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I'm a CS master student working on my thesis. I'm 25 years old and still until now when I wake up in the morning to start studying I wake up stressed and my stomach hurts. I also feel a very bad headache. When I had courses I used to wake up in this situation everyday because I had to. Now I started my thesis and I don't have a deadline for it. So now when I try to wake up very early in the morning (7am) I end up surrendering to stay in bed because I don't want to have that ugly feeling in the morning. I noticed that now I wake up at 9 or 10 am. This is making me waste a lot of time. I'm not working as hard as I used to be.

My questions are:

  • does everyone has this feeling in the morning? and how to overcome this feeling?

  • how do you motivate yourself to work?

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Are you at the writing stage or the research stage ? and have you seen a doctor ? –  Suresh Apr 25 at 15:29
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I'm not a doctor, but I'd be puzzled if I woke up every morning with a stomachache. In any case, my ideal waking up time is around noon :). –  Suresh Apr 25 at 15:39
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This is not necessarily unrelated to academia, but I suspect it would get more/better answers over at Personal Productivity –  ff524 Apr 25 at 15:39
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I had a daily headache when waking up earlier for months until I changed my eating habits to a healthy diet. –  Rho Apr 26 at 20:28

4 Answers 4

This (lack of motivation) is common in graduate school. Without delving into the way you personally like to work (whether you are intrinsically or extrinsically motivated, whether your advisor is involved or uninvolved, whether you are motivated by reward or punishment, etc.), it's difficult to give specific advice.

These are some general motivational strategies:

  • Get up and start something small. Doesn't matter what it is. As long as you are working on your project (even formatting your thesis), you are okay. This is not to say you should be working on it all the time, just that even the small things are helpful. Small tasks get you into the groove and ready to tackle larger problems.
  • Leave things unfinished from the day before. If you reach the end of the day and are in the middle of a task, leave it, don't stay up to finish it. This way you have to get up in the morning to keep doing what you were doing, rather than waking up and saying "I don't know where to start."

Finally, if you think you may be depressed (if you are constantly saying "I have no reason to get out of bed"), please talk to someone or see a doctor. It gets better.

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On leaving things unfinished from the day before: that works best with pleasant tasks though! –  okiharaherbst Apr 26 at 9:32

You may need to pace yourself with your studies. Which may include taking breaks. Have you given your body and mind enough rest to recuperate from the previous day?

Motivation comes from self-will and is a mental state. When you wake up in the morning, what do you plan to accomplish? It's a good idea to break down what your goals are. If you have a paper to write, what are the first steps that should be taken? Complete those steps first then move onto the next ones.

Here is some material on motivation:

http://www.amazon.com/100-Ways-Motivate-Yourself-Third/dp/1601632444/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1398475489&sr=1-2&keywords=Motivate

As a CS student close to your age it's quiet understandable. Try talking to those who are in support of you as well too. A word of encouragement never hurts. :)

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Now I started my thesis and I don't have a deadline for it

This stands out in the description of your problem. I perform best when on a deadline. As counter intuitive as it sounds, it has been shown true as much for coursework assignments/papers as for research. When I did my MSc thesis, the university regulation allowed a maximum of 24 weeks. That's key, it said weeks, not ~ 6 months. And late submissions would not be accepted. That seemed strange given the research aspect of the task but the key learning was the iterative process of getting to the point and refining later.

I then experienced open-ended research during my doctoral studies at another university and found that the apparent upside of not being under time pressure was actually very, very counterproductive. Not only was that a trap for perfectionists who'd find themselves stuck in eternal beta, it would also give the illusion that you have time to think about other considerations. Many of which would be destructive thoughts like Do I really like what I'm doing?, Where's all this headed?, This is junk, and will never work!

My take is: Look beyond your thesis and set some nonnegotiable milestones/deadlines. And stick to them like your a religious fanatic. Your post-thesis self will be most grateful to you for it.

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What you said is very true. Actually I think the problem is that it's an open-ended research. As I found in my group it's different from others. I'm just given a topic (e.g. twitter event detection) but not a specific problem to solve. There are tons of stuff about event detection on twitter, so I asked my supervisor (what you want from me is already done! So what's my job!!). He said it's not an open-ended project, but you have to come up with contributions and when we see that it's enough, then we tell you go and start writing. –  Jack Twain Apr 26 at 20:53
    
So now I spent two months just reading papers and looking for problems to solve or contributions. And this is very difficult to find. Of course I could register my thesis for 6 months and then I would have a deadline, but that would be extremely stressful since I don't know what my contributions are or even if I will be able to come up with!!! That's why I left it open-ended. –  Jack Twain Apr 26 at 20:55
    
What you said has so much truth in it. I do all of what said, like being a perfectionist ... etc. –  Jack Twain Apr 26 at 20:55
    
@AlexTwain Mind your professor's words: [...] when we see that it's enough [...]. Do you both agree on what is 'enough'? From what you wrote, I infer that leaving it open-ended is your reaction/solution to the ill-posed problem that you are given. Therefore you'd rather "take your (enough) time to figure it out". Sounds like the reasonable thing to do.. but it isn't actually. Now two months in and assuming reasonable research and study efforts on your part, it should be time for you to start getting a clear idea of where you're headed. I suggest that you make that a priority. –  okiharaherbst Apr 27 at 9:37
    
@AlexTwain And do not overvalue this piece of work. Focus on getting over with it. If you carry on in academia, you'll get better at the job of working something out of hazy guidelines. And don't take all this too seriously, just get over with it and move on. That's the only way you'll give your brain room for new things. –  okiharaherbst Apr 27 at 9:43

Postgraduate study is a long term commitment, and part of the key to success is a healthy and sustainable attitude. Spending 90% of your waking hours either studying, trying to study, or feeling guilty for not studying is neither fun nor productive.

When you're mentally tired, you need a break to keep on working. So take a well deserved break. But don't feel guilty about it. If you feel like you're procrastinating, that just compounds itself into a cycle of guilt and low productivity.

Also, give yourself at least one day a week where you do not work. Catch up with friends, do your housework, and only study if you genuinely want to. And don't feel guilty about this either!

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