College optimizations

Many of my friends say my course load is crazy. I think I am taking an ambitious course load as well, but I found some optimizations (life hacks) that let me do more in a day. Here are some:

Get an electric skateboard Link to heading

It is as fast as a car in short to medium distances, costs 30 times less, doesn’t need gasoline, doesn’t require a license, and doesn’t require any parking. You might think bikes or scooters may be good alternatives, but they require parking, unlike a board that you just pick up when you get off and head into a lecture. If I didn’t have a board, I would probably go to less than half the lectures I go to now.

I save an average of around 8 minutes per commute between classes/dorm. Since I have around 4 classes a day, that is at least 40 minutes saved per day. In reality, it is more like 1 hour per day because I eat out with friends and run errands as well.

If you are STILL not convinced, do a calculation of the money equivalent of the time you are saving. If you estimate a $30/hour wage and save around 1 hour a day, the board will pay for itself and more in less than a month (20 days x $30 = $600).

I have a Boosted mini X. It lasts 2 days on 1 charge on regular use and is compact enough to carry around. (I don’t recommend a longboard because they are bulkier than they need to be)


Never eat alone Link to heading

I still need to work on this one.

Balancing social life, academics and sleep is hard. Socializing while eating is a good way to regularly keep up with friends while also saving time. In middle school and high school, I usually used the lunch period to catch up with my friends. In college, I can use lunch and dinner (breakfast is too early) to socialize. It also saves money because campus dining halls are free, so instead of eating out often to socialize, I can catch up with friends more often for free.

I still eat alone more than half of the time because I haven’t set up regular eating times with friends yet. When I’m eating alone, I usually open a youtube video on a topic I need to learn for homework and listen to it while eating. After a meal, I usually learned something new or unstuck myself from a homework problem I had been working on.

Since eating usually takes up around 1 hour per day, that is another hour saved.

Sleep early Link to heading

This one might not be obvious. What do I usually do late at night? I usually scroll on youtube. If I sleep early and sleep in the time I would have used to go on social media, I get that much more time in the morning. I am much more likely to study in the morning when I am refreshed, so by sleeping early I saved time from being wasted.

I started to think the next day starts when I fall asleep, not when I wake up. This is a subtle difference in mindset but it makes me want to sleep earlier. The reasoning is that sleeping later leads either to getting up late (the next day is partly ruined) or becoming sleep deprived (the next day is fully ruined). So I set up success tomorrow by sleeping early today.

If you are determined to sleep late, at least sleep and get up at the same time every day. This allows your body to develop a rhythm and go to sleep faster.

Sit in front Link to heading

  • Easier to see the blackboard
  • Easier to hear the teacher
  • Automatic motivation to pay attention
  • Easier to ask a question
  • Easier to be noticed and make a connection with the professor

Don’t take notes, or take notes by hand Link to heading

The worst thing to do is to copy down the words exactly from the blackboard. If you do this, you will suddenly “wake up” and not have internalized anything for the past 30 minutes.

The most important thing in a lecture is to focus and internalize what the professor is saying, it is NOT to have notes afterward. If summarizing what the professor is saying in your own few words (write a phrase for every paragraph your teacher talks) helps you understand the ideas, then do it.

I find taking notes distracts me, and I miss explanations during lectures if I do.

So I usually have nothing on the desk in front of me, and if something very important is on the board, I take a picture with my phone.

The downside of not taking notes at all is having to use the textbook or lecture slides when I am stuck on a homework problem.

Read before class Link to heading

Imagine going to a lecture, and instead of understanding 50% of what the professor is saying and feeling too afraid to ask questions, you understand how the topics of the lecture fit into the overall theme and understand 95% of the lecture.

That’s the difference reading before class makes.

If you don’t believe me, try it out to prove me wrong.

Here is the reason it works:

  • You would already have seen the ideas of the lecture before so it is more like a review than a new topic
  • You know the big picture of the lecture beforehand, so you know how the individual topics fit into the bigger idea (advantage of hindsight)
  • You already have questions about the parts you do not understand and can ask them without thinking of them on the spot

The first point is the biggest contributor. It is just a natural phenomenon that the second time you delve into a difficult topic, the more you get out of it. So instead of going from 0 to 50% understanding, you go from 40% to 90%.

If you think of it from a value/time perspective, getting a basic understanding on your own and getting the rest during a lecture is much more efficient than getting a basic understanding during a lecture and having to get the rest on your own.