Quick update!

Hey guys! So, I think it’s safe to say I didn’t exactly conquer this 30 day blogging “challenge.” I wouldn’t say I failed either… It did inspire me to write a lot more and continue doing so into the future– still planning to address all of the topics I mentioned before, and the topics should be great timing for those going “back to school”–but I was kind of overwhelmed with academic work and research and thus had to prioritize that for the past week or two, in addition to visiting my family.

I have lots of (both personal and scholarly) projects going on right now, and will be gone for the next week on vacation, but hope to pick up the pace with writing once I return! I will be back in the grind of academic life very shortly, so I look forward to incorporating more grad school/ lifestyle posts in the coming months (does anybody else find it way easier to be productive when you have more on your plate? Or is that just me?)

I also wanted to solicit your advice. I am in the process of planning the next few weeks/ months of blog posts, so please comment below if there are any specific topics you’d be interested in seeing me address here.

Thanks for reading this and for your patience if by any chance you read my blog regularly 🙂

-AK

My greatest weaknesses

Today we are getting deep, and I will be sharing what I perceive to be my greatest weaknesses. Of course, if you know me, you are welcome to develop your own opinion on the matter! I thought this would be interesting to discuss in case anybody can relate, and also just as an exercise in humility…

  • I have too many interests. This sounds like one of those “weaknesses” that isn’t really a weakness that somebody would use in a job interview or something, but it really is problematic for me. I am constantly starting new projects and, while I try my best to finish them, that doesn’t always work out. It isn’t even that I have a short attention span — I legitimately just have so many interests (reading, writing, blogging, fitness, playing guitar, makeup, singing, creating online content, political science/ my research, spending time with friends and family, and occasionally *gasp* relaxing among other things) that when I spend too much time doing one thing, all I can think about is everything else I could be doing that I am missing out on.
  • I am too nice. I believe that I am also a kind person who is generally sympathetic and genuinely wants to make others happy and make the world a better place, but in addition to that, I am too *nice*, which is different from being kind. I find it difficult to burden others with negative emotions I feel, so I am always “happy.” Also, if people treat me poorly or say something that pisses me off, unless I am very close and open with them like my family, I can’t respond in the straightforward way I’d like to. I usually just shrug it off or laugh and walk away, but it is a problem because this way people never learn when their actions genuinely bother me, so the behavior doesn’t change. I always act friendly and nice, even if it isn’t how I’m really feeling. Even toward people I dislike (which is usually a short/ nonexistent list, but still).
  • Similarly, I am hyper aware of the moods and emotions of people around me, and it is sometimes difficult to just be myself because I “can’t” be responsible for a negative shift in others’ moods. If I’m in a group and somebody says something that makes another person feel sad/mad/annoyed, I instantly know. I feel like all of my words and actions are so calculated as a result, because I genuinely don’t want other people to experience negative emotions because of me. Because of the way I phrase things to spare others’ feelings, sometimes my honest opinions come out sounding political and diplomatic. Although I’m not disingenuous, I will never be the blunt person who always tells the harsh truth.
  • I can be very selfish and borderline obsessive about time. I think this is something that I have begun to change, and I have recently been conscious about making more time for friends and family. But, because of my introverted nature and because of my ever present consciousness that time is slipping away and I only have a finite amount in life, it is very difficult for me to spend time doing things that feel meaningless to me or that lack value (i.e., small talk or conversations that I find boring, walking slowly to get from one place to another, sitting around on my phone while in the presence of another person, etc.) when I know that I could instead be doing one of the many productive things I listed earlier. (I also know that it is fine to relax, but none of the things I just mentioned are relaxing to me.)
  • I can be very perfectionistic, and sometimes about the wrong things. Just spent 20 hours writing a paper and I’m sick of looking at it? Probably won’t even check it for typos. But if my pillow is misplaced or there is a mess in the kitchen, I’ll go crazy.
  • I used to be pretty carefree, but now I am extremely paranoid. About other drivers, as I’ve mentioned before, about crossing the street, about the people around me in public places, about whether my metro train is going to suddenly crash or blow up… Ever since I was exposed to the reality that is human error by being in a car accident, my mind does not relax.
  • Just for fun, I’ll add chocolate to this list. 🙂

I’m sure this list could go on and on if I kept thinking about this, but these are the first things that come to mind! What are your greatest weaknesses?

-AK

My tips for productivity

One of the most significant non-academic things I learned during my first year as a PhD student was how to be productive even in moments when I really didn’t feel like it. In fact, I had a pretty good handle on this throughout college as well. I think as a society we tend to over-glorify productivity, and I have definitely done this myself in the past. While it feels great to accomplish many things, it is also important to take time to rest. However, for the times when you have no choice but to be very productive, here are some of my best tips.

  • Have a pre-work ritual. For me, this usually involves cleaning off my desk and lighting a candle; there is just something about candles that puts me in the zone to do work. But your ritual could be using some essential oils, washing your face, making a cup of coffee, changing into a certain type of clothing, etc.; just something to remind your brain that it is work time.
  • Be clear on what you need to accomplish. Seems obvious, but many people plunge right into the work they know they need to do immediately without considering what their next steps will be. This often leads to mis-allocating time and completing things at the last minute. Take 10-15 minutes even to review your to-do list, and decide what needs to be done this month, this week, today, and even this hour. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to do it. That way, you won’t make excuses like “well I’m not going to get this done by 5 pm anyway so I might as well just wait to start it.”
  • Similarly: calendar blocking. This may seem unnatural, but so are our expectations of productivity at times. I learned this tip from Amy Landino. It’s nothing extremely novel, but I do think this is a superior approach to time management than a simple to-do list. When I make such a list, I still end up with various incomplete tasks at the end of the day. When I use calendar blocking, I literally force myself to get things done within a certain amount  of time. Then, if I don’t finish a task, I am forced to move to the next task and/or re-allocate the rest of the time for the day. I actually wouldn’t recommend living every day like this, but on busy days I definitely do this.
  • On that note, I recommend using Google calendar in general. I will talk more about this in my post on useful apps for students, but my life changed when I began to use Google calendar creatively in addition to (and eventually instead of) a paper planner.
  • Wake up early. Or stay up late! Or go to a coffee shop without your phone for a few hours in the middle of the day. Whatever works for you, but the point here is to find a solid chunk of uninterrupted time in an environment where nobody will be bothering you. Usually early in the morning works because it is before most people are awake so you are less tempted to check email, respond to text messages, etc., and the same is true late at night. Some friends recommended going to a coffee shop without a phone — I  haven’t tried it yet, but I think it sounds like a great idea!
  • Use one of those social media blocking extensions on your internet application. I never believed this would work until I tried it. I actually didn’t think I checked social media that much until I added an extension that gave me a 20 minute limit per day (on my computer), which was helpful because instead of being derailed for half an hour to check twitter, I kept getting the “shouldn’t you be working?” page.
  • Say no! I never feel guilty saying no to something that will hinder me from achieving what I need to for myself. Whether it is a social activity, a work opportunity, a request for help (obviously exercise discretion on what is actually more important), little interruptions can really hinder your productivity. Again, not a general rule but something to be strict with yourself when you really need to be productive.
  • Coffee, because obviously.
  • Exercise! When you are tired from a great workout, it suddenly becomes 10x easier to sit still for hours doing your work at the computer (if that’s the kind of work you do). It’s good for the brain, it will help you think more clearly, and just generally improves your productivity.
  • Last and most important tip, which I’ve alluded to already: minimize interruptions. A two second interruption from a quick text or someone knocking on your door can actually turn into a 20+ minute interruption because of the way it disrupts your focus. We as humans actually can’t multitask, no matter how tempting it can be to believe that we can. Focus on one task exclusively before moving on to the next, and you will develop a momentum that allows you to actually finish projects and move on. Resist the temptation to do everything at once.

Do you have additional tips for productivity? Or even tips you have tried and that didn’t work for you?

-AK

My experience with music

Some of you probably know that music is very important to me, so I thought it would be fun to discuss the role it has played as a hobby, passion, and creative release for basically my entire life.

The first musical memory I have is attending my sister’s (orchestra?) concert when she was in high school. I vividly remember (my mom can confirm this) waving my arms around as if I were the conductor while they were playing. I was probably about three at this time.

Then, I remember elementary school music class and chorus, where I had an amazing music teacher who always kept me feeling inspired. He is honestly one of the most musically talented people I have met (he wrote and directed multiple entire productions on his own). We sang simple songs, played the recorder, and did other typical elementary level musical activities. I remember a lot of my classmates did not take music class seriously, and I got very irritated at their lack of appreciation.

In third or fourth grade, I began taking both piano and voice lessons with my music teacher, which I would continue until middle school. During this time, I also had roles in my class play and the elementary school musicals, and attended summer theater camps.

In middle school, I was involved in the production Annie. After this, for some reason, I stopped participating in performing arts at my school (other than briefly to be a part of the production of Footloose). I think it was because I wanted to be more active in cheerleading, and I only had so many hours in the day, but I sometimes wonder how my experience might have been different if I’d continued.

Despite that I stopped participating in performing arts, I was still musically active. I would spend a ton of my time online, discovering new music, and particularly on YouTube, watching covers of popular songs. I also began to play guitar some time in high school, so that required a lot of my time, as I was teaching myself. I even began to collaborate with my friends and post videos of our covers of songs (yes, these are still online… it doesn’t even feel like me when I watch those videos, since I have changed so much since then. I’m no longer active on this channel, but I keep the old videos up so I can look back and see how much I progress in terms of guitar, etc).

During college, I had a bit of a musical hiatus. I always had my guitar on campus, but there wasn’t much privacy. While I have no problem performing in front of an audience when I know a song, I *hate* being around others when I am learning a song (or trying to be creative and write my own). It really interrupts my focus and bothers me a lot. So, I spent a lot of time wishing I could be playing guitar but feeling unable to.

Once I graduated college, I started to get back into it. I have hit a bit of a plateau with my guitar playing, and now I’m spending a lot more of my time trying to improve. Now, I actually have recording equipment and music software that allows me to document this journey, which is something I’m trying to invest some time into. I must admit that it feels a bit self-indulgent to spend time recording music when I have all of these other priorities in my life, but I also believe that you have to do what feeds your soul. And writing my own songs is something that I’m also working toward. My hope is that I could one day provide people with the same kind of joy that others’ music has given me, so I will continue to share some of my music on my YouTube channel 🙂

How has music helped, inspired, or taught you (or not) in life?

-AK

Weekend snapshot: family beach trip

For my mom’s birthday, my brother and I decided to be nostalgic and take her on a weekend trip to the beach we have visited ever since we were kids (Rehoboth!). There is just something about that beach that brings back good memories, and we were all happy to be there. Although we didn’t fulfill all of our traditions (chocolate covered strawberries… which my brother claims not to remember, how sad), and our Saturday was interrupted by a rain storm, we had a great time while it lasted. I don’t have a lot to say, other than how glad I am that I got to spend time with my family, but I do have pictures to share!

We love the beach!

-AK

P.S. my posts have been a little jumbled lately; for example, I accidentally skipped one (about being yourself in the face of criticism) and intentionally skipped one (about podcasts, because there are still only one or two that I like…); just wanted to say that I will be revisiting those topics in the future. This blogging challenge (my 7/5 post) is really just to keep myself accountable, so I wanted to do that as well as apologize to the one or two people who might actually notice that I missed those topics. Anyway, thanks for reading!

My favorite YouTubers

This is probably the easiest post I’ll ever write because today I’m sharing my favorite YouTube channels. Watching YouTube videos probably takes up 99% of my free time. I only recently realized that not everybody even watches YouTube leisurely, which is crazy to me because there are some people that I follow who almost feel like friends at this point (even if they have no clue who I am). These are some of my favorites, organized to some extent by the kind of content they tend to focus on.

Academic/ Organization:
Lipsticks and Lattes
 a law student sharing vlogs and updates about her life, as well as fashion and beauty content. But I primarily watch her videos because they always makes me feel motivated to get my life together and do my work

Holly Gabrielle – again, I watch her videos when I don’t feel very focused with my school work and I usually feel instantly inspired to be productive

Lifestyle: 

Kalel – I’m not sure if she belongs in the lifestyle or vegan category, although she is the YouTuber who originally made me decide to go vegan. But she makes a lot of other videos as well, and I enjoy her personality and find her LA lifestyle interesting to learn about

Whitney Simmons – I’ve mentioned her before as a source of fitness inspiration, but her channel also contains a lot of lifestyle content. She is super funny and inspiring!

Vegan community: 

Stella Rae – she also focuses on fitness, spirituality, and shares regular vlogs

Caitlin Shoemaker – favorite food blogger ever, I’ve mentioned her before but I actually discovered her through YouTube and I rely on her so much for food (and life, such as yoga!) inspiration

Cheap Lazy Vegan – more amazing recipes, and they really are cheap and easy!

Supreme Banana Cami is hilarious, “veganizes” a lot of very non-vegan recipes, and does some lifestyle content on the side

Avant Garde Vegan – AMAZING recipes, he teaches you how to make recipes at home that belong in a gourmet vegan restaurant, in my opinion

Beauty:

Reese Regan – she does a lot of makeup, fashion, etc. videos, but she also makes videos about college life, organization, fitness, and other topics that I find relatable. I also just find her very inspiring considering how hard she works for how young she is

Jeffree Star – this is a new addition, because I used to be intimidated by his personality. Now, I’ve embraced his boujee-ness and I enjoy watching his videos; I’m also very inspired by people who basically build their own empire which he has certainly done in the makeup industry

Self-improvement/ motivation: 

Kalyn Nicholson my all-time favorite YouTuber. I get so much inspiration and wisdom from her channel.

YesReneau – a Harvard graduate sharing her actual life as well as thoughts on various topics!

Amy Landino – focuses on achieving goals, business ambitions, social media tips, and more

Entertainment:

OJC Astrology astrology videos and tarot card readings; honestly I never used to be into this kind of thing but her videos are so accurately related to my life that I have become a big fan. It started out as entertainment but now I actually relate them to my life

Trisha Paytas – I mean, come on. Her recent saga with Jason reminded me how funny she is, and he’s hilarious too

Shane Dawson and basically everyone who is friends with him (Ryland, Garrett), just hilarious and a great person too

I could go on and on, but these are the people whose channels I pay the most attention to these days. Do you watch YouTube regularly, or prefer other types of entertainment? If so, who are your favorite content creators?

-AK

My biggest pet peeves

Today is the first day I have ventured into the city in a while, which means encountering lots of people… What a perfect time to discuss my pet peeves!

Just a disclaimer: I don’t prefer to dwell on the negative things in life. But, you don’t really know somebody until you know what bothers them, so I thought it might be fun to share some of my pet peeves. In the big picture, these things don’t matter, which makes it kind of hilarious how passionately I hate them. In fact, I find myself laughing at my own intolerance for certain things quite often. So here are some of the things that really, really bother me.

  • The sound of people chewing, particularly if they don’t realize how loud and obnoxious they are being. For some reason it does not bother me if they are doing it intentionally, or if it is like… unrealistically loud. (E.g., I can watch a Trish Paytas mukbang and honestly not be bothered). My tolerance for this has improved over the years (my family used to feel uncomfortable eating chips around me, and I felt bad), but I still struggle from misophonia (like actually).
  • People on sidewalks. My brother says I get too annoyed by them, which, to be honest, is true. He even came up with a term for my walking version of road rage: footpath fury. Slow walkers don’t really bother me. What I hate is when TWO OR MORE PEOPLE are walking in the OPPOSITE DIRECTION as me and ONE OF THEM REFUSES TO MOVE OVER so I have to walk ON THE GRASS OR STREET. Honestly I think this says something about them as a person, like that they either have a superiority complex (because why should I have any less of a right to my side of the sidewalk than you do and also do you drive like this?) or that they shouldn’t go out in public again until their spatial awareness has improved.
  • Speaking of driving, I really can’t handle other peoples’ driving. I don’t know why I don’t insist on driving all of the time when I go places with friends or family at this point (mostly because I can only fit one passenger) but I swear I have a million mini heart attacks any time somebody else is driving. Why can’t you slow down? Why do you have to weave in and out of traffic? Does getting one car length further ahead in 5mph traffic really help you? JW.
  • Two-step authentication: my university recently started using this and it just annoys me. This is the same computer I used the last 100000x I logged in. Why can I choose not to authenticate for the next 14 days but not indefinitely? Why can’t I opt out?
  • Passive aggression. I think this is perhaps one of the worst traits. I can admit that I am guilty of it myself at times, and when I realize that I get annoyed even with myself. It’s like being angry about someone/ something, but being too cowardly to own that anger and do something productive with it. We are adults, use your words.
  • Salespeople, especially when you purposely look away from them and walk in the opposite direction but they still pursue you. I think the purpose of them is to make me buy more things, but they honestly just make me want to leave the store and never come back again. I literally can’t focus if you’re talking to me, and you’re impairing my ability to make decisions. I only had an hour to shop leisurely and you just wasted my time. I’ll stick to online shopping, thanks.

That’s about all the ranting I can handle for one day. While all of this is true, don’t take it too seriously. What are your biggest pet peeves??

-AK