As a highly self-motivated individual, I’ve had the habit of keeping a to-do list for as long as I can recall. However, to-do lists seem especially necessary these days, an unprecedented period of time which is completely different from what things are normally like. With no doubt, things-operating-remotely has its own set of advantages. With classes going online and having the options to work from home, we are entitled to more location independence and less commute stress. The idea of having a home office where you get to customize your space and make yourself comfortable also helps ease the stress you would often undergo over the course of a typical weekday.
However, despite all the upsides of not having to attend classes in person, working online poses a problem: time flies by so quickly before you even realize. I’m not sure about you but this is definitely something I’ve been facing: No longer needing to run from one lecture hall to another in between classes, no longer having to set up an eating schedule because now everything is so within reach in my home office, I don’t feel like I’ve done a lot each day. It might be my body that is not experiencing the switch in location, the running for classes or buses, the lining up for coffee or hot chocolate, the excitement and yelling when you see your friends from far away… all the things you would have experienced if things weren’t mostly online. “Well, sorry!” said me to myself, to my body which hasn’t been performing the aforementioned and many other physical tasks. “Too bad we cannot return to the pre-covid-19 world just yet, but here are ways I can keep you busy and make the fullest of each day.” And of course, to achieve this, let’s start from making a to-do list.
What to include in your to-do list? — Just school work and tasks of part-time jobs? Not enough!
I enjoy planning ahead and I’ve benefited a LOT from keeping this habit. Besides populating my calendars, I write out what needs to be done when at the start of each week and frequently update this list as I finish items and run into new ones. It is self-evident that you want to list out what school work there is to be done, and perhaps tasks you are dealing with for your part-time jobs or volunteer responsibilities, but the main point of this blog post is to help you see what else there is that you might wish to incorporate into your everyday routine.
1. Stay physically active
As already mentioned, working from home could be tricky in terms of physical exercise: we don’t need to move as much as we used to. However, this makes it even more important that we take a break from time to time and move around a bit so that we do not put too much stress on our spinal cord. Having this on your list is especially important if you are someone like me, who isn’t an avid gym goer. In 2020 summer, when I was confined at home most of the time because of not being able to travel with the pandemic going on, I realized how negatively my sedentary lifestyle had been impacting me and thus I planned out on which days each week I would
do some jogging in Pacific Spirit Park under the trees, and on which days I would walk to the beach near my place and just enjoy the views and breathe. It might be hard to keep up at first because there might be other commitments in place that you need to fulfill, but once you’ve kept up with your plans and established a habit out of it, your body will naturally respond and might even resist if you decide to take a rain check and exercise some other time. Use myself as an example: when the UBC Aquatic Center reopened in late June this year, I started going there fo
ur times a week and swam about 1.2km each time. I’ve already lost 3kg and feel an improvement in my cardiovascular system. As an amateur it is amazing how I’ve been keeping up until today, but like I said, once you’ve regularized something into your everyday life, it is hard to stop. For you, the place to move around a bit could be anywhere you feel comfortable and not closely in touch with other people. It could be at your home away from your workstation desk, where you can do a bit of yoga following YouTube videos, or simply some stretches. If time permits, it would also be nice to step outside of your house and do some jogging in between classes or before going to bed …… you name it!
2. Cook a big meal for yourself
Whether you are living with parents who prepare your meals, or you are living on your own, it is always nice to discover your cooking potential. Eating out is great, but it’s definitely way more rewarding when you learn to cook several dishes by yourself. I understand time might be constraining and it might not be possible to cook every meal, so perhaps write out in your to-do list that you are going to cook on which specific dates taking your availability into account, and look up recipes and get all the required ingredients beforehand so you have everything you need to work with. This might sound crazy for those of you who don’t trust your cooking skills at all and prefer to stay away from the kitchen, but once you successfully cooked a dish or two and discovered your potential, it just keeps coming. You will want to keep exploring and keeping yourself busy in the kitchen might end up being one of your stress relievers from a long day.
3. Read for fun (remember to keep your phone outside of your reach!)
One day near the end of my freshman year I complained to a friend about not having time for non-academic reading – that is, the only readings I had been doing the whole year were for my classes rather than for my spirituality. Then he questioned me: ”Do you not have time to read because you really don’t have time, or do you not have time because you think you’ve had enough from reading textbooks?”
The latter, I whispered to myself. Indeed, too often I just feel exhausted from all the textbooks and peer-reviewed journals my instructors keep on telling us to read and thus, couldn’t bear the idea of picking up another book, even though reading is something I’ve always liked. I also found that I get too easily distracted from school work knowing that I have these many tasks to complete, which puts a burden on my mind even though leisure readings are meant to be fun. I doubted myself “which I should prioritize? School work or recreational readings”? I then reminded myself who I’m reading for: if I wish to broaden my vision and to complete my mind by consulting extracurricular books, or perhaps just to read for fun, I shouldn’t feel guilty about spending time on this at all. Therefore, it is so important to set the boundary and assign yourself time slots in which you pursue a bit of leisure reading, undistracted by schoolwork or other things. You want to put away your phone, and sink in a comfy chair or a sofa, immerse yourself in the world which the book you’re holding depicts. You also want to stick to this habit every day, so that no matter how heavy your plate gets, you always have a bit of time just for yourself and your beloved book. To separate myself from my working environment, I usually grab my kindle and walk to the beach to read, where I could use the waves as my background music; for you it could be anywhere you feel calm and at ease.
4. Have lots of fruits and avoid high artificial sugar intake
In freshman year, I suffered from acne a lot. Not only did it affect my mood, it also insanely hurt! I sought numerous treatments but they didn’t help. At last, after developing healthy dietary plans and following them, my body finally cooperated and I felt healthier than ever, despite being away from home for more than one year now. One important step is to say no to artificial sugar. Of course, this isn’t always possible, but consider taking in less than you’ve been doing. If you do have a sweet tooth, try switching to consuming fresh fruits rather than boba. For folks who aren’t a fan of vegetables, eating fruit can also ensure you are taking in a good amount of vitamins and fibre. If you have always favored fruit and vegetables, congratulations and let’s still put this down in our to-do list in case you forget!
5. Stay in touch with friends and family
If you haven’t been doing so already, stay connected with your family. At the end of the day, give them a call, or just simply write a text
to check in and let them know how you’re doing. It’s so easy to chat non-stop with friends because we are so similar in age and have so much in common to base our conversation on; but parents would like to hear from you just as much. It could be hard for parents to let go and accept the fact that their littles ones are off to universities, and they might not get to see you so often. They might not show, but for sure they are constantly thinking about you. Give them a call, update them about how university is like for you, share something fun. For those of you who are living at home this year, please cherish the moments you share with your family. For those who are living away from home, especially international students like myself who don’t go home for months or even years, give them a call tonight or whatever times that work for both of your timezones. After all, family is just a call/text away.
6. Don’t let your talent fade away and Do try picking up a few new skills
We are all gifted with unique talents, but not everyone has learned what is so special about themselves. Others who do know, often don’t have time to further develop those skills because they need to focus on getting a degree or working part-time to pay their bills first. I’d say it’s always a shame seeing someone so bright in an area not devoting energy and time into strengthening that skill. Isn’t that simply wasteful? Many people claim they don’t have time, but like I’ve been stressing the whole time in this blog post, there’s always time if you plan ahead and fully commit to your routine. Photography, painting, learning a second language, poetry … Those are all things that could complete your character! It’s true you might not make a living out of them, but life isn’t about receiving returns only in a monetary way. By exploring what you have to give in an artistic form, you discover so much more about yourself and live more positively because you know how much you have to show for. You also meet new people through the process of acquiring new skills. After all, you might become an expert in that area and you might not, but no matter what the outcome is, knowing that you have the skill of lifelong learning is accomplishment and assurance in itself.
What do you think? If the above sounds like something you have always been doing, I congratulate your great habits and wish that you keep them for many years to come! If not, I trust you will consider incorporating a routine into your daily life like this. Let me know how this works out!