Improving the Self

What is life without the drive to continuously improve yourself?

I’ve always been afraid of one thing, being stagnant. Last week was a good example of that fear in real life. It was in class when half-way through the lesson, I realised that I did not know anything about the topic and what the lecturer was talking about. That was when I panicked and became frustrated with my inability to understand and prepare beforehand. It was not really because I couldn’t understand the topic but instead, the underlying fear of stagnation, of wasting time in the lecture when I could’ve done something productive.

That fear has always been with me, sometimes, even paralysing my ability to rest properly and let go of work.

Though I may sound like a workaholic, I’m not. I just like to do things that are productive and continue to make whatever I do a +1.

Well, like many of my other blog posts, there really isn’t any conclusion to this story, just an entry that I would like to share with all of you.

Maybe, if there’s a lesson to learn from here, it shall be this. To always improve yourself but have time to rest, for with rest, you’ll come back stronger.

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An Academic?

I truly, wholeheartedly, admire people who seek knowledge and strive to be the best in what they do, especially academics.

I admire professors, scholars, researchers and people who delve deep into their respective fields not because they need to but because they want to.

And I guess, deep inside, I really want to be just like them.

If I were to go back to my blog post from the beginning of university, I’m sure I had written something along the lines of wanting to be an academic who seeks knowledge because of interest and not because of need. I think that was what drove me forward in the first semester.

However, along the way, I begin to forget that primary mindset, I begin to lose touch on what really mattered.

And I guess, because of that I focused on the wrong things.

To be honest, the thought of just “screw everything” had been playing in my mind, a small annoyance that will gradually get bigger if I don’t get my sh** together quickly. But I know that it shouldn’t be entertained. I love school and all aspects of it but only if I’m in the right state of mind.

After listening to one of my lecturers talked about Darwin’s and his own challenges faced as ‘seekers of the truth’, I realised how insignificant my problems were. I realised that my mind had been pre-set in the wrong state since the beginning of this semester, I should be focusing on the learning and love for the subject and not treat it as ‘just another module’.

I want to be an academic, grasp mastery of my field whatever it might be. I shall work towards it with renewed conviction that I will achieve that.

Emotions are Messy

Emotions are messy,

They are not as straightforward,

clear,

or precise,

as rationality.

Emotions fluctuate,

never in the same state,

always moving about,

up and down and around.

Emotions are unreliable,

doing things that aren’t subtle,

making you feel things that you know you shouldn’t,

making you do things that you know you couldn’t.

And emotions can betray you,

leaking out your deepest secrets,

when you’re at your weakest,

But knowing best,

that it is a test,

will put your mind at rest,

and may Allah grant you success.

 

 

Things I need to be productive

It is not how long you sleep that matters, it is what you do when you’re awake.

I paraphrased that quote from Gary Vaynerchuk, one of my most admired idols.

Being productive every single day is hard. I know. Sometimes, trying to do something that requires brain power is so painfully exhausting that I tend to give up early in the process.

I know that there are certain things that prevented me from being super productive for the day:

  1. The lack of sleep.
    Having a lack of sleep could easily crush and ruin the day for me. I will feel lethargic, annoyed and super frustrated. That, topped off with my inability to do any work will annoy the hell out of me.
  2. No Exercise
    Exercise to me is like an energizer, gearing myself up for the day. If I don’t get much exercise for the week, I realised that I get tired and tend to procrastinate more during the day.
  3. Coffee
    Even though I try to avoid coffee on the days that I get enough sleep, I sometimes crave it. I guess I am nearing the point of addiction. Well, as of now, it truly helps me in my productivity and I guess, that’s good enough.
  4. Silence
    I can’t tell you how much I hate noise when I’m studying. My mind is a wanderer and thus, it wanders about from one thing to the next quickly making it hard for me concentrate on one task for a time. That was one of the reasons why I started blogging which is to empty my mind and attempt to settle it down by clearing it of its many ideas and thoughts.

    Thus, I would need peace and quiet when I am studying. Even music is considered a painful distraction for me.

Well, those are just a few of the things that I need to have a productive day. Maybe, just like Chase Jarvis, I would do all those things and check them off every day.

Priorities Tester

In the coming weeks, I’ll be bombarded with responsibilities as exhibitions and events will be out in full-force.

Thus, on top of my studies, family, friends, I have to allocate time for my ad-hoc events and silat.

These coming weeks will test how I prioritise things and truly test me on my focus.

However, there are just some things that I truly cannot neglect: studies.

I came to University to seek an education and everything else is secondary. Therefore, it is very crucial that I am able to slide in a few hours just for studying every single day. It might be hard in the coming weeks but I will definitely try my best.

 

It is Important to have Enthusiasm

In the past few posts, I posted about how unmotivated, exhausted and completely drained creatively I was.

I think I’ve found the answer to the problem; I hadn’t been enthusiastic about my work anymore and let it fall into the trap of routine.

Having a routine can sometimes be good but in this case, it is bad. For creatives or people who depend their minds to constantly come up with new ideas, falling into a routine could make the mind go lazy and stagnant.

I realised this problem when I was talking about intentions with a friend and how important it is to have true intentions in whatever we do. I realised that I no longer have the intention in mind when I’m carrying out my tasks and activities. In the past, whenever I study, I had the intention of getting great grades and to learn. Now, it became something of a routine, seemingly ‘learning’ because I have to.

I guess by always reminding oneself of the intention of the task will prime the brain to be focused on just that one intention. It will allow oneself to control the wandering mind and to completely delve themselves into deep and productive work.

 

Priorities = Time

 

Recently, I have been complaining about time, the lack of.

But what I realised is that it isn’t because I don’t have enough time to do the things I need, want or expected of me but it is because I didn’t prioritise my tasks properly.

I have several responsibilities on my hands right now and I’m constantly juggling between all of them. And because of this, I’m constantly getting confused about dates, times, locations and the like.

Furthermore, it felt as it these tasks were also taking up my studying time which later on eats up my sleeping / alone time (which I truly need to stay productive).

Multitasking, that’s it. I have been multitasking, never spending enough time to be in DEEP WORK which is crucial. Thus, causing the problems I’ve stated above.

I didn’t prioritise my tasks properly, always mixing and changing about between tasks whenever they come up. Note to self: not good.

I need to have a keystone task that will keep me grounded and onward towards balance. I think that would be my studies.

In the last semester, I made it a goal to study at least 5 hours a day. It was a mild success (a success, nonetheless). That was my keystone task as anything I do during the day is towards reaching and striving that goal (which kept me focused and neat).

I think I will still keep that goal in mind this semester.

Priorities. Priorities. Priorities.