I love making plans and getting things done. My jam-packed, color-coded Google Calendar gained notoriety in grad school, and I’ve uncovered to-do lists I wrote 15 years ago. Few things give me more satisfaction than thinking through scenarios and interdigitating tasks to maximize efficiency. I love mapping out timelines for months, years, and decades. I am a consummate schedule-follower, dopamine-seeker, and efficiency junkie.
No matter what I’ve done, I always feel like I can do more. While I am grateful that my tendency towards rampant productivity is often applauded, I know deep down that I need to loosen control and do less to be more. So I made a foolproof plan to enable more loosening and creativity. I vowed to pursue meditation and to write fun scientific content for this website.
If I had followed the plan I set months ago, this would be Day 8 in a silent Vipassana meditation course. I would also be posting pithy and impactful scientific articles on this site twice a month. Clearly, neither of these plans came to fruition, but the space these plans carved out allowed even better things to happen.
I’ve realized that the act of making plans allows me to back-calculate and characterize my feelings and desires. I tend to plan ‘solutions’ before I really understand my problems.
For example, why on Earth would I crave a 10-day isolated meditation course, with a 4am wakeup call followed by 11 hours of brain training with meager food rations?! I realized that registering for this course in November was my response to feeling overwhelmed, underqualified, and irritable. When I unraveled these feelings, I learned that the roots were a difficult work relationship, my failure to protect my time, and unrealistic expectations for myself.
I desired a reset; I wanted a glimpse of my true self without work/life stressors. This course seemed like the getaway I needed. But then life got in the way, and I decided to cancel my attendance, which felt like giving up.
Importantly, while I did give up my original plan, I’m not giving up on addressing my feelings in more realistic ways. I connected with loved ones and described the tough work relationship that eroded my confidence, and I re-committed to habits that nourish me. Perhaps most notably, I re-committed to realistic expectations for myself and chose to focus on the great things I’m doing instead of the things that I’m not doing. I learned that I already know what to do to enjoy my life, and I don’t need to constantly seek out more information.
Breaking my plan also gave me a good laugh, as “planning to relax” is fundamentally flawed logic!
Onto the forensic analysis of my second grand plan. I intended this website to be a platform to share useful scientific insights in an accessible (and maybe even entertaining) format. I planned on posting at least twice a month, creating a mailing list, and focusing content to scientific research and grad school/career advice. But analytics and incredible feedback revealed that people would rather read about my personal experiences than telomerase and the microbiome (?!); this insight was an enormous surprise to me.
So I let go of that plan too. As a scientist, I’m committed to adjusting my views and actions based on data (and I had a wonderful collection of both quantitative and qualitative data!). And realistically, I couldn’t keep up with an aggressive posting schedule with my job, multiple ventures, outreach, and commitment to health and spending undistracted time with loved ones (like my pet rabbit). And guess what: better things came along that fulfill my intentions in bigger ways!
I’ve been working as a ghostwriter for people who publish well-researched and helpful health and nutrition content to large audiences. It’s super fun for me! I’m learning from entrepreneurs who have built audiences in the 100,000+ person range, and I’m reaching tons of people who are hungry for science. And I’m getting paid to do what I love: translate the latest and greatest scientific insights to enable as many people as possible to use data to level up their lives.
TL;DR: I made plans to relax and write accessible scientific content. I let those plans go when the realities of life interfered with my idealistic timelines. Even better things transpired, like my letting go of perfectionism and getting ghostwriting gigs from people I admire. None of this would have happened if I’d stuck to my plans!