Sometimes, when you are working on a project for 4 years it is very hard to measure your achievements. Each day you creep slowly towards the goal of your work but weeks can go by and it may seem like you are making little progress.
This is something a lot of PhD students, myself included, struggle with. The end can sometimes seem a very long way away and so it is important to celebrate the achievements along the way. After all, a PhD is about learning and developing your skills as a researcher, not just the thesis you produce at the end.
Some of the work I do is very continuous in nature. I study field sites continuously for a year and so whilst this is a shorter period than the whole 4-year project it is still a long time to wait for an end point. I am also building a model which is continuously changing and being improved upon. Sometimes when you have been staring at the same piece of code for a week and you eventually spot the bug there can be a real sense of achievement, but generally the process is one of small incremental steps.
Sometimes, however, it is the little things that can bring the biggest sense of achievement. This week I took an experiment that has been running for a while and potted the plants up into larger pots. Together with some colleagues we spent two-days of back-breaking work mixing various soils together, filling pots, moving them and potting up the plants. By the end of the week the achievement was obvious.
We hadn’t made a great scientific break-through or even learnt anything new about the system we were studying but we did have 270 pots right there in front of us and sometimes that is just what you need.
Visual proof you achieved something.