Things I Look Forward To…

There are some things I look forward to every week. Today, when my two favorite e-newsletters arrived in my in-box, I realized how much I look forward to them. Realizing why was a bit of a surprise. My e-newsletters are things that specifically help me feel mentally focused and refreshed while approaching my priorities at home, work, and study. Many other things, like exercise or spending time with friends, are invigorating. They might help me get through a busy day productively, but this week I am referring to things that feel more like a coach. They help me keep my eye on the prize, and the bigger picture.

For me, keeping an eye on the bigger picture is more than exams, or graduation, or managing professional projects. Some of the things that I value most about studying in our program are things that can seem very intangible at the beginning, like analytical ability, writing skills, and organization. As much as studying English and Comparative Literature teaches me about, well, literature, doing this degree work in the way our program requires helps me develop those intangible skills, which are just as valuable. For me, recognizing the development of these skills is extremely satisfying. Knowing they are more at my command gives me extra confidence for approaching four units worth of texts and secondary reading this year. My favorite e-newsletters help me maintain a focused, objective perspective about my strategy for accomplishing what I want to, and to improve the tactics I use to get the work done.

Tactics without strategy can feel a bit chaotic and confusing. If strategy is my operational goal, then tactics are the tasks I will perform to reach that goal. For me, the big picture is my strategy; it is developing those specific skills, like organization and analytical ability, which are proving to be so helpful and valuable in my personal, professional, and academic life. My tactics are the details of my study plan, and the project management plan that organizes my daily schedule. My favorite e-newlsetter ‘coaches’ are helpful because it is so very easy to become immersed in the day in and day out pace required to get the tasks done that I can lose site of my bigger picture.

Many of my friends have coaches, and a few of them actually are coaches, though it never occurred to me to get a coach for my own purposes. It suddenly occurred to me that there are two coaches in my in-box. The two e-newsletters that are so helpful to me are ‘Mind Tools,’ and a weekly management email from ‘The Economist Magazine.’ They are perfect ‘virtual coaches’ for me. Sometimes the content is a completely new idea, and sometime it is a timely reminder of things I know, but often neglect in the face of deadlines and multitasking, even though I know they would make my work better and performing it easier. I want to be happy at my work and studies, and also execute a prolific volume of work that is of the highest quality a weekly, gentle, re-focus on the big picture, and best practices is very welcome.

The big picture is as important to me as the details. I like and appreciate the broad, general benefits I receive from studying in our program. Looking forward to my two e-newsletters every week is a little boost. They reminder me of things I know that go to the back of my mind, and seem to stay there, without a little prompting. They also motivate me with great, sometimes new suggestions and case studies for implementing best practices. Try ‘Mind Tools, essential skills for an excellent career,’ and ‘The Economist Online.’ You will soon be looking forward to them in your in-box every Thursday too!

Caowrites is studying our BA English by distance learning in the USA.

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