This time last year, I was in the midst of applying for dietetic internships, and I was crazy enough to have been working on SIX applications.
I felt like I was drowning.
There was constant work to be done. And this work was in addition to the SIX courses I was taking. (Why on Earth did I decide to add an additional, optional course to my plate during the busiest semester? Who knows.)
I began working on applications fairly early in the semester. I began by doing background searches on each program to see which sparked my interest the most, and how they differed and compared to each other. This was a long process, but I did not rush it because it is incredibly important to know a lot about what you are applying for, so you can make connections between the program and your own skills and assets. Anyhow, I went through the usual process, beginning to build a customized resume for each application, a customized letter, etc. Whenever I wasn’t working on school projects, I was working on internship applications. Every spare minute. I would wake up hours earlier than normal to squeeze in extra work before class. I would stay in when my friends would go out, and work away. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the process for the most part. I felt like I was on top of it, and I honestly enjoyed learning about each program and exciting myself about the possibility of joining it.
Though at this time last year, and shortly before, that I was feeling
Though I felt like I was managing my time well, it took some self reflection and discussion with my counsellor (who became a good friend of mine during the duration of my undergrad degree, and was especially supportive during this time), to identify what it was exactly that had me feeling this way.
My problem was that the work never ended. And I mean this quite literally. I would work away on an application letter, complete a rough draft, and leave it for the following day. I would open it up the next day and make changes. I would make better connections between my skills and the program requirements; I would re-word my sentences to display stronger writing skills; I would re-read the letter aloud numerous times to try to envision what a program director may think of it. Then I would put it down, work on another, but never remove that ‘draft’ part of the title. It was only a matter of time before I would open it again and pour more hours into it. I was working numerous pieces and they were never finished. Though they seemed complete, I did not feel satisfied until I re-read them a ridiculous amount of times, re-structured them, added to them, etc. etc. There was a never-ending room for improvement.
Though this process was necessary in a way, having converted my first drafts into much better letters, it was unhealthy at the same time. Or it was for me anyway. I could not stand to finish an application completely because I was stuck in the obsessive mindset that I could always make it better. It was never good enough to stop working on.
And it became just that: obsessive. Working on applications that were on the brink of completion consumed my every minute and every thought. I ate at my work desk. I slept at my work desk. I could hardly stand to be anywhere but.
When I caught this behaviour getting the best of me, I made some healthy changes. Of my 6 applications, I decided to designate one as a self-help project. Weird hey? This application was for a graduate program and it was due quite some time after my others so it was pretty much a clean slate at this point. I decided to challenge myself to work on that application without obsessing over it. I set some guidelines and practiced some techniques to help with this challenge. I will be blogging about this project next week so be sure to pop back. It was quite an eye-opening experience.
Secondly, I made my workspace much more friendly. More friendly to me. I searched the boxes in my closet to find old birthday cards, notes from friends, letters from family, etc. I pulled out any piece of paper that had words of encouragement and pleasant greetings. I plastered them all of over the wall beside my desk. What a difference that made. I also started lighting candles on my desk, and keeping a cozy blanket close.
These things may not work for everyone of course, but I strongly encourage anyone who is feeling a little overwhelmed, to work on making your workspace more comforting. It had a great impact on me.
I will leave you with a quote by David Allen that opened my mind a little, and provided some relief: “You can do anything, not everything.”
All the best guys, see you next Sunday!