The Good Student

Who is the good student? Who is this elusive creature? This being we all wanted to be at some point in our academic lives. Does it even exist? Or is it nothing more than a myth, a legend.

These are the questions that keep me up at night. Especially when assignment deadlines and exams are looming. It appears that these thoughts surface (usually) at the beginning of the semester, and after receiving grades at the end of the semester.

Have I had any chance encounters with the good student?

Upon receiving feedback for a major assignment one time, the professor left a footnote: “Congratulations to the student who achieved a perfect score of 100%”. This was my closest encounter with the good student. And boy did it leave a mark in my mind.

I was with a close friend of mine once at the library. He was attempting to borrow a book that was on hold for someone else. He couldn’t have the book, but that didn’t matter. He looked in the librarian’s eyes and said: “Please, I want to be the good student I always wanted to be.”

So who is the good student? What are his or her qualites? How does he or she think? How does he or she feel, or a more appropriate question: does he or she feel at all?

The good student is intelligent. The good student is efficient. The good student is effective. The good student is resourceful. The good student is disciplined. The good student is perceptive. The good student is aware, awake, positive, committed, focused. He has his eyes on the ball at all times of the day. The good student can say no to the charms of a seductive woman and proceed to finish his assignment. The good student knows when to say no an insistent friend who offers to eat out, with him paying. The good student resides at the library studying for five hours with a drop in concentration no more than 7%. The good student never misses a lecture because he slept in or was too tired to go to class due to an all nighter that was necessary to finish an assignment – because he didn’t have an all nighter. The assignment was already finished a week ago.

The good student doesn’t blame his partners for group assignments. He focuses on what he can do to fix the situation, and learns from it for next time. The good student learns from his mistakes. The very few mistakes that he ever makes that is. And to him they are not mistakes, they are ‘learning curves’. One time he decided to go to the science library to study, different to his usual place at the Reid library. He experienced a drop in concentration over 15% after 4 hours of study, and that was a ratio he could not accept. He was never seen at the science library again.

You might think the good student prefers to be a lone wolf. And you are right. But that doesn’t make him any less good in being a partner in group work when need be. In fact, he is the most comfortable and approachable and hardworking person in any group project . The lucky ones who have had the privilege to work with him have nothing less than exceptional words to say about him. And those who have worked with him, as rare encounters as they have had with him, have experienced considerable boosts in productivity and efficiency, though only short lived. However, consistent exposure to the good student may show long lasting effects.

As you can witness for yourselves, the quality and preciseness of my writing has improved dramatically, just by the mere mentioning and discussion of The Good Student. This leads me to my conclusion: In order to become a good student, one must find The Good Student, and learn his ways.

How he obtained his qualities remains a mystery. Did he have a teacher? A mentor? A mindful and masterful Yoda to teach him his ways. Such sheer discipline and work ethic cannot be acquired alone. He most definitely did not teach himself. And neither can I.

I will find him.

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How to Complete Your Assignments Quickly While Keeping Your Sanity Intact

This assignment will be the end of me.

Two hours before submission and I was still working on the discussion. If only I’d started a week earlier I wouldn’t have come to the library today to work on it. Plus I could’ve gotten a better mark.

Would I have gotten a better mark?

Nope. That’s where I was wrong.

There are two ways to getting assignments done effectively and on time. And they are both based on one truism:

The quality of your finished assignment is independent of how much time you had to complete it in. 

An assignment takes a certain amount of hours to complete. Past a certain point, any additional input of time and effort will result in incremental increases in marks (80/20 rule).

Keeping this in mind, let’s say you’re given a one week deadline to do a lab report. It requires 6 hours of pure work to complete adequately, resulting in a mark above 80 percent.

You could:

Procrastinate for a while and allow it to become a mental monster, eating up your attention and ultimately your sanity before you start working on it a few days before submission. You postpone other study and commitments in the name of ‘doing’ your assignment and end up falling behind in everything…

Or, you could apply one of two techniques:

1) Set an artificial deadline and finish the assignment within the allotted timeframe. Give yourself only one day to do the assignment, using the time pressure to increase focus and efficacy (Parkinson’s Law).


2) Delay starting the assignment until 24 hours before submission date. This gives the same effect as the first technique, except the deadline is real – there’s no backing out of this one.

The first technique will allow you to finish 6 days early – but requires greater willpower. The second, you run the risk of overwhelm and complete mental and emotional breakdown.

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What Do You Create?

The stuff we do everyday can be divided into two categories:

  1. Passive, reactive, organising, responding stuff
  2. Active, creative, creating, progressing stuff

Category 1 gets you no where, makes you feel a tiny bit better (if it even does), and gives you an illusionary feeling of feeling productive – where in the long run you know you haven’t really improved your overall situation.

Category 2 is what life is all about. Its the fuel that drives true happiness. It moves you forward, allows you to reach your potential and even expand your limits.

I’ve been in holidays for over 3 months now. Days have gone by at a time when I feel like absolute crap. And its because my days were filled with category 1 activities and almost none of category 2.

My room was messy, so I cleaned it up. It was time to check webmail so I did. Had some to do’s to do so I did them. How did I feel afterwards? Meh.

I’d start to get lost into these everyday minutiae. The unimportant became the ‘important’. I’d start to lose perspective.

And it was sad.

Because I’d always knew that apart from school or uni or work, if I had nothing to do, it was an indicator of how mediocre my life was. And how i’d be wasting my youth and potential away.

Having ‘nothing to do’, for me, is failure.

There needs to be a project, a goal that you work on, day in and day out for weeks or even months. That pushes you and motivates you and at the same time you love it. Because you’re crafting something original.

Whether its learning a new skill, or practicing a sport, or getting to your goal weight, or achieving some sort of feat – whatever it is.

Writing this right now, truly makes me happy. Because I’m creating. I’m being creative, not passive.

What gets your creative juices going? What would get you fired up every morning? Find it and do it.

Commit to doing just one creative thing everyday. Just one.


What are some things you’d love to learn or stuff you’d love to create? Share them in the comments below 🙂


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Tips for First Year of Uni: Advice from an Ex-Fresher (Yours Truly)

‘Whats your best advice for someone going into first year?’

The people I asked couldn’t offer much extensive advice in a few minutes of chatter though. So, In this post, i’ll attempt to share some stuff I would’ve appreciated to know when I was me one year ago asking that question. Without further ado, here’s my top tips (from my experience as an ex-fresher):

1) Go to every lecture. Everyone I asked a year ago mentioned this first. Lectures, unlike labs and tutorials, aren’t mandatory. Missing a few lectures consecutively will lead you to a downward spiral – you miss out on the content, you lose interest, you feel out of place and before you know it, you’re in a hole you won’t be able to dig yourself out of.

[UPDATE: Only lecture material can show up in the exam, so don’t fret yourself out if you didn’t read the recommended texts. That’s the beauty of it, if the lecturer was sick and the lectures were cancelled, they’ll take that part out of the exam. Keep in mind though, some unit exams include material from labs)

2) Be as social as possible  Nobody know you yet, so no stakes. Make as many familiars as possible – initially. As it can be a great way of settling in. Its not necessary to make a lot of new friends and to be popular. Introduce yourself, get to know a few people and thats it – it will pay dividends in your tutes and labs.

3) Explore campus as much as possible It sucks to find out about something you didn’t know about late into the year. Take some time out to find the best eating spots, or best studying spots or just places to relax. Try out a few different places to develop a preference.

4) Budget your spending on food I use to feel bad every time I bought a milkshake or a chocolate bar. I felt I was spending way too much on a weekly basis. So I budgeted. I’d cash out $50 a fortnight ($5 a day). This allowed me to spend with piece of mind, knowing I wouldn’t go over a set amount. Guilt: eliminated. Find out how much you’d feel comfortable spending per fortnight and budget accordingly.

5) Manage your Time, Systematically  Have a systematic approach to how you study, relax and work. Be methodical. Don’t just wing it. For me, living strictly to a routine (automated decision making) works best. Adhere to a morning ritual, batch when you check Facebook and email (for example once-a-week cleanup), setup rules (for example same day lecture revision) and guidelines to how you allow people access to your time and attention. Don’t blur the lines between study, social life, and recreation. Keep them separate by separating their physical domains (for example, don’t use your phone for email, limit that to your laptop). The point is, have a method to your madness.

6) Go into the exam with a 100% average  I wish I knew about this early on. Because its completely possible. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t get 100% (or close to) in all your assignments and online quizzes. You have plenty of time, a detailed rubric to follow and access to unlimited resources. With an extremely high average, even a mediocre score in the exam can get you a possible HD for the unit.

7) Be Effective over Efficient, every time  Busywork, time spent organising and doing the wrong things efficiently are all time killers (and forms of laziness). Be effective and do the right things, and you will find yourself spending less time studying in total. Also, studying less isn’t laziness. You know that feeling you get when you’re really ‘productive’? You don’t have to have that feeling to be productive. Its an illusion.

“Most things make no difference. Being busy is a form of laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.” – Tim Ferriss

8) Always be up to date, if you want to study less ‘You can never get top marks if you’re always catching up’ – advice from a 4th year med student. When you’re behind, your workload is doubled: previous work piled on top of current work. If you stay up to date, you’d have spent less time on uni work in total over the semester. As well as not having to stay up late nights, ever again, even on exam nights.

9) Sleep early, wake early If I were to follow just one piece of advice from this list, it’d be this one. So many rushed assignments, missed lectures, late labs and ‘falling-behinds’ result from this issue. Its such a pain. Become a morning person. Don’t cater your life around waking up late. Sleep early to wake early for Fajr, then don’t sleep. Do this everyday, even in the holidays. Start this habit now to get your body clock adjusted. It’ll probably take about a month to achieve this but once you do, you won’t go back.

10) Have a life outside uni Your source of self-worth shouldn’t come from your results. Invest your time and focus on things other than just study. Although limit how many things you do to two to three things. Juggling study, work, and other commitments may result in a decline in at least one of those things.

11) I wish I’d read this article early on If you want high distinctions, this is all you need:

In conclusion
First year is a time to experiment with study methods and timetables to find what best suits you. Essentially, by the end of first year, you’d want to have figured out a crystallised blueprint that unleashes your maximum potential whilst keeping your sanity intact. So have a bit of fun with it, stick to what you’ve chosen as a degree and slug it through. Good luck!

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A New Year, So What! Some Philosophy and Three Practical Tips

I know there’e epic loads of new year articles and blog posts about change and new year resolutions out there in the inter-webs. I’ll try not to make this one of those. My take is a hopefully a little different.

Every year we go through this cycle. New year resolutions, new year, new you, yada yada yada. Its BS, honestly.

Nothing really changes, except for the last digit on that four numbered thing. Until every new decade that is, or century… or millennium for that matter.

You’re probably not going to wake up on the 1st of January levitating. And Hans Zimmer probably won’t be conducting an orchestra as you make breakfast. And you’re probably not going to ‘never miss fajr prayer’ ever again.


Why would it happen.

Nothing’s changed.

If you lived isolated on an island for 20 years, you probably wouldn’t feel any different waking up on the first day of the year. Its just another day.

Its all hype. Its just the thought of an illusional clean slate thats appealing. We all want to start fresh, become better. Its natural human instinct to want to improve.

But it won’t happen just like that.

Change requires a process.

A cake isn’t a cake until its put in the oven.

That being said, a fresh attitude can be all thats needed to get things going. And by getting things going, I mean having an action plan for change.

Moving on from the philosophical…

I’m going to try to hopefully inspire you awesome reader to do three things in 2015, thats it. These 3 tips will help you be more focused, more organised and smarter.


Forget new year resolutions. Have monthly goals instead.  

A year is way too long to have resolutions. Where’s the light at the end of the tunnel? Just the thought of having to stick to a new habit for a year is daunting. I’ll pass on that.

Instead, break the year into bite-sized months. Why?

Its practical.

By doing this, we go into every new month feeling the same way going into a new year.


I like to structure my months like the following (in a journal entry, for example):

  • 3 Best things about December
  • 3 Worst things about December
  • 3 Resolutions for January

Just 3, thats it. This will limit you to keep to the really important stuff. Having a monthly retrospective outlook every month is an effective way of keeping yourself in check on a consistent basis. Its easy to lose track on your progress otherwise.

Its also important to highlight your positive achievements. Though If you’re top ‘best thing’ is ‘I watched Interstellar’, you need to get your stuff sorted (I should know, it happened to me).

And for the 3 resolutions, having the monthly timeframe is perfect. They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. I’m no mathematician, but 30 days is more than 21, consolidating the habit.

Just make sure those 3 resolutions are real problems you want to tackle. If you fail, its ok, try again next month, not next year. That’s the beauty of it.


‘Every time you tear a leaf off a calendar, you present a new place for new ideas and progress’ – Charles Kettering

Every human being on this planet should have calendar on their wall. 

This is my number one tool for staying organised. Thats a big statement.

Forget the reminders app, or the Facebook events feature, or even your little brother. I can almost guarantee having a physical paper calendar on your wall above your desk will never let you miss an event or deadline again. Once you go calendar, you can’t go back.

I was lucky to start this habit early, but for those who still don’t have one, I wonder how they keep up with life.

Why is having one so good?

Because you can physically see time.

A deadline or event is not a looming thought. Its a few millilitres of ink on paper, distanced a few squares from today’s date. One glance at the calendar, and you have an accurate feel of how far something is, and how much time you have to prep for it.

Using it to the fullest is powerful. Plan ahead by filling in admission dates, exam times, events, appointments, even life events like graduated school, or ‘got haircut’ (okay, I might be the only one interested in knowing how long I go between getting haircuts). Add in weekly weight measurements to track your growth, or add the days you gymed.

One last thing: it goes hand in hand with monthly goals. I cross days with big marked X’s and having to turn that page for a new month to see a fresh white slate can be quite satisfying, and motivating. I use two colours to cross off days, blue and black. Blue for ‘good days’ and black for ‘bad days’, trying to minimise the number of bad days as I go through the year.

I urge you readers to go and buy one (if you don’t have one) for 2015 asap. They should be on special too.


‘Writing in a journal reminds you of your goals and of your learning in life. It offers a place where you can hold a deliberate, thoughtful conversation with yourself’ – Robin Sharma

A journal can improve the way you think, write and deal with problems.

Usually, better writers are better thinkers, and better thinkers are smarter people. If you want to become a smarter person, write.

Writing is the best way of organising your thoughts and feelings. You actively form a relationship with your mind, even being able to tap into your subconscious thoughts. Spilling out your feelings on paper can be incredibly stress relieving too.

A journal allows you to see your thoughts third person, instead of experiencing them.

Its a way of solving problems. We often don’t solve problems in our lives because we don’t give it much pro-active thought. Sitting down and writing them down along with brainstorming solutions is an extremely powerful method. Asking yourself what the problem is, how you feel about it, what you think may solve it, and writing down answers can sometimes show how trivial the solution may be.

As you go throughout the year, its also a retrospective tool to map your progress. Read back on old entries and notice any differences in your thought process. I can almost guarantee you will see improvements.

I know at first it may seem weird. But give it go in 2015, all you need is a notepad and a pen. Make it a weekly 10 minute habit at first. Soon, you’ll be reaching for that pen and paper daily.

That’s my take on going into 2015.

If you’ve noticed, my 3 tips go hand in hand. Using them simultaneously will maximise each of their own individual effects.

Hope this was a beneficial read and one thing’s for sure: let’s make 2015 better than 2014!

Its just another day, but heck lets go with the hype. 🙂

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Possessions, Stuff and a Guide on How to Buy Smart

‘A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.’ Steve Jobs

We all want things. We sometimes want them so badly, we ‘need’ them.

To satisfy those wants, we have to spend a bit of money. And it turns out the stuff we want isn’t usually cheap. How do know we’re not wasting money on junk. Do we really ‘need’ that iPod, or that expensive tablet, or those wireless headphones?

I’ve discovered a valuable truism the last few weeks:

Quality of life is inversely proportional to the amount of stuff you own. 

Clearing out the junk from my room recently made that even clearer to me. Sure, it was like cutting off an arm at first, but as soon as I threw those things away, my irrational anguish was replaced with a feelings of tranquility.

Every time I open my drawers now, I see nothing but the things I actually use on a regular basis, and thats liberating (okay that may sound a bit weird I know). It was like being unshackled from my own possessions. Maybe the feeling that I’m the boss is liberating, I don’t know.

So we now know that having less is better.

Less is more.

How do we put that to practice when buying stuff. I mean, it won’t hurt to have another pair of shoes right? It might. But they look so good! Not really.

Okay let’s move on before I turn Gollum.

There are two key points to consider when buying stuff:

  1. What you are buying must solve a problem. If what you want to buy is not solving a genuine problem, IT IS JUNK. Do not let it enter your life. Ask yourself this question every time you buy something: What problem is what i’m buying going to solve?

  2. Moderation. Islam is moderation. Once you’re absolutely sure that what you’re buying is solving a genuine problem, go for moderation. Choose what solves the problem reasonably well. No need to pay extra for something that only provides incremental benefits.

Here’s a personal example that put these points to practice:

It began with a problem. My old (borrowed) laptop was ridiculously large and clunky with laughable battery life. It wasn’t a problem at home, but lugging it around uni was epic Hans Zimmer soundtrack worthy.

So I bought a mid-tier laptop that solved my problem: its extremely light and portable, with outstanding battery life.

I was slightly pulled towards buying another computer which met those requirements but…

It had a brilliant future-proof, crisp HD display.

It also cost $400 extra.

Well, that display didn’t solve any problem I previously had. So my choice was easy.

Being conscious of these ideas when it comes to buying things can be empowering. You also realise a few things:

  1. Often times we create problems to solve, because of tricky marketing and advertising. That’s why we want things we don’t need.

  2. Exiting the possessions competition with your friends wins it. Quit the rat race. Trying to outdo your friends by buying cooler stuff than they have is not only childish, its expensive. Being free from this with the ‘less is more’ mentality is truly liberating.

  3. You’re left with quite a bit of extra cash.

What do you do with that extra cash? Well, it turns out that spending money on experiences provides much greater long-lasting happiness.

Money comes and goes. The stuff you buy gets outdated.

Memories last forever. Unless you’re Jason Bourne.

If you still want to buy stuff because you have a bit of cash leftover, chances are you’re trying to fill a hole in your life which won’t be filled by throwing junk at it.

As Steve Jobs implies, our gullibility when it comes to wanting stuff we don’t need is a lucrative exploitation opportunity. Good for them, not so good for us.


That Apple Watch by the way is the ultimate exploitation of human gullibility, in my opinion at least. 😉

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7 Valuable Productivity Hacks for the Neurotic (Like myself)

It takes up an A6 sized piece of paper. Seven pointers of productivity and efficacy I’d accumulated over seven months in 2014. Each had been tested, experimented with and revised, and were all now just a few millilitres of ink on paper, pinned onto my cork board.

  1. Cultivate selective ignorance ie. The Low-Information Diet. News is junk food for your mind. Most of the information you encounter daily is usually unnecessary and useless. Any information you consume which cannot be used immediately to better your situation is useless and distracting. Stay clear of it. It will save you time and attention, not to mention your piece of mind.

  2. Eliminate time-wasters.  We waste time on things we don’t need to do. So eliminate them. This will instantly cut down at least 50% of your activities and liberate you with 50% more time to do the important things you could never get down to.

  3. Automate and batch activities. You wake up every day with a certain amount of decision making power. Don’t waste it on deciding what to eat for breakfast, or what to wear, rather, create routines to automate most of your decision making. Allow to-dos to accumulate and do them in lots at set periods of time throughout the day or week. Don’t stay up to date. Catch up instead.

  4. Eliminate time consuming people. You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. You don’t need more than a few friends to stay sane. Tom Hanks lived on an island for four years with a ball named Wilson. He turned out okay. Identify the people in your life which produce incremental happiness but significant time wastage and eliminate them. Not literally… I hope.

  5. Always look for new and efficient methods. How you do something doesn’t have to be the same because everyone does it, or because it results in acceptable output. Be creative and think of better ways of doing things. Everything popular is wrong. Use unconventional methods and challenge the status quo to find better ways that result in greater effective output.

  6. Eliminate back and forth communication, provide solutions. Be the problem solver. Provide an answer when you’re asked on where to eat, or what time to meet, or what movie to watch, or what your best offer is. Don’t just say ‘I donno, whatchu think?’. Take control of the situation.

  7. Take a ‘screen fast’ once a week. A digital sabbath if you will. Pick a day (preferably Saturday or Sunday) where you make an oath not to touch that laptop, tablet, or phone. Phone calls are okay. But the point is to gain perspective on your electronics usage and truly unplug by going cave-man style for a day. Go outside, hang with your family, read a good book. Instagram selfies can wait.

And an 8th, (the most important):

Have a positive relationship with Allah. Personally, my most happiest and productive times were when I had a positive relationship with Allah. Having Allah on your side is powerful, and it can help in all areas of your life, guaranteed. Peace of mind, contentment, inner peace and calmness that comes from obeying Allah and keeping from sin are all requirements to being the ultimate productivity and effectiveness beast.

Those are my most useful (and guaranteed to work) tips in becoming an effectiveness bawss and a more pro-active person all round. Use them together to blow up your productivity and ultimately kill and bury procrastination.

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