College Blogging 101 is a weekly meme hosted by Lili's Reflections where a variety of hosts answer questions and give advice in regards to blogging in college. The purpose of this is to help upcoming college students and to create an open discussion forum. If you would like to write a guest post, please fill out this form. If you have a question you want answered, please fill out this form.
This week's guest post discusses how commuting will affect your blog, as asked by an anonymous questioner. Nelli from The Anti-Trafficking Independence Project. Nelli is a very good friend of mine at college and it's so amazing for me to see my bookish world and my real world colliding in such a positive manner. Unfortunately for me, Nelli is a commuter. I don't get to see her as often as I'd like, but when she told me she wanted to help out with the new meme, I couldn't pass it up! Plus, the post is full of Star Wars gifs!
How does commuting to college affect your blog?
Commuter life is all about time management.
Depending on your schedule, you adjust sleep, school, and work to accommodate your arrival and departure times. You need to look at bus or train schedules to know what times to frame your daily activities; you also have to factor additional time on bad weather days or technical malfunctions. Those things aren’t easily predicted and tend to happen on days when you need to rush home. I like to think of it this way: the way a person handles a delayed commute reveals their true character. I’ve seen people curse beautifully and throw temper tantrums, while others talk with strangers. It’s easy to assume that commuters are independent and always on the go; but that doesn’t mean we don’t have the time to sit down and enjoy life’s moments. We crave the same amount of affection, respect, and companionship every person gets. It’s just that when we get into “commuter mode”, we really like to catch our bus, train, or ferry.
As a commuter from New Jersey who attends school in New York City, my one hour (and an extra half hour on bad days) commute isn’t as terrible as people think it is. It’s occasionally time consuming and irritating; but life is full of those moments, so I try not to let those things ruin my day. Personally, morning commutes are an ordeal since I’m barely awake and not ready for human interaction at 6AM in the morning. But the best part of early commutes is the sunrise I catch on my way to the city; and I sometimes see people perform random acts of kindness that make life seem more real. Evening commutes are just as jam packed and eventful as morning commutes; but the great thing about them is that since everyone is heading home, people are more subdued since they’re worn out by the long day they had.
I can’t honestly say that I love commuting. I’m not a morning person and I have days when I just want to stay in bed and teleport myself to the city. But besides saving money, commuting’s taught me a lot about time management skills. Since commuting has you frame your personal life around your commuting schedule, it makes you plan ahead for things and also makes you think about your priorities. As a full time student loaded with extracurricular commitments, my priority list goes in the order of academics, extracurricular activities, and blogging. Your list may differ, and that’s okay! We all have a different set of priorities. Once you have your priorities figured out, you’ll know what has a higher importance on your to-do list. From there, you plan your schedule around when you’re most productive and when you would like to take time off, so that you can deduce how much time you’ll need to get things done. Eventhough I’m a grouchy morning person, I’m actually more productive in the morning; therefore, I make sure to get some morning classes so I’m not wasting the day away. I’m really old fashioned in that I still rely on planners to write down my classes and to-do list, but it’s the best system that works for me. As you get used to your commuting schedule, you figure out along the way the times you work best (or the times you prefer being at school), how to put yourself first, and know who or what is worth missing your next ride. You have to or will sometimes make sacrifices with your priorities - and that’s only because life is something you can’t plan to the last detail. You learn to go with the flow.
When it comes to commuting and school work, the main thing you’ll end up doing (just like with other things) is breaking big tasks into smaller chunks. I sometimes choose to do one or two readings during my commute so that by the time I get to school or home, I can make an outline or free write my thoughts out. Once that’s settled, I set aside 25 minutes to sit down and start the assignment, going along with the outline I made previously. Now you might be wondering, “How is she able to focus for 25 minutes straight without distractions?” I give credit to mytomatoes.com
I’m not kidding when I tell you mytomatoes.com is the queen of almost all time management solutions. (At least for me, anyway. It depends on your personal study habits.). This amazing website was shared with me by one of my favorite professors at school, and without it I would not have survived last semester’s never ending demand for research papers. The website is used simply as a 25 minute timer: for every 25 minutes of work you do and its successful completion, you write it down and earn a tomato! Obviously the more tomatoes you earn, the more accomplished you’ll feel. You are also allowed to take breaks in-between depending on how long you need. So my routine is to sit down, draft the blog post (or start an assignment), take a break, do some other school work or other things I have to do, and then return to the blog post to add to it or proofread it. It usually takes me at least two days to complete a blog post, since I like to spend a few hours away from the post to avoid overthinking about it. But in essence, the same principle applies: making a to-do list to figure out my assignments and other tasks, prioritizing them by their level of importance, and sitting down to getting the work done with mytomatoes.com. Time flies by so much faster when you’re a commuter; maintaining a schedule or even a to-do list will prevent you from freaking out about lost time. Value your time, and time will love you back for understanding how precious it is.
While mytomatoes.com is one of the biggest reasons I am able to get work done, another thing that’s important to remember is to work when and where you are most productive. Again, as with everything I’ve mentioned, this varies for each person and depends on your study habits. Especially for commuters, I can’t emphasize this enough. Time is already taken away from you because of travel time to and from your destination; why waste the rest of it when you only have a limited amount of hours per day? I have friends who are more productive at night than they are during the day, and some of them work better under pressure. As a commuter, play up to your strengths and be completely honest with your feelings. Just because something sounds like a fabulous idea for others (such as a “group study session” in the library with your closest friends), it doesn’t mean you have to go along with them. Putting yourself first is essential to your happiness.
Just like with academics, maintaining your blog is a full-time commitment. You need to set aside time to brainstorm, write, and proofread posts, and to think of ways on how to grow your blog. There will be times when inspiration for posts will make you feel you’re at an all-time low; after all, you have other assignments to think about. But inspiration has a way for coming unexpectedly, even just through people watching. It’s easy to get lost in your own world while constantly travelling back and forth between places, but don’t let that have you miss out on the world in front of you. The littlest things can sometimes be the biggest source of inspiration. Keep a small notebook with you to jot down spontaneous ideas, or keep notes on your phone. Don’t let an idea fly away the moment it comes.
While I make dealing with commuting life sound simple and straightforward, I’m not joking when I say the above takes a while to get used to. Eventhough I’ve been commuting for almost two years, I find myself adjusting to some things. Last semester was particularly challenging since it was the first time I had to manage my time between a full course load, extracurricular activity involvement, and two internships. And while I enjoyed everything that happened last semester, it was also difficult because I got sick with huge colds three times, I had mental breakdowns that led to extreme headaches, and several of my friendships were majorly affected. The point of telling you about my amazing yet stressful semester? Because of my not-so-great management skills with my additional responsibilities, I began to feel stressed for no reason and started to blame my commutes for everything. And while commuting is an additional responsibility, it should never become one of your worries. If it comes to that point where you blame your commutes, then that means one of two things: 1. You’re not meant for the commuting life and should stick to dorming or finding a place to live nearby and 2. You need better time management skills. (Please note that the harshness of that statement was not meant to personally insult or offend anyone. It’s just me being shamelessly honest.) Improving my time management skills is something I’m definitely working on this year as I’ll probably be commuting for the rest of my undergraduate years.
I don’t hate commuting. But I don’t exactly love it either. It’s safe to say I have a love-hate relationship with it. There are good days and bad days, but you need a mix of those to keep life interesting. You can’t gain back any lost time, but the journey home (or anywhere) is always a welcome one.
Thank you so much, Nelli, for this amazing post! It covered every question I could possibly think of in regards to blogging while being a commuter student!
Next week's post: I answer the question of managing the English major's workload of required academic reading with pleasure reading.
Next next week's post: Kris from Imaginary Reads discusses how to balance pleasure reading with a heavier than average workload, such as her double major.
Please share your thoughts below! Are you a commuter student? How has blogging affected your life?