Where Did the Time Go? >
March 20, 2022
Life Hacks School/Life Balance
And just like that Spring break is over. Have you ever wondered where the time went? It feels so elusive but also always so present. At one point you feel like you have had an abundance of it, but now it feels like I have so little time.
I remember back when I started in the Post-Professional Master’s program last August, my mind was comforted by the fact that I have a lot of time to spend in this program and that I will have so much to learn and experience. But while the latter remains to be true, I feel like I am now running out of time. It feels like I just landed in Los Angeles yesterday but here we are. The one year has already flown by and we are already in the last few stretches before commencement! What is this sorcery??
Can you find your time back?
All my life I knew time was precious. If you knew me, I have had a love-hate relationship with time. Every time someone asks me, “If you gain a superpower, what would it be?” My response will always be to be able to control time. I find that whenever I feel like I’m chasing after time and making the most out of my experience here at USC, I find myself creating the best memories. You have this sort of pressure to do the best and to feel the best. At least, that’s how I see it personally. Maybe, as you read this, you feel kind of the same way too! But there is also a part of me that wishes I had more time, that I can freeze/rewind and do more. Could I ever find more time?
Look back. Reflecting on your experiences in the past is your own trophy. Whatever you have done and haven’t done, these are the points that you can live by in the present. Personally, I have had the best year of my life being here at USC. I made so many new friends and lifelong connections, and I had the best experiences and memories that I will never trade anything for the world. When I look back at what I have done so far in my time here at USC, I have never been prouder with what I was able to do, and I look forward to what I will be doing in the future.
Living in the present. While it is okay to feel like you’re chasing after time and that you have so much more things you want to do, I’ll use this opportunity to remind myself that I should live in the present experiences and bask in its warmth and joy. I have been so worried about the time I have left and the things I want to do that I forget sometimes to enjoy the things that I currently have! Like everyone says, time is something you never get back. So, while you have it, enjoy it.
Look forward to what’s to come. Now, this might contradict what I have already said but having something to look forward to is a great thing to think about as well. Maybe, in a sense, creating an objective to work towards is beneficial for your time as well! If you think about it, if you have a goal you want to achieve with the “limited” time you have left, it allows you to seize each day with the best memories.
But also, don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to pressure anybody to always do something. Sometimes doing nothing and really taking your time is completely fine as well! There is a fine line between healthily pressuring yourself while keeping your sanity in the midst of every choice you have.
This blog post has been, in a way, cathartic for me because of the current pressure I am feeling with the limited amount of time I have left here in my program. I am comforted by the fact that I have reflected upon my experiences and came up with the three points I mentioned. If you are feeling almost the same way as I have, I hope this helps you too.
Taking That Leap of Faith >
February 11, 2022
Admissions International Life Hacks Living in LA
This time last year, I took a leap of faith. I was contemplating for such a long time if I were to apply for the Post-Professional Master’s program or not. It took me a couple of factors before I could hit the submit button. Allow me to elaborate.
A Master’s program is so daunting! Can I even do it??
If you have read my previous blog about my undergrad experience, I am not a perfect student. If anything, I’m faaaar from being perfect. Not that imperfection is unacceptable, but taking a program that is a Master’s level is A BIG DEAL. It’s a huge step further than a bachelor’s degree. My mind, when I was thinking about applying, was spinning in circles. I was asking over and over “Do you think you can handle the challenges?” “Are you capable to take on this huge step in your life??” AND A BUNCH MORE.
What helped me go through it is to reflect on my “WHY”. I knew that I wanted to learn more about occupational therapy, most specifically at the best university for the program. So, instead of thinking of the intimidation of a big dream like this coming to a reality, I focused on the goal. Eyes on the prize. I wanted to become more than what I am now, and that I am willing to go through all hoops and hurdles to get there. So ultimately, learning how “to let go and to believe in myself” is the best way to go. Trust me, you CAN do it.
What would my family and peers think of me just abandoning them for so long??
It varies from person to person, right? It’s true, I am privileged to say that my family is my best support system ever. Even though I knew that this is a very big dream for me to achieve, I am lucky enough to have a family that supports me in any of my dreams. The same can be said about my friends too! As much as I thought they would be disappointed in me, they all ended up being my biggest cheerleaders.
Believing in yourself is one thing but having someone else believe in you too helps a lot. Trust me when I say that support system doesn’t have to be high maintenance. You can have relationships in life that can propel you to do great things without holding you back. Stick with them and you’ll feel confident in taking such a huge endeavor such as this.
I’ve never lived outside my home country for this long, HOW CAN I SURVIVE?!
Living in a foreign country for a long period of time really is a game of survival. There’s really no way to sugarcoat it. But, I will let you in on a not-so-secret secret: It’s definitely do-able. I have had many anxiety-driven nights back at home thinking about things to prepare, anticipate, and worry about living in LA for so long. But once you find out where you will be staying and mapping out notable places to do essential stuff, you are pretty much set! If there’s any advice I can give you on this problem, it’s that: Once you set your feet on the ground, find as many people as possible, especially in the Chan community. You’ll find quickly that there are a bunch of people who can help you survive the LA grind. I mean, look at the last blog I wrote about things to do in LA! I wouldn’t have been able to do all that had I not have the friends I newly found throughout this journey!
Circling back, I definitely think these factors have been major themes that worry me before I hit the SUBMIT button in my application. But like I said, I took that leap of faith. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, whispered a little prayer, and let my finger go heavy on my laptop’s trackpad. I feel the vibration on my finger signifying a click and the rest is history!
At the end of all this, I’m so glad I took that leap. I cannot express how thankful I am to myself for grasping the courage and going for it. It really takes some nerve to be able to trust the process and let Destiny do their work. It’s only a matter of time.
Self Care is Health and Health is Wealth >
January 25, 2022
Life Hacks Living in LA
Listen, I know it is admission szn and I will get back to talking more about being first gen, but today is not the day.
Today we’re talking self-care because it is my birthday and I am self-caring all day. I turn twenty-something and normally I would be traveling for my birthday, but birthdays have looked different the last couple of years because #COVID and #GradSchool. It’s hard and stressful to keep up with both. Since starting the master’s program I have been on the “go-go-go” mindset, rarely taking time for myself, but this year I am manifesting better mental health, well-being, and happiness. I am making an effort to invest more time in myself to reset and refill my cup before hitting burnout.
So with that said, let me share with you my top self-care activities.
Watching The Beach Sunrise
This one is probably my favorite one — exceptforthewakingupearlypart — because it truly helps me ground and recenter myself. Sitting in the sand, waiting for the sun to come up, and listening to the waves gives me a sense of peace and fills me with so much gratitude.
I am very future oriented, constantly thinking about tomorrow, and TBH I hate it because it takes away from appreciating where I am at right now. You know the “I’ll be happy when” syndrome. That’s exactly what I’m referring to: I’ll be happy when ______ (I get into the master/OTD program; I pass the comp/NBCOT exam; I graduate; I get my first job . . .). We forget that the moment we are living in right now was once the blank we filled in. So today, I chose to be happy and embrace the fact that I am exactly where I should be.
Tips for this self-care activity:
- Go to bed early so you actually wake up to make it to the beach for sunrise
- Bring a book to read or do some mindful coloring
- Grab a hot cup of coffee or tea on the way + dress cozy
Ok I love this one too — excepttheworkingoutpart — because when you look good, you feel good. I like to start and end my day with a workout. My AM workout is equivalent to a coffee lover’s first sip of coffee in the morning, it wakes my body up and gets me in a good mood. My PM workout helps wind me down after my long days. And in case you were dying to know, I am a big fan of the Apple Fitness HIIT and cycling workouts.
P.S. If you have a workout playlist, please share it.
Tips for this self-care activity:
- Try something new/switch it up (let me tell you, I never thought I’d love cycling)
- Put a picture of JLO on your vision board
- Checkout Alyssa’s Zumba class
Also love this one — exceptthespendingmoneypart — because who doesn’t like to treat themselves?
I must say though, this one can be tricky because it’s really easy to get caught up in the “I deserve it” mindset. And don’t get me wrong, you absolutely do deserve it; however, treating yourself to things only every now-and-then makes them that much more satisfying. OK FINE, this is what I keep telling myself so that I stick to my 2022 budgeting goal — but is it working? Yes. At least January is off to a good start. Now, instead of getting my Vietnamese sweet coffee 3x a week, I save it for the weekend, and in stead of buying a smoothie or acai bowl after my workouts, I make one at home. #GROWTH.
(Obviously except today because it’s my birthday and I’m treating myself.)
Tips for this self-care activity:
- Make a “treat yo self” budget
- Remind yourself you have food/coffee at home during the week
- We’re here for a good time not a long time; if you need to treat yourself, please do
So in conclusion, whether it’s your birthday or not, remember to practice self-care because . . . self-care is health and health is wealth.
Welcome to Procrastination Nation! >
January 21, 2022
Classes Life Hacks
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.
Hello Trello >
January 19, 2022
Happy new year/new semester to all! Continuing from my last blog, let’s get organized for the semester.
I live laugh love ride and die by my Trello boards. I was introduced to Trello in a coding class in undergrad for the classic use of “to do” “doing” and “done” lists. As someone whose work style leans toward start-to-finish in one sitting, this workflow doesn’t really work for me. Trello is also built for team workflows in mind BUT I realized Trello had a lot to offer for personal organization.
My system is intuitive to me but challenging to explain, so here it is in 4 parts.
1. Multiple boards/visualizations
There are 3 main parts to the anatomy of Trello. “Cards” are single events/tasks. “Lists” are lists of cards. “Boards” are pages of lists. Within each card, you can add sub-checklists, descriptions, and attachments.
I operate my life around 2 boards: my due dates and my schedule. As soon as the syllabus is released each semester, I input all of the due dates into my board and color code them (see #2). This board can be viewed as lists for each class or as an auto-populated calendar of due dates.
I then update my schedule board roughly every month to schedule out when I’m going to all of that work around my regularly scheduled events (class, appointments, etc.). I add in personal plans and other to-dos as they come up.
2. Color coding
Trello offers 10 colors to label each card. I use these colors differently for each board.
For my due date board, each class gets its own color, and then I additionally categorize each task by type. Yellow for readings, Red for big assignments/exams, Orange for anything in between.
My schedule board is a bit more complicated: class (light blue), homework (dark blue), fieldwork (black) student ambassador work (yellow), OTSC (orange), any other club (mint), important personal to-dos (red), social plans (pink), workouts (purple). I do this so I can see the balance of my day/week. If I notice too much dark blue, I’ll try and rearrange to make sure I have some restorative pink or purple in there.
3. Keyboard shortcuts
Trello has keyboard shortcuts to add due dates, label cards with colors, create cards from templates, and quickly switch between boards. Using these shortcuts dramatically increases the efficiency of using Trello for scheduling.
My favorite one is hovering a card and pressing C and it disappears, which is how I mark something as ‘done’ — a thrilling mix of achievement and relief.
4. Drag and drop
If I don’t get something done when I planned to, I like how Trello has an easy drag-and-drop feature for the cards. It lets me quickly rearrange my plans/tasks without having to rewrite anything. Honestly, it feels way less shameful and I see it as a metaphor for trying to be more flexible and give myself some more grace.