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Five ways to disrupt the monotony of Zoom University

Henry Courtyard

A solitary couple walk through Henry Courtyard on a rainy morning.

Mark Dodici / The Daily Princetonian

At this point in the semester, monotony is the most accurate way to describe life as a Princeton student. 

Despite the fact that we’re already facing April and post-midterm assignments, the days themselves are a continuous repeat of the day before. Sure, weeks have passed quickly, but other than the constant amount of school work, there has been nothing to break up the cycle of Monday through Sunday spent attending the exact same Zoom lectures, completing the same weekly round of problem sets and readings, and going on the same COVID-safe walks that we have been since our first week of quarantine. 


I would even argue that the only real and recent variety in our daily schedule is the new spring drink menu at Starbucks and our ability to choose whether to eat in the dining hall or in our room. Other than that — and without the same level of participation in extracurriculars as in past years — online school has encouraged a single focus on just being a student, with little motivation for any other activities. However, rather than falling back on the age-old habit of starting a new Netflix binge, I suggest that we all explore the idea of the “Five Hobbies.” 

The “Five Hobbies” refer to five different types of hobbies that you should pursue in order to create a balance in your life between your academic career and your personal development and growth. Hobbies are also a great way to make sure you’re not burning yourself out by constantly focusing all your energy on assignments and the more stressful aspects of student life. 

Having recently read about the “Five Hobbies” in Atomic Habits, I realized that it was the perfect first step to breaking out of my monotonous days on campus and cultivating interests beyond my school work. The “Five Hobbies” fall into five types: those that keep you creative, keep you connected, keep you in shape, make money, and give back. While coming up with and developing all five may seem daunting, I advise starting with one or two towards which you feel particularly drawn, passionate, and willing to invest your time.

The first type, creative hobbies, focuses on finding a creative outlet to engage the right side of your brain and to express yourself. For example, this expression could be music, art, photography, writing, or designing. 

With the current state of COVID-19 restrictions, there are some limits on-campus as to how you can explore a creative hobby. However, there are many activities that can all be done in a dorm room: painting or drawing, learning how to take amazing photos using a smartphone, or writing a memoir on what it is like to experience college during a global pandemic. 

A hobby under the second category, staying connected, is a great way to get involved with the community of Princeton and beyond. Some options could be starting a book club or a weekly discussion group with people who share an interest with you — think movies, sports, or conspiracy theories. 


Or, you could consider using the app Cappuccino, which allows you to create podcasts with friends by recording three-minute snippets called “beans”, which the app then compiles into a daily audio “cappuccino” for your group. Personally, I’ve been using Cappuccino to keep in contact with friends who decided to take a gap year. We treat these three-minute snippets as a way to update each other on our days, as well as what life is like both on and off campus. Because of the virtual nature of so much in life right now, this hobby type is also a great way to connect with people from your community at home, whether it be through getting involved with local causes or creating an online space to share stories, poems, or recipes. 

We are in luck that spring is here — and, with spring, better weather and more opportunities to spend time outside. When I’ve previously mentioned the third hobby type, keeping in shape, I’ve found that many believe this means they have to start going to the gym. I would argue that anything that makes you physically feel good, such as going on walks, stretching, or doing yoga, is a great option as an active hobby. What I find nice about the third hobby is that it forces you to physically disrupt the monotony of your day, as you’re most likely going to have to leave your room and get outside. At the very least, you will get up from your desk, which is great for your physical and mental health. 

The fourth hobby type, making money, is a little more difficult. I will admit that I’ve struggled with finding a hobby that will make me money, and I am still looking for inspiration. However, I think this hobby type can cultivate itself by making use of other hobbies; for example, you could use your creative hobby to make money. That could be selling your art, taking and editing photos for people, or even creating travel itineraries for when the world reopens and we are able to once again live out our wildest imaginations beyond our bedrooms. This is also the perfect hobby type to explore creating a small business, if that’s something you’ve ever considered. If so, you could also find yourself exploring hobby type two and connecting with friends who may share a similar interest in a small business endeavor. Having seen so many people on social media taking the plunge, I certainly found myself influenced over quarantine to start a business; however, I’m still looking for my million-dollar idea. 

Last but not least, we have hobby type five: giving back. I think that this hobby type is one of the most meaningful, because it forces you to think beyond what hobby cultivation does for yourself. This is a hobby that should be based on a charitable cause towards which you would be willing to spend your time, purely because it is something that you find important. However, this hobby type is not limited to volunteering or NGOs; in fact, you could cultivate this hobby by giving back to your family or friends in some way as well.

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Even though we’ve already made it through most of the semester, and it may seem like more of a hassle to develop hobbies, rather than continuing to live in monotony, I would argue that developing any one of these hobby types is not limited to the few weeks we have left in this school year. Rather, they can bring enrichment to your life beyond Princeton. Cultivating hobbies now allows you to focus on some of your immediate passions and interests, helping you to better understand who you are as a person through your motivations and inspirations.