Happy New Year! 2021 is finally upon us. Before we look into our aspirations for 2021, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the year we just went through. 2020 has certainly been a unique year in comparison to previous years, where so much - and so little - has happened. The pandemic has certainly impacted our daily lives and has forced us to shift into a new norm of mask-wearing and social-distancing, while achieving a majority of our work/life activities through zoom calls. For me personally, in addition to the pandemic, it has been a year of change and transition - I switched jobs, moved to a new country/city, and started living in a shared apartment with 3 other people for the first time in my life. I had to adapt to a new environment, learn to deal with isolation while working remotely with people I’ve never met face-to-face before. I’m very thankful that my job was not impacted by the pandemic and that I had a stable income, which unfortunately for many people is a luxury.
In this challenging times, I accepted that I wasn’t able to meet my personal goals in order to carve out time for my physical and mental well-being. This was especially important because over the past year I also had to deal with some health issues that prevented me from achieving my goals, and as far as I know, the issue is not a one-off and is something I will need to learn how to manage at least for a while. As I reflect on my accomplishments and my failures in 2020, I’m sharing some lessons learned that helped shape into my 2021 personal goals.
Prioritize My Own Well-being
In this fully remote working environment, I have noticed a huge difference in that I was working a lot more than I was supposed to. Sometimes I would skip a lunch break to attend a meeting, work past my working time to finish a task, or work on weekends to “catch up”. Because I didn’t have a lot of other things going on, work started to subconsciously occupy my mind, which made it a lot harder to separate work from my free time. I know that I need to set better boundaries to prevent work from leaking into my personal time - block time off on my calendar for breaks, turn off notifications outside of work hours, and set-up reminders to wrap up for the day so I can finish on time. I know that I haven’t been doing a good job of following through, so I’m hoping that I can do better and do it more consistently. And of course, it’s also important to communicate those boundaries to colleagues so they can be respected.
Set an Active Daily Routine
A large part of my day is spent sitting in front of a desk, and with the lockdown that time has increased tremendously. I know that this isn’t ideal if I want to lead a healthy lifestyle, but it’s easier said than done, especially when gyms are closed and finding good outdoor space is hard. I believe that doing short exercises everyday is better than doing an intense workout occasionally, so I try to incorporate those into my day like walking, running and cycling. While I don’t keep a consistent record, I think that I am doing better at going outside more than before. I also found that playing certain fitness games like Ring Fit can also help with this, although obviously it can’t replace working out at an actual gym. But if I was already too lazy to go workout, then this is a good alternative.
Limit Screen Time
A big part of my health issue stems from looking at screns for prolonged periods of time. My job requires it, most of my sources of entertainment require it, and lately socializing with friends and family. On top of that, our mobile devices are programmed in a way such that you are constantly looking at it. No doubt my screen usage has been an all-time high. To combat this, I had to make the difficult decision of pausing most of my side projects and focus on things that can be done without digital screens, such as reading on paper or on an e-reader, going outside, or listening to podcasts. Work things aside, forcing myself to go analog has helped me feel less addicted to screens, appreciate nature more, and overall feel happier. I hope that I can find ways to make the most out of my limited screen time while finding interesting things to do that don’t involve screens.
Keep a Short To-Do List
I love keeping a To-Do list because I often forget about what I need to do, so having a list helps track them. One thing I haven’t been very mindful of when making lists, is that time is finite, and more often than not I add more to-do items to the list than I can possibly achieve in a day. Having a long list can also look intimidating and de-motivating, and I noticed that I accomplish less when the list is long than when it’s short. Keeping a short to-do list means I’m forced to evaluate whether something is achievable in a given day. It’s also easier to organize them in priority order so I can tackle the most important ones first. If making an Instagram account containing all my food photos can’t be done in a day, then it shouldn’t be put on my to-do list. Instead it would go into my list of long-term projects (see next point). Having a short to-do list helps me become more efficient and achieve more by doing less.
Set Realistic Goals for Longer Projects
I found that I tend to be very impulsive. In the summer, I ordered a 3D printer on a whim because it seemed like a cool hobby, but what I didn’t consider is that it’s actually a huge time investment - from learning about model design to troubleshooting hardware parts. As a result it was hard for me to make progress on it. Setting achievable goals before I take on a new project/hobby meant that I had to evaluate what my short-term gains are to keep me motivated. If I only focus on the end goal, which can take a really long time, then I would end up losing steam halfway and not finishing. An example of a successful side project is my personal website (you’re reading it right now!). I was able to work on it to completion because I set a clear goal (what are the features that it needs to have) and a deadline for myself. If the goal is not clear, or if I’m not sure if it can be achieved in a set amount of time, then it’s worth taking a step back, park the idea and revisit at a later time to see if I still want to pursue it.
That’s all I have for now. I’m very grateful for the people that have supported me throughout my journey, and I look forward to all the surprises the new year has in store for me. I hope that I can continue to bring useful content to this site. In the meantime, I am taking a break while binge-eating on all the chocolate I can possibly consume. Here’s to a fabulous new year ahead!