New Years Resolutions, of sorts…

The turn of the new year provides time to reflect on the events and achievements of the previous year, and to look forward to the next. While it’s tempting to set definitive and extreme resolutions which inevitably will slip by unachieved, in the last year I’ve learnt to give myself a bit of a break and relieve myself from internal pressures. I’m far from home, adjusting to a new lifestyle, a new career and pursuing ambitious sporting goals at the same time, it’s okay to not be perfect all the time.

I’ve set myself three holistic goals which I think encompass the version of myself I wish to be:

  • To be happy
  • To be heathy
  • To be competitive

It’s a well recognised that vague goals achieve nothing, but I hope that these ideas can be an overarching mantra which guide my decisions this year. These goals are not quantitive nor will they ever be completely finished, they represent a lifestyle of continuous incremental improvement. There is, however, a fine line between giving yourself a break and not making progress at all and it takes practiced honesty with yourself to work out if you’re giving yourself too much leeway.

January’s Shift: Spend less time looking at my phone

Like most of us, I spend hours browsing aimlessly through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and BuzzFeed, after which I return to Facebook to see if anything has changed. I don’t feel that I need to boycott social media completely, it has been a powerful way of connecting with the world at home and here in Hong Kong, though I’m aware that I’m wasting time in this way frequently. We all know that excessive use of technology can lead to eyestrain as well as making it harder to sleep and concentrate, the wasted time could also be used more productively, so I feel like this is a great step to take in order to become healthier, happier and more competitive. Here are the small steps I’m going to take:

  1. Use an actual, real, purpose built alarm clock to get up in the morning – It’s tempting to scroll through my phone when I get into bed at night and not only does this delay sleep, the blue light of the screen can lessen sleep quality and make it hard to drift off. From now on I’ll leave my phone charging in the front room.
  2. Take a book to work – My daily commute is spent almost entirely browsing through my phone, I’m going to pack a book to read on the train and during lunch breaks when I would normally spend time on my phone.
  3. Leave my phone at the door (or desk)- I have a habit of carrying my phone with me around the apartment and around work. With my phone by my side it’s easy to be distracted by it. I’m going to leave my phone on the console by the front door, or in the drawer in my desk to ensure I only look at it when I need it.
  4. Be mindful of priorities – Laura Vanderkam wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal arguing the case that we are less busy than we think. She started tracking how she spent her time and realised that the 60 hour working week she thought she did was nowhere near that, and that she was loosing time each day doing meaningless activities…such as scrolling through her phone. If I were to map out the time I spend on my phone I know I would see a significant amount of time which could be repurposed into being productive or relaxing. When I find myself scrolling mindlessly, I’m going to consider whether that is really my priority at that moment.

I’m hoping that this approach of small continuous improvements will bring about permanent positive change while at the same time taking the pressure of being perfect away. How about you? Are you setting any goals for the coming year? I’d love to hear them and how you hope to achieve them!

The Magic of Silk

Silk is my new favourite.

There’s something special about silk. I really love how it looks. It tucks in and it hangs right. I can throw on any item in my wardrobe and pair it with a silk top and look completely put together. It feels wonderfully regal. Images of kings and queens and Shalimar Gardens spring to mind when I think about silk (largely inspired by the poem “Presents from my aunts in Pakistan”).  Continue reading

Post Election Pick Ups

The aftermath of the election had me reflect on the importance of our relationships with others. At times like this we need each other. Whatever your political sway, I hope we can all agree that the most important thing is to be nice to each other. There is certainly more that unites us than divides us and I wish that it could be remembered more.

The temperature dropped in Hong Kong this week and it felt like Christmas was approaching. The last few days have seen the heat return with 27 degree heat but it still feels like the holidays are near. We’re travelling home for Christmas and we just can’t wait to see the people we love.

I’ve taken comfort in being grateful for the little things this week. Stopping to pay attention to them has turned them into soothing reminders of the great things in life.

1. A hearty bowl of butternut squash soup with homemade crutons, prepared by my best friend, eaten on a lazy Saturday and again on a lazy Sunday. A lovely reminder that winter is upon us. 

2. Harry Potter watched from the sofa
wrapped in a blanket.
Because it’s too early for Christmas films but it’s nearly time. We’d planned to watch one Harry Potter film each weekend and go to the cinema to see Fantastic Beasts and where to find them the weekend before our Christmas trip home, but this quickly turned into watching Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire in the same weekend. Never mind. 

3. A cozy Levi jacket to wear as the weather turns a little colder. I’ve absolutely loved the chance to wear something a little heavier and feel a bit wrapped up. Of course there was one day I left with a jacket and realised instantly it was way too hot. Consequently I lugged a jacket around all day.

 4. A special space carved out of a tiny apartment, reserved to pursue a project. Exciting ambitions are being realised from within this drawer.

5. Some shiny bright inks, for writing in vivid gold. Purchased after a relaxing evening of calligraphy jamming at a peaceful studio in the heart of the city.  

6. Dinner with a new friend. Partly for the gorgeous milkshake but mostly for the giggles during a stressful week. 

7. A spontaneous brunch. Where I ate too much because they have Yorkshire puddings and you don’t see those much this side of the world.

8. Seeing my students become engrossed by a book. Literacy is important but unfortunately not “cool”, refreshing and comforting to see them desperate to keep reading.

How about you? What are you grateful for this week?

Seeing the world in glorious HD

Some sort of magic happened when we crossed the world with our apple tv and our Netflix account. Despite reading online that we wouldn’t be able to access UK Netflix from a Hong Kong address, upon buying our gratuitous television (owing to the cheapness of electronics in Asia and the novelty of the freedom to select our own TV), Netflix worked right away. Having access to only cantonese and mandarin language channels via cable, Netflix has been our Hero.

When you are spoiled by the availability of channels via Sky you put less thought into what you watch and more importantly, what you don’t. In each household the TV is almost always on in the background, a comfort blanket protecting you from awkward silences and boredom. Often we watch TV out of habit, flicking through channels until we see something at least satisfactory before we settle down to sit for 30 or 60 minute slots. You can waste a lot of time watching TV.

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Go-go gadget giant TV!

I believe in the power of technology for education, for communication and for pure enjoyment. TV is a powerful tool and there’s nothing wrong with spending time watching it. For us, reliance on Netflix as our sole connection to the world of visual entertainment has evoked a natural habit shift.

I saw a meme on “the internet” which said that relationships are just two people asking each other what they want to eat before they die. I would add “…and what do you want to watch?”. The beauty of Netflix is that entertainment is on demand, you can choose what you want to watch and when. You can choose to watch your favourite series before getting and early night or you can binge watch into the early hours of the next day if that takes your fancy.

Asking each other what we wanted to watch everyday can grow tiresome and you eventually run out of episodes, out of series, out of answers. My “continue watching” menu became populated with half watched documentaries and pilots which had turned off after a few minutes because they were boring or simply terrible. As our options lessened, our habits changed.

At mealtimes the TV was redundant, with nothing to put on we began to stream music in the background. Rather than staying up late on “school nights” we’d choose to watch the next episode in our current series and then get to bed at a reasonable time, fresh for the next day. In the mornings before work the TV stayed in sleep mode, weary at the early hour. On Saturday mornings we’d enjoy our lay-in, take time making a coffee and enjoying the view from our apartment.

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I began to see the value of enjoying the space of the apartment and its silence. Or near silence. This isn’t pinterest. People live above us and a dog lives next door. (With his owner too I might add).

I enjoy being at home and spending my time there. Minimising the static buzz of the television has opened up 30 and 60 minute slots to enjoy other things at home instead. Recently I dipped my metaphorical toes and literal pen nib into the world of calligraphy. It’s really hard and I’m not very good but it’s relaxing and I’ve made friends doing it. A resounding success.

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My short experience with calligraphy has helped me to remember just how much I enjoy creative pursuits and stationary shopping. When we had a day off of school through emergency closure due to an impending typhoon, I spent 10 hours painting. Even when I was a GCSE art student I don’t think I ever spent 10 hours focused on the same piece of paper. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t get an A, or maybe I had better things to be doing, but regardless, the joy finishing my work sparked in me was undeniable.img_4355

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Some sort of magic happened when we crossed the world with our apple TV and our Netflix account. We began to reevaluate what our passions are, we became more purposeful in our watching habits and we spent more time talking to each other. If Netflix isn’t our hero then I don’t know what is.

NB: It might be that I’m feeling a little disaffected with technology after watching 3 series of Black Mirror (prime binge watching material) the same week I suffered eye strain from reading on my laptop for hours at work. A coincidence of course but indulge me a little!