Emily Lam

About           Research           Projects           Blog  

Monday, April 25, 2016

Waking up to one alarm

This year, I made a new year resolution to wake up to one alarm. It stopped making sense to me why I would set multiple alarms. I would set an alarm for 6:30am, 6:45am, 7:00am, 7:15am, 7:30am, 8:00am, 8:15am, 8:30am. Then I would allow myself to hit snooze a few times. It got really ridiculous. I never woke up at 6:30am. Despite how much I wanted to, deep down that was never my intention. So why was I setting an alarm for 6:30am and interrupting my sleep if I wasn't going to get up until 8:30am? I was basically ruining two good hours of sleep.

Initially, I had used multiple alarms as a safety net. I think that's how most people use it because you just can't trust your unconscious self in the morning. But then I started to not take the first alarm seriously and would immediately turn off the alarm and go back to sleep and then miss the second alarm or hit snooze at the second alarm. I remedied that by setting more alarms closer in interval. If I don't give myself the chance to fall back asleep, then I'd be able to get up. But nope, that didn't work either. It spiraled so out of control that I'm guilty of setting alarms with five minutes differences from each other. Yikes!

So I decided to cut cold turkey. One alarm. That's it. No safety nets. If I don't get up, I'd have to deal with the repercussions of sleeping until noon. I was done being that annoying roommate who sets 324094589 alarms.

This post really isn't about how I got to being able to wake up in the morning because there's so many different ways one can try and their effectiveness varies. But the main goal is to have enough self-discipline and motivation to develop a routine and habit. Humans are creatures of habits. But if you put in enough effort, change is possible. Your sleep schedule is actually one of the easiest habit to hack because there's a circadian rhythm your body strives to maintain. Once you get yourself on a good schedule and you sleep enough and don't throw your circadian rhythm too out of whack, it's actually really easy to wake up, even if you do go a day or two of the week messing up your sleep.

So I did it. I now only need one alarm! =] And most of the time, I wake up before my alarm! I know, crazy! It amazes me too. But the main reason I wanted to write all this is because no one really talks about how much less stressful it is to not have to worry about waking up. Now I can go to sleep in confidence that I will wake up when I need to. It's so so so beautiful. There are times I've forgotten to set alarms and I still wake up at the time I need too. Sometimes, when I know I don't have meetings or anything of priority I don't even set alarms. I'm giving my body the opportunity to get the sleep it needs. Because when there's no alarms, your body will naturally wake up when it needs to and compensate when it has too. So yeah, one alarm! =]

I'll leave you with a picture of some adorable goslings! =]

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Hi! My name is (what?)

My name is (who?) My name is . . .

It's been more than three months since I last blogged, the longest stretch I've gone without blogging. I've been super stressed lately: flailing at the work, life, balance thing; accepting decisions, and just being myself -- sometimes you forget who you are. So really, I should have been more active in trying to consistently blog; you know, to help alleviate the stress and sort out my thoughts. A lot of the reasons I haven't been blogging is because talking about what stresses me out is a lot of effort. I have to explain the situation and then it's still confusing. But I think things are clearer now. I'm starting to feel more like myself. (Or maybe I've been myself and this self isn't real . . . oOoOoOoooooo.)

Sometimes half the battle is just admitting you've been a little deranged.

Maybe it's been the weather. It's been a very mild winter. But at the same time, spring has come and gone. Not really staying for more than a couple of days. Inconsistent weather.

So what's new? Well, I'm going to attempt a stronger effort in work, life, balance. I'm going to try to be more productive. To stick to times better. And get more things done.

. . . Slim Shady.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

I've Been Thinking About Boredom

When I was a kid, I used to sprawl on the sofa, with my head hanging off the edge of it and my feet propped up against the backrest, and lament to my mother, "I'm bored. There's nothing to do." Of course, there was always something to do -- I could've cleaned my room -- but there was nothing I wanted to do. And when you're a kid, you can get away with not doing anything. You had time to be bored. And from that boredom, you started something new or you didn't. It was okay either way.
"The biggest problem with Twitter is that I'd be in a taxi and I'd be on Twitter and it would keep me interested. I realised I wasn't getting bored enough and [that I needed to get bored] to start plotting things and coming up with ideas." -- Neil Gaiman, The Sydney Morning Herald
This quotation appeared on my blog recently. And I get Gaiman. Nowadays, I don't have time to be bored and with my thoughts. So often, I find myself with one desire and it's to sleep. Poor time management is probably part of the reason I don't have time to sleep, let alone be bored. But another is because I'm just doing things. I'm a graduate student, which means the bulk of my time is committed to my research and coursework. There's also the daily chores, social obligations, and sometimes hobbies. And time that used to be idle, such as, bus rides, breaks, when I just wake up, right before bed, lulls in conversations, etc., are consumed by smartphone checkups, social media. 

There's isn't much time to be bored when there's a never-ending queue of things to do. Done with work? Okay, now I can relax or check out that art exhibit or write that blog post. And so, I don't plan things too far in advance. I've been taking life as it comes at me, focusing on each day, each week, each month as it arrives, and trying not get overwhelmed. But yet, my schedule fills right up. I had thought that this would help. That by living in the moment and not worrying about the future, I'd settle into some sort of relaxed and restful groove. It kind of worked, I'm not too stressed these days. But do you know what I miss? I miss hanging out with thoughts.

By living in the moment, I was moving from one thing to the next. I stopped thinking about the future and reflecting on the past. Well I didn't really want to think about the future for more than one reasons. For one, I knew I had to make a decision soon about whether I wanted to stay in school for my PhD or not and I didn't really want to think about it nor did I have the time to really ponder it. I also didn't want to think about the future because I realize the importance of living now. As for reflecting, I don't know, lack of time, not prioritizing it? I watched a Jenna Marbles video recently where she reflected on things she's learned in her 29 years on earth. She made one comment that resonated with me. She said that without reflecting, you don't get better at life.

Here's another quotation from Gaiman:
"I feel that I'm getting too dependent on phones, on Twitter [..] It's a symbiotic relationship. That instant ability to find things out, to share. I want to see what happens when I take some time off." -- Neil Gaiman, The Guardian
Everything is accessible from your smartphone. There's no process or hurdle in obtaining information. Even thoughts have become sort of just things you look up. What do I think about Climate Change? Let me look up what other people are saying. This whole post has a bunch of thoughts from other people. There are even events where you can go and listen to other people's thoughts, like TED. Recently, I went to TEDxBeaconStreet and I sat there soaking in other people's awesome thoughts instead of having my own. It was a great event, I thoroughly enjoyed it. But I do admit that it felt kind of lazy being spoon-fed thoughts, which leads to this next quotation.
"Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking." -- Albert Einstein
Einstein mentions just reading but I think it applies to all mediums where thoughts are conveyed. Based on these quotations by Gaiman and Einstein, not only do we not have adequate time to think because we are no longer bored enough to do so, we are also lazy about the way we think. (Obviously, Einstein is not condemning reading. In fact, his threshold of "too much" is probably much higher than the typical amount of reading an average person does.)

So what now? I don't know. Maybe I can dial down my social media usage and allow and prioritize some idleness in life. I've found walking to and from lab a good time to be with my thoughts -- you can't really safely use your smartphones while walking yet.

And because I like to leave some sort of media for discussion, here's a video of a Juan Enriquez's TEDx talk from TEDxBeaconStreet. I really liked his talk because he talks about how really smart people are sometimes wrong, and it's not always the fault of the individual. It's important to create a space, where we don't shame people for having 'wrong' ideas because they/we just don't know they're/we're wrong yet.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Inopportune Blogger

The last two weeks of the fall semester begins now. It is always an absolute crazy grind because the Thanksgiving break really throws off your groove. This year is no different -- although, I was little bit better than years past at getting work done. I have about a million + one things to do. And yet on the brink of all this, I decide to blog. That's who I am I guess, an inopportune blogger. Part of the reason I do it is probably just to procrastinate on more important work.

Currently, I have Everglow by Coldplay stuck in my head. It's off their new album A Head Full of Dreams. I've never really been a fan of Coldplay but I like this song. It's simple and quiet and just there. I've yet to listen to Adele's full album but the four performances I've saw on YouTube have been good. And I really like 3/4 of them. Mainstream music is on a good note right now. Even Bieber is sounding good . . . (Yes, you read that correctly.)


It's been busy and eventful and good since I last blogged. I got to hear some cool people talk: Amanda Palmer, Junot Diaz, to name a couple. I did sort of make a decision on something I've been contemplating a lot this year, mostly offline, but I'll get into that on a later post maybe. 

I was able to make my annual trip to the Arboretum though!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Happy fifth!

I almost forgot to wish my blog a happy fifth. That's all I have today. Happy fifth blog. Thanks for listening. Thanks for encouraging me to write semi-regularly. Thanks for holding onto my thoughts and memories. Maybe we'll have five more years! It's been real. =]