Is it normal to get nervous before supervisor meetings?

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omegaSQU4RED
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I've got a specific problem which has been frustrating me a lot recently.

Whenever I've got a meeting with my PhD (or in the case of last year, my Master's) supervisor, just beforehand I always get really nervous and paranoid about the meeting and I end up panicking. I end up worrying about whether or not my supervisor will criticise me for not doing enough reading or not having anything meaningful to contribute to the meeting. In particular, we're meeting tomorrow to discuss the answers to some administrative questions I had and also to talk about the reading I've been doing up until the start of my PhD (I've done a little bit over the summer to get more of an idea of what the studentship is about, but I've been very slow over the last few weeks due to moving home and settling in at my new university).

Whenever something like this happens I always end up spending ridiculous hours the night before the meeting doing a lot of reading and then after the meeting has finished, go home and get some sleep. I seem to keep doing this regardless of whether or not I have actually done during the week and I know it's not a healthy way to work.

How can I best prepare for supervisor meetings and how can I naturally feel less anxious about them? Is it worth coming up with some simple questions I can ask and thinking of positive things to say about what I have done, to show that I have done some appropriate reading?
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gutenberg
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While I personally don't get nervous before meetings, I know plenty of fellow PhDs who do, and fit exactly with the cycle you've described of manically working the few days before because they're convinced they haven't got enough to show for the time since the last meeting. So I don't think you're alone in that at all.

As regards this specific meeting, mention that you've been moving house etc., I think any supervisor with an ounce of humanity could understand that perhaps you didn't get as much done as you would have liked under those circumstances; it's a stressful time! Plus, have I read correctly that you're only just beginning the PhD? In that case I wouldn't feel guilty at all. Sure, it's nice to get some preparation done, but officially you haven't started yet, so to criticise you for not having done enough during a period when officially speaking you aren't even on the programme would be unfair. My supervisor (I have the same one as I did for my Master's) told me to go on holiday & relax for a week or two before the PhD began, after a stressful Master's year

For other meetings, I can offer some advice from my own experience. My supervisor tends to get distracted during meetings, and so a former student of his told me it was a good idea essentially to draw up an agenda for myself before heading into meetings, so that if there was something I really needed to discuss, even if we did wander off-topic, I could jog my memory by looking at my notes. This could be a useful strategy for you, because you could lay out everything you've done/read before the meeting starts, with maybe a few bullet points for key ideas or things you want to discuss, along with any other issues or topics you want to raise. For myself, I usually divided my notes into reading/sources done, administrative things done/to be done, any applications or conferences forthcoming, and so on. Seeing it laid out in front of you like that can be very reassuring, as you can see clearly what you've actually done (and it is often more than you think, we tend to forget those one or two days spent on some small topic or set of sources), and thus you can explain more effectively to your supervisor. I feel it will help you feel more in control of the meetings, by having something written down. It doesn't have to be long (mine were usually a page or so), and I just stuck it in my diary/notebook, so it didn't look odd when I pulled it out during meetings.

I hope that helps a bit!
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nonswimmer
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Perfectly normal.

Make notes of each supervision meeting. Highlight the objectives you agree / actions you promise. Use these as the basis for discussion in the next meeting.

You'll be surprised how much progress you make between meetings. But your own perception of this progress is clouded by how small it seems in comparison to the mountainous PhD which needs to be completed.
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omegaSQU4RED
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(Original post by gutenberg)
While I personally don't get nervous before meetings, I know plenty of fellow PhDs who do, and fit exactly with the cycle you've described of manically working the few days before because they're convinced they haven't got enough to show for the time since the last meeting. So I don't think you're alone in that at all.

As regards this specific meeting, mention that you've been moving house etc., I think any supervisor with an ounce of humanity could understand that perhaps you didn't get as much done as you would have liked under those circumstances; it's a stressful time! Plus, have I read correctly that you're only just beginning the PhD? In that case I wouldn't feel guilty at all. Sure, it's nice to get some preparation done, but officially you haven't started yet, so to criticise you for not having done enough during a period when officially speaking you aren't even on the programme would be unfair. My supervisor (I have the same one as I did for my Master's) told me to go on holiday & relax for a week or two before the PhD began, after a stressful Master's year

For other meetings, I can offer some advice from my own experience. My supervisor tends to get distracted during meetings, and so a former student of his told me it was a good idea essentially to draw up an agenda for myself before heading into meetings, so that if there was something I really needed to discuss, even if we did wander off-topic, I could jog my memory by looking at my notes. This could be a useful strategy for you, because you could lay out everything you've done/read before the meeting starts, with maybe a few bullet points for key ideas or things you want to discuss, along with any other issues or topics you want to raise. For myself, I usually divided my notes into reading/sources done, administrative things done/to be done, any applications or conferences forthcoming, and so on. Seeing it laid out in front of you like that can be very reassuring, as you can see clearly what you've actually done (and it is often more than you think, we tend to forget those one or two days spent on some small topic or set of sources), and thus you can explain more effectively to your supervisor. I feel it will help you feel more in control of the meetings, by having something written down. It doesn't have to be long (mine were usually a page or so), and I just stuck it in my diary/notebook, so it didn't look odd when I pulled it out during meetings.

I hope that helps a bit!
That's very reassuring - glad to know I'm not the only one. Thanks very much
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Klix88
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I have kind of the opposite problem, but with the same solution. My supervisory meetings are always very informal, held over cake and coffee in one if the uni cafes or bars. Because I'm on good friendly terms with my supervisors, they tend to be very relaxed and wander off-topic rather a lot. It's my job to make sure the meetings cover what I want, so I email them a list of things I need to discuss a couple of days in advance of the meeting. I use that list in the meeting and tick off the points as we chat. I can generally get what I need from them that way.

If I feel that they've really digressed and not been paying attention, I email them afterwards, listing the things I'm going to do as a result of the meeting. This avoids misunderstandings as well.

Informal and relaxed supervisory meetings can be a bit like herding cats, so if it's any comfort, you probably get more done with a more formal and slightly nerve-wracking approach!
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