It’s mid-January, which for many is the time to start falling behind on New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps I’m cynical, but I’ve never thought to make resolutions any year. Although our calendar system is rather silly and arbitrary, I do understand why January 1st is the day many people make resolutions: It’s just so convenient to start fresh when the year is new. However, I know that these resolutions are either too lofty or too long-term to easily maintain. I figure, if I am to set resolutions for myself, they would have to be bite-sized and realistic.
This year, I will have a resolution. As you can tell by my post last year about it, I had an idea, a spark that soon faded and was never revisited. So, instead of setting one large resolution for the year, I’m breaking it down into monthly goals, in much the same way I read on Unclutterer last year, and as I’m reading now in The Happiness Project. I may not mirror their methods exactly, but I do think that my attention span and ability to form new habits is better in a monthly rather than yearly format.
January: The Month of Planning
For the month of January, my overarching goal is to make plans for the rest of the year’s resolutions. Right now, I’m brainstorming ideas and categories of resolutions, such as school, money management, and health. I’m reading articles everywhere I can (primarily Unclutterer and Lifehacker) and The Happiness Project to get ideas and inspiration. This is what I have so far, for overarching categories:
- cleaning/organizing the home
- cleaning/organizing technology (data, photos, etc.)
- applying for grad schools
- studying for the GRE Physics
- money management
- job/internship search
These are ten categories, and there are eleven months remaining (after January, of course) in the year. Many of these areas of my life are ongoing, while others have particular schedules to consider: maintaining my health should amount to everyday habits, for example, while grad school applications have a defined deadline. With this in mind, I can do about a category a month, with a bit of flexibility.
February: Energy and Health
I am horribly underweight. If I was making a traditional resolution, it would be to gain 10-15 pounds. I’m not going the traditional route, but I do have that goal in mind, because I know I’m not at a healthy bodyweight. It seems that more information exists for those trying to lose weight, but I have learned the simple solution to my particular problem: Just eat more. I have talked with personal trainers and nutritionists about this, so I have a decent idea of how much to eat and how to do so healthfully.
The concrete step I’m taking to make this a reality is to eat about 1900 calories a day, give or take. I will use Fat Secret to gauge my eating habits, keeping track of my meals via its Android app and webapp. This isn’t perfect, as it is difficult to determine how many calories are in my parents’ Indian cooking (Indian food is typically improvised and seldom measured). But I do think it gives a decently reliable estimate, which is ultimately all I need. If I’m going to be calorie-counting, I don’t want to be nitpicky about it.
Just because eating more is a straightforward solution, that doesn’t necessarily make it easy. Unlike most Americans, I don’t get hungry as often as I should, and when I am hungry, my appetite only sustains itself for a brief window that closes very quickly when I eat. It’s difficult to explain, but I just don’t get hungry the way others do, and I feel full too sooner than most.
One theory I have for this is my inconsistent sleep schedule: I go to bed at a different time each night, and I wake up at a different time each day. If I’m not awake at the same hours each day, how is my stomach going to get used to eating at consistent times? That I can have a stressful all-nighter and a twelve-hour-night of sleep in the same week sounds to me normal as a college student, but there’s no way my biological clock can function normally under these conditions. It’s no wonder my stomach is so confused!
Sometimes I feel like I’m unable to fully control my sleep schedule. When I have an upcoming exam, I feel compelled to stay up as late as possible to make sure I’ve studied to the best of my ability. I’ve managed to ace exams with only an hour or two of sleep beforehand, and I take pride in this, seeing as this skill will become all the more essential when I go to grad school. Of course, when the exam is over and I have a free weekend, I use that time to “catch up” on my sleep. I don’t know if scientifically it works or not, but anecdotally, I feel a hell of a lot better after sleeping in for a day or two.
Okay, so my study habits are the root of this. I would study a lot better if I had more energy throughout the day, but energy comes and goes in waves. And when they go, they don’t seem to come back for a while. It must be because I don’t eat enough…
Clearly, this is a vicious cycle of problems, and one that must be stopped! This is why I must begin with my Energy resolutions: during February, school hasn’t gotten hectic enough yet to necessitate sleepless nights and bucketloads of caffeine. If I can establish a regular sleep schedule, then my appetite should fall into place. I recognize that I’ll need to force myself to eat, as I have been doing my whole life, but it will be easier if I could just sleep regularly.
The Need for a Routine
Having morning and nightly routines would make it more habitual to get into and out of bed every day, at regular times. If I know I have to do a bunch of things before going to school, then I have to wake up early enough to do so. Likewise, if I have to do a bunch of things before going to sleep, then once I do those things, I will naturally feel like going to bed, once the habit and mental association are made.
There’s something to be said for the value of a regular routine. It means that, because you’ve brushed your teeth thousands of times, you can let your mind relax or think about something important, rather than focus on up-down-up-down-left-right-left-right-circle-circle-spit. Your brain goes on autopilot during a routine, making it effortless and thus easier to accomplish. Once established, it requires minimal motivation to do, because you do it out of habit. You don’t need someone telling you to brush your teeth every morning, and you don’t need to reward yourself for doing so. You just do it, because you’ve been doing it, and it feels weird to not do it.
It’s harder to break a habit than it is to make one, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to make a habit, and make it stick. This is something I shall read about during the coming weeks.
Before February begins, I will continue fleshing out my routines, with a particular focus on my health and energy levels. It’ll be much easier to tackle other resolutions as I have more energy, but doing so requires maintaining regular routines, sleep schedules, and eating habits. I’ve got my work cut out for me, but that’s why I’m taking time out to plan, rather than jump in cluelessly.
Here’s to making 2012 the year I actually accomplish something!
I’m just another college student: Lazy, apathetic, and prone to procrastination. It’s been a daily struggle for me for well over a decade now (I don’t consider the homework I did in fourth grade to be particularly demanding of my time or attention), and I’m constantly looking for ways to combat it. My problem, of course, is that I’d rather read about fighting procrastination than to fight it myself.
My reading has led me to encounter the Pomodoro Technique, about which there are plenty of articles to read. You can go on and read about the technique and various applications of it, but I’ll briefly say how I’m using it this weekend to manage my time.
This weekend, I have homework to do in two physics classes, a midterm to study for in a third, regular cleaning and laundry to do, and a hell of a lot of uncluttering. I am also trying to eat on a timely schedule, in an attempt to add good Calories into my day and healthfully gain weight. It is really difficult to stay cooped up in a room, studying and cleaning, without eating right and taking breaks.
This is where the Pomodoro technique comes in.
I set a timer for 25 minutes, and I ignore the clock. The timer will "ding" me when it’s done; I have no need to check the clock until then. I work continuously during this time on a single task, such as reading or sorting through a pile of clothes. It’s easy to get distracted, so I use my computer only to have music playing, or if I need to look something up now that’s relevant to my task. If a distracting thought enters my head that is irrelevant and not urgent, I jot it down on a piece of paper and blissfully ignore it. I can deal with it later, so I will. As a lifelong procrastinator, this is very easy to do.
When the timer goes off, I reset it for five minutes and take a break. I must, again, ignore the clock, and I must honor the break. If I’m in the middle of the problem, tough cookies: I write myself a note so I know where to start from once I return from my break. But I don’t work during my break or take a break during my work. My break can only be used for non-work tasks: No cleaning, laundry, homework, or other "productive" tasks allowed. I can get some water, use the bathroom, check my email, or call a friend. This time is specifically for goofing off, and it’s imperative I stick to it, until I hear the bell.
I repeat this process three more times. After four whole "Pomodoros" (or sets of work/break intervals), I take a 20-minute break for food. It doesn’t matter if I’m hungry or not: I need to take a break from work, and I need to eat. If I want to eat while watching TV or otherwise goof off, I’m welcome to do it, but my work and meal times are strictly kept separate. (Snacks such as munching on almonds and drinking juice are fair game during work time. It helps me consume more Calories gradually throughout the day without being conscious of it, which is awesome for gaining weight.)
So far, in my one day of doing this, I feel a bit more productive. Or, at least, I feel like time goes by a lot more quickly, so it feels a lot less like I’m dragging my heels through a dense book of diagrams and equations. It is difficult to maintain a strict schedule when I’m living with another person, but it’s certainly doable. Instead of using one of my Pomodoros for homework, I used it for helping my sister go through a pile of clothes to decide what to keep and purge. I used one to have a serious conversation with her. As long as I’m timing myself and not overdoing my work and breaks, I think this is fine.
However, I’ve realized today that five minutes isn’t a whole lot of time, so I might readjust my work/break intervals to be 25/10 or 20/10 minutes, but for today, the pattern was 25 minutes for work, 5 minutes for a break. Tomorrow I’ll try out a 20/10 pattern (it’s easy to work with 30-minute Pomodoros) and see if it’s easier. I’ll report back on the results…whenever I feel like updating this blog again. Here’s hoping I don’t procrastinate on that.
Like most people, I use the New Year as a chance to reflect upon bad habits of mine and resolve to change them. Again, like most people, I fully expect myself to fall behind and not fulfill everything I resolve, so I think I should begin by making full-fledged plans about each resolution I’ve made. The underlying resolution is for me to declutter and organize all aspects of my life: my physical space, my digital/online space, my mental space, and my life plans.
Because I spend so much time on my computer, I find it easiest to begin with my digital space. To start, I should establish a regular back-up routine, preferably one that I can automate and thus not have to spend too much time maintaining or thinking about.
A year and a half ago I started using Dropbox to sync up my homework and class notes between my main notebook and my netbook. This serves also as a back-up for all these important files, because in case one of my computers crashes, the files are stored on the other computer, as well as off-site. And if Dropbox as a service suddenly failed, my files are still on both my computers’ hard drives.Wary as I am about cloud storage, I know I’m not storing anything personal or incriminating. I doubt anyone who’d find their way into my Dropbox files really gives a damn that I learned about the classifications of dinosaurs or the role that Chinese immigrants played in America in the mid-nineteenth century.
Putting that aside, I have many years’ worth of files, which take up hundreds and hundreds of gigabytes – far too much to reasonably fit into my Dropbox. Luckily hard drive storage is fairly cheap, so I have two 2 TB drives: one in my apartment, the other in my parents’ house in another city. Unless all of California is destroyed by a major disaster, my data should be safe. (And at that point, I’d be more concerned with my own safety than my files, anyway.) I also have a 160 GB portable drive, which can be a direct backup of my laptop’s 160 GB data partition.
Thus, my idea plan would be as follows: Important media files on my laptop’s data partition will be regularly (weekly?) backed up onto my portable external drive. These both will be backed up onto my 2 TB drive biweekly (or monthly, knowing me) and assessed for what files I need to keep on my laptop/portable drives, and what files should be moved/archived onto the 2 TB drive. I visit my parents’ place a few times a year, mostly during long breaks from school, during which time I can mirror my apartment 2 TB drive with my home one. Switch the drives (so both get a roughly equal amount of use throughout the year) and repeat the cycle.
Of course, this is a long and complex process, and one very difficult to keep up with manual file management. More importantly, most of my files don’t need to stay on my laptop for very long. I save the occasional funny picture, but over time, I realize there isn’t much use accumulating these, as if to save them for a rainy day. So before I start to back up my files, I should instead go through all of my hard drives, delete all the unnecessary and duplicate stuff, then research ways to automate file backups on Windows computers.
A couple weeks ago, my friends and I saw the “college cliffhanger screening” of Toy Story 3, the first 70 minutes or so of the final movie. I’m not going to divulge in any details except that I definitely appreciate the cameos and references to the first two films. Before it began, a clip of director Lee Unkrich was shown, with him saying how the movie was made with us — college students — in mind. We were kids when the first two movies were released, and the premise of TS3 is the departure of main character Andy from his childhood as he packs for college. What happens to his toys, you’ll have to see the movie to find out.
Since then, I’ve been thinking about how I’m growing up, and what means for the relics of my past: the toys and games I oft played with as a child. The nostalgia, toys like the Mrs. Potato Head who’s probably missing a piece or two and the mini-Casio keyboard whose on/off switch has chipped off, has remained valuable to me. Every toy I once owned, whether sold off in a garage sale, waiting patiently in our garage and in storage, or still sitting in my room today, still means something. All my toys have stories, and while they’re not nearly as elaborate as the things Andy imagined for his toys, they’re no less important to my growing up.
One of my earliest toys, a monkey puppet I’ve always called “Adam,” was given to me when I was about a year old. In a way, he was the Woody to my Andy, the Hobbes to my Calvin. I remember once disliking him over some inane argument that only a young kid would ever come up with (yes, I argued with my toys; what of it?), so I kept him under my mom’s bed so he’d leave me alone. After a year or so passed, I dug him out and noticed he was a dusty mess; I felt guilty and apologized to the toy.
I wasn’t much a fan of stuffed animals, not the way most other young girls collected them (they aim for quantity of toys rather than quality of relationship to them), but Adam was different. He may have been the only toy I ever allowed to sleep on my bed. In my head, he was kind, forgiving, and fun-loving. He’d swing from trees and climb atop bookshelves, helping me explore the house and backyard (which got me into trouble many times). He’d keep me company when I did homework; he’d hug me with his long arms and Velcro-tipped hands when I felt lonely. Adam made me feel at least somewhat special, and with all the years I spent with him, I assure you, he’ll always hold a place in my memory — and, of course, my home.
Do any of you have a similar experience with a toy from when you were a kid?
Valentine’s Day was exactly a week ago, a day I know many resent (and often refer to as Singles Awareness Day) due to their cynicism, bad luck with love, or distaste for Hallmark cashing in on every occasion it can get its grubby little corporate hands on. In spite of my usual cynicism, I had no problem with the day, treating it like any other. I spent my Sunday with my family and doing homework. I played some Silent Hill: Shattered Memories before going to bed. As I said: Just another run-of-the-mill Sunday for me.
While working on a physics problem, I got an email with an MP3 file attached. As I listened, my eyes were still glued to my computer screen and the homework I was struggling to complete. Yet, I simply could not focus on the course website, the equations and diagrams and positive and negative charges forming a cloudy mess about my head. All I could think about was the song I was listening intently to. In that moment, it didn’t matter that I was using cheapo earbuds, or that my email and attachment were opened on a Motorola Droid. In that moment, it didn’t matter that I had ample homework to finish, that I was frustrated at my inability to figure out why the answer was (180π)/(233ε0R4) instead of (240π)/(233ε0R3). In that moment, nothing mattered.
All that did matter to me was that someone thought to sing a beautiful song for me, and while I couldn’t see him that day, I had a three-and-a-half-minute clip of his beautiful singing voice caress my ears. A tear fell down my cheek as I felt overwhelmed by true joy, by the immense feeling of being treated like I’m the only girl that exists on this planet — nay, this universe. He has that strange effect on me, and it’s strongest when I hear him sing.
Happy belated Valentine’s Day, everyone. Don’t let commercialization take away the real reason to celebrate: Love.
With yesterday’s post, I spoke too soon about my scheduling woes. Last night at midnight, I got an email from the Physics Department saying I’ve been added to the class I requested. An extra lab section was opened, and still, there remain 39 students seeking a spot in this much coveted course. I happen to be lucky enough to have been added to said class (and lab).
And, as it just so happens, I already know the lecture professor, since I took another Physics class of his last semester. I managed a solid B in that class, so I’m not too worried about this one. I haven’t met my lab professor yet, though.
Regardless, I’m pretty stoked that things are falling into place for me.
The new semester began last Tuesday (not Monday, like a more sensible school would do), and California’s budget cuts are still being a bitch to us. I spent most of last week coping with that, scrambling to get into a Physics class. You’d think my being a Physics major would provide some level of priority over other students, but unfortunately, it’s not enough to combat the forces of Schwarzenegger’s budget plans. To put the severity of this into perspective, I am among the 86 students still trying to get into a Physics class that seems to have no room left.
Luckily I did find another Physics class to take instead: an upper-division class on Thermodynamics & Statistical Mechanics that only 12 other students are taking. I still very much need the other Physics class, because it’s lower-division and paves the way for other upper-division classes (not to mention, it’s a prerequisite for said classes). Not taking this class now pushes my graduation back, so the sooner I take this class, the better off I’ll be.
Oh, well. I can’t dwell on that too much right now. I’m still going back tomorrow to talk with my major adviser, department head, and anyone else who can possibly help me get into the right class ASAP.
Other than that, my classes are going swimmingly so far. I’m taking Public Speaking, a general education class that everyone must take at some point but I’ve been putting off for years. My other general ed class is “Computers, Ethics, and Society,” an upper-division philosophy class that explores technology’s impact on our society, and vice-versa. It definitely is right up my alley. And my last class is Linear Algebra, one of those math classes which deals with fancy things that I don’t know how to explain yet. Between reading philosophy, preparing speeches, and doing Linear Algebra and Thermodynamics, I’m pretty comfortable taking only four classes. It’s a full course load unit-wise, so hopefully it won’t overwhelm me alongside my non-academic commitments.
I finally started this thing, but what should I do with it? The empty slate before me is overwhelming; it makes me wonder what I could possibly place here that is of any value. This thought never stopped me from writing endless text elsewhere, but my 1 AM self can’t be bothered to figure out how that experience is useful here.
Oh, well. Welcome to my little pocket of the Internet! I hope you find something worthwhile here, someday.
student of physics. gadgeteer extraordinaire.
oreo addict. eternal sleepy head.