Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Changing things up this quarter

Ever since dropping my course load down to 3 classes I've had more room to experiment and try out new ways to approach grad school, some of which I'll hopefully continue once I start working again.

Here are a few of the things that I've been doing differently this quarter.
  1. No coffee, just sleep. I was pretty dependent on coffee as a sleep substitute during the first four quarters of Kellogg and my internship. I have no qualms with coffee - I actually find it quite delicious (I take mine straight up...no cream or sugar) - but I knew that I was too dependent on it and that it was now taking much more coffee to get the same effect. So I decided toward the end of the last quarter to start weaning myself off of it and instead try to get more sleep.

    The first few weeks without coffee were rough, especially around lunchtime. Although I was getting a lot of sleep (7-8 hours every night), I was still pretty drowsy at various points in the day. Gradually, and without even noticing it, I got to the point where I felt energetic throughout the entire day.

    I'm kind of doubtful that I'll be able to keep this up when I start working, but I'm going to try because being awake naturally versus being awake with coffee feels very different to me.

  2. Daily Meditation. For the last two months I've been starting every morning off with meditation. I started with only 3 minutes or so and have since increased the duration to about 12 minutes, which is still not really a lot. This is definitely something that I'd like to keep up on a long term basis because I've read that the benefits include increased focus and better control over emotions (e.g. you don't get angry as often). Both of these benefits seem pretty helpful going forward.

    I think that I've been getting better at, but it's hard to tell. I still find my thoughts wandering off all the time during the meditation, though I've also experienced more prolonged periods of a clear mind, which is awesome after growing up with so much sensory overload.

  3. No more blocking out time on my calendar. I was blocking off "me" time on the calendar the last couple of quarters, but I decided to stop doing it this quarter. In terms of productivity, it worked great, especially when I was able to actually assign specific tasks to each block of time. But there was a side effect that I wasn't happy about.

    Due to conflicting schedules in my groups, I frequently had group meetings scheduled during these blocked off times, and I found that that made my attitude toward those meetings slightly negative because the meetings were eating into my "me" time. Normally it didn't really impact me during the meetings, but I didn't like that it shifted my perception like that.

    It is pretty challenging to try to block off big chunks of time with so much group work, especially since my schedule now tends to be much lighter than other students' schedules. To make this work well, I think you would have to really set expectations beforehand about when meetings are going to happen. My experience has been though that most of the times teams have to make exceptions for those agreements because it's hard to predict scheduling in advance with everything else that is always going on.

  4. More exercise. Whenever things get busy, time to exercise inevitably goes on the chopping block. I've been trying to balance this back out.

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