Friday, April 9, 2010

Will enough ever be enough?

One of the issues I've been struggling with for the last little while is knowing (or rather: not knowing) when to stop. I'm a perfectionist, the worst kind. A super conscientious keener. You're thinking that's a good trait? Yeah, well, I can tell you it's freakin' exhausting.

See, there's this (no longer so) long-term goal of writing a thesis. But then there's also these short-term goals (think TA-ing/general lab stuff/random chores/supervising undergrads/having a social life) that tend to interfere. Ideally, you find the sweet spot on the curve where you manage to do the required amount of short-term work while still moving forward on the "thesis work". That spot must be painfully small though. I have yet to find it.

I always end up doing a lot more of not-so-helpful-in-the-long-run short-term work than I should. Although I do think I'm generally a fast worker, always spotting problems from miles away (and needing to fix them right! now!) does not work out well time-wise. Add to that the fact that I'm a total control freak (yep, having a hard time trusting other people to do work I'm ultimately responsible for) and there's never enough "thesis work" time. Except perhaps there is. I mean, there should be, right? You just have to make thesis time.

So that's what I've been trying to do. I make time by working until late at night. I make time by reading papers rather than a novel during my commute to the lab. I make time by not seeing my friends. But more than anything, I make time by giving up sleep, not doing dishes, not doing laundry, not preparing proper food. Not the most constructive way... which I guess is only proven by my recent tiredness and inability to think (which makes it harder for me to concentrate, which makes me less productive, which makes me give in even more, which...). I know it doesn't work and yet I get tricked into it over and over again.

I need a break, or at the very least a weekend off. And then I need to figure out how I should prevent this from happening in the future. I need to learn to let go. Which apparently is so overwhelmingly hard that it's easier to be completely, utterly burned out for the second time in less than a year than to avert this situation that I'm in right now.

Yes, I sometimes also don't fully understand myself.
And it's scary that this is supposed to be the easy part in my career.

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