Last night, I flew back north after a whirlwind trip for Admitted Students Day. Since I've already accepted the admission offer, my focus for this trip was to hash out my expectations for the upcoming year and to leave a memorable impression on my future advisors and mentors.
Reflecting during the plane ride, I realized that the approach I took during my meetings and interactions could be articulated for you to address the issues of imposter syndrome we all struggle with at one time or another.
Setting the stage. The first step is to create your context. You need to establish your overall goal so that you have a solid "big picture" to come back to during hard times.
"The best productivity hack is blocking the time to do the work that produces the results you want from your life, a big part of that life being your work, and work being one of the ways you make a contribution." [source]
Grad student grandiosity sits confidently (but ignorantly) across the aisle from imposter syndrome. Grad student grandiosity is that overly wordy short answer response that makes grading that much more miserable. It rears its head in discussion section when one student dominates the conversation, and insists on arguing with you over a basic terminology definition because they can hypothesize a number of scenarios where it doesn't hold.
These feelings of grandiosity may be perpetuated by faculty in the department, as they smile and nod when a student contributes to journal club. Little does the student know their comment reflects basic knowledge (i.e. they paid attention in class) of an incredibly complex methodology. This positive reinforcement from authority figures is equivalent to a pat on the head when a child learns to ride a bike (that still has training wheels on).
When I have a particularly productive day working on my thesis, I come to a stopping point and just want to shut my computer and move to the next activity. While this is satisfying, it comes back to bite you in the bum.
The next day, when I open my computer, I have a plethora of documents open and datasets and do files without the slightest clue if its saved. I need multiple documents open when synthesizing results, but this system doesn't let you jump back in.
One of the benefits and challenges of being a graduate student is managing your own time. With only 1-2 courses this term, and the majority of my energy focused on my thesis, I find that it isn't necessary to go to school to do work.
Last year, with such a large course load, finding time between classes to do work was advantageous. I associated certain spots at the school with working, and would make good use of 30 minutes here and there to churn out emails or recopy notes from yesterdays lecture.
Being able to identify your situation when you are most productive is the first step in planning a successful work space.