In a nutshell, I'm drawing circles on images for most of my day (more precisely, ROIs around cellular components in fluorescence imaging). I volunteer to do this on weekdays from 10am to 7pm, and I stay late until 9pm once or twice a week to finish the day's set of images when it's considerably large.
I'm spending at least 45 hours per week drawing circles. I'm working efficiently (it takes me on average of 15 minutes per page of stitched images), I try not to take breaks to maintain momentum unless I'm noticeably slowing down (and limit them to 10 minutes), and I try not to take more than 30 minutes for lunch.
I understand that monotonous tasks are a key part of research, and it's suitable work for me as an undergraduate (as they're low-risk and require little experience). I'm also lucky to do research so early in my career. But in the evenings, I begin to think of all the other undergraduates out there getting ahead doing amazing work (like Martin McLaughlin, who already produced publishable, original work in his first year), and I feel discouraged and expendable.
And it's entirely my fault, too. If I spent my time in high school more effectively by learning Python coding for automation, statistics, and understanding more of the relevant literature, I could be so much more useful to my supervisor doing more stimulating complex tasks.
It's been a month since I've started, and the long hours of this repetitive task are wearing me down. But I don't want to let my supervisor down, so I intend to keep getting the daily image set done each day. She hasn't required me to set these hours or get the image set done each day, but I've been doing this for so long that it's expected (though she's always very appreciative each time I submit, and she works longer hours than me).
I plan to continue until the project is complete when my supervisor graduates in December (lessening hours to the evenings when classes resume). Until then and for future research opportunities, how can I keep myself motivated with monotonous tasks and avoid burning out?