Stress, research, fear

I’m having difficulty managing myself lately. I have a bunch of projects on-the-go, and I’m feeling overwhelmed.

However, I’d promised myself to seek a more sustainable lifestyle. Relatively-speaking, I’ve been partially successful in this: I’m going to the gym normally two or three times a week, there are some weeks when I eat at home more often than I eat out, I’ve lost a few pounds, I feel good.

The trigger for me going to grad school was crossing the line, stress-wise, with work. I decided that I needed a change and a break. Ambition is once again getting the better of me, and the stress has crept back.

I’m *way* better equipped to deal with it now, but I know that it’s most effective when we minimize it in the first place.

Breaking it down, it’s clear that there’s a fairly simple reinforcing loop between two things: the feeling of being overwhelmed, and fear-induced paralysis. The leverage point in this system is the latter (which is, it appears, its own reinforcing loop).
Addressing the paralysis: quit with the excuses and sit down and get some work done. (Hence this bizarre work retreat.)

Addressing the fear is, um, more difficult. I’ve got to do some more figuring here, but so far I’ve got two ideas which I might try to use to help myself out:
1) It doesn’t need to be correct. I’m used to producing stuff for clients, often on miniscule budgets, and so there are several incentives to get it right the first time. There are incentives to do the same in research, but if everyone walks the walk (and I’m too green to assume otherwise), the value is in the process. Besides, I always learn way more from my failures than from my successes. I’m in a novel situation for myself: I’m making (or not making, as the case may be) the same amount of money whether I get it “right” or not. From a personal revenue perspective, all I need to be sure about is that I’m following the methodology.
2) Research is inherently a very different kind of work than production. (At a high level, anyway. I don’t want to get into the institutional definitions of these.) You don’t sit down and hammer it out. It takes a lot of time. It takes an unpredictable amount of time. It takes dedicated time. When I was producing, I could (reluctantly) cycle between six different projects. It wasn’t so hard to pick up where I’d left off; especially if there was a project plan of some sort. I’m having a much harder time cycling between six research projects. I could dedicate all of my effort to any one of them. Dividing it by six, I’m spending too much time switching and not enough time deeply in any of those spaces.

By late April, at least two projects will have wrapped. Until then, my best bet is to make sure that I’m managing my time well.

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