New Student Tip #6: Calendar

For most High Schoolers, Mom is their calendar. She keeps track of classes, school trips, holidays, doctor visits, swimming club, etc.

Then students go to college, and chaos ensues as Mom steps back. Students start forgetting classes, missing meetings, double-booking swimming and volleyball, running late for just about everything, and just being in a constant tizzy.

The answer is not the back of your hand or blizzards of post-it notes. The answer is a calendar, ideally a digital one.

OS_X_Calendar copy

There are multiple calendar apps and services out there, but the two standouts are Google calendar or Apple’s iCal for Mac users. Whatever you choose, make sure your calendar has the following features:

1. Cross-platform syncing. You need your calendar to sync across multiple devices so that you can enter events and access your calendar wherever you are and whatever device you’re working on - cellphone, Tablet, PC or laptop.

2. Notifications. When you enter an event you should usually set up a notification as well, so that the calendar will send you an email, a beep, or a buzz a specified number of minutes beforehand.

3. Year, Month, Week, and Day Views. Sometimes you need to drill down to a specific day to see what you are doing at 12 noon. Other times you need to see the week on one page to identify areas of over-scheduling or perhaps areas where you can schedule study time.

4. Color coding. You may want to assign color coding for different kinds of events – classes, sport, church, etc. You definitely want to color code study time so that you can see at a glance if you are allocating enough hours to assignments and exam prep.

5. Start and finish times. You need the facility to enter start and finish times so that it blocks off a visible portion of your calendar and you don’t schedule anything to begin before the previous event ends.

6. Location. Classes take place in different buildings. Games and competitions vary their venues. You want a calendar that lets you enter where as well as when.

7. Sharing. This is not a must-have, but eventually (we hope) you will have a significant other in your life and you’ll want (I hope) him or her to know where you are and when you are available. It’s therefore helpful to have the ability to share calendars. And if you’ve got nothing to hide (!) why not make it available to your parents too, so that they can schedule family events and trips with you.

Let me finish up with a few extra tips.

1. Enter the event as soon as you can. Don’t wait until later and hope you’ll remember to enter it and get all the details right. Just get into the habit of entering the data immediately.

2. Schedule everything. It’s tempting to just schedule classes and other events that you must attend. However, unless you schedule some of the more optional events – they probably won’t happen. For example, you should schedule blocks in your calendar for studying, for exercise, for friends.

3. Schedule margin. Don’t schedule events so close that you are always rushing from one thing to another. Estimate how long it will take you and then add some margin to allow for traffic, unplanned conversations, etc.

4. Use small blocks. The best studying gets done in large uninterrupted blocks of time. So, where you see these possibilities in your calendar, mark them down. Then you’ll see other bits and pieces – 30 minutes here, 40 minutes there – what should you do with them? These are valuable but easily wasted time slots. Without undermining what I said about allowing for margin, you may want to use some of these 20-30 minute blocks for the multiple small to-dos of each day like email, phone calls, errands, etc. Don’t shorten, interrupt, and waste substantial study time blocks with these little things.

5. Check your calendar. No point in going to all the bother of entering all that data and then not checking it. Don’t just rely on the beep or the buzz a few minutes beforehand. Every Saturday evening or Monday morning you should look at the week ahead and make sure you have a good sense of what’s planned. Then every evening, check for the next day’s events and plan accordingly.

6. Accountability. It’s a good idea to ask someone to look at your calendar from time to time to see if you are using time well. Ask someone who is well-organized and self-disciplined to take a look and offer advice.

Other Resources

New Student Tip #1: Dropbox

New Student Tip #2: Wunderlist

New Student Tip #3: Evernote

New Student Tip #4: Diigo

New Student Tip #5: Lastpass

Thriving at College by Alex Chediak (for students)

Preparing Your Teens For College by Alex Chediak (for parents of students)

Top 10 Books for Students

The Mouth of God

From The Mouth of God: Trusting, Reading, and Applying the Bible by Sinclair B. Ferguson

I like to read a book about the Bible every year. Although I’m often reading what I already know, I still find it deeply beneficial to regularly remind myself what the Bible really is, how it came to be, and how I should read and interpret it. That’s especially true in a day when the Bible and the doctrine of Scripture is under such sustained attack from outside and inside the church. I don’t want to shift one inch from the rock solid foundation of an infallible, inerrant, authoritative Bible.

My latest load of ballast comes in Sinclair Ferguson’s new book, From The Mouth of God: Trusting, Reading, and Applying the BibleFor the multitudes who already know and love Sinclair, that’s probably all you need to know. Sinclair Ferguson has a new book out…right, where can I buy it? It’s like an instinct now isn’t it! So much so, that we can almost hear his much-loved voice as we read his written pages.

But there are others, especially younger readers, who are maybe not so familiar with Sinclair Ferguson. He doesn’t blog, he doesn’t Tweet, and he doesn’t do Facebook. I mean, does he really exist?

Well, I can vouch for his existence. Yes, believe it or not, there is real life outside virtual life. In fact, maybe this book might demonstrate to you what deep thought and beautiful writing can be produced by an unfrazzled mind and a prayerful spirit.

There are four parts to the book:

Part One – Trusting the Bible
This section covers the usual subjects considered in any doctrine of Scripture – inspiration, inerrancy, authority, canon, perspicuity, sufficiency, etc. But don’t let any of these words put you off, because Sinclair explains them all in such a simple conversational manner that most teens could understand them. It might be tempting to skip this section and go straight to the more “practical” chapters. However, if you succumb, please come back to these important chapters. Unless we know, understand, teach, and defend the doctrine of Scripture, we’re not going to have any Scripture left to practice.

Part Two – Reading the Bible
This section on Bible interpretation starts with some warnings about common traps to avoid, and then puts five valuable keys of interpretation into our hands together with examples of how to turn these keys to open up the Bible’s treasures. This fifth chapter and especially the third key could transform the way you read and understand the Bible.

Chapters six and seven show how to apply these keys to different kinds of Scripture – history, poetry, prophecy, the epistles, the Gospels, etc. In a few short pages you’ll pick up many precious nuggets that have been refined over forty years of pastoral ministry. Chapter nine demonstrates how to pull and put it all together to interpret the book of Ruth. And that’s the huge strength of this book – its practicality. Sinclair doesn’t just toss you the keys and say, “All the best.” He puts his hand on yours, guides you to the lock, helps you to turn it in the right way, opens the door, and guides you around the precious treasure.

Part Three – Applying the Bible
The third section lays the basis for application, proving that the Bible calls for more than bigger brains, before briefly proposing some basic guidelines for applying the Bible to our times and lives.

In addition to a guide for future reading and a Bible reading plan, there are two articles on guidance by John Murray and John Newton.

A good book for young people and young Christians, probably after they’ve read Kevin DeYoung’s even simpler and briefer Taking God at His Word. A great book for everyone else. No matter how mature you are, it will increase your love for and confidence in the Bible, as well as give you some invaluable keys to help you understand and apply it better.

For me, I’m still living off the first two pages of the introduction, where Sinclair briefly expanded upon his choice of title, From the Mouth of God. The Bible is the mouth of God. Pause. Pause longer. Repeat. The Bible is the mouth of God. That totally changes the way I open it, read it, and hear it. I hope it will do the same for you.

From The Mouth of God: Trusting, Reading, and Applying the Bible by Sinclair B. Ferguson.

New Student Tip #5: Lastpass

I just counted how many different passwords and usernames I have.

Sixty eight (68!).

And I can’t remember one of them.

That’s partly because no two are the same for any of the multiple online services, accounts, memberships, etc., that I use.

Which helps keeps the hackers out. But it often leaves me out in the cold too as I try the bazillion possible combinations.

Sound familiar?

Like me, you probably have tried writing them all down, but the consequences of losing all that information or having it stolen are just too horrendous to contemplate.

A couple of years ago, I tried one of those password manager apps, but it was quite expensive at the time (@$70 a year), and every software update seemed to throw a new spanner in the works that took forever to fix.

A few months ago, though, I found the ideal solution, Lastpass.


Some of the benefits are:

  • A single master password
  • Remembers all of your passwords and usernames.
  • Lastpass can create secure passwords for you.
  • A simple user interface to organize and edit your passwords.
  • You can chose auto-login so that as soon as you go to a site like Amazon, Twitter, Facebook, etc, it automatically logs you in.
  • Lastpass encrypts all data before it leaves your device.
  • As you browse and enter passwords, Lastpass will prompt you to store them.
  • Install on any number of laptops, home and work computers – PC or MAC.
  • Store secure notes in the vault.

And its another free service, just like the previous four New Student Tips!

Probably that’s all you need, but I pay the extra $12 per year for premium service which lets me use it on all my mobile devices too. Plus, there are some really neat sharing features which will help you if your family or friends share access to online services.

There are two ways of using the service. The first is to go to the site you want access too and Lastpass will either log you in automatically or auto fill and then prompt you to hit enter. Or simply click on the Lastpass plug-in icon on your browser navigation bar, then click on the website I want to use and Lastpass takes me there and signs me in.

Now where did I put that Master Password?

Here’s a brief video summary:

Other Resources

New Student Tip #1: Dropbox

New Student Tip #2: Wunderlist

New Student Tip #3: Evernote

New Student Tip #4: Diigo

Thriving at College by Alex Chediak (for students)

Preparing Your Teens For College by Alex Chediak (for parents of students)

Top 10 Books for Students

New Student Tip #4: Diigo

I’m sure most of you have searched Google for a particular subject (e.g. New Atheism), found five million results, and given up trying to find a worthwhile post after five or six pages.

Or maybe you’ve tried to refine your search with multiple combinations of pluses, minuses, quotation marks, etc, and narrowed your search down to…one million results. Hmmm.

And then there’s that article you remember reading last year on the subject, but what website was it on? And who wrote it?

Don’t you wish you had your own personalized Google, one that was tailored just to your interests, that would spare you so much of this frustration?

Well, you can. Welcome to Diigo. Strange name, but excellent service.

Diigo Small 1

Simple Bookmarking

I started using this simple bookmarking system maybe 4-5 years ago and although it’s taken 5-10 minutes every day to keep it organized and updated, I’ve saved myself so much time and hassle in the long term, especially when I’m wanting to write articles or prepare addresses on particular subjects.

Basically I use Diigo to bookmark, highlight, and tag every useful article I read on the Internet. You can get a Diigo plug-in for most browsers or your cell phone so that when you read anything good on the Internet, you simply click to bookmark it, highlight any particularly helpful text in the article, and tag it with relevant words.

Fast Search

Now, when I want to search for articles on say “Worship,” I go to my Diigo homepage and enter my search there. That brings up any articles I’ve tagged with “Worship,” gives a brief description of the article, and even shows me any text I highlighted when I originally read it. Soooo much quicker! And if you stick at it over time, eventually you’ve built up your own personalized Google, a search engine that is tailored to your own special interests. A few other neat features are:

1. You can tag pages: You not only save the page to Diigo but add a tag or two to make future searching so much easier.

2. You can annotate pages. You can attach “post-it” notes to webpages and read notes that others have posted there too.

3. You can follow other people. If you and a few other friends in your class join up, then you can follow one another, sharing research resources and saving a ton of time.

4. You can mark articles “Read later.” Instead of seeing a good article, deciding to come back to it later, and forgetting where you read it, you can save articles for reading later, something best done in batches.

Diigo Small 2

As I explained in Tip #3, you can use Evernote to archive blog articles and web resources. However, I’ve found that Diigo is a better system for this specific purpose of saving helpful articles for my research, study, and work. That’s all it does and it does it well, whereas Evernote does lots of other things too.

If you are starting out on a course of study that could eventually become your career, Diigo is an excellent way of building an educational resource that you will come back to many times in the future. I find myself using articles and websites today that I bookmarked four years ago and that I would never have remembered myself.

And yet again, it’s a free service. Fourth tip and fourth free service! Student Nirvana!

Other Resources

New Student Tip #1: Dropbox

New Student Tip #2: Wunderlist

New Student Tip #3: Evernote

Thriving at College by Alex Chediak (for students)

Preparing Your Teens For College by Alex Chediak (for parents of students)

Top 10 Books for Students