The Missing Piece

November 10, 2009

Applying to college and time management: from myth to power

busy, time

When it comes to managing our time, and for special projects such as applying to college or advancing work goals, myths about time and productivity abound.

I love this quote by Thoreau because it encourages us to think about how we use our time, and to realize that not all work is productive work.

Here, I want to talk about some of the myths related to time management that I have studied as a business journalist, English facilitator in Dakar, and project coordinator.  

Myth 1. Working alone provides more focus.

Many of us isolate ourselves when we want to finish an urgent task — but in historic cases — when people are on deadline and are producing a very important project, they tend to work in groups. Think about newspapers, or the cooking of Korite dinner.  Why work alone on an essay or application when you can gain the input and support of a group of people? People inspire us, give us great ideas, and also monitor our execution of tasks. People are our allies and mentors. And they range from professional guides such as college admissions advisors at Chez Alpha, to everyday friends and family.

A good approach to working with others is to talk with your allies and discuss your need for their help. Gain the consent and interest of your allies,  and talk about times you’ll anticipate and engage certain activities.

Myth 2:  More information is better than less

Recently, I read Malcolm Gladwell’s stunning  book “Blink” about making decisions in quick splits of time, particularly using organized thought, intuition, and human feeling to make better choices. In one chapter, he studies doctors who have to diagnose heart conditions in the emergency room and learned that many of them in a Chicago ward, guess wrong, and send patients home who actually need intense immediate care. 

Gladwell found that these doctors don’t have a set method of diagnosing  heart patients. Rather, these doctors spend several hours running dozens of soft and hardcore tests — when really, to decide if a heart problem is urgently serious, a specialist can perform just three targeted tests and greatly approve the accuracy of their diagnosis.  In that Chicago hospital — administering three heart tests– and not a dozen systems of investigation, that is —  less-not-more — has saved many lives.

Likewise, we can create a method for making decisions regarding which college to attend,  and what jobs to join or create. That procedure can include just three things we’re looking for in a successful university or job. For college, that may be attending a school with an excellent writing program, notable faculty, and in a diverse city.  We can make stronger decisions by looking at the way things can meet our most essential goals.

And sometimes, decisions require a swift understanding of our feelings — and that’s all. So if you find yourself writing an admission essay or cover letter that does not excite you — it’s probably best to stop and re-consider why you don’t feel good about the project. When our heart is a guide, we tend to work faster, harder, and passionately toward a goal.

***

Next week, the Missing Piece will publish part 2 of this blog.

For now, I’d love to read from you. What myths about time management are you changing?

–Malena Amusa

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October 27, 2009

Going to business school? What’s your start-up idea?

startup inc

Check out start-up success stories at Inc.

In an age of fast-growing start-up companies, it may be hard to convince a business school admission why you need a business school education to launch a company– if indeed that’s what you want to do.

You can start by discussing the merits of your business plan and how a degree will set off your start-up? But first let’s look back.

A start-up is a new and limited operating company under fast development. Unlike big corporations, start-ups tend to do what corporations can’t like provide better customized experiences for clients and reach intimately niched markets. A start-up can be as focused as managing a team of washers to do laundry for families in Dakar.

If you want to start a company from a fresh idea and with a small group of people? Then you want a start-up?

Now why do you need business school?

Perhaps you’re looking for a specialized network a business school can provide or the chance to learn a noteworthy skill in business school that can launch your start-up which needs intellectual support. It’s up to you to answer: how will business school push my great start-up idea?

Some experts say if you’re in business school — quickly decide if you’re a job-hunter or a business-starter. There’s a reason. If you want to start a company, it’s a good idea to start in college. The Business School Journal reports:

A business student is someone that goes to business school, takes courses, graduates and looks for a job. An entrepreneurial student is someone that starts their own business while still in business school.

Some people are natural entrepreneurs, even students. Numerous successful business powerhouses – such as Dell Computers, Microsoft, FedEx and Apple – got started in college. You don’t have to be a geek, but you do need some basic accounting, advertising, market research and business skills, and a specific salable skill (how you’ll earn your income). College is actually an ideal place to start a business because students tend to be bright-eyed, passionate and unjaded. As well, classmates tend not to mind other classmates promoting their business.

Having a few start-up ideas can expand your purpose in business school and enrich your experience, particularly by mastering how to design products, services and income.

–Malena Amusa

October 12, 2009

Studying the best & using what you got to get there

So there is action — motivators and advisors agree. Action is your best friend when it comes to planning and applying for college, or pursuing a new job opportunity.

But what else can help us secure our direction?

Well, when I talk with my English students, who are all experts in their respective fields, from politics to economics — they often mention their heroes –the people whose work they try to emulate.  Talking to my students I see the power of sharing knowledge. When we study the best performers in fields we want to pursue, we dedicate our dreams to reality.

When is the last time you’ve had a close conversation with the life of a role model?

In my own personal study of top career performers from Barack Obama to Warren Buffet, what I admire the most about their lives is how they accomplished a lot with a little. In fact, if you look at the stories of most blazing stars, prominent intellectuals, and business people — they persevered despire a lack of resources and found ways to make things work. As I do myself, I encourage you to see your every lack as an opportunity to initiate a bold plan.

Now here is an excerpt from my favorite lifestyle design blogger Tim Ferriss — he’s a global inspiration and an example of how to turn ideas to successful action. About starting your dreams without resources, he writes:

Look for dark horse role models. “I can’t start a company — I’m too old.” Coronel Sanders started KFC after 40. The excuse doesn’t hold up. Can’t compete in sports because of a bum leg? Sprinter Oscar Pistorius has no lower legs and is aiming for the Olympics. You? For each reason for inaction you come up with, ask: has anyone overcome these or worse circumstances to do what I want to do? The answer is: of course.

Embrace your lack of resources, your weaknesses.

Far from a handicap, these are often the pressure points that will take you the furthest… if you’re able to use them instead of excuse them.

Malena Amusa

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