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I'm an undergraduate working on a project that's been in a backlog, so there isn't a real rush to get the project done or any sort of tangible deadline. The way things work at least from what I could gather is I meet with my advisor based on if I have questions or make progress.

I've been able to get myself to do some things like break the project down into tasks, diagnose and fix technical issues on my end, and familiarize myself with the scaffolding code/outline the implementation for my own project. However, I often find myself delaying my tasks due to other responsibilities, and these delays further demotivate me, and so on, creating a "shame spiral" of sorts to where I just end up getting nothing done.

This also makes me fear reaching out to my advisor any more as I've barely gotten anything done and I fear asking for help. I've had some research interviews in the past where I didn't know something and the grad students/professors rejected me on the spot, so I feel like reaching out for something trivial will just end up in me not being able to continue research. Does anyone have any advice on how to pace yourself and set deadlines?

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  • By comparison, are your classmates getting ahead of you? What are you missing out on by not wrapping up what you need to deal with now? Mar 12, 2023 at 22:37

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There are a couple of ways to increase your productivity. The typical solution is to set aside some time each day (or week) to work on a particular problem. Keep a schedule list in a planner and stick to it. This works for some, but it isn't my preferred solution, actually.

Another way is to try to take advantage of "dead time" when you are waiting or things are boring; riding a bus, perhaps.

Get a small pocket sized notebook that you can dedicate to this project (or a set of projects) and carry it everywhere along with a pen. I prefer this to an electronic solution. In fact, my notebook is actually a small set of index cards held with a binder clip. Whenever things get boring or some idea occurs to you, pull it out and make a notation, perhaps on a new card or the back of a related card.

You can use cards to summarize groups of other cards and use them to transfer good ideas to the permanent record. You can also discard bad ideas easily. But just reviewing the cards you carry with you is a good way to jog your brain into action by recalling where you are at the moment in the project.

There is a fuller description of this "Hipster PDA" at this answer to a different question on another site here.

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  • The latter idea sounds really interesting. I'll definitely try to implement it; thanks for bringing it up. Also gives me a way to make use of the extra index cards I bought.
    – Revise
    Mar 11, 2023 at 15:18
  • Think about different colored cards, also. Different projects or different aspects, or whatever.
    – Buffy
    Mar 11, 2023 at 15:24

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