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Admitting that I’m a procrastinator and how I’m going to deal with it in 2020

So, I’m a little over a month into my reboot break. I’ve done a little soul searching, some reading, adopted a puppy from the local animal shelter, a few walks around Boomer Lake, tried to get back into a fitness routine, and so far have put off trying to draft a master plan/outline for the year.

One thing I will admit to is that I’m a procrastinator—if I don’t want to do something I will either find something else to do, or I will keep saying that I’ll do the task tomorrow (and depending on the task—keep saying tomorrow).  I’ve realized that the procrastination wasn’t that bad while growing up—there were deadlines for homework and things like that (and as a child—at least I couldn’t get away that much with the procrastination), but it started to develop once I hit college, and has gotten slightly out of hand since.

When it was time to think about going to college, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to major it (I enjoyed numerous subjects in school), and I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go. I had an average grade point and had an okay score on the ACT—neither of which were going to get me very far if I wanted to go to school out of state. I already had the mindset that I wasn’t going to take out a loan for school (even if I was eligible for any that were halfway decent), therefore that meant going to the state college in town.

I had decided to go the science route (as at that time everyone was saying something along the lines of “major in what will pay the bills, and minor in what you enjoy”). I could have gone into business—but the thought of sitting behind a desk all day bored me, so I went the science route. I started off thinking wildlife ecology & management, but once I found out that the lab exams for one of the courses was out in the field looking at plants (that wasn’t so bad)—but you had to identify them by their scientific name (my spelling is bad at the best of times—I’m glad that there is spell check), I decided to switch to biochemistry and molecular biology.

I still took classes that I found interesting, and this resulted in me taking seven years to finish my undergrad—but I got two bachelors’ degrees (biochemistry & molecular biology, and biology), plus a minor in history (I was two classes shy of a sociology minor by the time I graduated). Throughout these seven years, I learned several things about myself—first and foremost the testing anxiety was still front and center. I did well in the humanity and social science classes, but the other sciences (where my majors were)—those were a struggle at times when it came time for the tests.

I’d found that certain areas of both degrees were more interesting than others—for example I enjoyed learning cell and molecular biology more than I did organic chemistry and physics. I also found that I could pull historical facts forward faster than I could pull the method and byproducts for an organic chemical reaction.

I remember that I was probably a year or so away from graduation and wasn’t sure if this was the direction I wanted to go—but was also unsure of which direction to go in. I therefore push onward, took the GRE (got an okay score—not great—remember I have huge test anxiety issues, especially if the test is all computerized—which the GRE was at that point), and applied for different graduate programs.

I decided that I should try to stretch my wings and I applied for several different programs that were out of state (plus at the last minute, decided that I would also apply to my alma mater as well—as the ultimate fall back). So I applied to four different programs out of state, and while I managed to get an on campus interview for one of the programs—none of them panned out. Either my grades weren’t high enough, or they didn’t think I could handle the PhD program and suggested that I should apply for the masters program instead (PhD programs pay you to learn, masters programs for the most part don’t)—so I was lucky in that I was able to get into my alma mater for grad school.

This wasn’t my first choice, but I was going to make it work. I spent a year in a structural biology lab, before I realized that wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. I then switched to a plant molecular biology lab, where I was actually being challenged in learning. I hadn’t worked with plants that much before joining the lab hadn’t done any RNA work, and I found things enjoyable for the first time in a few months in grad school. Also it was nice to be told that within four years I should have learned as much as possible and it would be time to move on. The only drawbacks for those years in grad school—there was no real mentoring in how to “properly” write a scientific paper or proposal, and there was no real career mentoring.

After graduation I managed to land a post-doctoral position at one of the many universities in the Greater Boston area. While I enjoyed the time out in the area, I had ignored some red flags that I shouldn’t have and struggling since to figure out exactly what I want to do with my life and career. I’ve realized that one should never really take a position in a newly started lab unless they are willing to put in fifteen or sixteen hour days six days a week. I only learned a few new things, and started to slowly realize that I probably wasn’t cut out for academic life.

Coming back home, and bouncing around at my alma mater (first a postdoctoral position, and then two staff positions), has only highlighted the fact—I still haven’t found that position/job/title/occupation that is my “calling”. There have been things that I’ve enjoyed over the past seven years, but there have also been things that I really disliked over the past seven years as well.

So how does all this tie into my admitting that I’m procrastinator?

Going to sidetrack a little and give a little background on procrastination (see how I’m procrastinating?).  For years, it has been said that procrastination is a time management issue—and that definition is easy enough to see—we do something else to avoid doing what we originally needed to do. Now it is being toted as an emotion management problem (https://www.fastcompany.com/90357248/procrastination-is-an-emotional-problem). Basically, we procrastinate or put things off that we may (or may not) have attached negative emotions to.

So, I’ve admitted that I’m a procrastinator—which means that I’m admitting to having negative emotions attached to certain ideas or tasks. So which tasks/ideas/goals have I either consciously or subconsciously attached negative emotions to?

            Getting back into shape—I’ve been out of shape majority of my life (never was really big on sports growing up nor being all girly and dressing up/wearing makeup). I had managed to lose a good amount of weight twice in my life—first time was out in Boston (I was walking my dog at least twice a day, and cooking for one—though most of the time weekday dinners were a peanut butter sandwich), and then again about six months or so after moving home. At that point I joined an accountability group on Facebook that was being run by a old high school classmate—I lost probably about twenty pounds or so, but then after a bike accident (where I royally bruised my lower left leg) and job issues—I’ve put the weight back on (with added interest—I’m probably at my heaviest since college). Why do I have negative emotion attached to getting into shape? In part—I was picked on throughout school (or at least up to going to college) about my appearance and weight. So there are still those issues that I need to work through—basically I need to remind myself on a daily basis that I’m losing weight to live my best possible life—not someone else, and I’m not losing the weight to make anyone else happy either.

            Transitioning into an industry position—this is more tied into my anxiety, and the worry that I’m going to make another wrong turn (like I did with my first postdoctoral position). For the most part, I like to have a good idea of how things are suppose to go—I knew that with the postdoctoral positions, I had to work hard (though I did limit the hours to more or less “normal forty hour weeks”) and I would have to read a lot to brush up on the subject matter (as both were new to me areas). Going into industry—there are numerous different directions that one can go in, the job may or may not be totally steady (depending on if the company is bought out, merged with another, or if it somehow goes bankrupt), and about a hundred different other issues. Also it comes down to whom you know, and who is willing to put in a good word for you—and this is totally tied in with my anxiety.

            At times I have problems with trying to do small talk, and networking—it isn’t that I don’t want to meet new people and expand my network—I do, but I have this underlying fear from childhood that people are going to be interrupting me and correcting my speech. This comes from the fact that when we moved to OK from MA, I ended up in speech therapy for years because of the fact that I learned how to talk in MA. In case you didn’t know people in MA have a tendency to drop the “r” in words—so since I learned how to talk in MA, I had a northern accent. The teachers and school officials decided that I needed speech therapy to learn how to pronounce my “r”—I spent five years in speech therapy, plus had teachers correcting my speech in class. I then got into the habit of not really talking in public settings—and this is something that I’m trying to work on. I know it is a slightly irrational fear, but it is still there lurking in the back of my mind.

            Choices—there are so many different choices for what one can do in industry, it is almost like being a kid in a candy store. While I have several different options listed out about what I’m curious about—I have a fear that the one I may chose could be the wrong path. Though as I’m told—I won’t know if I like, unless I try it. This is also tied into the networking problem—I don’t want to feel like I’m wasting people’s time if I decide that their path isn’t the same one that I actually decide to go down.

            Needing to have everything planned out. I will admit that I do like to have an idea of all the steps, and any and all possible results and endings before starting something. I mean instead of picking just one area of Indian art for my paper for art history in high school, I wrote basically a thirty-page paper covering everything that could fall under the umbrella of Indian art.

            This is also coming from again my first postdoctoral position—I thought I had everything planned out, but then the rug was metaphorically pulled out from underneath me. It isn’t fun realizing that one needs to move back in with one’s parents in order to get out from the mountain of debt that one finds themselves in. So now I’m trying to figure out how to plan out every single step of everything and finding myself in motion paralysis.

So now that I’ve admitted to being a procrastinator and the two main areas (health/fitness and career) that I’m procrastinating in, how will I go about getting past the procrastination and making progress on each area?

As I was reading some different pages on procrastination and emotions I found the following three sentences to be profound:

            “Viewing the whole task (e.g. project or paper) all at once will only frustrate you if you have unrealistic expectations. Realize you must break the task into smaller pieces and you cannot do them all at once. The next key is just start whether you feel like it or not.” (https://socialanxietyinstitute.org/procrastination-wasting-our-time-and-increasing-our-anxiety).

Then I found the following ideas that had to deal with procrastination along with social anxiety:

            Make a list of tasks and prioritize what needs to be done

            Reward yourself for completing difficult tasks

            Use relaxation strategies to deal with anxiety about completing tasks

                        Some of the techniques include: deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, autogenic training, and guided imagery.

(https://www.verywellmind.com/procrastination-and-social-anxiety-disorder-3973931).

So now I’m going to name the two big tasks (relating to fitness/health and job transition). Then I’m going to brainstorm how to break those two big tasks into easier to handle tasks. In addition I’m going to brainstorm an award system for each big task. Finally I’m going to break down the tasks into monthly/weekly/daily goals—with the rewards being based on hitting the larger (weekly or monthly) goals. In other words—I’m going to be working on my long term plan (other wise known as five year (or ten, twenty year) plan.

Sites with their links have been included that I found interesting and used in the post.

No Comments careerfitnessHealthjob searchingPersonal Developmentprofessional developmentReflections

August: Month in Review

Well August is officially over, and there are only 122 days left in the year. I’m also a day late in posting this as well. As I’m writing this I realize that my birthday is now in less than three weeks, and then I will be looking down my last year of my thirties. I also realized that I fell short on some of the goals for August.

There is only a month left in the third quarter of the year, and while that is scary, depressing, and slightly invigorating—I’ve realized that is just how time goes now—in an instant. Though there is still the fourth quarter of the year, and I’m thinking that is where some of the change is going to take place, and the seeds for change in 2020 will be planted.

August goals were basically the same goals that I’ve had for the past few months, including the goal of working on my “reboot break” plan.

The goals for August included:

At least 434,000 steps

Continuing with the photography challenge

Reading (or finishing) at least 3 non-fiction books

Working on my “reboot break”

Aim for two weeks of no spending (keeping a money log)

Get back into a workout schedule (either a full program or a hybrid program between two different programs).

Work on creating more content for the blog (and potentially posts for linkedin).

Work on getting in a routine of reading business & scientific articles.

So how did I do with each one?

At least 434,000 steps

            I was down less than 9,000 steps for the month of August—my final total was 425,266 steps. This was mainly due to the hot temperatures on the weekends, and me not getting my steps in on those days (plus one or two days during the week, when I fell short as well). Though for the year I’m at 3,579,549 steps, which means that to get to 5 million—I only need to aim for a little over 11,500 steps a day. So, I think it is safe to say that I’m going to make the goal of 5 million steps. It is nice to see that by the time I take my reboot break, I don’t necessarily have to aim for 14,000 steps a day (though I probably will—just so I’m not constantly sitting on my butt).

Continuing with the photography challenge

            I took a week off from the photography challenge this month. This was partially due to the heat and not having done a walk for a week or two (therefore I felt like I was running low on photographs to share), and partially due to my mood—I just wasn’t in a good mind space that week.

Reading (or finishing) at least 3 non-fiction books

            I managed to finish one book this month and it was “The Self-Care Prescription: Powerful solutions to manage stress, reduce anxiety, and increase well-being” by Robyn Gobin.

            One thing that I have realized is that while having a kindle is nice—all your books are at your fingertips, at the same time it can be detrimental if you bounce between books a lot (like I do at times). There are numerous books that I’ve started to read in terms of personal/professional development and then I decided I wanted to read something else. So now I’m actually going to go back to some of those books and start from the beginning, as it’s been at least six weeks (if not longer) since I read anything from that particular book.

Working on my “reboot break”

            I have an idea of how the first few weeks will go—as those are the weeks that I’m going to dedicate to getting my storage unit in order and starting to try to get rid of things (either selling or donating).

            As I had posted earlier, I’m thinking that the first week (and it will probably be the week of Thanksgiving) will look a little like this:

                        Get up, have a cup of coffee (or tea), and feed the dogs

                        Go for a morning walk at Boomer Lake (morning zen time and photography time)

                        Breakfast, shower (probably), then to the storage unit to rearrange and/or repack boxes

                        Home for lunch

                        Computer time: **Make use of apps that allow blocking of certain sites for a certain time frame (remove social media temptation—mainly facebook & instagram).

                                    At least one e-course (I have numerous ones bought covering a wide range of topics)

                                    Read/share at least two articles from a biotech/biopharma news site on Linkedin and twitter

                                    Spend at least forty minutes responding to messages and/or sending out connection requests on linkedin

                                    Spend at least thirty minutes reading through other people’s posts on linkedin, and hopefully commenting on at least two or three of them.

                                    Read for an hour (personal/professional development) and journal for an hour (answering questions from personal/professional development book)

                                    Workout

                                    Feed the animals

                                    Dinner and evening routine

            Then after getting my storage unit in order, and other things taken care of I can use that time for other things (such as craft time, or more reading/journaling time). This is one thing I’m hoping to improve upon during my reboot break—time management and spending time doing things that I enjoy and things I need to do.

            I’ve realized that I’m not aiming for “balance” per say—just having the ability to say today is a day that I need more “me” time or today is a day that will be heavy workwise, therefore after work this is going to be my recharge plan. It has taken me almost thirty-nine years to realize that I really never have had that type of “balance”—I go all out one way or the other, and therefore it isn’t surprising that I’m basically burnt out on life.

Aim for two weeks of no spending (keeping a money log)

            I think I managed about one day a week of not spending money on campus. I’ve gotten into the bad habit again of going to the student union at lunch and grabbing candy (my excuse is that it’s a walk to help me get in my steps). Hopefully other than a few scheduled purchases (such as pre-ordered books, one lunch out with friends, and one order from Amazon), I can avoid spending money this month.

            I don’t see spending money as bad—but considering what I’m currently buying (namely candy)—I think that I should try to cut back on that spending. Now if I end up buying some fruit or veggies to snack on while on campus—I will make note, but still try to avoid “careless” spending (i.e. spending money on things that I could very well bring from home).

Get back into a workout schedule (either a full program or a hybrid program between two different programs).

            This is one thing that I’m struggling with currently. There have been new “hours” required at work (they’re not really new, but they’re very concrete—can’t leave until basically 5 pm on the dot), which has messed up my evening routine and I have yet to get into the groove of a new one. Hopefully this is something that I can get straightened out over the next few months.

Work on creating more content for the blog (and potentially posts for linkedin).

            Well, other than the photography challenge (and I took a week off from that), and a few other posts—I didn’t get that much content created for the blog, and none that would be shared via linkedin.

            I realize that sharing things via linkedin, they’ll be more of the scientific posts (and I don’t have that many of those done), plus I haven’t decided on the niche/area I would like to focus on. Though to be truthful, for the blog I can be a little more of a jack-of-all-trades, but they would need a central theme.

Work on getting in a routine of reading business & scientific articles.

            I have read several articles on biotech/biopharma business pages, and even shared them on linkedin and twitter. It isn’t totally consistent—but it is a start. I’m still trying to figure out my niche, as everything/one has said that it is better to be an expert than a jack-of-all-trades (which is what I currently consider myself).

            This is currently one of the problems I’m having with my transition plan—trying to narrow down what it is I want to do with my life. One thing I’ve realized over the years—once I master a skill, I start to get bored. Therefore I’m going to need to choose an area, where I will be challenged consistently, and that could even mean working my way up the ladder—more responsibility, more challenges. Or, I may need to look towards smaller companies, where I may wear more than one “hat” in terms of responsibilities.

Therefore the goals for September will include:

At least 420,000 steps

Continue with the photography challenge

Determine some type of workout routine (hopefully more than just walking)

Aim for two weeks of no spending (keep money log)

Read 3 non-fiction books

Continue working on the reboot/pause plan

Try to set up a monthly calendar (getting organize) for various things

Continue reading on various industry websites and sharing interesting articles via linkedin/twitter. Plus notes for weekly recap on the blog

Keep reminding myself: Progress over perfection, and that I shouldn’t fear failure, but fear being in the same place next year as I am today.

No Comments Lifestyle ChallengesMonth in Reviewno spend challengesPersonal Developmentprofessional developmentReflections