A Sem in Review

At the end of each work week, the team at NextPay (where I work as an intern) gathers for a two-hour retrospective meeting. It's a time for us to look back on our progress from the past days, demo our work, decompress with a game of skribbl.io or Codenames—anything to put a cap on the busy sprints that come with building a new product.

I try to set aside time after those meetings to ground myself in my own 'retro', asking myself the same questions we covered (and on a personal level, this time):

To me, this weekly review isn't so much the productivity or optimization hack many champion it to be; it's moreso a rare moment to breathe and acknowledge the pace of life.

I haven't been able to grasp the speed at which the weeks have been flying this past semester, or over the course of 2020 as a whole. Having not taken much time to pause, I'm surprised that one-eighth of my college life is over.

Patricia Mou describes this feeling so eloquently in her year in review:

Like an amorphous entity, memories and milestones poke through, but are blunted by the heavy cloud of uncertainty that characterized the year. We struggle to weave our life narratives into a timeline of sequential cause and effect. Instead they mingle and blend with one other so completely that they efface the seam that joined them, never to be found again.

Photo by NASA.

Photo by NASA.

Reviews provide the closure we often lack when speeding through week after week. Tonight, I'm writing up a retro based on my first semester of college from home, doing back-and-forth scourings of journal entries, submitted requirements, and published works to understand where my time went, what drained vs. what enlivened me, and exactly what lessons I took away from the oddities of a remote learning setup.

I discovered three themes in the process.

Theme 1 / Hyperconnectedness

I lived much of my first semester on digital autopilot, feeding a growing drive to achieve states of flow more often in each week*.* Online university spaces and an attachment to Instagram contradicted any intentions to work more deeply and focus on the essential few.

A snippet from my Psych 101 project,
a case study on Instagram use and status signaling inspired by growth.design.

A snippet from my Psych 101 project, a case study on Instagram use and status signaling inspired by growth.design.