New year – new habits!

It is a new year… and gosh, I guess we were all looking forward to letting 2020 behind us. Unfortunately, the new year continued with tough restrictions that have been extended both in The Netherlands and in Germany. We can also expect that this will not change any time soon, however, vaccinations are in sight – so I am optimistic.

2020 – a review?

What a year… I think that every tiny thing we accomplished should be celebrated. Or as Susanna L Harris suggested, it should be accompanied by the statement “DURING A PANDEMIC”.

The responses to her tweet are really interesting. Some people had (in my book) quite big accomplishments – like graduating. And I thought: “Well, I don’t think I have anything to add here.” Some just stated “Survived”  or “I…got some work done? DURING A PANDEMIC!” And yes… that is also quite something, isn’t it!

In the beginning of a new year, I often read in other blogs how people reflect on their achievements of the previous year. And in general, I think this is a good thing. Accomplishments – small or big – can be forgotten quickly as the next disappointment (like a rejected paper or grant) or deadline is always around the corner. I did make a list for myself and it helped me to see that I indeed accomplished more than I remembered at first. However, as I find myself in a quite privileged position, my list (short as it may be) might make others feel bad – especially those who are in a much more challenging situation. So I just keep it to myself for self-reflection…

2021 – a preview!

During my Christmas vacation, I indeed reflected on what I did or didn’t do during the last year and therefore also reflected on what could be improved. I already made a New Year’s Resolution for 2020 that I wanted to pick up meditation again. I had my Headspace subscription, but never managed to make this a regular thing. And as I expect this year to become quite demanding with new projects getting started, some colleagues leaving and new colleagues starting, I decided to figure out a way to incorporate this in my daily routine. In practice this means: starting the day with a meditation before getting my morning coffee. Gotta earn my coffee right? 😊

Making a new habit means also letting go of old ones… my day also has only 24 hours. One of these habits is spending a lot of time on social media with what is called Doomscrolling. During the last four years (ok, including the 2016 election campaign probably 5 years), I made it habit to check in with “the boys” during my morning coffee. The boys (aka Trevor Noah, Steven Colbert, Seth Meyers and sometimes Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon) helped me to keep being updated in a way and also laugh about some of the stupidities. Kind of a coping mechanism… However, when the 2020 election seemed to be tighter than I imagined, I woke up one morning and thought: “I cannot do this for another four years!” In addition to that, I also realized that most of my time on Twitter was not spent on the positive things anymore, the reasons why I like Twitter. With the Australian bushfires and floods, US politics and election, and COVID-19 there was just so much doom to scroll through. But does it really add anything? How many updates on bad news does one really need on a daily basis? And what better things could I do during that time?

Duolingo screenshot: 15 minutes a day can teach you a language. What can 15 minutes of social media do?

As Duolingo reminds me so often: 15 minutes a day can teach you a language. What can 15 minutes of social media do? Don’t get me wrong… I won’t quit Twitter and I still see a lot of value in it also for connecting with people. But I had to change the way I was using it. Besides limiting the time per day, I also unfollowed some of the accounts that mainly deal with daily scandals in politics. And because I often skip the app limit, I figured, I need to form another habit instead: No Twitter / YouTube during my morning coffee – practicing Dutch instead. No Twitter / YouTube before sleeping – reading a book on my eReader instead. The last part usually also helps me falling asleep earlier (and hence getting more sleep) – and reading more books! Win-Win!

This also helps me with the book challenge that we have at RRD, for which I will read 20 books. My personal goal is 30 books for 2021, but 20 books are part of the RRD book challenge. This was suggested by my colleague Lex van Velsen, as a way to keep in touch and socially close while being physically distant. And yes, I do miss those nice conversations at the coffee machine. So we agreed on a number of books to read and everyone submitted a funny or weird or interesting category. Some categories posed quite a challenge, but eventually I found a book for each category and am looking forward to getting into them.

Last but not least: Exercise! I gotta say, 2020 was not all bad. I had set a 500 km goal and managed to run more than 740 km last year. So it will be more about maintaining that habit and maybe extend the lengths of my runs a bit.

Progress not Perfection

So how it is going? For the Dutch practice and meditation: quite well actually. I practiced both every day and am quite happy about that. I also managed to schedule “running” into my work calendar, so that I can go for a run during daylight. For the “no twitter before sleeping”… well… Let’s say: baby steps… 😅


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