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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Cultivating Good Habits: Making the Most of Your Uni-Life

Guest post written by Bernice (Lim Sen Sen)
The Pencil Box
“Our character is basically a composite of our habits. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character.” – Stephen Covey.
We’ve all had them at some point; those lectures we receive from well-meaning uncles and aunts, from seasoned cousins - and for those of us lucky enough to have them – our mentors prior to taking that huge leap from high school to university, about the things we should pursue during the course of our tertiary education in addition to our degrees. But how many of us truly stop to think about the significance of taking part in extra-curricular activities? More than that, how many of us stop to consider the significance of our campus life in general?

Having studied in a Chinese independent school myself, where exam results are the priority, it was (admittedly) a little difficult for me to imagine myself making time for activities that didn’t contribute to my CGPA. That didn’t quite stop the notion that my tertiary experience had to be something more worthwhile than what I was used to.

Taking into account the networks and funds available at most tertiary institutions and the possibility of being exposed to various academics and like-minded individuals, our time in university is the most ideal time for experimentation.

And experiment, I did.

Stephen Covey: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Stephen Covey: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People / PicCredit

In my attempt to “test the waters”, I explored the booths during last semester’s Club Expo in my university (Club Expo is where clubs have booths for students to sign up), and soon found myself enlisted in EIGHT organizations! Now, one can imagine the amount of effort it took to maintain active participation in most of these clubs without compromising my grades.

Of course, I am not asking that anyone else try what I did. In all honesty, it wasn’t a very smart thing to do. However, the upside of my escapade was that it allowed me to interact with a whole spectrum of different cliques throughout the campus without bias. Additionally, the packed schedule threw my preceding ideas of “prioritizing” into a new light. The act of deliberating who and what ranked higher on my priority list – which was mostly decided by the order of deadlines I had to meet – became absolutely crucial for maintaining control over my physical, emotional and social well-being.

It was in the midst of living with constant tension that I started seriously thinking up ways to not only help myself to keep up with the heavy load, but also to have a bit of time to do the things that I wanted to do for myself. I discovered that one of the most effective methods is in the cultivation of habits for productivity.

Take for instance, the simple act of picking out one’s outfit either the night before or by picking a few sets out ahead of time can save you the minutes (and I use the word minutes loosely – girls, you know what I mean) you normally spend choosing what to wear every morning. Tired of having to worry about what to do for meals during the week? How about preparing some of them during the weekends? My breakfasts used to involve either toast or pop-tarts, neither of which were very healthy. These days, I alternate between a yogurt or a salad, both of which can be prepared over the weekends. Planning to cook during the week? Garlic and certain other foods can be diced and stored in the fridge for convenient use.

Household tips aside, there are plenty of habits we can cultivate to help us use our time in the university more productively. I make it a point to have a separate file containing all of my material for the week with me at all times. That way, I can get a bit of revision or tutorials done in between lessons and meetings. Another habit of mine is to use the calendar on my phone to keep track of my personal schedule. More often than not, I key in important appointments the moment I agree to attending them. The technology we have at our disposal nowadays is amazing. I’ve also found it helpful to keep a note-taking application so that I can jolt down ideas and impromptu to-dos on-the-go.

Admittedly, all of this does sound like a lot of work. However, the beauty of cultivating habits is that, after a while, they become second nature to you. Once the habits have rooted themselves in your lifestyle, it will take little, if any, effort to maintain them. In essence, they become just “something you do”.

This principle extends beyond the realm of productivity. The concept of keeping good habits can be used to improve your interpersonal skills as well as your character as a whole. Being in an environment which boasts resources in abundance and very few major consequences, our time in university is – at least in my opinion – the most ideal time to cultivate habits that will ultimately shape our lives in future.

Bernice Lim Sen Sen
Bernice is a student studying at Curtin University Sarawak. Having lived through an early onset of quarter-life crisis, this science student, turned business owner, turned aspiring Civil Engineer has dedicated herself to being a lifelong witness to the college of life and the wonders it has to offer. Armed with a ready arsenal of logic and satirical sense of humour, she aims to bring unique insights to conventional topics of communications, leadership and the secrets of the universe. She is a contributing writer at The Pencil Box (www.jclathepencilbox.org), a site that helps students accelerate their learning curve in university by publishing articles on self-development, leadership and creative learning.
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