-the-counter allergy medications are available at Student Stores.
  5. If you’re up all night coughing because of your allergies, sleep on your stomach. It will help you sleep through the night.

Anyways, I hope this helps you all out.  This whole mess should be over in a few weeks.   I should be back next week with another review of something (I just got a bag full of reader’s copy books and I’m totally excited!).

– Samantha Ryan

A Start-Up Guide to Twitter

Twitter. We’ve been told that we need to use it to be successful communicators, but where do we start? How do we build up a base of followers and network with professionals when we’re just getting started?

The great thing about Twitter is that it is relatively easy to learn as you go. There is a fantastic network of people out there who are willing to help guide you through this process, but you can’t be afraid to jump right in.

I first started tweeting on April 7, 2009. My first tweet was “2009 NATIONAL CHAMPIONS!”

Clearly, a lot has changed in the past year. I have more than 700 followers and am approaching 2,000 tweets. I update multiple Twitter accounts, multiple times a day. So in honor of my one-year Twitter anniversary, I’ll be posting a few tips over the next few days to help you use Twitter to do more than just complain about Duke.

  1. Be professional. With Facebook, you can easily edit your privacy settings so that you can control which people see your content. There is no good way to do this with Twitter (unless you make your entire profile protected, which almost defeats the purpose of putting your thoughts out there).  Anyone can see what you post, so even if you’re sharing a joke with a friend, make sure it’s something you wouldn’t mind a future employer seeing. Also try to avoid unnecessary abbreviations. I know it’s hard to say what you need to in 140 characters, but Twitter isn’t AIM, so remember to keep it classy.
  2. Follow industry leaders. Whether you’re a public relations major or not, there are so many valuable people to connect with on Twitter. Twitter has become a great way for me to keep up with the latest industry news. Not only can you learn about important happenings in your field, you can get some great networking tips and even learn about a few job openings. While we learn a lot in the classroom, most of my real-world public relations knowledge has come from what I picked up on Twitter
  3. Don’t be afraid to NOT follow everyone who follows you. You will get some random followers sometimes, but don’t feel obligated to follow them back unless they regularly tweet about something that genuinely interests you. Following too many people will just clog up your tweet stream and make it difficult to find relevant information. Make sure that those you follow are saying something you want to listen to.
  4. Use hashtags (#). I was amazed at the number of people who didn’t understand what a hashtag was. You’ll frequently see the little number sign before a word or phrase on Twitter, but some people don’t understand their importance. Hashtags allow for easier searching and help determine trending topics. You can use hashtags as a way to connect with people who are talking about the same things as you.
  5. Use a desktop application to manage the stream of information. I downloaded TweetDeck because I had five Twitter accounts I managed for various organizations and it became a pain to have to log in and out of all of these different accounts. TweetDeck allows me to update multiple accounts at once, without having to log in or out. It also lets me monitor what people are saying about topics that interest me (such as #prssa, #bateman, @heelprintcomm). These applications allow you to make the most of Twitter, and easily organize the information that interests you.

– Amy Dobryznski

Cheap last-minute Halloween costume ideas

Halloween Costumes on the Cheap

For Halloween this year, I am dressing up as Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island. My costume is a checkered shirt, denim shorts and plain Keds. The total cost of my outfit was $4—I just had to grab a $4 shirt from Goodwill to complete the look. The key is to think of costumes you can create from basic closet essentials. Here are some great costume ideas for little (or no!) cost.

  1. Blair from Gossip Girl: She’s the epitome of Upper East Side prep. Channel back to her days at Constance Billard School for Girls and start with a navy skirt. Wear a white button-up shirt tucked in and a string of pearls (faux will do). Top with a flashy headband. Finish the look with knee socks and high heeled shoes of your choice.
  2. Little Red Riding Hood: Go to any costume store and get a red cape (just because it’s red doesn’t mean it’s only meant for superheroes). Wear a white shirt and a gray skirt with flats. It’s easier and cheaper than buying a complete costume.
  3. Angel. Walmart sells cute Halloween T-shirt costumes for less than $15, and the angel one is my favorite. The angel “costume” is a T-shirt with angel wings drawn on the back. The shirt comes with a halo.

-MaryAnn Barone

Carving the perfect pumpkin


pumpkin 1

Photo and pumpkin design by Brittany bass


Autumn is my favorite time of year. The weather is finally cooling off, the leaves are all changing into gorgeous reds and oranges, and best of all, HALLOWEEN! One of my fondest memories of autumn is carving pumpkins with my family. We’d all go to our local produce farm, pick out the biggest and baddest pumpkins we could find, buy way too much apple cider and head home to carve the pumpkins.

When it comes to picking pumpkins, though, looking for the biggest is not always the best approach. According to the Pumpkin Masters, when selecting a pumpkin you should look for an unbruised pumpkin that is the shape of your design. It should be reasonably smooth for easy design transfer and have a flat bottom to prevent it from tipping over and possibly catching on fire. Also, beware carrying your pumpkin by the stem because that cute little topper might just break off.

OK, so you have your great, healthy pumpkin; you’re rocking out to Monster Mash and sipping apple cider. Now what? If you have not chosen a carving design you should do so now. Maybe a simple spider, or a cool cat, or a ghost with gravestones in the background? You want something creepy and fun, and simple if you’re a newbie carver.

pumpkin 2

Photo and pumpkin design by Brittany Bass

First, cut the lid off the top of your pumpkin. You can trace a small bowl around the top to get a clean circle, and then add a “tooth” to easily get your lid back in place. Use a knife to angle inward toward the center of the pumpkin so the lid can sit on top.

Time to use your handy dandy Seed Scooper (a spoon). Go ahead and scrape out all the gunk, guts and seeds in the pumpkin. You don’t have to get rid of those seeds either! Just rinse, add some melted butter and salt and throw them in the oven for a delicious snack later.

Finally, you are ready to carve your pumpkin. Tape your pattern to the pumpkin and “poke” along all the lines till the whole pattern is transferred like a connect the dots. Now hold the pumpkin in your lap (hopefully you’re wearing your pumpkin proof pants) and hold the miniature saw at a 90-degree angle to the pumpkin, and gently go ahead and cut out your pattern.

Stick a tea light in the center and enjoy your masterpiece! Sit back, pop some pumpkin seeds and watch your neighbors gape at your gorgeous creation.

-Brittany Bass