We all know how fast the days go by: If I blink, it will already be mid-semester. This kind of mental flash-forward makes me start stressing. What if I don’t fulfill any of my academic or health goals? What if everything is a blur and I spend my Winter Break wondering what on earth I did this semester?
My solution? Do some pre-experimenting before the semester really kicks in. It’s like pregaming but there’s no risk of a headache. These tiny experiments focused on academics, improving health, and capturing memories were a nice forceful kick back into the land of living-in-the-moment.
Work: 30-Minutes of Learning a Day
30-minute recipes, workouts, Pomodoro Technique, fill in the blank; the world loves this seemingly-doable amount of time that can still produce results. I, too am infatuated with this round number and decided that it would be good for learning purposes while keeping things fresh.
The experiment of spending 30 minutes a day learning something new for a week was born. It’s easy to get burnt out on academics and forget that learning can be done just for the sake of learning.
Learning doesn’t stop after college. However, it’s all too common to not want to crack open another learning resource post-college. We all know that feeling of being home for summer break and just wanting to vegetate.
My experiment coincided with Syllabus Week. While the majority of this week was dedicated to starting my reading assignments, there were a few days when I just wanted to do something unrelated to a textbook. So I spent those 30 minutes taking notes on an article from a news site I frequent or a blog post I found really helpful.
While those notes obviously weren’t related to academics, I think getting into the habit of seeking new things to learn in bite-sized pieces would help anybody with their academic performance. This experiment keeps learning in the forefront of your mind rather than your grades or how much you hate a certain boring subject. This is a much more optimistic mindset to have.
I also love how this challenge feels so doable. Having a benchmark of: “Oh! New topic to learn about” every 30 minutes also helps break down assignments that include large volumes of hard-to-digest information.
Play: Corner Photos
Welcome to the corner of my mind. I kid, I kid. Instead, look at the corners from parts of my life.
An MIT admissions counselor listed 50 advice points for incoming freshman, one being: “Take a lot of pictures. One of my major regrets in life is that I didn’t take more pictures in college.” I could agree with that.
Taking a picture a day for two weeks is purported to be good for the soul and all that jazz. Also, memories! I stuck to “corners,” with my pictures being mostly architecture and nature. It’s a lot more of a reflex to take pictures of your friends and of yourself (selfies, cough) and we miss out on documenting the small things that actually do make up a big portion of our lives.
Not everything I snapped was Instagram-worthy, but some of the more mundane pictures I took were things I’ll likely feel nostalgic for post-graduation. I didn’t want to skip taking a picture of, for example, that boardwalk I always walk on, because it was too dull and then kick myself for it later on.
Taking photos of “corners” is also a good memory trigger. It helps reconstruct the total scenario surrounding the corner. For instance, I saw that black cat almost every day in the parking lot of my internship’s office. Looking at that picture reminds me of my internship and this small, cute detail that I otherwise would have forgotten about.
Rest: A Plant a Meal Keeps the Doctor Away
The college diet is synonymous with junk food and ramen. It’s so easy to forget to eat anything remotely healthy when you’re running around all day. The KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) solution to this problem? Eat a plant at every meal!
Fruits, vegetables, legumes, they’re all game. No macro tracking, no calorie tracking, just eat a plant at every meal and you’re doing something good for your health.
I ate a lot of fruit for breakfast. Lunch involved chopped up vegetables with hummus and pita bread or cucumber/tomato/lettuce in my sandwiches. Dinner was surprisingly the meal that involved the least amount of vegetables but I tried to negate that with a piece of fruit as my dessert.
Overall, this is a small way to transition yourself to a healthier diet while not obsessing over tracking and ratios and numbers. Any tiny tweak to your health ends up having a great, positive impact on your overall well-being.
What have you been experimenting with this month?
What have you been prodding at for your own satisfaction? Have you tried out any of my experiments? Will you? What would you like me to test out for my next post?