Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The battles of the Type A personality

As many of you may have figured out by now, I have an extremely type A personality. I have MANY of the classic characteristics: Ambitious, perfectionist, impatient, competitive, can't relax, consumed with time, needs to be in control, constantly stressed. Mostly, too, I'm anxious.. about everything. I'm consumed with nervous energy and it fills my entire body. I actually have a generalized anxiety disorder that I likely have had since birth, but has become more strong due to some personal circumstances I've gone through in the past few years of my life.

I've come to realize in the past few months that I actually feel my best and work my best when I accept these facets of my personality and use them as strengths instead of weaknesses. The times in my life when I've felt the best and been the most productive are the times when I've actually been the most type A. College is my best example that I could share with you. I thrived in college because I was completely in control of EVERYTHING and it was amazing. I find that when I'm not in control, or feel like I have control, I feel stress - almost instantly. So, in college.. I was able to let all of my type A characteristics come out and I felt safe. I was able to be a perfectionist with the notes I took in class, the assignments I turned in and my tests. I was able to be competitive and not feel like an overachiever. I could be ambitious and go for two degrees and take the hardest course loads. I hardly had time to relax because I was so busy, so I didn't have to worry about that! The point is that, for me, I was the MOST productive in college that I've ever been in my life.

One of the things that kept me grounded throughout my later years in college (the years where I really buckled down and worked solely on my degree work) was my day planner. I have had the exact same day planner for the past 4 years. Yep, since 2006 folks. Every year I go to Barnes and Noble and pick up a refill and I see the exact same format that I've seen the prior year. This planner has become such an integral part of my life that I think I would literally cry for a week straight if I lost it. It has birthdays, anniversaries, bills, paychecks, a structure for how every single paycheck will be spent. It has recipes, notes, papers sticking out out of random weeks of things I need to keep on hand at all times. My planner goes with me EVERYWHERE. Every day when I come to work I pull my phone and my planner out on my desk and they sit there with me all day. And every single year when I go buy a new one, I spend a solid hour writing down everything from the previous year into the new year and color-code where necessary (you wish I was kidding).

The planner is by week and each day is broken down into half hour blocks for Monday-Saturday from 8am-9pm. It has a section up top where the date is that I can write general reminders about that day. It has a section on the side for calls and emails for each day. It has a monthly section in the beginning (which strangely I don't use right now but I should) and a by day map out of the next year in the back. It has a little tab I can tear out as each week passes so I can easily find my way to the current week. And best of all, right now I have a red cover for it. It's stylish and it plans out every day of my life.

A few weeks ago I was feeling a little undue stress about certain events going on in January. I wanted to open my planner and start writing down these events, but thus my planner stops at January 3. So I went online to Barnes and noble and tried to find a refill on there. No luck. I talked myself off the ledge (figuratively of course) and told myself to wait closer to Christmas. They will eventually go on sale for 50% off and I should wait until then, like i do every year. Well fast forward to today and I felt this same stress. I thought about it today and reasoned with myself that if an extra $10 to buy the planner now meant I would not be stressed out periodically over the coming weeks when I felt the need to write down something, it was worth it. So over lunch I went off to Barnes and Noble. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. I was so excited!!! Imagine how un-excited I was when I got to the store and could not find this planner anywhere! How in the world could I have bought this same planner for the past 4 years and now this year, they are not carrying them anymore? Once again, trying to avoid a panic attack I went to the help desk and handed over my trusty planner for the guy to find a serial number (or something on). I'm sure this man thought I was crazy, but I didn't care. I need a 2010 planner! He could not find anything in his system, nor in the store and told me to check back in a few weeks to see if more come in.

Not going to happen buddy.

I looked at their calendars but realized none of them would work. I preceded to drive down the plaza to an office_____ (depot? max? no clue) and look there. At first all I found were "At a glance" calendars, which clearly by the name you know that's not going to work for me. I did actually find one that broke down every day into 15 minute increments! Remember when I told you my weekly routine is broken down that way. I was almost sold when I realized it was missing two very important things that my current planner has: a tear out tab to know which week you are on, and the ability to hold papers, notes, etc in between the pages. This one was much larger than my current and had a ring binding instead of my current book binding.  I left the store empty handed and sad.

I realize that telling you these things make me sound even more OCD than you thought I was at first, but I'm okay with that. Having this planner reduces my stress and that is all that matters. My planner is a huge part of my life and it's important to me. I will not settle on just any planner. I need something that is going to fit my needs. And an extra $10 to buy a planner now is worth it. Sometimes in life you need to pick your battles. My battle with stress is better combated by having a planner that works for me, and I recognize that it's a worthy investment.

Strangely though, after this series of events and revelations - I did realize today that I was being dramatic and my world will not end if I don't get this exact same planner. After looking at several other planners today, I noticed a few things that I don't like about my current planner. I also realized that if I wasn't going back to school in 2010, I could easily just buy a planner without the hours broken down - as I don't even use that feature right now. I work a desk job where I work in excel all day long. There is nothing I could write in the planner for work that needs to be there. I generally just make lists and arbitrarily assign them to a block of time for my personal things right now. But once school starts, I will be back to my old ways - writing down every class, study session, test and paper and color coding all of them. My planner will look alive again!

After remembering I'm about to go back to school, I knew that with all the change approaching in my life, I could not accept the change of having a different planner next year. It might seem silly, but this planner has been with me when I've been my best in life and I want it there for the next phase, one that I still feel very anxious about. After I came back from Barnes and Noble today, I searched online and finally found a refill from the companies website and paid $20 with shipping for the refill. But that is probably the best $20 I will spend for the next year because it has bought me peace of mind, a channel for my quirks and a means to survive through a time of change and uncertainty. I'll take it!

Welcome to the mind of a Type A personality!

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