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Here's How Time Blocking Can Help Boost Your Productivity

I know, I know. The world is in a state of panic and the last thing a lot of people want to hear is 'productive this' and 'productive that'. I get it, so if you're able to, I'd definitely use this time to take care of yourself physically and mentally, pick up a new hobby (or re-discover an old one), and just relax and do anything that isn't "work". 

However, being a medical student, I just don't have that kind of luxury and I'm sure a lot of other students don't either. So if this post made you roll your eyes, then it just isn't for you and that's okay!

This post is for people like me who abruptly shifted to an online platform and needed to find a way to motivate themselves, limit distractions, keep themselves accountable and get some sort of a routine in their life.

I started using the time blocking (or calendar blocking) system during my first semester of medical school, stopped using it when my weeks became repetitive because I just knew what I needed to be doing anyway, then started using it again during exam season when things started heating up. It's a great system that I would recommend at a time like this when a lot of our normal routines have been spun upside down. 

So, what is time blocking?

Quite simply, it's allocating specific amounts of time to a particular task and intentionally slotting them into your calendar to ensure they get done. It's amazing for prioritising what's important because in a regular to-do list, you don't see the entire picture laid out in front of you the way it is when you schedule everything into your calendar. It's easy to end up focusing a lot more time than you intended on one task, but when you slot it into your calendar you can decide how long you want to spend on that specific thing. It's also great for letting you concentrate on one task at a time and making sure this time you have will be spent on it.

I use this method to create a routine in my day. I set a wake-up time, lunch time, breaks, and an end time in the evening and it's been amazing!

Here's an example of what last week looked like:

(I tried to take a nice blog-ish photo but the camera quality on my old phone is abysmal lol).

As you can see, I've inserted my classes, when I'm going to study, make new flashcards, do homework (let's just look at how long I spend on biochem... *shudder*), and when I'm gonna work on the blog.

I've also created a lunch break from 12 and I end my day at 10pm, as well as another little break after my afternoon classes. 

During these breaks I do stuff that doesn't need to be written down, like eating or cleaning because I already know I need to do that anyway.

To achieve this, I use the standard Samsung calendar app that came with my phone and it syncs to my Google account so if I wanted to check it on Google Cal, it's easy to do so. I also like to colour coordinate everything because it just looks so much better, so you can see that my classes are yellow, dedicated studying is blue, homework is purple, creating flashcards is green, and blogging is peach.

In addition to this system, I do still use to-do lists so I can structure the time I intend on spending on something. So where it says "study anatomy" for example, my to-do list would break down the tasks I need to do just for some structure. I even have a whole blog post about perfecting your to-do lists if you're interested!

So, that's what my calendar looks like!

A tip I have is for you if you're also looking to start using this system to prioritise what you need to do and be realistic about how long you can actually spend doing that thing. I spend one day studying or working on a maximum of 2 subjects - I can't realistically go over all of them in one day. Depending on you, it might just be one subject you can focus on, and that's great too. 

I now set my tasks every evening because I used to get a bit overenthusiastic about what I can achieve in a day and end up not finishing everything. Now when I set my tasks in the evening as opposed to the beginning of the week, I can think about what I didn't do during the day and plan my next day accordingly.

If you prefer to lay your whole week out on a Sunday or Monday, then I'd advise you to be flexible with it and not be too rigid with your time; it's fine to switch things around!

Another tip is to slot in the most important things first. The very first things that get scheduled in are my classes because they're obviously the most important. After that, I'll put in homework, then allocate time to study. Anything after that depends on how much time I have left over, like blogging, flashcards or adding in more time to study if I'm up for it. I work around my class schedule to regain some sense of normalcy, because it's what I used to do when our classes went ahead as normal. If there are non-negotiable things you need to get done, definitely schedule those in first.

I hope you found this post useful! It's such a weird time the world is going through at the moment, and I've found what's helped me is building a routine and trying to stick to it as best as I can. I don't always fully go along with my schedule; just on Saturday I spent some time out when I had no initial plans to haha. But I don't give myself a hard time; just re-schedule whatever I didn't manage to get done and keep it pushing!

You can save pin this post for later! ~~~

Photos by Alexa Williams on Unsplash

The Reality Of Taking Online Classes

Most people by now have had updates from their jobs or schools about shifting onto online classes or working from home due to the coronavirus now spreading to a lot more countries than it was in just a few weeks ago. A lot of people however aren't able to WFH, and my heart really goes out to all of you if this is the case. However for people who now have to study or work online, it's a big change that even I wasn't ready for when our classes shifted online.

I've never taken an online class before; GCSEs and A-Levels were all done in person obviously, and during the first year of uni and first semester of med school, everything was done in the classroom. But for the second semester of med school, we started our online classes here on the 17th of February, so it's already been over a month of bad internet connections and jumbled schedules.

I always naively thought that for people who take online classes, it must be easier than people who get up and leave the house because you get up and just turn on your laptop, but boy was I wrong!

It's just as tough and rigorous as going into uni, and then there's the added element of having to motivate yourself to actually wake up in the morning to listen in on the lecture. The hardest part for me has actually been having too much time in the day. Our lab classes are now free periods and there's around 6 extra hours a week that normally would have been taken up by biochem, anatomy, and physiology lab. I'm someone who likes to have a schedule and routine. Now it's up to me to fill in these empty spaces, and in the beginning it was quite difficult to know what to focus on. To curb this, I've been using the calendar blocking technique, and a blog post will be published next week!

So since there are a lot of first-time online class takers now, I thought I'd share some tips I've picked up over the last month on how to make the most of it. This post isn't directed towards people with jobs that they used to go into everyday, as I don't know how each company is tackling this, but it's specifically for students like me!

I made a routine for myself early on because I knew that this would seriously help me out in the long run. I use the calendar blocking technique to keep track of when I'm going to wake up, study, have class, do homework, work on the blog etc, and I do this all with the standard Samsung calendar that came with my phone. A routine has been vital to make sure I don't fall behind on anything (we'll all have to go back some day!), and vital in making sure I don't spend all day on one thing - or nothing for that matter!

My current routine looks like this; wake up at 7am, scroll through my phone, eat, and start studying by 8am. I have class at 2:30 in the afternoon, and 10am in the morning sometimes, and the last class will end at half 5 in the evening, so in between all of this, I'll shower,study, clean, eat, or just scroll through social media. I study until 9 in the evening, then just chill until I feel tired enough to go to sleep.

I would suggest getting a morning routine underway as soon as possible and try to stick to it. I have a blog post on some healthy and productive habits you could adopt as part of your new routine, and I went back to it when our classes shifted online.

I like doing this to get a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day, and so there's always something tangible to work towards. Each night I make a list of small goals I want to accomplish the next day - how many flashcards I want to make or go through, or which chapters I want to get through for example. I think it's especially important now that things are online because you're having to motivate yourself and keep yourself accountable. 

It's also really motivating to have something to work towards, which is another bonus because like I said above, it was quite tough for me in the beginning.

Being indoors all day really makes you realise just how much time there is in the day. Because of this you may begin to feel like you should be doing more with yourself but I don't agree with this because it will definitely lead to burnout. I stop studying at 9pm at night, "switch off", and spend some time doing something enjoyable like finally indulging on going on my phone guilt-free. It's important to still treat your days like a regular school day because when it's time to get back to class (hopefully sooner rather than later), the transition won't be so harsh.

We're all going through this together - student and teacher alike - so it's important to be patient with everyone right now. For a lot of teachers (especially mine), they haven't taught online before so it's a learning experience for them, just as much as it is for us. I remember in the beginning it was easy to become frustrated because we all hadn't used the online platforms we're all experts on now. Everything has changed in a short space of time so if you extend a bit of kindness to your teachers, it could really go a long way.

Don't be so hard on yourself and don't feel like you have to do more than you really have to. Work at your own pace and leave enough time to do "real life" stuff. As a medical student, it was tough to squeeze all of the stuff I'm able to do now, like do laundry, video call my parents for as long as I choose now, cook (it's been amazing cooking for myself again!), and even work on the blog! Honestly speaking, if it wasn't for us not being allowed out, I probably wouldn't have gotten my blogging mojo back.

So take this time to yes, still be productive and work towards goals everyday, but to also give yourself some time do to other things again. Take it one day at a time and don't force yourself to become a productivity machine overnight.

I hope everyone manages to stay safe and happy at a time like this. The news is a lot to take in everyday, what with numbers always increasing and the outcome in a lot of countries looking really bleak at the moment. I'm glad the situation in China is improving - currently my province and the city of Chongqing have no new cases reported, and a lot of the temporary hospitals in Wuhan are now closed, with a lot the doctors who came from other provinces now able to go back home to their families.

If you're able to self-isolate please do, because it only takes one person to catch it and spread it to someone else (a lot more people are asymptomatic spreaders than we think - check out this article on CNN) and there are a lot of at-risk people out there. 

Again, please stay healthy and I'll see you in the next one!

Loving Lately

So I've been toying around with the idea of introducing a series (or two, keep your eyes peeled!) onto my blog for the longest time, and after brainstorming a whole plethora of ideas, I can now introduce the first series I've wanted to put out for ages!

It's nothing groundbreaking or original by any means, because almost every blogger I follow has this type of post in some capacity, but I still wanted to introduce it here because I have a lot of stuff to share that isn't to do with my regular type of content. So Loving Lately is just going to be a collection of the things I'm currently loving at that moment - TV, music, Instagram accounts - just anything that is currently bringing me happiness and joy. If you see the name switch around a couple of times, that's just me working out a few others I liked too hehe.

TV //
So I'm sure everyone by now has watched Love is Blind right? The cringy and yet somehow still addictive show that got really popular overnight and still has people talking. I saw a lot of tweets about it and surprisingly found some episodes on a Chinese app I use for watching western shows. Unfortunately, only the first 5 episodes are available, and I'm waiting for it to be updated but thanks to social media, I know how everything's turned out! Lauren and Cameron were my favourite couple from day 1 and I just need the other episodes to be updated so I know how others broke up! Definitely one to watch if you haven't already.

I've also been enjoying Legacies as a something to watch while I eat my dinner. If you're a fan of TVD or The Originals, then you'll enjoy this too! If you have no idea what I'm talking about, think werewolves, witches, and vampires in a boarding school. I'm actually done with that now, and I'm thinking of starting a new medical show to enjoy.

The only podcast I've been listening to regularly is Elevation, although I've been listening to snippets of others here and there when I can. Because of the virus, all church meetings have been cancelled until further notice, so I've been listening to sermons instead. I love Pastor Furtick because he gives you the message in a way that's easy to understand and always relevant (even the sermons from years ago!). I've been listening to one before I go to sleep and it's a great way to end my night.

Doja Cat has been my #1 most listened to artist lately. Since Tia Tamera came out, I've been listening to her old music and patiently waiting for a new album to come out, and when Hot Pink came out it was on repeat all day (and still is!). She can sing, dance, rap - just so versatile and definitely my new favourite artist right now. Just check out this live performance of Say So! Dua Lipa is another honorable mention, although I'm patiently waiting for Future Nostalgia to come out before I talk about it in depth.

Because I've been indoors since mid-January (wow), I've had no new opportunities to improve on my Chinese speaking. So, I've been listening to more songs in Chinese and plan to translate a few to gain some new vocab. Now, I promise myself this every holiday but there's always a distraction that pops up but because I'm not allowed to go outside, there are no excuses! I've liked Li Ronghao's album 耳朵 and hope to start translating (and fully understanding) at least one song a month if there's time!

Finally, a precaution I took when the virus first broke out was to avoid all meat until it blew over. However, I've decided to stick to being veggie for a while longer after doing some research on the animal industry and the overall effect that meat has on the body. To keep me inspired for meals, I've mainly loved the channel SweetPotatoSoul and Pick Up Limes. A lot of their meals look delicious and I want to try them out, so I've been all over their websites, channels, and Instagrams for inspo. If your diet is mainly plant-based (or even if it's not!) I would highly recommend these two!

So, that's the first edition of Loving Lately! I'll only be uploading a post whenever I actually have things to talk about, like right now because other than studying all I can do is consume crazy amounts of media.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and I'll see you in the next one!

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

Habits I've Picked Up In China

September 2020 will mark 2 years of me living in China! I know they say time flies when you're having fun, but time for me seriously just zoomed past in the blink of an eye. So far, China has been a decision I don't regret (like 90% of the time) and I really do love living here on the whole. Exploring a different culture, learning a new language, and just being far away from everything I know and am used to is an experience I'll be grateful for for the rest of my life, honestly.

With living in a new place comes adopting certain habits and behaviors like the everyone else who lives here. I've found myself doing these things without realising, and it only took another person pointing it out to me for me to realise that I'm changing bit by bit.

1. Hot water all day, everyday!
I seriously live for hot water, and I'm now so used to it  I can't really drink cold crisp water anymore. Hot water is the standard here, whether you're in a restaurant, an office, at the police station, hot water will always be available at the water dispenser. I sip on hot water all throughout the day; when I just wake up, in class with my flask (the water dispensers at my uni actually only give hot water!), after my meal, and right before bed a few cups will just hit the spot. Hot water has a lot health benefits like helping with digestion and hydration better than cold water, so I know this is definitely a habit for life. I like to add different things too, like lemon slices, dried jujube or ginger.

2. If food isn't spicy what's the point?
My province is known for having some seriously spicy food. I worried about that before coming here because we don't cook spicy food at home, but now I'm here it's just another thing I'm used to. A lot of classmates were actually sick when we first came, but I've been absolutely fine since day 1! I've become so accustomed to eating chilli with every meal, even breakfast foods can have a little kick to them, so I honestly don't like food if there isn't even a little bit of chili in there. Whether I cook something or buy something online, it now needs to have a kick to it.

3. Trying to haggle every chance I get
Another thing that's just standard here is haggling prices when you're out and about. It was so awkward at first because my Chinese was non-existent when I just came here, but I'd at least attempt trying to bargain before giving up pretty quickly. Vendors actually expect foreigners to haggle prices, and you can get some pretty good deals if your Chinese is good enough. I once landed a dress that went from 100 yuan to only 60!

4. Not saying 'thank you' to a compliment
I didn't realise that us who are from the west say thanks to a compliment and return it, but here in China people, especially girls, say 哪里哪里 (nǎli nǎli), which is like "you're too kind", and never actually thank you. Even if someone compliments me in English, it's become a habit to just respond in Chinese!

5. Chinglish
I love adding Chinese words to my sentences because some words in English just don't hit the spot quite as well as ones in Chinese, especially 麻烦 (máfan) and 差不多 (chàbuduō). Every single "hang on a minute" or "wait for me" is 等一下 (děngyīxià), and simple phrases like "I'm hungry/sleepy/thirsty" are now just automatically thought of first in Chinese. Sometimes I'll be on the phone with someone from back home and add in random Chinese words only to realise they have no idea what I'm talking about (lol I'm so sorry). I think as my Chinese improves, it'll only keep happening more and more often which I think is pretty cool.

I think as time goes on, I'm going to have even more Chinese habits under my belt. It's only been a year and a half, so we'll see what the future has in store for me!

Which habits did you pick up when you lived abroad?