Welcome to Procrastination Nation! >
January 21, 2022
Hi, my name is Seth, and I am a chronic procrastinator. If you know me at all, this is probably no shock to you, and if you don’t know me that well, please say hello to what should be my hamartia! While I’m laying all of my cards on the table, I should also confess that I’ve procrastinated writing this blog. To be clear, it’s not because I don’t want to write this blog or that I’m so busy that I have so many other things to take care of, it’s that I just live for a deadline. I’ll explain more on that in a sec, but first, we need to dig into the realities of procrastination first.
Procrastination is often only portrayed as this debilitating habit that we must overcome to become masters of time management and there is truth to this! I’m sure many of us are too familiar with procrastination that has been taken too far. Who can’t recall the time they cut things too close or ended up not showcasing our best work? This is a reality of procrastination, but it is not the only reality. Real-life is rarely this black and white and there are some theories to back this up! The Yerkes-Dodson Model (1908) details a quadratic relationship between arousal and performance where there is a range of optimality. Another way to talk about this in occupational therapy is a challenge-skill relationship where that optimal range results in a flow experience; one of complete immersion in the task at hand.
This is to say that eustress, or good stress, can improve the work you have just as much as the other ranges in this relationship can negatively impact your work. While operating under this perspective I have come to find that, for me, procrastination is less about time management and more about emotional management. Earlier I mentioned that I live for a deadline and this is why! I manufactured the perfect challenge for what I perceive to be my skill and viola! I finally get to the work at hand. By now you’re probably thinking, “This is great news, Seth! I feel so validated, but knowing this doesn’t change the feeling in my gut when I’m procrastinating.” And I’m right there with you, so here are some of the thing’s I’ve found that help me work through that feeling:
Using an Eisenhower Box
The strategy I always have in my back pocket and my first line of defense is the Eisenhower Box. This tool is essentially a way to organize tasks into four quadrants based on urgency and importance. Although I’ve found this is a great way to strategize, I always let my gut feeling play a role in the decision-making process, and I encourage you to do the same.
Maybe the best strategy I’ve used to generate enough stress to reach my optimal level is to productively procrastinate. This may mean tackling some of the more non-urgent and less important tasks in your Eisenhower box. This often manifests in cleaning your entire living area before starting your readings or just absolutely having to run that errand before writing that paper. This allows you to get other things done while slowly restricting the avenues you have to procrastinate. This leads me to my next point!
This is a natural extension of productive procrastination but goes beyond the things that are also on our to-do lists. I’m talking about our phones, the show we’re binge-watching, or the roommate who decided to invite company over right before that first big assignment is due. For me, this means putting my phone in some random drawer in the kitchen, sitting in a place that is not my bed, and either having absolute silence or music that drowns out whatever other noise is around. Take a look at the things that usually distract you and brainstorm ways to work around them.
Whenever I think about this strategy, I laugh because breathing exercises have always ended up stressing me out more, but this one is a game-changer. Breathing from the abdomen (as opposed to the chest) is a quick way to elicit relaxation. It can release muscle tension, slow the heart rate, and lead to a hearty supply of oxygen to the blood. Try breathing from your chest and then your abdomen, then take note of any difference. If you’re procrastinating and find yourself starting to breathe from the chest, switch the style up.
Knowing Yourself and the Resources Available
I gave a couple of suggestions that have worked for me, but what it all comes down to is knowing yourself! Reflect on how long things have taken you before, your performance on these tasks, and what strategies work for you in managing your stress and procrastination. If you’re trying to find your optimal performance-arousal range, take note of the stress signs that start manifesting for yourself. Figure out when you’re most productive and take advantage of that time (but don’t be afraid to dedicate it to more meaningful occupations too). If you need some help, don’t be afraid to ask! The USC Kortschak Center, an occupational therapy collaborative resource center, has plenty of strategies and consultations that can get you on the best path for you.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not necessarily endorsing procrastination. All, some, or none of this may resonate with you, but I hope that it encourages you to reflect on your procrastination habits. As we head into the third week of the spring semester, I invite everyone to give themselves a little more grace around their habits. Coming around to see that there can be ambivalence around procrastination is a great step in making positive change. It helps us shift the narrative from thinking “I should stop procrastinating” to “I could do XYZ” to make that change more manageable, intentional, and personalized. So get out there and make the change, or put it off until tomorrow! Either way, I hope you’ve enjoyed your stay in Procrastination Nation.
A Few (5) of My Favourite Things >
December 27, 2021
It’s the time of the year where time is on everyone’s mind. I mean, it’s kind of hard for it not to be when four days from now many of us will be watching a giant clock countdown to the Gregorian calendar new year. As I prepare for the year to come, I’d like to reflect on the years that have passed, specifically the past five years of the BS-MA program, and share with you all my favourite things from each year. I’ve already shared about my BS-MA cohort, so this will focus on the progressive degree experience itself. As I mentioned before, the program offers you a breadth of flexibility in designing your own experience while also being structured with prerequisite courses before you officially enter the graduate program. With that said, no two students’ journeys are alike.
Year 1: An Introduction to OT and OS
This is where the magic begins! The first year is where, at the very least, you take OT 250 and I cannot imagine a better start to the USC Chan journey. It’s a sort of an all-you-can-eat buffet of OT where you’re exposed to the breadth of what OT brings to the table. This course covers motivational interviewing to lifestyle redesign, flow to challenge-skill balance, stress management to sleep, habits and routines, and much, much more. As a testament to how much I enjoyed this class, I remember the final with Dr. Kate Crowley like it was yesterday. My group was assigned to present on the stress management module and we chose to recreate a traffic scenario one of my group members had experienced. We converted the wheely chairs in the classroom into cars and re-lived the experience in front of the class with classic movie voice-overs to narrate the scene and what was happening in the body. Now that’s how you end your first semester the right way!
Year 2: The Intercampus Shuttle
Depending on the specific way your cookie crumbles this moment may come sooner, but by year two you’re ready for the intercampus shuttle! USC has shuttles that go to many places, but the intercampus shuttle stops at the main campus (UPC), Union Station, and the health science campus (HSC). The shuttle runs about every 30 minutes or so and takes about as long. Believe me when I say, to this day I still love this bus. It’s the perfect time to catch up with your cohort, listen to some music, nap, or cram in some last-minute studying for anatomy or physiology. More than this, it made me feel like a ✨professional!✨ You’re commuting, you’re on a health science campus in the heart of OT at USC, and living the dream. Honestly, they might as well just hand you your degree right then and there (well, maybe not yet, but you’re definitely on your way)!
Year 3: Foundations
Although split between year three and year four, this is when you start taking the graduate-level foundational courses and it is designed in a way that makes the transition so smooth. This year is when you wrap up any double majors or minors so you’re still taking an interdisciplinary course load, but you’re starting to get into the bread and butter of OT at the same time. This time is precious because you take these foundation courses with your BS-OT cohort. Not only are you strengthening those relationships, but you’re also starting to build new relationships with the graduate faculty in a more intimate classroom setting. From the small group discussions and practical applications to the professor interactions, this experience brought everything I learned up until this point into focus and I felt prepared for the next chapter of the program.
Year 4: A Program Within a Program
And the time has finally arrived, you are a graduate student! If that isn’t exciting enough for you, you’ve now also expanded your network of OT-lovers to include 140 more people! Although this may feel intimidating at first, you will be split into a smaller immersion cohort with whom you will travel through the rest of the program. This program within a program includes Mental Health, Pediatrics, Adult Physical Rehabilitation, and the newly introduced Productive Aging and Geriatrics immersions. Year 4 will continue the building on Year 3’s foundations while also guiding you to be responsive, reflective, and engaged in your future practice and giving you a taste of what that practice could look like. This year is so exciting because you start to feel what it’s like to be a real-life OT!
Year 5: The Freedom to Choose
As I am still in my fifth year, I cannot capture it in 20/20 hindsight, but I can share something that I am sure will be my upcoming favourite. Sometimes you just don’t click with a required course which, I’m here to tell you, is not a bad thing! It’s a good sign that you are starting to hone in on the OT you want to be and in year five you get the chance to create your own adventure. When you reach this point in the program, you’re able to start selecting the electives you’d like to take before graduating. These courses can contribute to advanced certifications, enrich your knowledge in a particular practice area, or just help you strengthen your general skills as an OT and you get to choose them! It’s like being a first-year again, but this time you know what you’re looking for. The freedom to choose goes beyond electives, however, and also encompasses your next steps. What type of residency would you like? What practice area will you pursue? Will you seek out any additional degrees? Take some time to reflect on everything you’ve done so far and start asking yourself these questions. The future starts now!
Although I advertised 5 favourite things, in the true spirit of looking forward, here is a bonus sixth favourite thing to celebrate the sixth year of the new BS-OTD!
Year 6: The Last Chapter
The fact that you have to say goodbye makes the journey up to that moment all the more special. Relish each year you have here and carry it, and the people you met along the way, with you as you move forward, but do move forward. You’ve put in the work and you are ready. Here’s to graduation (whenever that may be for you)!
9 Perfect Strangers: A Cohort’s Connection >
December 21, 2021
Here at USC, we often talk a lot about the Trojan Family, but when you arrive on campus as a first-year that sentiment can feel intangible. But the truth is, for me, I found my family before my first semester had started, even if I didn’t know it at the time. Traditionally, fall move-in day takes place on the Wednesday before the first day of classes and is followed by six weeks of welcome week programming. During this time many students rekindle friendships with people they met at orientation, attend Visions and Voices events, or just settle into the place they will be calling home for the next couple of years. In the case of the Class of ‘21 and ‘22 BS-MA OT students, we attended the USC Chan Division’s First-Year Welcome Dinner.
I may not remember all of the details from that dinner, but some things have stuck with me over the years. 1) I chose a completely hairless action shot of me swimming to showcase my favourite occupation as my grand debut 2) Back and forth O-H!, I-O!-ing with Dr. Samia Rafeedie and Dr. Shawn Roll whenever any of us brought up our experiences in Ohio and 3) the first spark of connection I felt when meeting my cohort for the first time.
Over time that connection has grown thanks to the design of the BS-OT program. Despite the program having a built-in buddy system, it didn’t feel forced. As an undergraduate OT student, you’re granted a lot of freedom to explore what college has to offer, while also knowing you have Chan to come back to. The course sequence is laid out in a way that slowly scaffolds your knowledge of OT. This is done not only through the complexity of the content but also through the number of classes you’re taking. This all culminates when you’re fully immersed in the graduate program. But this also means that you can scaffold the cohort experience too (More details about the progressive program in a blog coming soon so say tuned)! Some OT courses allow you to select the date and time so you may see some folks one semester and the others the next (like OT 250 and OT251), while there are other courses that most of the cohort will take at the same time (often anatomy and physiology). As time goes on, you’ll also start coordinating all of these together and commuting between campuses and before you know it, you’re no longer classmates, but full-on friends! From these bus rides to hiking, and rollerskating, and museum trips together with Dr. Amber Bennett, you’ll develop a support system as you head into the graduate program together. For me, this is when these friends became family.
Suddenly you go from the OT foundation courses that were just your cohort to the full grandeur of the 145 other OT graduate students, you’re navigating graduate-level courses full-time, commuting to the health science campus, and trying to grapple with the occupational transition. It can feel like a lot to tackle all at once, but find solace in the fact that there are anywhere from nine to fourteen other BS-OT students who are going through the same thing, not to mention the BS-OT students a year ahead of you! When I have a question I turn to my cohort first in the GroupMe we’ve had since that first welcome dinner. When discussing challenging course content, we debrief together on the shuttle. And when we want to have fun and catch up before finals, we head to brunch! Every step of the way, we’ve been on this journey together and come so far. From a welcome dinner to a COVID-19 graduation to our white coat ceremony reunion and our upcoming master’s ceremony, I couldn’t have asked for better people to be at my side. As I look towards the future, I know that no matter where our professional paths take us that together we will #FightOn forever. ✌️
From Inside of Your Mind to Outside of Your Closet: Making a Case for Dressing >
November 22, 2021
We all know that a good dressing can make or break a salad, but what can it do for your day? No, I’m not talking about dousing yourself in ranch, Italian, or even a tasteful balsamic vinaigrette, this blog is about clothes! The American Occupational Therapy Association’s Occupational Therapy Practice Framework (OTPF): Domain and Process (4th ed.; 2020) defines dressing as:
Selecting clothing and accessories with consideration of time of day, weather, and desired presentation; obtaining clothing from storage area; dressing and undressing in a sequential fashion; fastening and adjusting clothing and shoes; applying and removing personal devices, prosthetic devices, or splints. (p. 30)
When I am asked about dressing, however, I simply define it as one of my favourite occupations.
We all know the basics: is it hot outside? Put on a t-shirt. Is it time for bed? Time for pajamas! Do you have an interview later today? Gotta wow them with your best business casual. Some people may find these decisions a chore, as something that takes up those precious moments in the morning that you could instead use to snooze your alarm. It could even be that you may be one of these people, but I often think that there are a lot of missed opportunities when it comes to dressing and I’m here to push the envelope. Although AOTA’s definition is dynamic, two parts stand out, two parts that open the door for this conversation, and those are “consideration” and “desired presentation.”
I have to admit that it took me some time to understand the nuances of what “desired presentation” really meant. To set the scene for you, I want to take you on my personal journey with the occupation of dressing. If a stranger looked at me in high school, they would probably describe my sense of style as “prep.” Without fail you could spot me in a neutral or plaid button-up shirt with sleeves cuffed to the forearm over a standard pair of khakis. I woke up every morning, donned a variation of this outfit, and walked out the door without a second thought. When I look back at that time, however, I think that by dressing in preppy I was actually prepping for a day that I thought would change everything; the day I came out as gay. I thought that if I made the way I looked more palatable and if I blended in more that when the day came, people wouldn’t be so quick to reject me. That they’d at least think twice about it. It turns out that every seemingly unconscious dressing decision I made considered that outcome and I so desperately wanted it to not be the case.
Things began to change my senior year when I realized that that time in my life was coming to an end. Graduation was on the horizon and I began to loosen my collar, wear some jeans every once in a while, and add some colour into the rotation. Then came the news that I was admitted to USC’s BS-MA program and, although it was months before the semester started, my mind was already in LA. What was I thinking about? That a new place meant a new me, and even more importantly, a new wardrobe. I started to go thrifting and over time, with the support of my lovely community, I decided to let the world know I was capital G-A-Y, GAY! When I got dressed in the morning, this was the desired presentation I coordinated everything around. USC just had to know. Talk about a complete 180°.
And All the Colours In-Between
As the years have passed, and as I’ve grown with my intersectional identities, the way I dress has grown with me and now lies somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. I think the single-driving force that informs how I dress is not what I want for others to see, but what I want for myself. On a cloudy day, I’ll bring my own sunshine by wearing my brightest outfit. As the leaves start to change colours, I’ll camouflage myself to match.
I’ve found that weather and time can only change so much, but what I feel when I wake up in the morning is always something new. It’s this uncertainty that makes dressing exciting to me. It’s how one day a shirt can convey one message, but the next day when paired with a different pair of pants it says something totally different. Although what I consider may seem to be more considerate of myself, I want to highlight, however, that High School Seth was just as authentic as First-Year Seth who is just as authentic as the Seth I present to the world now. The one thing that they all have in common, and the thing we all have in common regardless of our identities, is that in each stage there was an intention for a specific desired outcome. Although this blog shares my story, it by no means is meant to capture anyone else’s. That being said, we all get dressed and we all make decisions while doing so. I invite you to take a closer look at the dressing decisions you make, and who knows, you may even help a client do the same in your future practice! Here are some questions to help guide you as you embark the journey to making dressing one of your favourite occupations too:
- What is your intention for the day and what ways do you desire being perceived? How can you align the two?
- Do the clothes you chose match how you feel? Or do they reflect how you want to feel? How does the way you dress support your social and emotional health? Think style with a side of self-fulfilling prophecy!
- How does dressing interact with other occupations? Does it influence your social participation? What’s its relationship with hygiene and grooming occupations?
- I shared how I use dressing to express my identities, do you use dressing to express yours? If yes, which and how?
- Who says dressing can’t be leisure or play! If today was a costume party, what theme would you dress for?
And lastly, it’s a new day, what do you want to put out into the world?
Forget Fall Recess, this is a Fall Reset! >
October 19, 2021
Hello and howdy folks! Here at Chan, we are officially halfway through our semester and I think I could speak for most of my classmates and, dare I say, students everywhere that it’s time for a breather. From midterms to applying to graduate programs, or even just putting the pedal to the metal over the past eight weeks, now is a perfect time to renegotiate your time and reconnect with who you are in addition to being a student.
Before we dive in, I want to make something clear: the way you’re feeling, be it smelling the roses, being deep in the thorns, or somewhere in between, is valid. As rewarding as school is, it’s also hard work, and giving space for both of those things to coexist is important. It’s also easy to say that all of our stress is coming from school, but if I’ve learned anything about occupational therapy (and I sure hope I have!), it’s that we’re multifaceted people with unique roles, habits, and routines. Life does not go on pause because we’re enrolled in an academic program. My peers are parents and partners and more, oh my! No matter what those roles and routines are, I’m here to remind you that you are not alone. Check-in on each other, share support and resources, and sometimes make sure to give yourself a reset!
Here are some questions that I found valuable heading into, during, and after Fall Recess. I hope they can guide you through your reset too!
On the Horizon
- How are you? This everyday question, the one most people respond to with “I’m fine” or “I’m good” can really pack a punch when you give yourself the space to reflect on an honest answer. If you feel that punch, it’s time for a reset. This question is also a perfect launchpad for the rest of these questions.
- What is contributing to these feelings? and What do you need? Together, these questions are the first step to time management. Identifying our hierarchy of needs with our responsibilities can help address our stressors while also providing the opportunity to get back in touch with ourselves. Addressing what needs to happen paves the way for the wants. That may mean studying for the next midterm, but it may also mean sleeping in. It may even be a meal you didn’t prepare yourself or a skateboarding adventure around LA. Don’t be afraid to challenge your definition of “need” and explore what nourishes you because that is just as valuable to your well-being as being productive with your work.
Into the Thick of It
- What is something that you’ve missed? Is there something you’ve put off or even forgotten that you’ve enjoyed because things kept piling up? That’s a reset moment. These are the sort of things you can return to time and time again. Maybe it’s the book that’s sat untouched on your nightstand for the past eight weeks. Or the embroidery project of Judy Garland that you only dedicate 12 minutes a week to between classes (Just me? Good to know). No matter what it is, find what brings you joy and make it happen! The world is your oyster, it’s time to look for your pearl.
- When did you last have an enjoyable experience? What was it? What can you do to capture that feeling again? This is more of a one-and-done sort of moment, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go out and find it again. Sometimes the moments and experiences that are fleeting are all the more impressionable.
The Weeks Ahead
- What will you take with you for the rest of the semester? Although it’s easier to have a reset moment when you’re given the time to do so, the little things go a long way too! Think about how you will integrate your reflections into your schedule (or just commit to spontaneity) and be the change.
- What will you leave behind? Just as important as adding meaningful activities into your days is letting go of those that aren’t serving you as well anymore. There are only so many hours in the day so this time to explore reorganizing yours.
- What have you learned? The questions above may be best answered by this one. Maybe your reset experience was much more abstract and you’re taking away lessons and reflections, or maybe you’re leaving behind an attitude or perspective.
How you go about your reset is up to you, but it may be helpful to journal, talk with someone, or just think to yourself. If I could leave you with anything, it’s that first and foremost, you’re a human being and it’s okay to reconnect with your humanity. Otherwise, if I see you in the halls, if you engage with Chan on social media, or if you want to comment below let me/us know how you’ve spent your Fall Recess, we’d love to hear about what brings you joy!