Tl;dr: Defended my PhD two weeks ago. However, right from the time of the defense and up until the present moment, I am experiencing a huge lack of motivation and sense of purpose to do anything related to research or search for future positions. How to address this?

Other details****: I had applied for other positions before my defense and was not successful in securing a suitable position. I have an offer from my PhD advisor about a postdoc position which I am expected to start early next year.

Leaving every other concern aside, I am very appalled by my lack of motivation and the constant feeling of lethargy to start with the pending research work and/or resume with the dedicated job search.

I have no idea how to address this feeling. I have taken two hiking trips during the last two weekends. However it feels empty and unproductive inside. I have so much to do before I start with a postdoc position. But all am I doing is wasting time.

  • If you already have a postdoc position which you haven't started yet, why do you still need to dedicated job search?
    – Allure
    Dec 10, 2019 at 9:20
  • @Allure That's because I want to do a postdoc at some other place as that would help my CV. Though I will be doing a new project with new modeling technique, pursuing postdoc under the PhD advisor is frowned upon in academia. Also, I am getting too comfortable with the current city and things need to change.
    – robert
    Dec 10, 2019 at 10:35
  • 1
    Burnout at this time is completely understandable. Burnout is like an injury. You have to give yourself time to rest and recover.
    – littleO
    Dec 10, 2019 at 11:00
  • Take a holiday.
    – ObscureOwl
    Dec 10, 2019 at 15:03

2 Answers 2


Give yourself some time

You just finished an important step in your career, which has presumably taken you between 3 and 7 years. Congratulations! For a while, it is normal to feel like celebrating your achievement instead of going on with everyday research and making important decisions. It is even more normal to have doubts about the next step.

Try to find out why you are not motivated

The good news is that you have an offer for a postdoc position, so (assuming you do not have to give an amswer now) you have some time to reflect on why you are not motivated. Is it just a temporary feeling? Do you really want to continue in academia? Do you want to do research at all? The answers to these questions should become clearer after a while.

Talk to people

Your advisor might have some suggestions about other options you might have after your PhD that motivate you more. You can also ask other colleagues/people in the field that you trust. Maybe they have had a similar experience and can tell you how they overcame it.


What you are feeling is very normal. Similarly, when a marathon runner completes a successful race they just collapse for a bit. The need for intensity has ended and the body and/or mind want a break.

I'd suggest that you don't worry to much about the feeling, as it is very likely to pass in time.

But, you have things you need to do to continue with your career. Make a list of things that you need to do now and would happily do if you felt better.

Then, just do those things. Forget how you feel. Ignore it. Just do what your list says is required of you.

Make a list of job opportunities. Follow up on them. Write good applications. Get good letters of recommendation arranged. Go back thorough your research experience and mine it for possible future work, keeping a notebook of ideas that might be pursued.

But don't wait for the feeling to pass and for inspiration to hit. Make a list of what you should do now. Then start on that. Throughout your career there will be periods of low productivity. Try to make momentum carry you through them. Your current sense isn't permanent unless you give up.

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