205

If every swimmer were to compete with the latest 20 year old Olympic gold medalist, they would soon give up. That's why we have different leagues. They provide more relevant frames of reference to compare different athletes. Thus you need to: Shift the frame. Adjusting a bad frame: You are a PhD student who completed some regular college and an outsider ...


148

Many faculty get post-tenure blues. There are several causes: Burnout: You've been running at full speed for almost 30 years (k-12; college; grad school; post-docs; tenure track). Your brain needs a rest. It's perfectly acceptable for you to take a break. Many faculty have post-tenure slumps. Survivor's guilt: Many of your grad peers didn't get jobs, you ...


138

Dan's answer is very good, and I want to add one more point: Accept that on the first pass you will not be able to fully understand the topic. Appreciate that there are decades and sometimes centuries (for the math, at least) of research supporting the topic you're learning. Thinking you can "get to the bottom" of it in a few months, let alone a week or two,...


111

What you're experiencing is pretty much what all college teachers are wrestling with all the time everywhere. Allow me to point out that the abyss of need can go much, much deeper than what you're currently dealing with. In the U.S., most college students are attending a community college. And most students entering U.S. community colleges do not have 8th ...


107

One solution that has often worked for me is to try to not work on the weekends. If your weekdays are solid work times, then you can do more intense work on the weekdays and aim to have your weekend entirely free. Even if you don't entirely succeed, you'll still be in a much better situation with respect to the things you need to do by Monday. Then you ...


97

This sounds a lot like depression, first step is to go see a professional. The fact that you are sharing your experience and identifying what is going wrong is already a good step in the right direction. Share more, don't walk this journey alone. The best I can offer is general advice (thing that worked for me). I believe too many people suffer without ...


60

As a postdoc and young faculty, I always felt guilty about not being particularly productive on weekends. I'd make big plans for really spending solid hours on this or that project or paper, but it never came together. In the end, I realized that I'd goof off so much on the weekend because I was simply burned out from the week. My resolution, made a few ...


58

tl;dr: Divide and conquer. – aeismail♦ The Balloon Analogy I used to hate writing with a passion. Trying to squeeze a 5 page paper out of me was like trying to juice a rock. Eventually, though, I figured out the root cause for my procrastination. The biggest sense of daunting I found when writing a paper is that you start with nothing, and have to end up ...


56

This is, as you say, a common problem. It certainly is realistic to try to get more out of your students than the other faculty. However, depending on how substantial the gap is between the norm and your expectations, getting into a better school may turn out to be the only realistic and sustainable way of aligning goals and reality. If the statement that ...


54

For a true burnout you will need to stop working, rest, and seek counseling/medical help. You need to lower your expectations of yourself and virtually eliminate what others expect from you. Ultimately, because work is about expectations (either self-imposed or set by others), I doubt that you can continue working and recover from a burnout. Given that you ...


53

The vast majority of people working in academia are not the best. That is just a logical consequence of the fact that only one person can be the best and all others are not. Even if you relax the definitions by subdividing all fields and defining "the best" to be a group of individuals in a very specific sub-sub-sub-field rather than one individual, the ...


51

I agree with lostsoul29, but I will add a couple of additional thoughts as that answer did not address all aspects of your question. For your neck pain, I recommend using Tiger Balm (specifically, the patches rather than the goop which can be messy). After writing much of my master's thesis on a laptop while sitting on a couch, I developed "military neck,"...


49

It's hard to give concrete advice here because this is a very personal thing. First: It is quite common to feel empty when such a major goal have been achieved and probably you are left with no further major professional goals now. But face it: You don't need major goals in your life - smaller goals also work fine. If you lost motivation to do research, I ...


46

What helps, I think, is that "research" is not a single thing but a complex of many different activities. If I am feeling burned out on paper-writing, perhaps I find my joy in coding or mathematics or sketching new project ideas. Likewise when I am happy about papers but feeling burned out on something else. At a larger scale, even a "unified" line of ...


44

I am interested in starting a PhD, but nervous that there will be long stretches where I will not have to submit progress or there might not be much pressure for me to get work done. Congratulations for having identified one of the major differences between research projects on the PhD level and earlier levels even before starting a PhD! In my opinion, ...


42

Don't panic. The fact that you're still enthusiastic about your studies suggests to me that you can likely fix the problem, whatever it is. If you're having trouble with just one or two of your subjects, then there's probably a gap in your background knowledge. Try to figure out where that gap is. Right now it may feel like everything in those subjects is ...


40

This doesn't answer your question, but I think your real problem isn't your writing, but the way how you and your advisor communicate. What I suggest is that you have a sit-down with your advisor and raise the issue with them. Tell them what you told us - that their barrage of negative feedback is hampering your motivation and productivity, and that you ...


35

How do you come to terms with the fact that you might be doing research in what you love with an amazing mentor, but you’ll just never be the best in even your research community? How's that not discouraging? The same way that a police officer comes to terms with the fact that they'll just never be the best police officer. Or a doctor. The same way that a ...


35

I cannot possibly agree with the currently most upvoted answer by Pete L. Clark. I clearly cannot comment on the particular subfield that OP is asking about since I know nothing about it. However, daily I see stillborn research papers --- they were conceived not to dispel the ignorance, but to be added to a CV. There are definitely research communities ...


33

Here is what kept me motivated and got me through the last year of my PhD: A comment from a professor that the best dissertation is the one that is written. My advisor kept pushing me to get her chapters. I'm not sure where you stand with your advisor, but if he/she (and your committee as a whole) wants you to finish up, that can be motivating. If you ...


32

I am in my third year, and I am on course to get a Math with CS minor degree. When I don't understand something, feel stuck, or get crap grades, I take a step back and ask the following questions: Was I careless? Do I lack fluency? Can I explain the material? Am I answering without sufficient proof? Do I know my definitions? Am I mindlessly practicing? ...


31

Some students had determined that each assignment had such a low value, they did not bother to complete the work. These students all did very poorly on the final. One important way to combat this attitude is to show the actual statistics from the course you just completed. "Here is the distribution of homework completion across last semester's course. ...


31

You weren’t earning a PhD in FORTRAN Coding (gasp – I shudder to think of it). You were working in continuum mechanics. That is where your contribution was, and is. If I read it correctly, you took an existing tool and adapted it for a new purpose. I can’t find anything wrong with that, especially as you cited the creators of the original version. If you ...


28

My suggestion would be to set minor distinct goals for each day but not overdo them, make them manageable. Mix boring chores with more fun ones so that the fun ones become a reward. This may seem a bit vague or even wooly. The problem I think you are experiencing is that while working on a PhD you get accustomed to stress and like many (myself included) a ...


28

If you are actually new to a topic then the papers on it are probably out of your reach. When I want to open a truly new topic I would start with the lowest level textbook I can get. Perhaps I find that a first year undergrad textbook is not challenging enough to be interesting, but its worth checking each chapter to see if there is anything new. If there ...


27

This may sound stupid, but a good place to start when confronted with a seemingly unsolvable problem is just to start doing something. There are always some simple experiment/simulation one can run, some related papers one can read, or some results that can be written up. The point is to get back to making consistent and incremental progress, no matter how ...


26

Talk to people. Here, elsewhere on the internet, but most importantly in real life, whether it's with people from your program (if you feel like opening to them) or at a local discussion group or whatever. Don't isolate yourself. Recognize what you are experiencing: describe its symptoms, put a name (or names) on it, identify it. Recognize that it is quite ...


26

Of course there are plenty of resources about how to overcome writer's block, however for different people different techniques work. The advices I always found very useful as a PhD student (although I cannot find the original sources, it's been years) were these: do not aim high at the beginning. Crappy and hasty first draft is perfectly fine, iterative ...


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