Back like I never left: ‘Productivity’ in a Pandemic Part 2
This blog’s back, tell a friend.
Hi all! I know what you’re thinking: it’s been a hot minute. I’m coming to you live from my desk with some blue light-reflecting glasses, much shorter hair and a whole lot of updates.
What have I been up to, you ask? How have I been spending these past eight months with a pandemic that, like a ’97 Honda Civic, just keeps on running? Well, I guess it’s time we all reconnected once again.
Through this absolute whirlwind of a year, I’ve dealt with a fair share of challenging moments. When I signed on to lead my sorority as VP Recruitment, I had no idea I’d trade chanting and choreography for Excel sheets and Zoom breakout rooms.
Even in March and April, I figured I’d be able to enjoy senior year norms to some degree. I remember thinking, “Let’s just get this under control for Halloween. I just want one last Halloween on Franklin Street.” Whomp, whomp.
This is my first fully online semester. Without any social events to break up the work, I’ve found that my motivation for school has all but disappeared. I’m actually writing this blog post so I can procrastinate on my Spanish essay (Incoming text from Mom in 3…..2…..).
As someone who places their self-esteem and personal value in their academics, it’s easy for me to channel this lack of motivation into self-criticism. Yet if there’s anything I’ve learned from these past eight months, it’s that I cannot get things done unless I give myself grace.
I want to share just a few things I’ve learned that have helped me make the most of Zoom University.
- I make my bed and keep my room clean.
- My bedroom has doubled as my home office since March. I spend so much time here that I have no excuse to let it get messy. When I sit down in a cluttered room, I feel more stressed. It’s something else to tackle on top of all my schoolwork. I’ve also found that the physical cluttering of clothes and books makes my thoughts also feel more cluttered and scatterbrained. Keeping a clean room and letting the light in has made a difference. I know that’s very clichéd, and I actually didn’t believe it for a long time. I’ll admit, though, it really does help.
(Here’s the proof you asked for, Mom!)
- I’ve kicked ‘multitasking’ to the curb.
- Anyone who has tried to have a conversation with me while I’m doing something else knows I cannot multitask. Usually, the expectation to multitask and hop back and forth between assignments leaves me feeling overwhelmed. So I’ve simply stopped trying to make it work. It works for others, but not me. It doesn’t mean I’m any less intelligent than others. Now, I dedicate myself to one task at a time. In the same way that a messy room can make my mind feel cluttered, thinking about too many things at once is sure to send me spiraling. Jordin Sparks said it best back in 2007: you’ve got to take it one step at a time.
- I practice gratitude.
- When I’m really down, I have to take a step back. I’m at one of the best public schools in the nation, and I’ll be graduating debt-free. It’d be remiss to ignore the thousands of other students at UNC and elsewhere that are dealing with so much else on top of their schoolwork. So many have to take on jobs to support themselves or their families. Some do not have access to stable Wifi or a personal computer at home. When I start feeling sorry for myself, practicing gratitude helps me snap out of the pity party. I have the ability to carry out my work. I have regular access to Wifi. I have a supportive family with the means to invest in my education and success. When I’m particularly lacking motivation, I check myself and remind myself of these privileges.
- I slow down.
- As I hinted earlier, I was one of the goody-two-shoes that put their whole heart into schoolwork. I thrived on the idea of being the teacher’s pet and an academic example for other students. If I got below an A on any assignment in elementary school, you could queue the waterworks. I remember a time in fourth grade where we’d been handed out a reading quiz and told not to work on it yet. Being the ~overachiever~ I was, I wrote my name on the top. The teacher was not impressed – she made me rip up my quiz and throw it away in front of the class. While it was a rather traumatic moment for young Kristen, older Kristen thanks Ms. Ryan for that incident. It reminded me to slow down and not try too hard to impress others. I can go at my own pace, and that’s okay. In fact, I don’t need to bother trying to impress myself. As an overachieving child, I have the highest possible expectations for myself. When you make an effort to slow things down and practice gratitude for yourself, it makes the bigger tasks seem just a bit more feasible.
- I find value outside of school.
- As a result of the pandemic, I’ve found myself coming back to music. I detail my love of music in other blog posts, but I’ve found a renewed appreciation for its healing and calming abilities. In fact, my favorite pastime has been to learn simple, feel-good songs on the guitar. I then sing them in the living room with my roommate, and it turns into a jam session. Some of our favorites are Jamming by Bob Marley and Tennesse Whiskey by Chris Stapleton. As someone who’s not even a country fan, I have to admit the performance I linked where Chris and Justin Timberlake duet at the CMAs is pure acoustic bliss. I’m a firm believer that music traverses endless boundaries and brings empathy and understanding into our hearts. I’ve also found that picking up this hobby again means I have another source of self-esteem apart from my schoolwork. I can be proud of a separate, extracurricular accomplishment. I highly encourage y’all to get involved in some activity that’s unaligned with school or work. It helps you get excited about your development and growth elsewhere and can bring peace to your day. Plus, it could make a fun party trick for you to break out later on!
It’s safe to say that this year has been a lot to unpack. Between this neverending virus and a seemingly neverending election that just wrapped up on Saturday, waiting has encompassed so much of our lives.
This past Friday morning, I had just come off of a restless night of minimal sleep. Out of the blue, my roommate FaceTimed me to ask if I wanted to join her for lunch. We grabbed lunch at our sorority house and were able to sit on the sunporch with two other friends. We reminisced on our time living in the house, we enjoyed the beautiful weather and we could just be. In the tone-deaf words of Kim Kardashian celebrating her 40th birthday on a private island, we could pretend things were normal just for a brief moment in time.
We don’t always have to pretend things are normal. They certainly aren’t. It’s okay to not crank out work right now at your normal pace. It’s okay to feel fatigued from months of unrest and stress. You don’t have to be a workaholic all the time – or ever. It’s okay to break down and to not be okay. I promise that you are not alone in still feeling those very valid emotions.
I encourage you to take a step back today. Be kind to yourself and to others. Our world is hurting for empathy and understanding in an age where we’re all so isolated from one another. Text someone you’ve lost touch with to let them know you’re thinking about them. Clean your room. Check up on yourself and your people. As the old saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
One more thing: In case anyone hasn’t told you today, I’m proud of you.