when the going gets rough: staying motivated

August 31, 2011

plowing through a tough project

recently, i got an email from a reader [we’ll call her “T”] with the following question:

“I was wondering how you stayed motivated when you were not feeling a class….any tips?”

at first, i was just slightly embarrassed at being called ‘motivated’ when these days it seem to take all the ‘motivation’ i can muster to peel myself off of the couch to do — well, pretty much anything. it’s also been quite a while since i’ve been in any real class of sorts [although i guess i’ll never forget the scars left on me by my two least-favorites, organic chemistry and anatomy].

but then, i thought about my current lab situation. i haven’t written about it much, but let’s just say i have decided that my calling is not to become a basic science researcher. luckily, i love the clinical part of my job, so i will just have to build my career in that direction — which [hopefully!] should be doable. while i wouldn’t say i have been kicking ass and taking names in the lab [at all], i had to use all sorts of motivating tactics to apply for grants, learn how to do certain experiments, and to write [currently, i’m just wrapping up the cell metabolism preview i was so stressed about a couple of weeks ago].

so, i guess i do have a few tricks/principles i use to get me through things like this.

break it down. if it’s an 18 week semester, take time to really think about what needs to be done on a weekly and then daily basis. this makes any project [no matter how big!] seem less scary and more manageable. i made really specific calendars when studying for each step of my boards, and this really helped me stay motivated and less stressed about getting all of the necessary studying in.

keep your goals in mind — and don’t be afraid to reevaluate.

this turned out to be a terrible set of goals for me — i made the list before pregnancy symptoms really hit and let’s just say that my current goals are pretty much ‘keep baby alive’ [because obviously this is under my control, right?] and ‘don’t barf’ most of the time. but writing out your goals can be especially valuable when you are doing something you don’t love. for example, yesterday’s post reaffirmed my goal of wanting to be a practicing pediatric endocrinologist. i KNOW i want that, and i am committed to completing my required lab project to get there.

plan out your day [and keep it real!]

sometimes it helps to really micromanage yourself. the only caveat is that it’s important to plan in extra time — for that slow commute, for taking a break, etc. writing out a plan that has no wiggle room whatsoever can actually lead to early frustration and then you’ll just want to come home and sulk on the couch. not that i’d know anything about that on a personal level, of course.

cut corners where you have to you all know that usually, i love to cook and meal-plan. but right now — i just can’t. i have been reassured that this is normal in my current state and i have decided just not to stress about it anymore. i’ll get back into the kitchen when i’m ready, and until then easy ‘sort-of-cooking’ meals will suffice along with judicious use of takeout.

last night, i pulled that card and josh picked up burritos from cosmic. that’s my “miny” burrito [mini] on the right — and it was absolutely delicious. i started to make fun but then realized that i did not know how to spell [or say] “mini” in spanish, so . . . yeah.

anything you would add to this list for reader T?

solving the mystery

if anyone is still wondering, the above tool referenced in yesterday’s post is an orchidometer [aka “prader beads”], and it is a tool for assessing testicle size in growing males! YES, i keep one in my bag on clinic days and YES, i use it [but NOT in the patients’ rooms. i do not bring mine anywhere near any actual testicles]. it’s actually really important in many endocrine cases — especially those involving growth or abnormally early or late development — to know exactly how far along a male is in puberty, and this is the best way to tell!

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