Hello! My name is Thomas Heathwaite, and I am a second-year student studying BS(C) Wildlife, Ecology, and Conservation at the University of Suffolk. Here, I reflect upon my 2020…
This year has been a roller coaster (understatement)! Back when everyone was all hyped up for the beginning of the new decade at the end of 2019, no one could have imagined the year we just had. No more of the same, please….
Despite that, I have had plenty of time to reflect on my life and develop new positive habits, which I want to carry forward to 2021. Reflection is perhaps the greatest positive habit I have gained, as it allows you to establish other positive habits, and through starting to understand your weaknesses it shows you how to improve, which I think is extremely powerful for reaching your new year goals. I could give you a multitude of examples right now of how reflection has helped me, but here are some of my favourites:
1. REFLECTION TOLD ME I WAS DOING A LACK OF EXERCISE –
Bad mentally and physically. I know that, yet my time was just so congested (or that is what I thought). In truth, it was not; just I had never made the time. Joe Wicks and PE with Joe inspired me, and i still do at least two workouts a week. I also took up endurance running at the end of March and continued to do it at least once a week – finishing the year with the ability to run 15km. This is proof, I think, that if you put your mind to something you can reap great rewards. So, thank you lockdown!
2. REFLECTION ALSO TOLD ME I WAS NOT USING MY TIME AS EFFECTIVELY, OR AS EFFICIENTLY, AS I COULD –
This led to me overworking, overstudying, and having no time for ‘life’. Creation of a weekly planner was a revelation! It seems so simple but yet was so powerful. It allowed me to organise my day and my weeks better and allowed me to see how much time I had. It allowed me to write down my work for the following day allowing me to mentally prepare myself, and, more importantly, reduce stress as I was drifting off to sleep. It allowed me to schedule walks, running, exercise, and allowed a general increase in my quality of life and better mental and physical health.
3. REFLECTION ALSO TOLD ME I WAS IGNORING NATURE – ONE OF MY GREATEST INTERESTS –
And I was falling behind in my work. Two ironies were behind this – I was not falling behind; just simply overworking by not being effective in my work, and if I set time to do a walk, I would be more likely to do it. Using the weekly planner ensured I did and soon habits formed. I was reminded during lockdown of the importance of nature by doing daily walks, and now that is my favourite part of my day. Ah! If only I hadn’t ignored nature before. Another great positive of lockdown!
4. REFLECTION ALSO TOLD ME I WAS TAKING MY FAMILY FOR GRANTED –
A stupid thing I think in hindsight! In particular, I was not valuing the time I spend with my Grandad as much as I should have been and it took the first lockdown to give me that wake-up call. This is even more potent now given he’s 81 and has both prostate and up to the 22nd of December skin cancer (that has now been removed). Why I took family for granted I can’t answer, but now I respect seeing them more, value them more and that is a really positive change!
Whilst lockdown has given me more time and the ability for me to learn new skills such as Danish and running; lockdown in many other respects has been really hard: lockdown has caused more anxiety and stress with all my modules for university changed, significantly altered and has deprived me the ability to plan. The hardest thing about lockdown, though, is not seeing friends: I miss social interaction – at one stage I had not seen anyone but the people in my household and Grandad for 168 days. 168 days of seeing the same people and no variety. That was really hard. I can’t wait to see my friends, to chat and develop friendships again. I want to meet new people from new backgrounds: I just want social interaction.
When I reflect on 2020, I think I can summarise it by saying: it gave me time and space to think, to stand still and reflect, and I am all the more better for that. Sure, 2020 was hard but, for me, 2020 was the wake-up call I needed.
The weekly planner. Whilst I don’t expect you to read everything I have listed on the planner; I want to draw your attention to some things I have done that make it really effective. Firstly, having lectures highlighted in green – I know when they are; they won’t change, and I know that time is filled. Secondarily, dividing the A3 sheet into the days (using columns) and hourly slots (rows), means I have hourly slots for which each day I can fill. This makes it really easy to fill in, and see how much time I have left in a day. Lastly, I include everything I need to do in a day: work stuff; relaxation, and admin work. That way I don’t miss anything.