Thursday, September 25, 2008

Work, not worry.

One of my biggest character flaws is the tendency to worry about a problem, letting it get to the point of being overwhelming, when simple steps in the right direction would typically get me to the result I want. I focus so much on the big picture, that I avoid working on the little details that would chip away at the iceberg.

I do it with my weight. Instead of thinking of it terms of one brisk walk at a time, one less carb serving, one more flight of stairs I think about the number of pounds and sizes I want to lose. When I focus on how bad I feel for not being at a weight I'd consider healthy, I just end up staying overweight.

I've done it with work, too. Letting what I have to do feel overwhelming to me, when just one hour a day of working toward the things I need to accomplish would have me 7 hours closer to done at the end of the week instead of looking at a Saturday night and feeling I need to pull an all-nighter to make progress. By then, the mere thought has me exhausted - I've already spent at least that much time and mental energy WORRYING about the problem instead of working on it. I beat myself up about it, vow to do better, but still find myself overwhelmed.

I used to be the worst "great-student" you can imagine. I was a great student in that I could learn the material quickly, easily and make awesome grades. Unfortunately, I did it with some of the worst study habits imaginable. I'd start a semester with awesome notes, color coded sometimes to help my memory, rewritten neatly for ease of studying. Often the mere act of rewriting the information would cement it in my brain. Then, inevitably, at some point I would get behind. Illness, absence or something similar would momentarily interrupt that flow. I'd have two days worth of notes to rewrite. Or three. Suddenly it was a week. Two weeks. Then the test was there and I'd not have studied or rewritten, and oh crap - there's a paper due too. Typically I pulled it out of the spin, but not without a lot of stress, a lot of missed sleep and the self-admonition that I would never do this again.

I don't understand what it is about me that gets overwhelmed so easily once I reach that point. It's something I'm actually pretty embarassed about, though for the first time I'm working really hard to get it so that everything is above water (whereas there is usually SOMETHING for me that falls in the drowning category). It's a lot easier to row when the boat isn't full of water. If I can maintain, it will work better and I have spent enough time recently learning the "ask for help" lesson that I think it has finally saturated me to my very core.

I've made a new goal for myself. Instead of sitting and worrying about all the things I need to do, I'm going to focus on channeling that worry into actually WORKING on the thing I'm stressing about. It seems simple, embarassingly obvious, but I guess improving this at 30 is a hell of a lot better than waiting until 40.

1 comment:

Claire said...

Yeah... me too. Are you surprised?

I didn't do it too much with my schoolwork, but I'm notorious for doing the exact same thing with work, as well as my other responsibilities at home. I realize something needs to be done, but then I get behind and I don't want to face it. So I procrastinate more, which makes it worse. I worry and stress and ignore it and when I finally sit down and tackle whatever it was I'd been putting off, I always wish I'd have just done it sooner.

Good luck to both of us fighting this habit.

I just try to remember how much better I feel when I do things a little at a time to keep up, rather than letting things get to the point that I'm overwhelmed and stressed because I'm so behind. That way, when the urge to bury my head in the sand arises, I remind myself how much better I'll feel if I just have a handle on it, rather than letting it go and ignoring the problem.

Remind me to take my own advice, ok?