All entries for Sunday 12 August 2012

August 12, 2012

Final entry for Warwick Skills Portfolio Award

REFLECTION: From the beginning to the endlmaskot, great achievements

So this is the final entry to piece together all the different bits that have come together at different times of the year, all aiding in my personal development in different avenues. Looking back I have completely changed in the way I act, communicate , handle myself, interact with others as well as they way I think and assess situations. It has provided me with a plethora of skills. So in this final entry bringing together all the portfolios, I will reflect back on each workshop and experiences that I have been through on this road of assessing and developing oneself.

My personal development has been in two facades, academia and personal growth. In this modern world establishing mastering in both aspects sets you apart as an individual in personal and work life.

Even though I am completing a masters degree at the moment improving on both levels were of utmost importance, as each had far reaching implications. Thus all of the skills modules I undertook were centred around those specific skills that would have the most impact.

Before I attended any workshops, I was quite unorganised with quite a number of all nighters. Thus this aspect of time management was met through me taking the workshop on ‘Organising myself and my time’. I consistently established all taught aspects from this workshop into improving my organisation as it had a considerable effect on my performance during my course.

Additionally, I needed improvements in delivering presentations, which were a significant part of the assessments for the course. Having a very bad experience with this aspect last year, it was the area I was most frustrated with and always dreamt of being able to speak/present with confidence. So I actively participated in any presentational workshops and resources to master the different attributes that make up the perfect presentation. Even though I was not perfect to get 100% , I did ensure all the aspects of were covered and presented clearly as well as attractively following the workshop.

Furthermore I took the workshop of 'Speedy Reading', a valuable tool especially in a masters degree with a multitude of reading materials with so little time to complete. I learned a more effective and systematic method of reading especially establishing the use of the well known GUIDE. It really benefited me a lot from then on, because I no longer worried about running through the materials for the course and was faster with better comprehension. Rather I made it a personalised style of reading, recording my instant thoughts together with the original text when reading that paragraph, and also highlighting parts to split the different parts so that I can refer back to them easily. This saved my time dramatically because I didn't need to read the original text again, but directly use my own ideas in writing my essay. And through the daily practice for speedy reading, I could read much more books than before in very limited time.

On a personal level I always saw myself as passive in my approach and thus posing obstacles in oral communication, I never dared to talk initiatively. When I saw the workshop 'becoming more assertive', I made up my mind to change my timid personality and to perform more actively in making friends with university students and participating in university activities. From this workshop I learned how to stand firm and neutrally as an open body language, defined the features of passive, assertive and aggressive behaviour and understood being assertive is not simply in the middle of the axis but a completely independent construct.

As an aspect of personal development ‘The Organising yourself and your time workshop’ was truly vital. Whilst forcing me to assess myself, I was able to get a true insight into what were my time stealers. During the workshop I was also introduced to a useful planning tool recommended by the tutor, called 'SMART' plan. This in specific I found was very pragmatic for self management of any step carried forward and the following self reflection process. Later the 'SMART' method was employed in my making plans for each Warwick Skills workshop. And the communication tips both from the ‘Delivering effective presentations and the being assertive workshops’, were adopted in my solving problems in a range of situations during group session, talking with friends and family, and even during basketball games. I practiced how to state my own needs and to stand up for my own rights appropriately, so that my reasonable benefit would not be damaged. In specific these were implemented alongside techniques and effective team role assessment from the ‘Working in a team workshop’ during group projects, which were numerous on this course.

Finally the “An Introduction to Skills Development” workshop stands on its own. I feel that the things I learnt about skills development as opposed to actual skills were merely side-effects of the process - for example, setting goals that actually have benchmarks with which they can be measured (a goal that I learnt several times over across all the workshops and may even only now be beginning to stick). In short, I feel this was more… solid than the meta-skills workshop I was expecting. Then again, the best way to learn the meta-skills is through experience, and you can’t really make action points about something theoretical - “I will make an action point that is measurable” doesn’t really work. I don’t recall SMART goals being emphasized here, though (I believe they were in P7) and it does seem like a rather good place for them. This workshop on the other hand picked up on personal attributes to build general confidence through action points that force me to be more pragmatic and active. As well as doing this it also helped in personal assessment of learning styles through the VARK questionnaire, all helping me pick up areas to tackle as well as areas I am naturally good at and prefer, thus ensuring I use these to the fullest. I found out I am naturally a visual and read/write learner. Once conscious of this fact I ensured I used these aspects to get the best out of anything I do, especially in the dissertational work. final

Key Aspects


Reflecting on all of the workshops there were two specific ones which I found very enjoyable, P4 and A7

Delivering effective presentations, P4, was the most enjoyable workshop, and the first I was willing to actively recommend attending (truely valuable in practicality and effectiveness)! More like active training than a seminar (in concordance with the subject matter). I rather liked and instinctively feared the “Did you think you’d be sitting at a desk while I lectured you on presentation techniques?”, as well as the HUMMING ON THE BRIDGE. Bev was very professional and authoritarian from the outset; this alongside the Becoming more assertive felt like ones you’d actually pay to attend. I attended this one just when the most of the presentations had to be given. Thus the bulk of the improvement came from the workshop itself and directly implementing in the plethora of presentations faced. Additionally the practice was done in little conversations with friends, family or even whilst talking to the bank manager about why I should be allowed to increase my overdraft. Thus the progress I obtained was comparable to nearly a year’s worth of practice, reflection and application; very concentrated times for implementation meant a much more thorough and focussed approach with immediate results, improving my results from late 50%s to high 70’s%.

Warwick Skills Workshops provided a good platform for us to actively inspect ourselves, to motive the improvement of our flaws, and to guide our actions using a variety of useful approaches. In fact, successful achievements are usually made through the combination of all the possible resources. The most significant consequence of the workshops is that we understand where we can find these resources and how we can take advantage of them effectively. Attending the regular workshops constantly promotes my high inspiration in putting the plans into practice.

FINAL WORDS..............................


finaaalll

So finally I would say these workshops have taken me far and completely changed me, instilling a range of skills that I continue to better every day. Overall I must say this was a thoroughly thrilling and exhilarating time with a range of experiences, good and bad, all teaching and helping me to develop. There is no better way I could have used my time, and believe the WARWICK SKILLS PORTFOLIO AWARD was an investment in my future maximising the perception of self/esteem and confidence. All of these established in the way I communicate and in body language. A Heartfelt thank you to the University of Warwick and the Warwick Skills Team.

A thoroughly fitting and memorable way to end this journey of personal development and achievement along with the LONDON Olympics 2012.

KIND REGARDS

Melvin Jose


MSc Biotechnology, Bioprocessing & Business Management (2011-2012) University of Warwick


A7 Follow–Up 4: The Final Review: See the words WHIZZING PAST!!!

Follow-up to Follow Up 3: Jumping the hurdles, glimpsing the light at the end of the page ! from Melvin's blog

“The early development of speed reading can be traced to the beginning of the (20th) century, when the publication explosion swamped readers with more than they could possibly handle at normal reading rates.” - Tony Buzan

speed_reading_1.jpg

I can’t believe how fast the time has gone…. One moment I was worrying about reading for the dissertation and another I am coasting through them without worry. I really does make me realise how effective using the different techniques have been. The initial boost in speed from 180 to 410 wpm was the biggest of motivators in my endeavour to achieve the result and reading skill.

Over the weeks and months my practice framework for reading included everything from little articles to paper to long journals. For the last month it has included a plethora of journals and articles for the dissertation. THE ABILITY TO READ FAST is made up of lots of little skills. You can use as many or as few of those skills as you want. The more of those individual skills you use, the faster you’ll be able to read. Add all the skills together, and sure, it’s dramatic. But who needs dramatics? A small improvement is cool enough, paving the way for a bigger feat of achievement.

Of course, when you learn to read faster, you can read more. But there’s another benefit that’s not so obvious: Reading will become more interesting. Same thing I found with listening to a lecturer who speaks too slowly versus one who speaks at a comfortable but lively pace. It’s more interesting. It’s more fun. It keeps you awake. And by reading faster, you’re making the process more challenging in a controlled way. And a challenge that is under your control is enjoyable. Making reading interesting adds to the amount you retain and thus is a win win situation.sr1

Some key avenues that I ventured other than the well known and personally valued ‘GREEN POINTER’ are as follows.

DON’T LET YOUR EYES REGRESS, keep them moving forward. They will have a tendency to go back a few words occasionally. That continual little movement backwards adds up. I realised that if I stopped doing it, both my speed and comprehension increased.

Additionally I ensured a state of ‘Constant Practice Of Picking Up Speed’ as you read. Reading is a skill, and like any other skill, the constant effort to do it a little better keeps you getting better and better at it as time goes on.

Another area I established was to ‘TAKE IN MORE WORDS AT A TIME’. If you normally see two words at a time when you read, your eyes look at two words, move to the next two and stop to look at those, move to the next two, etc. I began taking in two words at a time so my eyes make fewer stops, increasing your speed.

A main point I focused on whilst reading development and one which I would share with every one attempting to develop their reading is :

“Increase Your Challenge Only As Your Skill Increases. Keep It Fun. Don’t Push Yourself So Hard It Becomes Stressful!”

Another pointer for anyone hoping to improve their reading with techniques is one I would add from personal experience :

“WHEN YOU FIRST practice a technique, you’ll be conscious of using it and that may very well distract you a little from comprehending what you’re reading. But keep practicing and the technique will become automatic, no longer requiring your conscious attention, allowing you to put your full attention on the content of the written material. At that point, you will have gained an increase in reading skill to enjoy for the rest of your life.”

An Update on Dissertation method:

My personalised technique for dissertational reading proved to be a success overall . Although trying out the technique initially proved to have flaws.reading_fast.jpg

The first few points seemed to fit well with efficient reading for the dissertation. However, the fifth point seemed to pose significant issues.

5. After reading the whole article, ask myself what did I get from it, does it meet my expectation, which part should be useful for my study, etc. “Question understanding to analyse how effectively you have read!”

After trying out this a few times I become conscious of the time consuming aspect it harboured. After reading the whole article and then assessing it proved to inefficient as on numerous occasions after spending time reading an article, then assessing it and realising it didn’t meet my expectations seemed to be a waste of time. Realigning it with my initial target of speeding and effective reading as well as with time management, I modified it to be an ever running process, regardless of where I am in the article. After finding strategic points in the article I went about assessing it, thus establishing whether the article is worth reading and is it useful for the dissertation.

It also helped with the other important factor of assessing whether my reading was effective. The article could have been very useful for the dissertation, but if I had not read effectively I would have initially taken too long to read and if the comprehension was not up to scratch will have to spend more time re-reading it. This is a very costly aspect with respect to the dissertation ( SO little TIME, so Much WORK!). Always keeping in mind what I hoping to gain or which bits will be useful to add to the dissertation really helped me to add signposts throughout the articles. Some areas I have highlighted and left notes on the side giving overview of the paragraph and which part of the dissertation it could be useful for.

Overall I would say my improved and realigned process of speeding reading for dissertation has been working really well and will be something I will utilising for the next 20 days J. However, this style/methodology of reading is universal as it could be implemented into anything . But in some cases it is not as useful, such as reading a novel. Always assess what your going to read and why before establishing your personalised technique, as something that works for someone in one situation might not work in another, or as a matter of fact for another person.

All in all “WHERE I AM NOW?

A question I can proudly answer. I have gone from being fearful of the number of words to read, to seeing it as something interesting , something I can sink into without worry how long I take. Nevertheless, I do believe making this perfect is something of a long term goal and will require a lot of practice, something I will be ensuring to do. But for now I am happy with the little habits I have formed and the success, little in the eyes of some but highly significant in the eyes of others.

Moreover the fun is about to begin in about 20days, once I finish this dissertation. I have already built a stack of interesting novels to read. Nonetheless, the interesting factor is in everything you read whether it be fantasy book or a cutting edge paper on the development of stem cells into an off the shelf therapy. Always personal interest could state something to be more interesting to read in comparison to another, but it is our reading styles that could make even an interesting article boring, by the way we read it.

For now this is it the FINAL REVIEW for the Speeding reading Portfolio, however the future is still full of surprises and something I hope to blog about in the future, once I graduate J

“The habit of reading is the only enjoyment in which there is no alloy; it lasts when all other pleasures fade.” - Anthony Trollope

“I can read a book twice as fast as anybody else. First I read the beginning, and then I read the ending, and then I start in the middle and read toward whichever end I like best.” - Gracie Allen

A big thank You to Han-Na for all your support and words of wisdom.

Before I finish this post here is a challege...... CAN YOU READ this post in 1minute????

Dare to take the challenge:) >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>sr34

Kind Regards

Melvin


P7 Follow–Up 4: The Final Review: Assessing today, tomorrow and forever

Follow-up to P7 Follow–Up 3: Have you changed? Is TIME your friend now? from Melvin's blog

TIME, TIME, TIME Handline Leaping Seconds with Grace and STYLE?

OR

Tracking Your Time, a limited resource. How are you using yours?

WHATS YOU THINKING??????

tm6I always previously felt I was too busy to assess how I’m managing my time. Wouldn't time spent planning be better spent on assignments, studying, games or catching up on lost sleep? In fact, like spending money on advertising to grow a business, assessing your use of time now will pay off in greater efficiency and achievement later. I have realised that from the worrying person I was to the calm and collected person I have become, all thanks to better time management. My journey began with me being overwhelmed with the amount of assignments and work I had to do for my course, always stressing I had to do this……and that!! The times were riddled with a number of all nighters, poor eating habits, missing breakfast/lunches, sacrificing a lot of pleasures to get work done at university. Additionally, the prospect giving time for family and friends was starting to strain me considerably. I used to see myself sometimes overly spending time with family and friends or hardly any time at all and getting annoyed. In the midst of all this, deep within me I knew something was not set right as I was trying to do everything but nothing was working….I wasn’t happy….others weren’t happy etc.124408671777sfn0.jpg

Thus came the time I actively took the step to understand time completely. Clear my mind of any personal methods to sort this mess out and take a tour of my day, my priorities, my time and the importance of balance… was the initial gain from the workshop. Currently I have come a long way from what I used to be all with successes and failures, but trying to get consistency was all that mattered. The main aspect of the workshop that has been etched in me is the SMART method of time management. I automatically seem to assess every piece of work or situation. It has gone from being a technique to use to becoming a habit, which has really helped me. It always helps me arrange my time with priorities whilst giving deadlines. Making all my targets SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, ATTAINABLE, RELEVANT and TIME BOUND.

Especially for my action point it worked beautifully. My last two modules being riddled with work was the time to implement it, especially using it on presentations we had to make. The different parts of the presentations had different priorities and thus SMART helped complete the whole task effortlessly. Every time there was something incomplete or over ran the designated time, SMART was used and everything was reassessed.

As I had previously mentioned SMART has helped me achieve the complete CV and vacancy applications. GANT on the other had was used a little before, but has be truly valuable in determining the work regime for my dissertation. I had used the link given in the workshop to prepare an assignment planner, always trying to ensure the deadlines are met. It also helps ease the stress and thought of a huge thesis with so many chapters. Dividing it chapter by chapter has been the key in ensuring I am on target. As of present I have been on target though slow, but having set the deadline for binding and printing 4 days prior to the hand in date I have established a broken down view of what I need to complete and when rather than looking at it as one whole thing, which is a very daunting aspect. For each stage I have ascertained certain targets, how it looks , reads, how many words etc. Thus allowing me to assess the completion and progression onto the next stage.

The biggest success I am proud of is the aspect of lifetime planning. One of main action points was a success. This in the sense that I was able to understand the importance and implications it has. I have succeeded in planning for CVs, vacancies etc , but only when I actually got it done did I realise how I was changing. It was then I realised the control I had on my life. And most of all it personifies my quote from the last post “WHAT WE DO TODAY, CAN IMPROVE ALL OUR TOMORROWS!!!” I truly felt I was no longer a student and am ready to step into the busy world of work. It also gave me the sense of value and confidence that anything is achievable it tackled well and in an organised manner.

tm2Overall from this workshop, I have gained the skills to manage my time more effectively and achieve my objectives more efficiently, e.g. using To-Do List, setting objectives and prioritise tasks. These have been absolutely useful and valuable in obtaining achievements this year, and hopefully brings new achievements in the days to come. Additionally, by determining action points, I have pushed myself to apply the time management techniques I learned into my day-to-day life in order to use those techniques more effectively and maximise the benefits from using those techniques. By carrying out those actions points, I use the To-Do List every day, I always prioritise my tasks whenever I feel I am short in time and I set out my three main objectives of this year which give me guidance on allocating time appropriately this year. I find these exercises gradually improve my time management and give me more free time for other tasks.

Every effective professional works from a daily list. It is the most powerful time management technique ever discovered to increase productivity and improve your organizational skills. Ineffective people, those who are overwhelmed with too many things to do and too little time, either do not use a list or do not refer to a list if they have one in the first place(THE PAST ME). They often resist the idea of writing everything down. As a result, they find themselves continually distracted by ringing phones, interruptions, unexpected emergencies, and e-mail requests.

During my baby steps in time management, when I created my daily list, I began by writing down every single task that I intended to complete over the course of the day. The rule I followed was that I will increase productivity by 25 percent the very first day that I start using a list. This means that I will get two extra hours of productive time in an eight hour day from the simple act of making a list of everything i have to do before I start work. I finally saw how I can bring order out of chaos faster with a list than with any other time management tool over the course of last 3 months. What I realised was that once I had written up my daily lists and begun work, new tasks and responsibilities will come up. Telephone calls will have to be returned. Emails will have to be dealt with etc. But I ensured in every case, write it down on the list before you do it!!!!!!!!!!!

Sometimes a task or demand on your time will seem urgent when it comes up. But something that might distract you from your other work regains its true importance when you write it down. An item that is written down on the list next to all your other tasks and responsibilities often doesn’t seem so important after all.tm3

During the weeks after my workshop, I have seen myself often using the To-Do list and the this techniques often prevent me from forgetting important tasks which I always did before. Also, I find myself having clear targets to achieve and knowing how to achieve them, and hence spending my time accordingly. Comparing to before, I did not use to have any objectives and just do whatever came up in my mind and get distracted easily by smalls tasks, I feel I have improve significantly. Finally, being able to prioritise tasks according to my objectives, I have find myself not missing the important deadlines or working non stop at the last minute which I often fail to do before. Although there are still room for improvement, I am impressed by my progress.

Another key aspect I have come to notice and implement in my time management strategy was “Increasing productivity with prime time”. Organize your life so that you are doing creative work during your internal ‘‘prime time.’’ The internal prime time is the time of day, according to your body clock, when you are the most alert and productive. For most people, this is in the morning. For some people, however, it is in the evening. I used to have a prime time of late nights, well technically looking at the clock now it backs my point J. But with respect to my thesis I have come to realise my time is better during the day and by evening I start to wander with other things. Being important that I am aware of my internal prime time, I schedule my most important projects accordingly to increase productivity. My most important work requires that me be at my very best, rested, alert, and creative. What time of the day do you most feel this way? For me the most important work being the THESIS and thus best use of the day from 9 to 4pm.

tm5Additionally I am also aware of external prime time. This is the time when your friends or in this case my supervisor are most readily available. Thus, those days I give some thought to structuring my day for both my external and internal prime times. Finally with my current thesis, I have implemented another feature to my time management portfolio, “LIMITING OF THE READING TIME”. It easy to get immersed into an article and just keep jumping from one to another, and then looking up at the clock it shows 2 hours have gone past. So I dictate how much time to read and so ensure I am writing consistently rather than leaving a mountain to write closer to the date. I also use the speedy reading techniques learnt to improve the time management.

So to finish I also ensure I reward Efficiency With Downtime. I realised that my daily to do list shouldn’t be a list of things I HOPE to get done (if the stars align just right). It should be a realistic list of things I WILL get done. And if I get them all done with time to spare, take time off. Reward myself for good work ethic.

Thus to sum up, a lot has been learnt and a lot of progress has been made. But as always consistency is the issue to work on and in the coming future, I will definitely keep applying the skills I learned from the workshop whilst seeking new methods which might further improve my time management, All together could enable me to achieve my long term objectives more efficiently.

In conclusion this workshop has been a game changer for me this year, proving me useful insight into techniques and issue as well as forcing me to look within and how I might be KILLING MY TIME or JUST NOW GETTING THE MOST OUT OF IT. This workshop has been a time of reflection, assessing what was going wrong in my life, why and how I can improve it. An integral part of it was getting myself organised and understanding the prospect of time as well as also finding the balance that currently I enjoy.tm4

Every day you have 24 hours but what you make of those 24 hours is what defines you!! Hence I can say this workshop has helped me organise myself and my time. I will ensure I practice and develop all the skills and techniques learnt and thus mould a bright future.

Thank you very much Beverley for your insightful workshop and guidance.

Time is the wisest counsellor of all.~ Pericles

Time is the school in which we learn, time is the fire in which we burn. ~ Delmore Schwartz

Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.~ Rodin

Time as he grows old teaches many lessons ~ Aeschylus


Kind Regards

Melvin


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