I'm doing a PhD in Computer Science in France (completed 10 months out of 3 years), and I am annoyed at how slow I am to produce results.
Long story short, I have explored various potential solutions to a certain problem in Computer Vision using Deep Learning - defining the problem properly was by itself very difficult - meeting various dead-ends and delays like buggy open source code and issues to reproduce results from existing papers.
I have produced small-ish results, but I haven't got enough for a quality paper yet (e.g. CVPR). I should be close, but then I've been convinced of that for a couple months.
I work full-time on my PhD (8h-17h), with occasional 1-2h overtime. I would say I am usually quite productive although there are days it would have been more useful to stay at home sleeping. I rarely work during week-ends: it is way more efficient to test / develop the algorithms in the lab, and I am just tired. The exception is when I have something to write, which is not the case right now.
My supervisors are somewhat disappointed. On the one hand, I feel like I could do more, like by working at home or something. It is true that in the beginning of the PhD I wasted some time by leaving work earlier at 4pm (which I kinda regret) and by exploring algorithms that were useless in hindsight. I also feel guilty if I spend my week-end binge-watching movies or playing games on my PC. On the other hand, I am also usually out of ideas or things to try and may not do something useful anyway.
I am somewhat at a loss, hence my question: how far should I go? Should I always try my hardest all the time, like when I prepared exams for engineering schools (classes préparatoires, where free time is an unknown entity)? The thing is that I just do not know how to completely solve the problem I am researching. It is very different from studying for an exam, where I know precisely what to do. If I had the solution, I'd be happy to write the paper...
I always could do something, like looking for new papers to read or studying deep learning. I also sometimes hear about people working until 2am in other labs and publishing papers after 6 months, which does not help. I do not know what I should do, and afraid of regretting my decision either way :|