Actionable Advice on Changing Majors

Why are there not more facilitated opportunities to learn about different majors? In high school we have advisors that help with deciding on a college and in college we have advisors within majors to help select classes and career options, but there doesn’t ever seem to be advising on selecting a major. And sometimes our high school experiences easily lend towards an obvious major, but more often then not this doesn’t happen so obviously. I’ve met so many adults that say “Oh if I would’ve known x degree existed back when I was an undergrad, I totally would’ve done that instead.”

I personally entered as an undecided engineering major and found myself just thrown in with all of the mechanical engineers for advising purposes I guess because it is assumed that’s the major most undecided engineers will eventually switch into. However, this advisor was not really able to help me learn about the other potential majors – she specialized in mechanical engineering so that’s what she knew and could advise on…

I had an old friend post this week about realizing she wasn’t enjoying her classes and thought maybe she should change her major, so she wanted advice on how to decide on her new major. The majority of the comments on this post say something along the lines of “Don’t worry, it’s okay to not have it figured out! I changed my career path x times!” etc…

This seems to be a fairly common response anytime someone asks about selecting a major and I’ve realized recently that it really bothers me because this response doesn’t given actionable advice.

I feel like everyone kind of knows that it’s okay to change paths and have periods of time in your life when you don’t have things figured out – our society has long since moved on from the idea of people just having one career their entire life, and now the norm is for change. So while perhaps it provides a smidge of reassurance to be told “It’s okay to not know,” it can also just be irrelevant entirely; just because someone asks for help about selecting a new path doesn’t necessarily imply that they are particularly concerned about their current status paused on a path. By the time you ask for advice you’ve already accepted that you don’t know what’s next, and often times have made piece with that knowing it’s a normal position to find yourself in, what you are asking for is advice on how to decide which direction to move next.

This seems like a totally reasonable thing to ask and yet so often no one really has a helpful answer…

So here was my answer which I wanted to blog about because it seems like such a commonly asked question that gets unsatisfactory responses:

When you are unsure about the future, look to the past. What experiences have you had that you really enjoyed and what did you really not enjoy? Consider an experience anything that might fit into a category on a resume: paid work, volunteer work, projects, learning a new technical or communication skill, unique study opportunities (such as abroad or participation in a special program), and/or leadership. At first don’t analyze the experiences too hard, just on gut reaction if you enjoyed it, title it and put it in the enjoyed list or visa versa for disliked. (Knowing what you don’t like is super helpful so don’t disregard that list because it will help narrow options often faster than the like list.)

After you’ve listed out experiences you liked and dislike (or just didn’t particularly enjoy), then start thinking through what you did in those experiences. Use verb phrases to keep it short and focused. For example maybe you enjoyed volunteering at a animal shelter, so some verb phrases might be: played with dogs, organized pantries, emailed partners and customers.

Look for patterns in terms of skills needed for the experiences, content, styles of work (individual/collaborative/virtual, etc), roles played, any sort of pattern, then try to line up these patterns with a few majors that might lead towards similar experiences. Then go talk to as many people as you can related to those different majors, both students and advisors to get a feel for the differences between majors and look at courses you’d take to see what sounds interesting.

I had entered as engineering because I knew I liked problem solving and project based work and I was good at math and science so everyone suggested engineering. However, once I started to think more about past projects I enjoyed and the roles I played on those teams, I realized that I never particularly cared for the CAD or 3D printing work, and another peer was the one the go to person for engineering type work. Meanwhile, I more often ended up in a management esk role and would lead tasks involving planning, communicating, and presenting, thus I switched to major in business because the courses seemed to be in line with those roles and skills – the actual topics/content material of those projects wasn’t the most important part in decision making even though it seems that’s the part people usually think about when deciding majors.

So maybe this advice will be helpful to someone, or maybe not, but the bigger reason this conversation is interesting to me is because I feel there is gap and a need here. Choosing a major is a big part of college, and while it’s totally okay to switch majors, wouldn’t it be nicer for everyone if less people needed to switch? Just because something has been normalized doesn’t make it not an issue…

It can sometimes be really expensive to switch majors if this then means you have to take more classes and maybe stay in school longer. Plus, some colleges are better suited for different majors, so if you had a better sense of your potential major in high school, then you would be able to look at schools with better resources for your interests.

I hypothesis that so many students switch majors because of two primary reasons 1) they don’t have the best understanding of their options and/or 2) they don’t have the best understanding of themselves. Additionally, I believe working to gain this understanding only after coming to college is too late for meaningful impact on the challenge of switching majors. If high school could do a better job helping learners with both of these issues before learners need to choose majors, I think this would lead to less people switching majors which would ultimately save a lot of money and time for hundreds of people.

How might they do this? Well since I always like to include at least a quick brainstorm when I propose challenges, here are some initial thoughts of mine not too fleshed out (and some of which probably already happen just not wide spread):

  • being more intentional about noting connections between class work and their relation to majors/careers
  • do the same activity I propose above which also could be tied in with learning about resume writing
  • hold major fairs where high school students can talk to people about different majors
  • when assigning team projects, don’t just create teams, but create roles on the team as well (whether the students create the roles or they are predesigned, having conversations about roles and responsibilities is important to thinking about future majors and careers)

A New Journey Begins

I just finished my mid-year winter break and tomorrow I begin classes for my second semester studying in New Zealand. It’s truly a wild time with coming out of lockdown, just returning from a 12-day road trip, concerned and anxious about the future of the US (and how that effects if/when I’ll return home…), and now starting a new and very unique semester.

Lockdown was hard, but these past two weeks of winter break have me feeling at least a bit regenerated and ready to make the most of my second term of study. I had posted in our hall’s Facebook group asking for suggestions of how I should spend the break and also suggesting I’d love travel buddies if anyone was interested. Two other girls in the hall, whom I hadn’t previously met, responded to my post and we ended up deciding to go on a road trip of the north island. We rented a camper van and spent 12 days traveling to Hastings, Taupo, National Park, New Plymouth, and Hawera amongst other stops. Along the way, we went on hikes to see waterfalls, played in the snowy mountains, watched sunsets and sunrises, explored cities and their op shops (second-hand stores), ate lots of homemade meat pies and “real fruit ice cream”, took tons of pictures and videos, and even watched the entire Twilight movie series. It was a great time, even despite me remembering yet again that I really don’t like hiking and yet somehow keep finding myself saying yes to situations where I do a good bit of it… I’m honestly exhausted from all the adventures and was very happy to spend last night in a heated room with a real bed after a long shower, but I also finally feel like I’m starting to experience more of what New Zealand has to offer and am even more appreciative of how New Zealand handled the pandemic in a way that allows me to safely have a more normal semester 2.     

This semester I’m only taking 4 courses – the fewest amounts of courses I’ve taken pretty much ever in my life – and 3/4 courses are humanities/social science-based which is also very different from my norm being a business student that attends a tech school. I’m taking a philosophy course entitled “The Big Questions”, social psychology, an interdisciplinary online course called “Great Ideas” about revolutions, rebellions, and ideas that dramatically changed the world, and my one business course is strategic management. At this point, all I’ve done is explore the online platforms/course outlines for all of my courses and watched one short video in preparation for an assignment I have due Friday, but already I’m really excited about this particular mix of classes. I think it will be really valuable to my education to get to spend more time diving into some humanities and social sciences topics that I’ve not gotten much exposure to since starting college.

This semester will also be unique because I’ll have a lot more “free time” then I’ve had in the past and probably more than I’ll ever have in the future. Typically I would take at least 5 classes a semester to stay balanced and on track for graduating in 8 semesters. However, with the way my host school does registration, I would be above the max credit hours per semester if I added a course, so I opted to take the courses I was more interested in and I’ll just deal with a heavier workload when I return to GT. The past few semesters I’ve also been working at least 10 hours a week coaching gymnastics, plus sometimes being involved with research, and usually involved with 1-3 theater productions throughout the year. Currently, in New Zealand, I’ve not been nearly as involved with any of these other responsibilities. I’ve been helping some with gymnastics work I can do remotely (like scheduling and editing music). I’m still doing video chats with research teams and helping with building out virtual and in-person curriculum for future workshops. There aren’t theater productions at my host school sadly, but I’ve joined a dance club and go to adult gymnastics classes once a week each. But my involvement in non-school activities, in general, is significantly decreased from past semesters. Honestly, I think it’s going to feel a bit weird at first with having less scheduled time in my day – I even have a three day weekend every week with my current schedule. I’m thinking I might attempt to a bit more traveling/exploring in the country with this time, though travel is still a bit challenging post-COVID. Hopefully, good things come from this extra flex time since it’s probably the only time I’ll have so much of it pretty much ever. 

Overall, there’s part of me that can’t believe break is over already considering how stressful the past few months were, but I also feel excited about what’s to come. This semester will be very different from my past years of education, much more theoretical academically speaking and more flexible in regards to scheduling, but I think a changeup is exactly what’s needed entering the first semester since lockdown.

I’m very curious and concerned for the US though as it seems like August will be disastrous with so many schools and organizations not being particularly cautious about COVID-19. In New Zealand, we basically have eradicated the virus and yet my classes still have an all-online option with some lectures held online even for students able to attend in-person lectures, we have a shortened semester with no final exam period and all online assessments (like last semester), and every course has to be designed in a way that can move entirely online in 24 hours if needed. Yet I keep reading and seeing on social media about how so many US schools are just going back to business as usual with 8 hours, 5 days a week schedules in person with minimal changes to operations… If things don’t get better, my family thinks I should look into trying to stay even longer in New Zealand, which is honestly really stressful to think about especially since I know I’m going to be ready mentally to come home in November. New Zealand has been great and I think the governing is amazing, but even at this point, it’s becoming pretty clear to me that it’s not the best fit for me long term in regards to my personality and lifestyle – still working on describing why I think this and maybe it will change as I hopefully start to make more connections here now that I’m not stuck alone inside anymore, but I’m sure I’ll have a future post about this. I just can’t imagine being here for another year from now, but every day that seems a bit more likely of a reality…

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Pilot Success: Virtual DT Workshop

Today was a big day! We hosted our first-ever virtual design thinking workshop with Wish for WASH, and it was great!!!

It was by no means a perfect event – I have lots of notes for improvements… – but as a pilot workshop, I was super satisfied with the outcome of this 3-hour design sprint around supporting the homeless during COVID-19. We had a low turn out despite a solid registration which caused the need for a lot of on the fly pivots to our flow for the day, but we got through it and the feedback we got was enormously helpful!

Overall, our participants really enjoyed the workshop and were also very supportive and impressed with our quick pivoting and ability to adapt to be both participants and facilitators in an attempt to make for fuller teams. They even said that they would’ve been willing to do a whole day hackathon with us/would love to in the future. This really surprised me because we thought a 3-hour online event might potentially feel too long to participants. We also got good feedback around how to better word our pre-workshop email around what to expect/prepare with, and as expected everyone wished there would’ve been a bit more time for more elaborate brainstorming/prototyping/pitching – which was somewhat expected after we had a bit of a late start and a slow warm-up with getting people to participate, so we knew the whole time that we were running behind, but also good to know in the future we should better anticipate this potentially slow start. 

The biggest changes I’d like to consider for the future (in case anyone else is interested in leading a virtual workshop and wants insight into what I learned):

  1. Try to get higher levels of registration in anticipation of some no shows / more intense and maybe more targeted marketing. Potentially even create the date/time of the workshop after gauging interest and feedback on times that would work well for those interested.
  2. Re-structure our planned amount of time per activity to account for a slower start as everyone tries to get to know each other without the little side conversations that would normally take place in person. (This way we have the full time for a good experiment and produce phase.)
  3. Have one person designated for watching the time and updating the facilitators about where we are in the flow relative to where we planned on being. I found it really hard to pay attention to timing (didn’t help that I also had to convert the time zone) while also leading the facilitation because I could only have so many things going on in my head at once. Furthermore, since I had to also be a participant (which was not originally the plan) I didn’t have downtime while teams were working to be able to think through the big picture stuff like we had planned on, but should not have counted on. While I knew from the beginning we were behind schedule, I think we could’ve better made up time earlier in the workshop/ better allocated time to activities throughout the entire flow if I had been more aware of just how far off we were.

(Also on a personal note, I think I might’ve done too much of the facilitating/coaching and wish I would’ve done better at finding ways for other W4W members to play a greater role in the leadership side of the workshop. The original plan was for me to co-facilitate, and therefore, lead 3 parts of our flow, and I was not supposed to be a participant at all – just float between breakout rooms supporting as needed – but then one person on our team last minute couldn’t make it and a coach was feeling concerned about leading a team on her own, so I was going to assist her but wanted her to take lead. Then with all of the last-minute changes that happened once we started and realized we had less than half of the people signed up, I ended up doing almost all of the facilitation in the full room with the way things got cut, and I ended up leading in the small team despite what I originally wanted… So I need to do better there.)

The most valuable part of the day though was just knowing that this kind of event is possible. We successfully ran a 3 hour full DT workshop online! THINK OF THE IMPLICATIONS?!?!?!?

  1. The success of this workshop means the potential for future opportunities has increased exponentially! We can have digital workshops with people from all over the world; that’s pretty spectacular to think about the ability to expand the scope of people aware of design thinking and WASH-related issues.
  2. Building off of implication 1, with successful online integration, imagine the diversity of people that can be brought together for future collaborations?!?!? The success of today’s workshop was greatly supported by our ability to get professionals in the WASH sector as well as experienced design thinkers together in a “room” with a bunch of college students with open minds and crazy ideas. Even when we can meet in person again, I think in some ways online workshops might still be a great way to facilitate DT challenges, because it makes it a lot easier to bring together people with so many different knowledge points. It also makes me wonder if when we get back to school in person if this experience with online learning will make people more open to things like virtual guest speakers. The mix between experts and students is truly amazing to be a part of and I think if we capitalize on this experience with online education it could lead to some great collaborations with schools in the future.
  3. To me this proves any class online can still be interactive. The idea that an online class needs to just be lecture-based or for quick check-ins and – the idea that drives me craziest –  that teamwork can’t happen online is a myth! It’s all about intentional design. We used the tool “Annotate” on Zoom to allow participates to write directly on our slide deck as if they had a printed version of the activities in front of them. We also encouraged a “use whatcha have” norm – so even though we might not all have access to the most high-quality prototyping tools, we enforced the idea that anything can be prototyping material if you are creative enough. So even though we were all in our own homes, we were all able to build physical prototypes and share them with each other. Furthermore, we used a combo of full room sessions and breakout rooms (to stimulate table teams) to allow for streamlined facilitation in addition to small group discussions. With this feature, we were also very intentional in our flow by limiting the number of times we had to switch back and forth between rooms. We found in our testing/experience with Zoom classes, that when you constantly go into breakout rooms for short periods of time it becomes too disruptive and time-consuming, so instead we made our flow work so there would be longer chunks all together and longer chunks in small groups this way both types of conversations felt meaningful. We even made a “cue-to-cue” document like you would in theater, which a document just outlining all of the times we have to change a technical component of the “performance” so that we could practice all of the tech changes and see if anything felt weird being too close together in timing.

 

Some final takeaways: 

I loved how inspired and happy everyone was after the workshop. One participant commented that she spends all day at work focusing on the issues caused by COVID-19 and she really appreciated having the ability today to note real human struggles and then brainstorm ideas rather than focus on all of the negatives.

I appreciated hearing our participants talk about wanting other co-workers of theirs to participate in future workshops with us, and they also wanted to work with us again.

And finally, I was really proud of our team’s work both leading up to and during the event. This couldn’t have happened without the hard work of lots of individuals each doing their part and be willing to totally change plans on the fly as necessary.

It was a great pilot! We learned lots and have great potential for the future!

(Just a few of our prototypes by our awesome facilitators and MoVe talk speakers! I wish I had more pics but haven’t been sent them yet/we want to make sure our participants approve of the pics before we post, so for now it’s just us.)

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If you’re interested this was our slide deck (without the MoVe talk slides because we found it easier for the presenters to have their own deck for screen share maneuver purposes). We used the DEEP process with tools designed primarily by MV Ventures (formerly known as MVIFI).

Physical Development in Education

One of my classes this semester is Human Development Through the Lifespan. Our textbook is broken down into chapters that represent each stage of development as seen with the lifespan theory (so pre-natal, infant, toddler, early childhood, middle childhood…) Within each chapter there are three sections to breakdown the three major types of development: cognitive, social-emotional, and physical.

Currently we are studying middle childhood which is highly associated with the beginning of formal education. Something that stuck with me after reading the chapter today is that I feel like school disproportionately focuses on these three types of development. Cognitive development being the most emphasized, then sometimes social-emotional development, and really physical development seems to be more of a side thing.

Sure we may have “Physical Education”(PE) time, but often this is a short amount of time, sometimes it’s only for a few days a week, sometimes it’s on rotation with other classes so kids only take PE maybe for a semester or a quarter, and as kids get older recess time becomes smaller and smaller and PE often becomes a choice class that kids can elect to take or not. Granted, as you get to high levels of education most schools will still have some sort of physical requirement like playing a sport if you choose not to take PE, but learning about development is making me wonder, is this enough? At the same time though, as a student, I’m personally very grateful I didn’t have to take PE in high school. PE was kind of seen as a class you tried to avoid because it “wasted time” in your schedule and wasn’t fun… But what does this say about the societal views on physical education?

Research says kids should be getting at least one hour of physical exercise a day for healthy physical development. Furthermore, physical ability is correlated with increased cognitive ability (which school definitely stresses). And there is also a trend in decreased physical activity and increased child obesity levels over recent years.

Physical Development So why is it that physical development in school is often treated as just a box that has to get checked off and then ignored?  Why don’t we spend more time not only talking about it’s importance, but making it fun so kids actually want to spend an hour a day exercising rather than sitting on their computer?

Ghost School

Now that New Zealand has gone down to a level 2 alert level, the university has begun to reopen certain on campus facilities. This was very lucky for me since I got an assignment this week that would be much more challenging to complete without the textbook, and I had been using the textbook from the library when needed to complete my work for this class thus far. So for the first time in 7 or 8 or some large amount of weeks (I kind of lost track at this point…) I returned to campus.

It was so strange.

The whole place felt like a ghost town or something out of a dystopian novel. You’re required to use your student ID to buzz into the building, then to get into the library there are the taped Xs to mark the line to also buzz into that space as well. Papers are hung everywhere reminding people to stay one meter/one chair a part at a minimum at all times. Purel and sanitary whipes are at every buzz in station for going in and out of rooms along with a staff member monitoring. Not to mention everyone just has this somber look to them as they’re spread out so formulaically around campus. Plus I’m pretty sure the lights were dimmed to help save energy/costs since not that many people are using the facilities at this point and there is still some natural light at all hours since the building now closes at 5 (vs midnight, might have even been later, but definitely at least midnight during the school week) .

I totally understand and agree with why these measures are being implemented, but it’s still one thing to read about new procedures in an email and then a totally different thing to experience the changes to our normal routine. In some ways complete lockdown actually felt less weird because that was a total change in everything for extreme circumstances, but now to have so many little changes feels much more odd. Not good or bad because rationally it all makes sense, but just odd because it brings attention to little tasks that would typically go unnoticed – like the process to enter a new room when you’re already in the building.

I will say the change of scenery from my bedroom was quite effective though. Considering I was only at the library for two hours today I got way more done then I expected to, and definitely more than I would have done if I stayed in my apartment. And this was even with the gloomy atmosphere, so I definitely plan to go back, but I can tell it’s going to take me some time still to get to the point where I’m actually there every day again.

Going out today reminded me that while things might be starting to look up again, we are still far from “normal” and things will never truly be the same again which is very ponderous to consider.

The Little Bugs

Throughout k-12 we learn about 5-paragraph essays. I understand why this format is used: it’s a simple way to be introduced to academic writing and when frequently writing timed essays throughout high school, there isn’t really enough time to adequately develop ideas past 5-paragraphs.

However, then you get to college and all of a sudden essays go from 600 words to 1500 words to 3500 words, and the 5-paragraph essay format just really doesn’t make sense to use at that point. But when are we expected to learn how to transition away from the 5-paragraph format? As a student it feels like this transition is just kind of thrown on you without much official guidance. It’s not even that you’re told not to use a 5-paragraph format, it’s just that it’s obvious that it doesn’t feel right when using that many words in an essay. So then everything you’ve learned about essay structure becomes warped. With a 5-paragraph essays we’re taught to introduce three main ideas in our introduction and those three ideas become the focus of each paragraph. Well, just because you’re writing more doesn’t it mean it makes sense to all of a sudden have 6 or 7 main points – then it becomes unclear what you’re saying. So how do you transition to writing multiple paragraphs about one key idea? It’s not really discussed, we’re just expected to start doing it based on gut feeling I guess…

Not to mention there is a whole other kind of academic writing that honestly hardly gets touched on at all in high school: reports. We talk about research reports and maybe look at one or two, we maybe even try to write one, but I remember even with the one time I was assigned to write a report in high school for AP Chem, the teacher’s instruction was, “look up examples online and base it on that.” So my peers and I kind of just winged it and I don’t remember getting much feedback on the matter. Yet we when we then were in college chemistry our first semester of freshman year, we’re all of a sudden assigned a research report every week after lab.

To be honest this isn’t a huge issue in the grand scheme of things that need to change with our education system, but sometimes it’s the little things that just really bother me. The little things show just how disconnected our k-12 and high ed programs are from each other. There are things like long essay and report writing that seem to never really get taught, and yet there are things like general US history that seem to be required every two years starting in 2nd grade and all the way into college… (I legitemently have a “US Consistitution requirement” in my online degree portal, and I took this course online and it was one of the easiest classes I’ve ever taken because I learned nothing new.) The little things on their own may seem insignificant, but they can be really bothersome for students especially when those little things start to add up.

Empathy Seeking

Online learning has been a wild ride… Personally, I’ve had moments where I’ve been frustrated, bored, and even, occasionally, pleasantly surprised by elements that come with school online. Because of this, I’ve partnered with OpenIDEO as a community coach on their current design challenge around reimagining learning during COVID-19. If you have any ideas (tested or half-baked), are looking for new ideas, or just want to express some problem points around our current learning situation I’d encourage taking a look at/contributing to the OpenIDEO site.
I’m trying to do a little of my own empathy seeking because I noticed an (unsurprising) lack of student voices shared on the platform, and yet student stories are some of the most insightful voices we need right now. So I’ve come up with these three quick questions that I’d love people (young learners especially, though I also welcome teachers, parents, parents on behalf of kids, etc) to respond to in the comment section. I’m hoping to take away some trends to be able to share with the rest of the OpenIDEO community to make sure we’re actually ideating for user needs:
  1. What’s your biggest frustration/what’s driving you crazy about online learning? 

  2. What’s your favorite part?

  3. It would be better if…

Furthermore, if you are a student and interested in joining a virtual collaborative discussion/brainstorm session to dive deeper into this topic, I’m hosting a student gathering this Sunday night, May 17th from 7-8pm EST. Use this form to sign up so I can send out the Zoom link.

Moving Forward

After 7.5 weeks of lockdown, in 3 hours New Zealand will officially move down to alert level 2!!! That mean restaurants, university spaces, museums, beaches, etc will all start reopening!

Classes are still online for the rest of the semester, we are still limited to not being in groups larger than 10, and we still will have requirements with tracking where we’ve been/who we’re in contact with, but this is so exciting!!!

Honestly, I’m having a hard time believing things are actually going to start returning to “normal.” It’s especially hard to imagine while I also keep hearing news about the US and the conversations around the likelihood that schools there will still remain online in the fall. Everyone I talk to keeps saying they’re so sorry for my situation and how they know this wasn’t the semester abroad I planned/hoped for, but to be honest, I’m grateful that I was abroad this semester of all semesters. I’m in one of the safest places on the planet right now and I have a chance to actually go back to school/life not online next semester. I wouldn’t trade a more “normal” semester here for being in the US right now…

The hardest part is that it’s definitely been lonely having been pretty much entirely isolated for 7.5 weeks. Technology is amazing and I can’t imagine having lived through this 10 years ago, but video chats can’t replace face-to-face interactions. And what really stinks is that even though starting tomorrow I can see people again, there really isn’t anyone for me to go celebrate with here. Most of my friends during those first few weeks were also international students, but they decided to return home. And my roommate is staying with her family rather than returning to the dorms since school is still online, so now it’s like I’m back to square one being the new kid trying to meet people but during a time where we’re still pretty restricted on actually being around people… It’ll be challenging for sure, and I’m feeling more than a bit uncomfy about the idea of readjusting yet again to a new normal (moved across the world, got switched to different housing and different roommate, had a week of site seeing, three weeks of classes, 4 weeks total lockdown, 3 weeks online classes and lockdown, now online classes with restrictions, and who knows what’s next… it’s been a year of lot’s of adjusting and I’m not exactly the best with constant change as I like patterns…) but overall I’m just feeling so grateful with the way things played out here.

It’s not over yet, but we’re moving in a good direction away from this pandemic.

A Star in the Sky

For the past few weeks, I have been working on the brainstorming and planning behind what it would look like to host a virtual design jam (a design thinking workshop/challenge). We hope to start officially marketing the event next week, and I was originally going to wait until then to post about how much I’ve been enjoying working on this project, but I decided I couldn’t wait. It’s been so much fun to plan because I have to rethink everything I would normally do and figure out how to adapt it for an online environment and that’s been a weirdly amusing thought puzzle for me.

Today we had a group meeting with all of our table coaches for the workshop and even then I found myself still catching more little details that could be adjusted to make for a more interactive and engaging experience. It seems that every time I revisit the plans I realize there is something else I could do to make the process more efficient, and I think it’s finally starting to take on a really cool shape.

What excites me the most about this idea is that if we can pull it off, then a virtual design jam will be another tool in our pocket that we can continue to build on in the future. Being able to host a workshop virtually would give us the option to connect with such a wider range of people in the future and that’s a really exciting thought. To not be bound by the limits of physical location is truly game-changing, and I’m not sure we would have had the push to try out this concept had it not been for this pandemic; it’s forcing us to think differently and try new things that have the potential for great capacity building.

This pandemic has been awful, but it’s nice to remember that even on the darkest night, a few stars can still be found.

Over-Planning

Last night, for the first time probably in the last year, I found myself up working past 11pm. And ever since I finished my original 100 days of blogging challenge, I have always given myself the rule that if I’m working past 11pm then I’m not going to try blogging at that point.

I easily could’ve had time last night, but I think the hardest thing for me with going into lockdown and then transitioning back to school has been trying to get used to all the changes to my daily routine.

When we went into lockdown, at first there was basically nothing productive that needed to be done. As long as it could be done in my apartment, I could do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I could decide to stay in bed all day. I could decide in the middle of the afternoon to play flute for several hours. I could transition between random activities without worrying about not completing the previous project.

Now with school back in session, my environment is the same and, therefore, my external circumstances feel the same, so I have the desire to stay in bed, spend multiple hours on a hobby, and transition between activities whenever I’m urged to. However, I can’t really do any of these things now because I have actual deadlines again. Certain things have to be done at certain times and they have to be completed before I move on. So when I decide to spend two hours in the middle of the day playing the flute, it has the consequence of me then having to work past 11pm…

This has been a hard adjustment, especially since so little of the rest of my circumstances have changed. (As in I’m basically still in lockdown with everything being closed and me staying inside, it’s just that school started and there are conversations about things re-opening.) From the beginning, I decided to try to keep to what would’ve been my school schedule even though most of my classes are now pre-recorded so I could technically have any schedule I’d like. I thought this might help give me some consistency which would help make sure I actually watch the videos.

But then I have days like yesterday where my schedule gets all sorts of messed up because I was invited to a different virtual meeting that overlapped with a class, so I re-arranged my schedule because it was an opportunity I couldn’t say no to. While I believe I made the right decision, and honestly it made me appreciate the flexibility of online-learning where I could prioritize a work opportunity over attending class live (this class was actually one of my 2 classes hosted on Zoom, but the video is posted later in the day so I was able to still watch the entire lecture), the decision definitely contributed to me getting all out of wack with getting work done yesterday. 

So today I decided to bring back an old habit of mine to help with prioritizing tasks; I’ve taken a homemade whiteboard (printer paper in a sheet protector) and listed out all of the things I need to get done in the next two weeks in the order I think I should do them and what day I should work on what. Perhaps this is over planning, but I think that maybe a little over-planning will help me re-adjust to the fact that I do now need to get back in the mindset of planning ahead.

If you’re also struggling with prioritizing work during quarantine, perhaps over planning and scheduling could help you too.