3 Things I learned from 30 Days of Lists

For the month of November, I decided to embark an a wondrous experiment. I created a list everyday for thirty days. I unexpectedly learned quite a few things from this experiment/journey/quest:

1. Small habit changes are the most effective.
Making a small change in your daily routine is pretty easy. I have attempted to instill many habits into my daily life, however, these attempts fail, simply because the change I tried to make in my life was too large or too different from my normal day. Adding the task of making a list on a notecard to my daily itinerary was pretty easy because I could write my list for the day while I was watching Netflix in the evening. During the time that I made the lists, I was previously doodling or planning. I wasn’t drastically changing something I already did. I was just adding another element to the relaxation portion of my day.

2. Personal projects make you more productive.
I’m the type of person that does semi-productive things even during the times of day in which I am not supposed to be productive (after dinner). For me, being productive with my school work just gives me more time to produce other things. I have a huge mental list of personal projects I want to complete, but for most of them, I do not have defined goals. I knew I wanted to make lists, so that I could sort out some random thoughts. So I decided to do 30 days of lists. Having projects I’m working on that are unrelated to school gives me more of an incentive to get my necessary work done more productively in an effort to make time to do the work I want to do. I have also learned that I need to set defined, or SMART, goals for all of the personal goals I am working towards.

3.Mindless tasks=Mindful consumption
Mindless productive tasks allow me to focus more on the entertainment/knowledge/Netflix I am absorbing. TV shows and videos often do not take up all of my attention, so my mind begins to wander to occupy my remaining attention. Doing something that requires very little attention, in this case making lists, takes up the attention that watching and absorbing (usually useless) information does not take up. This prevents daydreaming or boredom or distraction. I also like doing tasks that are somewhat productive during these times so that my day feels more productive overall. For example, I usually do most of my planning while watching Netflix or a YouTube video. For some reason, podcasts take up more of my attention than video. I have no idea why, but I can’t focus on podcasts while doing productive mindless tasks. Tasks such as cleaning and chores, however, usually require very little attention as you can rely on your habits to complete them. So you probably have enough attention left over to even watch a TED talk or something else that’s useful.

Overall, I am very happy that I completed 30 Days of Lists. I know it’s not that great of a feat, but it seems like it has been a while since I’ve finished something that I started because I wanted to, not because I was obligated to.

Click here for part 1 of 30 Days of Lists.
Click here for part 2 of 30 Days of Lists.
Click here for part 3 of 30 Days of Lists.

What should my next project/experiment be?

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College Countdown: 3 Methods of Self-Evaluation

It is currently August 12, 2014. I move into my college dorm the day after tomorrow. My first day of class is Monday, August 18th. I am freaking out.

Oftentimes we become incredibly overwhelmed in times of great change. We have much to do and many potential stressors. During these moments of mental chaos, it is important to take a step back from life and center the mind. We must evaluate our mental, emotional, and physical states.

1. Good vs. Bad/Pros vs. Cons
Whenever you are frazzled because of a big change or a busy schedule, just sit down and write/type/speak all of the things causing excitement and all of the things causing worry. Letting it out allows your brain to externally process the entire situation. This allows you to better see solutions for any possible problems you are confronted with and further increase excitement for the amazing things about to happen in your life.

The Good:

  • I am almost done packing. (yay)
  • Most of my textbooks are easily findable as PDFs.
  • I have a pretty reasonable schedule for a freshman.
  • I have not spent very much money in furnishing my dorm room ($65 including a mini fridge).
  • I have been very productive in working on applications for various leadership organizations and some scholarships.
  • My calendar is already packed for the next week.

The Bad:

  • I am not completely done packing. (ugh)
  • Insomnia
  • I keep forgetting to take my allergy medicine at night.
  • This whole college thing still hasn’t completely registered.
  • I have not bought any school things I need, such as textbooks not available online, lab coat, clicker,etc.
  • I’m having innate urges to make routines and schedules, but I don’t really have the time to. (I’m a planner.)
  • I still need to buy things like various Command products.

2. Meditation
By definition, meditation is a form of reflection. Meditation allows you to focus on one tiny goal: thinking deeply, or maybe even not at all. In my experience, the meditation that helps me reduce my frazzled-ness is allowing thoughts to come randomly, but only observing them, not ruminating the problems or possible solutions. I know to most college kids meditation seems like a “hippie, tree-hugger” sort of thing to do, but it is much easier than you think, and can help increase productivity. You can even do it while walking to class.  I personally love the Breathe app (App store) and Headspace‘s 10 day program (available on App store and Google Play). The Essence app (App store) is also simple and great for beginners.

3. Make a List of Questions
This is as simple as it sounds. Just ask yourself questions. Don’t think about answering them. You can tackle them one by one later, if you so wish. Simply write/type any uncertainties you possess. This method can also work as a sort of to-do list.

  • Am I really ready for college?
  • Can I take care of myself?
  • Did I pick the right classes to take my first semester?
  • Should I get a job my freshman year?
  • How many clubs/organizations should I limit myself to?
  • What if I can’t learn how to properly study?
  • How am I going to balance my wide array of interests with schoolwork and studying?
  • Have I packed enough?
  • Have I packed too much?
  • How soon will the workload begin?
  • Am I choosing the right career path?
  • Am I ever going to achieve my goal of becoming a morning person?

I hope these methods helped decrease your overwhelmedness as the new school year approaches, bringing with it exciting/frightening changes.

How do you center yourself when your mind is being a little too chaotic?