Creating Things To Look Forward To

May 1, 2020 9:34:00 AM / by Will Baldwin

This week, Will shares what her days look like after returning home from London, as well as her system for structuring her daily schedule. Read more to find out Will's tips for staying organized, motivated, and connected.

My dad used to ask everyone around the dinner table what we were looking forward to. It could be anything from “I am looking forward to going to bed tonight” to “I am looking forward to going to moving into my college dorm.” Because of this, I organize my life in what I am looking forward to. 

I was looking forward to coming home. Not that I ever wanted to leave London after living, studying and working there, but I couldn’t wait to see my friends and family. I couldn’t wait to hug them all and give them little UK trinkets that made me think of them. Instead I got home to a very quiet and lonely country. I returned to my college house, kept a distance between me and my roommates, and didn’t have the time to get nearly as many gifts for friends as I wanted to.

I had painted a picture in my mind of what I was looking forward to, and suddenly that picture was replaced with something completely different. Coming back, it is hard to remember that study abroad students aren’t the only victim. Every single person has lost something that they were looking forward to, and that deserves some mourning. Looking forward to something is the best feeling, and right now no one knows what to look forward to (other than the end of COVID-19, of course). I, and others, desperately needed to replace boredom with anticipation. 

CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Spring 2020_Emma Baldwin_morningMornings at home.

This picture is from waking up at 6 am, taking a picture of how pretty the sunrise was, then immediately returning to sleep until noon. This sunrise helped me realize how much I was missing from sleeping in constantly.

I decided to open my Google Calendar and make a new quarantine system. I want to share how I organized my isolated-life so that other people can try doing it for themselves based on their own priorities. I color coded my calendar based on my own priorities. Lavender was health, hygiene, and meals; blue for family; gray for downtime; “blueberry” for household responsibilities; sage for friends; and “grape” for work— I am lucky to have one essential job and one remote job right now!

CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Spring 2020_Emma Baldwin_calendarMy calendar.

Here is my organized calendar. I know it is overwhelming, so some people may not like doing it this way, but the point is to make the day’s tasks seem small and achievable.

I called my older brother, Landen, a couple weeks ago when I was at a real low mental health point, and he was in a completely different mindset than I was. He likes to write his calendar in a planner, but his main point of advice is to get dressed and do a morning routine to feel like his day has started. I hear this one a lot, but it’s worth mentioning over and over. I always make my bed in the morning-- even at my most lazy I’ll at least fix the blankets and try not to go under them again until bedtime. Since quarantine, however, that has not been enough to catalyze my day. So, I made an hour slot for a morning routine. In the notes are some basic bullet points:

  • Brush Teeth
  • Wash face and decide if putting on makeup would help boost my mood
  • Get dressed
  • Check Jason’s (my rabbit’s) water

I purposefully kept it really basic so that it wouldn’t overwhelm me and be easy to skip for a day. 

CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Spring 2020_Emma Baldwin_JasonMy pet rabbit, Jason, and I.

This is my rabbit Jason; he has been the ultimate quarantine company. He really helps me when I start to feel disconnected and lonely.

I think it is really important to stay out of your bed even if you have to, or prefer to, stay in your bedroom for most of the day. I set up a little fold out table by my window since I don’t have a desk in my room. This is where I am making myself check my work emails and make calls so that I stay upright and alert. I also set up a tea station in my room to hold onto a little bit of the UK throughout my day. It is important to make your primary workspace comforting and welcoming, so it is a place you enjoy spending time and focusing. 

CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Spring 2020_Emma Baldwin_setupMy workspace.

This is the fold-out table I set up in my room. I like having it by my window because the natural light will keep me awake. 

My brother also had a lot to say about socializing during quarantine. He has been making back-to-back phone calls with old friends from college and high school, family, and work friends. He said that this pandemic creates the perfect conditions to connect with others; no one is busy, everyone can answer the phone. This truly is key. The first time I called a friend over quarantine, I was so surprised how much it felt like they were in the room with me. In my calendar, I made time to call a family member nearly every day, and I have pre-planned who I am going to call on that day, so I can text ahead of time to make sure they are free and expecting a call; this helps me stay accountable when I inevitably start to feel like I want to flake on actually calling. 

CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Spring 2020_Emma Baldwin_zoomfriendsA Zoom call with friends.

A couple weeks into quarantine I had a Zoom call with the friends I made in London. I miss them so much, and the call really helped me process what I was feeling about returning home and learning remotely. 

Even though everyone is saying it, it is worth mentioning how important it is to get outside. The past couple days have been beautiful in Minnesota, but I have also been really lazy and have had trouble leaving the house. I layed out on my roof instead. I am not sure if my landlords are fans of this advice for liability reasons, but it sure does help to get some rays in my day. Even walking around my block will be a struggle sometimes, but if you have the option to lay out in the yard, or at least sit outside on your phone, you’d be doing yourself a favor. Lastly, it is most important to show yourself grace in times like this. I can really beat myself up after long periods of being unproductive, but right now that is everyone. No one is working to their fullest potential, no one is perfectly happy in isolation, and everyone needs to be checked in on. I think I would be annoyed if someone said that quarantine has been nothing but fun and easy for them. Give yourself some wriggle room, keep your to-do lists achievable, and keep track of your little victories throughout the day!

Thanks, Will!

Makenna Sturgeon


Will Baldwin is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2020, sharing her story in frequent posts on CAPA World. A Technical Writing and Communications and Political Science major at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, she is studying abroad in London this semester.

Will's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.

Learn More about the CAPA London Program

Topics: London, England