It seems my post on impostor syndrome resonated with quite a few people. Some people commented on the post; others tweeted me; some people wrote their own posts; some contacted me privately. But the message was clear: I was right in thinking this is a real issue in the LIS professions.
Sometimes my impostor syndrome makes me feel like I’m achieving nothing. This is often compounded by juggling too many balls, which makes me feel like I’m at great risk of seeing all of those balls end up on the floor in smithereens. Sometimes (often), I’m already standing on some rather pointy shards. I also feel like I let people down quite a lot – different people (including myself), in different ways, but it’s usually a product of being overcommitted, being physically present but cognitively absent, and having a crazy work ethic (all three impact on my family and friends, while on the work front, it’s the first two that have the biggest impact, although the work ethic results in the other two). More on this letting people down thing later.
So because I’m an over-committed fraud of a clown who can’t keep all the balls in the air because I’m there in body but not *there* in mind, I have to remind myself that sometimes I get things done, I achieve things, I make progress, I keep important balls in the air, and sometimes I even smash those balls into another stratosphere. When you’re stuck in a mindset where you think you’re a fraud, your lack of self awareness, your lack of trust in yourself, and your lack of capacity to back yourself can be crippling. And here’s the thing: everybody else is watching those balls flying through the air and thinking you’re a master juggler. So you have to find some way to get some perspective on what you are actually achieving.
I have a secret weapon in the war on impostor syndrome that allows you to get that kind of perspective. It’s called The Done List.
A done list is like a reverse to do list. You know how shitty you feel when you look at your to do list and you’re monumentally overwhelmed by how much there is on there and how little you’re getting done? A done list gives you the opposite feeling.
Done lists can track big stuff, or they can track little stuff. I have two kinds of done lists.
The Done List
I like to make a list at the start of every year of what I achieved the previous year. The big stuff. The important stuff. Not ‘I sent 3095 emails’ (although, it would be kind of fun / scary to count them one year, and I reckon that number would actually be fairly close to it). But things that matter, like how many books I read, what I achieved at work, positive changes I’ve made in my life. Here’s my 2013 done list as an example. This can be a really useful thing to do when you’re heading into a performance review. That was my prompt for my 2014 done list (which I didn’t put on my blog because it’s only half done – ha!).
It’s easy to forget what you’ve done by the end of the year, so you might like to schedule in an hour each month to make a great big list of everything you’ve achieved that month.
The ‘See, you really do get shit done’ list
I keep a running to do list in Evernote (or I did – I’m in the process of transitioning to Todoist). Sometimes there’s so much on my to do list and my days are so frantic that I feel like all I’ve done is answer email and go to meetings. So when I complete something on my Evernote to do list, I don’t just tick it off. I cut that item out of the to do list and I move it down to a separate list called ‘See, you really do get shit done’. And every now and then I have a scroll down and it’s like a big exhalation. I can see that I really do get shit done. Even if the only time I look at it is to add more to it. It still reminds me that I get shit done.
There are even services that will shoot you an email every day for you to reply with what you’ve achieved that day, so you are prompted to track your progress.
So ward off that inner impostor by telling it that you do get stuff done. Big stuff, and small stuff, and stuff that matters to you in all aspects of your life. Added side benefit: this makes it a lot easier to update your CV and write job applications.
PS. The kids and I searched The Noun Project for images for this post using the word ‘clown’, and Mr 6 insisted we feature Jar Jar Binks, while Ms 6 went for the clown hat.
I’m running a day behind because blogging is fun and thesis writing isn’t, so I didn’t let myself blog yesterday cause I didn’t make my thesis writing quota. Haven’t made it today either but I’m pulling an all nighter so preemptively rewarding myself with blogging.