Do you over think things? How do you channel this power for good while avoiding research-driven procrastination and anxiety?
If there's one thing I'm really good at, it's researching things and navigating complex outcomes. An ex-boss cheerfully dropped me in way, way above my head to a surprising degree of professional success - think putting an inexperienced intern in charge of client interactions, where the decisions have multi-million dollar consequences. Turns out I'm pretty damn good at that kind of thing - not least because I've always been kind of obsessive about analysis and scenario planning. And to be honest, 80% of the time this makes my life pretty fun and rewarding. But.
I get caught in the cycle of researching and planning really easily, and when I'm stressed, it's more likely to set in as a form of procrastination. This can spiral out of control if stress leads to procrastinatory research which leads to more stress, which can exacerbate a few minor health issues, which is the point where I realize hey, this is not a good thing I'm doing here. But those unhealthy patterns are awful similar
to when I'm in the zone at work - just zeroed in on the wrong priorities.
That said... in the past two years, this pattern of stressed, "escapist" research has gotten me multiple job offers, raises, and freelance assignments, as well as halfway through a master's degree in The Worst Job Market In Recent History. So even as I'm increasingly aware that this may be a problem I should address, I feel like I've gotten a lot out of channeling this tendency, so I don't want to damp it down too much.
Uncertainty is a huge exacerbator - right now, we may be living in any of 6 cities next August, since my husband's in the midst of applying to graduate programs. Two years later, we'll probably move again. This is all really good - we're late 20s/early 30s and finally at a point where we're comfortable setting long-term goals, yay! But it's hard for me to not try to contingency plan for multiple outcomes on all fronts, even when doing so is detrimental to my focus and stress levels.
How can I navigate this better? I've read Getting Things Done
. I like it, but it's at best a partial solution to managing this (at worst, my project list goes fractal within a month). I've read The Now Habit
and the first half of The Feeling Good Handbook
, but neither one resonates because I don't have much in the way of negative thoughts. If anything, I've always been overly
concerned about the idea of cognitive bias and cognitive distortion since childhood. (They're fascinating and terrifying concepts.) If I have no other priorities, I prefer to do things comprehensively, but more generally, I'm fully aware that the perfect is often the enemy of the good. And I'm good at what I do when I put my mind to it: once I focus, I tend not to get stuck or distracted.
What I'm not very good at is not getting distracted
by complex research problems when I'm stressed out. Ask MeFi is like crack to me in this way: I may not be anywhere close to owning a house, but I still might someday
need to know the pros and cons of installing a Japanese soaking tub
; I may not have much time to cook right now, but I still need to know how best to store moderate quantities of bacon fat
. Reading problems being solved in real-time is a pretty awesome form of stress relief (or it would be, if you'd all stop posting more problems that haven't been solved yet
Anyhow, I'm poking fun at myself, but enough rambling. MeFi always has a quorum of anxiety suffers, and I've read some specific threads
here. So I'll boil my question down to this: Overthinking is the secret to my professional success AND a symptom of my anxiety. If you struggle with similar problems, I want your advice on how to strike a balance without losing my edge.