Seeking to Repair My Achilles’ Heel #phdchat #phdadvice

Yes, I am a Perfectionist. I have known this for years, but I haven’t found any real solution. Okay, I admit, I haven’t really looked for one, as far as I recall. I knew that my perfectionism would come around to bite me in the ass at some point sooner or later. And it has. Multiple times. But as I kept managing to recover, I also knew that there would be some point in my life at which I would risk losing an entire chunk of ass. That time has arrived. I really enjoy my ass, so I would like to keep it in tact.

Snatched straight from the Annals of Perfect Timing, someone in the #PhDChat community shared a post on breaking the cycle of Perfectionism yesterday. Here’s the basic idea:

The cycle of perfectionism is predictably simple:

1. You set goals that are impossible to reach.
2. The unreachable goal creates paralysis.
3. Avoidance, procrastination, and self-sabotaging behavior ensue.
4. If there’s an actual deadline, you engage in a frenzy of activity at the last minute, which ironically guarantees that the outcome will be far from perfect.
5. A less-than-stellar performance triggers self-flagellation in the form of internal criticism, blame, and judgment.
6. In order to move forward, you set yet another unreachable goal with the promise that this time you will just work harder.

And so this has been my entire life. The Universe be knowin’.

I’ve tried breaking things up into manageable chunks, but I get stuck in two ways:

  • I see connections in everything. EVERYTHING. This means I always feel like I can’t do one part without also addressing the other part(s). So I try to create a plan to address everything. Manageability out the window.
  • Apparently, I ofttimes have no clue what manageable is.

The author highlighted three points of intervention:

1) goal-setting

2) doing the work

3) interpreting your performance.

I figured out that where I get stuck the most is step one. I mean, I also have major hangups at step 3 & that seeps into step 2, but in assessing my own process, I realize my hangups at step 3/2 stem from the fact that I’m being unreasonable with myself. (Note: I don’t actually think I’m being all that unreasonable most of the time. Thing is, it seems that, while people do love the excellence of my work, it doesn’t have to be as great as I think it does. They would be perfectly content with a lesser product. I’m just not sure I know how to do that.)

So, since I know I set apparently unreasonable goals, I start a whole process of perfecting the right goals & get paralyzed at trying to ‘fix’ my goal-setting. Who does that?! Kerry Ann (the post author) recommends sharing one’s goals with colleagues and mentors. I think my problem is that the people whose opinions I value are folks who have similar standards as I do! To compound this, [insert rant about how other people remain in awe of everything I’m able to accomplish & how I think I should be doing a lot more].

So what’s the solution? I have decided to make use of this internet thing and reach out to a broader base of folks. Instead of planning everything out in my head or on my own personal stickies, I’ll start posting my project goals to this blog. I’d like you all, to post your thoughts on my goals and check in on my progress. And hey, maybe this will actually help me get back to posting regularly. But I’m not gonna set that as a goal right now. Baby steps and things of that nature. Eventually, I’ll be able to stop writing Perfectionism with a capital P, as though it is some high ranking category (even though it is. LOL. not really funny.)

Anyhoo, here’s my first attempt…
(As you will see, I have a real mid-week clusterfuck)

Project 1:

  • Statistics Final
    • Pull 2-3 “top” articles from my field that present a quantitative analysis of the relationships of variables. The articles have to be about the same/a similar topic.
    • Write an integrative review (max 2.5 pg, double-spaced) that consists of:
      • A short summary of the research question, data set, methodology and central findings
      • A review (critique) of the treatment in the research article of interpreting effects, hypothesis testing and inference.
    • Read 3 other articles (from the course pack).
    • Write up a short assessment (max 1.5 pgs, double-spaced) of key issues I think the field needs to grapple with as it moves forward. The essay should take into consideration the integrative review and the 3 additional articles, while responding to a quote about the state of quantitative research.
    • Due: 11 December
    • Important Notes:
      • I have two more problem sets due for this class over the next week.
      • I thought I had the appropriate articles, but I realized they would not work.
  • Goals:
    • Today (1 December): Pick out just two articles by the end of the day. I’ve got a pretty good idea of the sources, I just need to make sure there is sufficient quantitative work.
      • Pull together some rough bullet points for the integrative review
    • Tonight: review class handouts & find corresponding chapters in my fave book to work the next problem set (due 4 December)
    • Sunday afternoon: finish problem set for Tuesday.
    • Monday afternoon: stats group study session, edit problem set accordingly
    • Tues: begin next problem set (w/ reading)
    • Weds afternoon: tutoring… and… wait… oh dear.

Project 2:

  • Term Paper
    • 10-12 page paper comparing how each of two books uses theory and methodology to build knowledge about urban politics & community action.
      • Identify the theories that inform (explicitly or implicitly) each work, discuss its research strategies, evaluate how effectively it generates insight into urban politics and/or community action, and provide a comparative evaluation of the strengths and limitations of the two studies.
    • Due: 13 December
    • Important Notes:
      • We’re reading the second book for my paper this week and I may need to go back to read a couple of chapters I missed in the first. I will likely have to do the same for the second.
      • I will have already written a two-page summary of the theory and methodology for each book by 6 December. There will be edits based on instructor feedback, but \o/ is an appropriate response here.
  • Goals:
    • Sunday morning (2 December): Edit the first paper based on my instructor’s comments and jot down what’s missing.
    • Later Sunday morning: finish reading the intro & at least begin the conclusion for the second book.
    • Mon-Tues: Read through as much of the rest of the book as possible.
    • Weds afternoon: export kindle notes & edit into my 2-page response… and… wait… oh dear.
    • Not gonna lie, this paper will probably sit until I get done with my stats final. See completion goal above.

Project 3:

  • Documentary Rough-Cut
    • Pull together a 20-minute rough edit of our best footage, thus far. No major editing needed, basically just a few stringouts & sequences, but more organized than what we had for our selects screening.
    • Due: 5 December
    • Important Notes:
      • This is pretty much out of my hands. As usual, my crew will meet Tuesday evening to pull this together at the last minute. Yes, I have tried to address the issue of their timing & standards. Petulant early 20-somethings = ’nuff said. Ageist? Yep. True? In this case, absolutely.
  • Goals:
    • Don’t strangle the undergrads.
    • Focus on my other projects so that I don’t think about the documentary.

I haz teh sadz. My play brother is in town for the Kindred the Family Soul/Jill Scott concert tonight (free for me). I figured I probably wouldn’t be able to go, but now I *really* know I won’t be able to go.

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