I am a first year PhD student, and it's the fourth week of school. I am taking two classes, doing one grad class TA and doing a lab rotation. I am in Electrical Engineering (Controls and DSP).
I start my day thinking- "I'll go to class from 10 am to 12 pm, solve 5 homework problems from 1 pm- 3 pm, do some TA work from 4 pm to 6 pm, and read a bunch of papers from 7 pm to 9 pm, then cook and sleep. How optimistic.
In reality, when I start the homework problems at 1 pm, I end up having to read a bunch of textbooks to understand stuff in it (I'm doing Convex Analysis), and by the time 3 pm rolls around, I have finished only one problem. Feeling discouraged, I keep at this homework, vowing to stop only when I'm done with my quota of 5. My efficiency starts to drop severely after a few hours, but since I'm in school with my laptop and stuff, I can't go anywhere to 'relax', so I just keep sitting and start redditing or something. And then my concentration further drops when I try to resume real work. This goes on, I miss dinner, I sleep late, and the efficiency just plummets through the week.
My past couple of weeks have been so inefficient, I want to do something about it before it's too late.
In short, my question is, when your work is way too difficult to achieve your goal of the day in your allotted time, do you switch work, or do you keep going? I have always believed that output is more important than input, that is, putting in two hours for each task without achieving much in anything is not as good as putting in, say, eight hours for just one and finishing something in it nicely. However, this strategy of mine is failing me for the first time in my life, because even if I put in eight hours, I am not able to finish anything. The work is so difficult. I'm not complaining, just really need guidance.