December Blog – Tessa Tang

Digital Ambassador Tessa Tang chronicles life as an RNCM student in a series of monthly blog posts.

Say ‘Make it to dinner and I’ll survive’ every single day for 10 weeks, and you will eventually reach the end of the term. It may sound silly but this mantra helped me get through what seemed like the busiest and longest term of 2020.

I thought things would slow down after my third year deferred recital in November’s Reading Week when in fact, the recital pushed my to-do list backwards and it seems to grow with every passing day. I’m not sure if it’s me taking too many walks or if it’s the ‘final year hustle’, but after talking with a few friends, I’ve collaged a list of some tips on how to better focus.

Fun fact: I did an Instagram poll asking ‘Tips to focus’ on my story and the most savage reply I got was ‘Not being on your phone doing Instagram polls’ (shout-out to that friend for keeping it real, we need more friends like you).

Firstly, I’d say to take it a day at a time. Recently I’ve gotten into the habit of starting my day on an upbeat (hah). Playing music that lifts your spirits first thing in the morning and having a little boogie while e.g. brushing your teeth, to get the blood pumping and releasing loads of positive chemicals for your brain: endorphins (pain reliever in response to existing stress), serotonin (stabilises mood, well-being) and dopamine (‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter). My personal go-to is Supergrass’ Alright or the Beach Boys’ Wouldn’t It Be Nice, if you’d like an idea of where to start.

The second thing that I personally find extremely helpful, is to allocate 10 minutes to writing a to-do list before starting the day. If you’re not used to it, lists help with keeping us on track and it’s worth a shot. I have to say, it is quite satisfying to see the entire crossed-out-list at the end of the day – that’s why it’s also important to scale down and make a list that’s practical for the number of hours we’ve got that day.

How else can we focus? Page blockers or focus apps. Unpaid advertising here, but I use the Forest focus app which has quite a good and cute incentive because you get to ‘grow your own forest’ with each tree representing the amount of focus time – the longer the timer, the bigger the tree (so it’s 10 minutes for a shrub, and 60 minutes for a proper pine tree). With Christmas just around the corner, falling snow has been added onto the trees (very cute!).

The view from Seminar Room 2

Music – a controversial one. Some people work well with classical music but I find that difficult (I’ve started listening to rap to expand my rap..ertoire). Others can be pure silence, white noise, sounds of nature, drum ‘n’ bass, lo-fi-hiphop etc. So it’s really finding and sticking to what works for you!

What really helps is the working environment as well! I find that my productivity increases when I’ve got a neat working space, or if I’m near some form of sunlight. They say that clean desk = clean mind, and that usually comes along with a sense of accomplishment which translates into motivation. Hopefully there aren’t scores or empty tea cups hiding in the corners. Best to do a spring clean!

With friends – another controversial one. Choose your study buddies wisely – I REPEAT! Choose wisely. Else, there is the option to study in groups via Zoom or Skype. Zoom fatigue, yes, but hear me out – seeing your friends do their work/practising (with the mic muted) could be a motivation to stay on track. Works for some, doesn’t work for others. So it’s worth a shot – these are simply ideas so pick and choose. :)

While we can so easily fall into the ‘practice, practice, practice’ abyss to feel like we need to reach a level, it is sometimes better to make time for other things and get a mental break from it. Loads of studies online have proven that taking breaks increase productivity and maintain performance throughout the day. I confess, taking that first step was not easy (just like most things when stepping out of our comfort zone). But after having done it over a few weeks, I’ve felt better and more positive than ever. Don’t expect for it to work overnight. Just like everything else, it takes time adjusting when we’re introducing something new in our routine/lives. So don’t give up because as they say, never try never know.

I think the coming term will be a hustle once again: learning repertoire for final recitals, internal competitions, final year creative project and research elective deadlines. My heart goes out to fellow final year mates – let’s press on, we can do it! But for now, let’s focus on having the best time with family and put practice and work aside on Christmas Day – it’s all about that work-life balance!

Looking ahead to 2021, we won’t know how things will turn out, but we move on and work around! May we stay well and warm, hearts full of love and tummies full of food!

Thanks for reading and chill vibes,

Tessa x

21 December 2020