Marking Your Progress – Celebrate Your Wins

Over the course of a long post-graduate research project it can be easy to focus on what is yet to be done. The fact that you will probably have a lot to do, before a clear deadline, can keep you focused on what you haven’t done yet. In turn, this can lead to you doubting that the work will ever be done in time and to the required quality, which can result in a build-up of anxiety that erodes your energy and self-belief.

One way of counteracting this phenomenon and helping you feel more in control and more confident, is to make a point of explicitly marking your progress and celebrating what has gone successfully. This will allow you to demonstrate to yourself what you have already achieved. 

For many people, when they start to do exercises like this they can feel false and even uncomfortable. However, research in positive psychology has shown that even if you don’t initially believe what you are telling yourself, these exercises can still have a positive effect on your thinking and self-perception [1] . 

Set yourself regular and planned times to sit down and mark your overall progress and recent progress. It can help to write these down or draw them out, so you can actually see evidence in front of you.

If you have a project plan, it can also be useful to use this to mark off the stages you have already completed.

The second exercise is to identify the skills and knowledge you have developed since beginning your PGR studies. Cast your mind back, honestly, to when you began your degree. What do you know or understand better now than you did then? What are you better at doing than you could do at that point? Pay attention to big and small things. What could you teach someone now that you couldn’t have taught before?

It can also help to share your achievements with others – if you have a paper published or make a breakthrough with your research, make a point of telling someone else and sharing that moment. If there aren’t many people around who might understand the significance of what you’ve done, it may help to join some online forums or Student Union PG societies.

Finally, you may find it useful to regularly keep a gratitude diary. This is a regular practice in which you note down 3 things that you are grateful for. You don’t have to do this every day but it does help if you sustain this practice over time. The things you are grateful for may be small things and they may repeat on different days. All of this is fine. Just set aside some time, think about the things you are grateful for and note them down. Research has shown that this practice can significantly raise your mood and self-belief [2].

Taking time out in this way to take control of your thoughts and calibrate your progress can give you a greater sense of control and confidence and top up your belief that you can get work done and make it all the way through to thesis submission.



Seligman, M. E. P., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2001). “Positive psychology: An introduction”: Reply. American Psychologist, 56(1), 89–90.


Wood, A. M., Froh, J. J., & Geraghty, A. W. A. (2010). Gratitude and well-being: A review and theoretical integration. Clinical Psychology Review, 16.


Harzer, C., Ruch, W., & Kleinmann, M. (2012). Positive Psychology at Work: The Role of Character Strengths for Positive Behavior and Positive Experiences at the Workplace. Retrieved from filename%3DPositive_psychology_at_work_The_role_of.pdf