Tag Archives: reflection

Productivity and Working from Home

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about productivity, time management, and scheduling. Working from home has never been a strong suit of mine. Whenever I need to get a lot of work done on the weekends, I always have to work somewhere else…school, a cafe, Starbucks. If I don’t, I am so distracted by things at home that I just procrastinate all day until I stress myself out and end up staying up late on Sunday night and then don’t even get half of my list done!

What started me thinking about time management was my students’ reflections on virtual school last week. All but one said the hardest part of online learning was time management and managing distractions. Same for me, guys. To help them learn more time management techniques, I went on a deep dive on YouTube, because let’s be honest, I’m not the model for this skill! I found 2 really good videos (here and here) for them and they’ve been using the new techniques to create a daily to-do list and schedule each morning, which they submit to Seesaw. I’ve seen improvements this week in their ability to submit assignments in a timely manner. If we are still online after spring break, I’ll tackle the distractions element!

While researching for my students, I came across a YouTuber named Amy who is a time management, scheduling, morning routine, and productivity expert. I’ve watched way too many of her videos this week! With tomorrow being our last day of virtual school before a much-deserved week off, I’ve been reflecting on how I will improve how I approach the planning and execution of virtual school and how I will take some time for myself on my isolated spring break. Here’s what I’ve planned so far.

Things to do during Spring Break

Daily:
-Exercise
-Blog/Slice
-Read
-Skincare routine
-Sleep well

Fun:
-Puzzles!
-Try new recipes
-Catch up on my shows
-Movies and popcorn
-Coloring books

Organize:
-Clean out closets
-Cook and freeze meals
-Create a daily schedule for Spring Break
-Create a daily schedule for virtual school (if it continues after next week)
-Decide what to pack/move and what to donate

Work:
-Plan ahead for the next week
-Film all lessons for the next week
-Student feedback
-Catch up on curriculum work
-Brainstorm how to do an entirely online PYP Exhibition (if it comes to that)

I’m hopeful for next week and want to be productive, not succumb to binge-watching Netflix every day, because we all know how easy that would be!

This video from Amy is sooo helpful and applicable now! Anyone struggling with working from home should watch it. She gives great tips!

Freedom wasn’t so freeing

Today marked Day 16 of self-quarantine. Sixteen days that I’ve been cooped up in my house. When the decision was made on March 2nd that our entire community would go into self-quarantine and begin virtual school, I was in shock. That shock turned to bitterness and resentment a few days in, grumpy and frustrated to be a prisoner trapped in my own home. By about day 5 or 6, I was downright depressed at the fact that I couldn’t leave my own home. However, once I passed the first week mark, I had accepted it. While I dreamed of freedom, looking forward to waking up on March 17th and getting to go out to dinner with friends, drink a hot chocolate at Starbucks with a good book, or just do a bit of walking around in the mall, the closer it got to my freedom, the less excited I became.

In the days leading up to my day of freedom, talk of social distancing and staying at home to not only protect yourself but vulnerable populations began to emerge. Reflecting on the what-ifs, I came to the decision that I would continue to remain indoors and in isolation. My newfound acceptance made the decision that much easier.

But today I had to leave my house. I didn’t want to, and it certainly wasn’t for something fun like a dinner date or to hang out at the coffee shop. My teeth had been really sore for several days, and I needed to go to the dentist. I feared that my wisdom teeth might be coming in and pushing on my other teeth. If you’ve ever had tooth pain, you know it’s not something that can easily be ignored. So I made the appointment.

When it was time to go, the nerves set in. Why am I so nervous to leave my house? It’s not that big of a deal. But the number of cases here in Indonesia has been increasing at a rapid rate. And the President said yesterday that he’s intentionally withholding information from the public about the actual number of cases and deaths so as not to create panic. My worry about catching the virus was heightened.

I debated over whether I should taxi or Go-Jek it. Which is the safer option? Is it literally touching the person who’s driving me but being in the open air or sitting in a confined space and breathing the same air as the taxi driver? I opted for the Go-Jek, but wore my pollution mask just in case. Armed with hand sanitizer, wet wipes, and tissues, I headed out.

The first thing I noticed was the ease in which we were able to drive. The usual bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go, weave-in-and-out, drive-up-on-the-curb-just-to-get-ahead traffic was a thing of the past. Clearly the message to stay home had reached a large number of people. What would normally have taken an hour to drive (yet it’s only about 7km away) took about 20 minutes.

As I walked into the office tower, I was acutely aware of my surroundings and my actions. Don’t touch your face. But my nose itches. Don’t do it, Jennifer. You haven’t washed your hands since you left home. I walked slower to avoid walking near someone else, trying to keep at least 1 meter distance between me and other people. Having a bit of extra time to kill, I popped down to the ATM. Using my sleeve as a glove, I typed in my PIN. The change in withdrawal limit from 3,000,000 (about $200) to 1,000,000 (about $65) meant I had to make many additional withdrawals. Sanitizing my hands, I headed upstairs.

After my dentist visit, where I learned that I have two impacted wisdom teeth (oh, joy!), I stopped at the grocery store nearby to pick up a few things. My temperature was taken upon entry. As I wandered around the store, my fellow shoppers and I avoided one another like the plague, the unwritten rule being that only one person was allowed per aisle. After checking out and applying more sanitizer, I headed home.

Once back home, I breathed a sign of relief. While I had my first taste of freedom today, all I wanted was the comfort of my little bubble. I don’t think I’ll be going out any time soon.

Feeling it today

uncertainty breeds fear
the unknown
makes you question
what’s the right thing
to do

when you’re not given
accurate information
or it’s being withheld
anxiety sets in

should i stay
or go
what would keep me
safe

over two weeks of
isolation
no end in sight
loneliness
a new way of life

the need
for human contact
growing stronger each day
all i need is
a hug

Modern Loneliness

Have you heard Lauv’s new song, “Modern Loneliness” yet? If not, give it a listen while you read my slice. This live version is my favorite.

Ever since I first heard this song the other day, it’s been on constant repeat. It’s a beautiful song and sounds good to my ear, but the lyrics have been speaking to me, too. The whole idea that we are never alone, we’re either together or connected in some way, yet we’re still sad, depressed, or lonely.

This whole self-quarantine thing has me reflecting on this very idea. I’ve just finished Day 8 of being isolated, restricted to my house and unable to have visitors over, but I’ve been more connected than ever before. From 7:00am until 9:00 or 10:00pm, my phone vibrates and my computer dings, alerting me that someone else needs me or wants to talk to me. Throughout the day I’m on video conferences, taking telephone calls, instant messaging, emailing, or texting. The constant noise and virtual connection does little to ease the sense of loneliness. That’s the message Lauv’s trying to get across in his song. It is modern loneliness.

If I’m honest though, I’ve felt this way for a while now. The lyrics, “[I] Love my friends to death, But I never call and I never text, yeah” ring true for me. I don’t know why I’ve been doing this lately, but it’s like I’ve stuck my head in the sand. Maybe it’s because I’m working on me and trying to figure things out in my own life. Maybe it’s because it’s draining to send messages and emails when I spend so much time on devices for work. Or maybe there’s another reason I haven’t figured out yet. Whatever the reason, I hope that my friends know how much I love them and that even though I don’t always reach out to them, I still care deeply. Maybe I have a case of modern loneliness.

Year 10 Begins Today!

I timidly dipped my toe into the Slice of Life Writing Challenge 10 years ago, flinging myself out of my comfort zone. Who would have guessed that I’d still be here 10 years later, pouring my slices onto the virtual page each day when March rolls around. I’ve written about my love affair with the SOL writing community and challenge numerous times. I look forward to March every year, and despite the busyness that I’m facing, I seem to always make time for it, and I hope you do, too.

In honor of my tenth year on the challenge, here’s a reflection of the me I was when I first began the challenge in 2011. Things sure have changed a lot!

Ten Years Ago…

Ten years ago I was just beginning my international teaching career, living in Shanghai and working at a little school in the zoo.

Ten years ago I was a third grade teacher teaching a class of the coolest students I’ve ever taught. They taught me more than I could have ever taught them!

Ten years ago I was just beginning my vegetarian lifestyle, trying out this whole not eating meat thing on a dare. Who knew it would stick?

Ten years ago I was just starting to open my mind to the possibilities that are out there.

Ten years ago my fashion sense was questionable. It’s a good thing I’ve changed.

Ten years ago I was just beginning to develop friendships with Shaggers, Linner, and Michelle. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without these ladies by my side.

Ten years ago I couldn’t have imagined that I would still be working internationally, let alone know that this life would have taken me to China, Albania, Thailand, and Indonesia. I thought I was just going to do it for 2 years and then head back home.

Ten years ago I didn’t realize how strong I really was or what I was capable of achieving.

Ten years ago my glasses were boring. Thanks to cheap glasses markets, this is no longer the case!

Ten years ago I didn’t realize what was truly important in life.

Ten years ago I was a teacher and I’ve now found myself back in classroom again. (More on that in a future slice!)

Ten years ago I didn’t know what a gift this Slice of Life writing challenge would be, but I’m glad I stuck with it. The memories I’ve been able to keep, the friendships I’ve cultivated, and the lessons I’ve learned about myself as a writer are invaluable.

Join me on the Slice of Life Writing Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. You won’t regret it!

Reflections

My ninth Slice of Life Challenge has come and gone. Just like that, another year down. As I sit here in paradise (more on that in next week’s slice), I am filled with gratitude for the TWT community who put so much time and effort into the challenge each year and for the SOL community whose comments fuel me as a writer.

This year, I began the challenge with excitement and energy, but that excitement quickly waned and I found myself in a bit of a writing slump. Looking back, I think that part of that was that no one I knew in real life joined me on the challenge this year. Shags usually writes, having joined me a few years after I started the challenge, but this year she bowed out, having too much going on to manage the commitment to writing daily. After sharing about the challenge incessantly at school, there’s always one or two people I can convince to write; I am always energized by these new-to-the-challenge writers that I can chat about how the SOL challenge is going for them. This year, no one at school joined the challenge. The final shock came when Elsie, who I don’t know in real life but feel like I do, whose been writing alongside me in the challenge since I began (we started the same year) revealed she wouldn’t be writing this year either.

After the initial slump, I found a groove and the writing came easier (most of the time, that is). My slices were a bit all over the place this year and seemed to be so random, whereas I feel that normally they take on a bit of a theme. This year’s slices included narrative, essay-ish writing, poetry, and photographs. I wrote on a variety of topics, such as travel, reading, the gym, friendship, reflections in general and those from forms (TBAs, Currently, Hello there, Today I…), life abroad, and school.

Sometimes I was proud of my writing, other times I was doing well just to get words on a page. In any event, the SOL challenge serves as a one-month peek into my life, and for that, I’m grateful. Looking back on my slices year on year, I enjoy reliving the memories, laughing at long forgotten stories, and seeing just how far I’ve come in life and as a writer.

Reading and commenting on other slicers’ posts is what this challenge is all about, and this year I’ve been fortunate to deepen my bond with past slicers and make new ones with new slicers. Thank you to all of you who took the time to read and comment on my slices. The comments mean more than you know. 🙂

Here’s to trying to slice on Tuesdays…one down, 51 to go!

Rereading Childhood Favorites

As an avid reader, I’ve been in love with books as long as I can remember. My reward for any good deed I did as a child was a trip to Hasting’s or Half Price Books where my parents would buy me a book (or two or three if I was convincing enough) of my choosing. Frequent visits to the public library were a staple in my summer life. The Scholastic Book Fair was one of the most exciting weeks of the school year, where I was given money and allowed to buy any book my heart desired. Anywhere I went, I carried a book, never wanting to waste a spare moment of time I could have been reading.

Needless to say, I amassed a long list of favorite books as a child, ones that I recommended frequently, sharing the joy they had brought me when I read them. By the time I got into chapter books early on in elementary school, I wasn’t a re-reader. Despite falling in love with different characters and series, I thought it more important to devour new titles rather than spend my time re-reading a book I’d already finished. However, as an adult, I fondly looked back on these childhood favorites and longed to read them again, in hopes of them taking me back to a simpler time, allowing me to experience the joy they once brought me.

Although what I’ve realized through this read down memory lane is that the good memories I have of reading these books as child don’t always translate into my adult reading life and preferences. Oftentimes these revisits leave me empty, wondering why I fell in love with the book in the first place, souring me on the title altogether. It’s a bit like your first love. You look back fondly on the relationship, reliving the highlights, romanticizing the person and wondering why you ever let them go. But when you see them again, you’re let down, doubting your memories and left wondering, What was I thinking?!

So, rather than slog through some of my childhood favorites just to come up short, I’d rather look back on them like an old love, savoring the memories and the good feelings they brought me. In my opinion, it’s better to maintain the illusion than shatter it.