Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Best Investment Ever

* Little warning: This is a pretty long post, but it’s some really solid stuff. Sorry for the tardiness again. I am getting better though. Oh, and all external links (ones not to my site) open in a new window.

Being a site about education, I think you can guess where this is going. The best investment you can make is not in stocks or bonds; it is in your education. This isn’t just random home-crafted cheesiness though; this analogy holds a lot of credence.

The return you get on your investment (ROI), 0% to 10,000% or more depending on how you live your life. You are in control of how much money you make. You dictate how this “stock” of You Co. fluctuates. "How can I do this?" you may be asking. Well…

Invest capital (money) on yourself

Not only will investing in your education make you smarter and better it will also increase your assets or net worth.

I mentioned earlier that I was studying for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) during my hiatus. A very high score can be very hard to get. So if someone has a high score, they stand a better chance of being accepted into medical schools. A high score, in this case, is quite valuable. It pays to invest in resources that might give you a higher score.

Knowing this, I would estimate I spent roughly $1700 on resources to help me learn for the MCAT. I probably could have spent much less. In fact, I would say I spent the most of all my friends taking it. However, even if $500 translated into one extra point, I would say it’s worth it. I have to mention that my family and I aren’t rich or anything like that, this is just a matter of priorities and investing for the long-term. Ask some people around October 19 how much they would pay for 4 extra points on the MCAT; it may surprise you.

However, I don’t just mean that you should only invest in formal education. Anything from a documentary about the struggle over oil to a book about eating habits can be beneficial. All sorts of tools can improve your stock’s value.

Invest your time in fields you want to improve in

Or: Don’t invest your time in fields you do not care about. Most companies heed this warning: Stick to your product/customer base. Do not spread yourself too thin.

I’ve never seen Pepsi selling lingerie, and Victoria’s Secret does not sell drinks. They focus their effort on the niche markets they are already a part of. I’m not saying you should just stick to one small field and never budge. Moving around a bit is ok. Expand your horizons. Diversify your portfolio. By the way, do you know who owns Tropicana?

What I am saying is that you should not spend your time doing things that aren’t bringing you towards something greater. Your time is valuable; you should treat it as such.

Let me elaborate. Many times I go shopping and the workers are pretty… how shall I put this delicately… pissy. What they seem to forget is: A job worth doing is worth doing well. Conversely, a job that you wouldn’t bother to do well is not worth doing at all.

For the sake of discussion, I’m going to assume (since you have access to a computer and the internet) that you are not seriously impoverished. If you are, some of these points may not stand, but it’s still solid stuff.

If you have the choice of doing something that may give you more money or safety versus one that advance you in any other way – academically, physically, emotionally, mentally, even spiritually – it is better in the long run to go for the one that improves your value. This is investing for the long haul.

Many of my friends, are caught in a dilemma for the upcoming year or the following summer. They must choose between a non-prosperous research position (maybe volunteering), or a more lucrative non-academic job. Well, actually this is a false dilemma, because you could just choose neither, but I digress.

In choosing between the two jobs, you have to consider which is the better long-term investment. If the research position causes you to be a little poorer, while allowing more doors to be opened up later on because you now have a "Research Experience" section on your resume, then it seems like research is the better investment.

Yet this is not to say that any non-whatever-you-study jobs are not good investments. If that other job improved your speaking abilities, bolstered your confidence and so on, then you should consider this option as well. What I’m saying here is that you have to think about the long-term here.

If you only stick with seemingly good short-term gains, you might end up like Enron. If you focus on investing for the long-term you can end up like Hershey or Berkshire Hathaway.

Remember: You are worth investing a lot of time and money in. Invest in that company, do whatever you can to make its net worth grow in the long-term, and watch that baby grow! Once you are paying out crazy dividends and your cash flow is a flood, remember ol’ Josh at The Gravy Way: I accept all donations. ;)

If you enjoyed these learning tips and motivational strategies, maybe you'll enjoy the other posts. Please bookmark this page (Ctrl-D) or check out the archive/categories to the right. Better yet, tell a friend! (Click the envelope below this.)

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Getting the most out of your time

In talking to some of my friends, I’ve found that many of them want to manage their time more effectively. But some may ask: Why would you want to get the most out of your time? Well…
  • It makes you feel more productive (You’ll lose that blah/useless feeling.)
  • You can get more done in a day than you thought possible. This is a tremendous feeling of accomplishment.
  • It will make you rich! Let me explain: In a study of millionaires to see what differentiated them from other people, they found something interesting. It wasn’t what they did from 9-5 that united them, but from 5 onwards… In their own time. If you use this time effectively, then you will have one more characteristic in common with millionaires.
The number one most effective tool is goal setting. I will be writing a post describing this in even more detail, but I have already written one describing the benefits and a course of action: Setting Goals to Achieve More. With a goal, your tasks tend to gravitate towards accomplishing those goals: using your time more effectively.

However, once you get into the intricacies of goal achievement, some tips regarding time management can go a long way.

Time management techniques

To Do Lists & Agendas
You have to allocate your time and priorities in order to maximize your efficiency. In making a list you can easily see what you need to accomplish and what you have already accomplished. By prioritizing your tasks, you can ensure that you are focusing your effort and time on the most important things in your life. I would recommend a numbering/lettering system: ABC or 123. You know those times when you have to start a paper, but you decide to rearrange your pencils then dust your origami collection? Or something along those lines… The point is that these tasks are not necessary. Stick to your most important tasks. Remember not to confuse movement with accomplishment.

Give yourself a limited (but realistic) amount of time to perform a task, and only work during that period. You may have noticed that you work harder once there is a sense of immediacy with your task. For example: You have an essay due in 8 hours and you don’t even have a title. Necessity and fear drive you to complete the task. Timeboxing works in a similar way, but hopefully more than hours before an assignment is due.

Triage (said like “tree-age” -- ‘age’ as in massage)
In emergency medical care this refers to treating the most urgent patients while limiting resources away from those in better condition. In this context, it means you should spend your time on necessary actions and not on silly, useless garbage. Is there stuff in your life that is just sucking away your time without real benefit? Drop it like it’s hot.
  • Magazines you aren’t reading: Garbage.
  • Games you aren’t don’t actually like, but just play because you are bored: Window.
  • MSN / AOL Messenger: Log-off.
  • Food lying around your desk: Refrigerate or put in cupboard.
* By the way, food lying around your desk is not a good idea for two reasons. It is a huge distraction and it will make you fat. It will enable you to eat more frequently, and you may begin to associate boredom with food. Uh oh.

No more useless time
Waiting for the bus? Have time before class? Read something useful. Or listen to something to something motivational or educational. There are a lot of podcasts out there (Podcast Directory [new window]). By the way, if you don’t have an MP3 player, I would recommend getting one. They are getting pretty dirty cheap, or you could just ask around for an even cheaper option.

Don’t get too crazy with this time-management, remember the learning/working curve. While it depends on the person, if you work for too long, eventually you will reach a point where you are not learning/working that effectively. It is then that you should take a break. A real break, not just a washroom break. For example, you can:
  • Go for a walk
    • I like walking after or even during studying because it seems to help solidify facts in my brain. I’ve heard from a few sources that by engaging other parts of your brain while or right after studying it enhances your learning. While I don’t know how true this is, everyone could always use a nice relaxing walk.
  • Eat some fruit.
    • Vitamins, sweetness and attractive packaging: Much like a great woman, fruit will keep you energized and satisfied. May I recommend peaches and some raspberries?
With all these tips I must leave a caveat: It is all well and good to read these tips and feel empowered by them, but only by putting them into practice, will you begin to see the real benefits of managing your time more effectively. So remember, your time is as precious as you are. Treat it with the respect it deserves and you will be well rewarded.

If you enjoyed these learning tips and motivational strategies, maybe you'll enjoy the other posts. Please bookmark this page (Ctrl-D) or check out the archive/categories to the right. Better yet, tell a friend! (Click the envelope below this.)

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I'm back, for real

I'm very sorry about my insanely long hiatus. I hope that you can appreciate my position. The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) was on the 19th -- last Saturday -- so I was very busy studying for it. It is one of the most important tests I have taken, as it is necessary in order to even apply for most medical schools.

If you would like some MCAT advice, I'm very willing to dole it out. Just email me at: joshua[at]gravyway[dot]com

I plan on writing a post on the MCAT in the near future (this week), but if you are eager, just email me.

Since the MCAT is over now (it went pretty well if you were wondering), I will resume regular posting frequency -- which should be once every 2-3 days.

I am also planning on starting a club regarding goal setting at Queen's. (Yes, I do believe effective goal setting is that important.) The reason I tell you this is that I will be working on getting it off the ground and creating an associated website. This may or may not impact the time I have for posting. Right now, I'm assuming that a lot of the material will crossover between the two groups; I will link between them accordingly.

So where is your new post? It will come around the afternoon of the 21st. Which is actually today, if you are paying attention to the timestamp.

You may commence rejoicing now.

If you enjoyed these learning tips and motivational strategies, maybe you'll enjoy the other posts. Please bookmark this page (Ctrl-D) or check out the archive/categories to the right. Better yet, tell a friend! (Click the envelope below this.)