116 votes

First year Math PhD student; My problem solving skill has been completely atrophied and continues to decline

I think it’s not a coincidence that the timing of this decline matches up with the pandemic. A lot of people are really struggling right now, I feel like I can’t do math as well as I could a year ago....
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  • 30.2k
95 votes

What productive academic work can you do with minimal attention in a small (<30 minutes) block of time?

Given that you can't do something that requires your full attention during this time, I would at least advise to follow Matt Might's advice to procrastinate productively on meta-work: Read articles (...
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  • 107k
90 votes

What do you do to keep your mind sharp?

A very important thing that took me most of graduate school to understand is that my self-perception of "getting dumber" was not caused by actually degrading abilities, but by a qualitative change in ...
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  • 180k
82 votes

How to deal with people judging your 'overproductiveness'?

I'm not surprised that hard work isn't considered a convincing answer. It's not plausible that you are putting in four times as many hours as your peers. Hardly anyone actually works a hundred hours ...
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74 votes

First year Math PhD student; My problem solving skill has been completely atrophied and continues to decline

I experienced a similar deterioration in those skills during my time as a Ph.D. student. A key element in enabling me to recover those problem-solving skills was TAing (working as a teaching ...
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69 votes

Why don't colleges make terms shorter and with fewer classes?

From an information processing perspective, it is much more beneficial to have four classes over ten weeks than two classes over five weeks. This is because the mind needs the extended time to digest ...
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58 votes

What do you do to keep your mind sharp?

As an IT professional at age 32, I have struggled with similar issues. I disagree with other commenters that it is simply perception bias. I have found myself unable to complete tasks that I was ...
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  • 681
52 votes

How to avoid sleeping in lectures?

The first thing you need to do in order to address this issue is to understand why you are falling asleep. Since you say that you do not have difficulty focusing elsewhere, it seems likely that there ...
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  • 180k
52 votes
Accepted

How to effectively navigate a large library?

Ask a librarian. They usually know the place well, and are often quite happy to help.
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  • 180k
51 votes

How to deal with people judging your 'overproductiveness'?

When I hear people use terms like overproductiveness and hardwork, I essentially tune out. In general, I find individuals who describe themselves as hard workers to be some of the worst colleagues. ...
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  • 103k
51 votes

Why don't colleges make terms shorter and with fewer classes?

There are in fact two colleges (Cornell College in Iowa, not to be confused with Cornell University, and Colorado College in Colorado) that have students take one class at a time, with 9 3.5-week ...
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45 votes

What do you do to keep your mind sharp?

Don't neglect or minimize the basics: Good sleep, esp. regular hours (avoid alcohol in evenings, no caffeine after noon) Exercise Steady, healthy diet Time for fun and social engagement Stimulating/...
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  • 7,193
44 votes

How to deal with people judging your 'overproductiveness'?

I would suggest that you may find it very informative to step back and take some perspective. I recommend consideration of Joy's Law: "No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for ...
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  • 180k
44 votes
Accepted

Learning new topic: read literature from oldest to newest or the other way around?

Neither. First, identify the "important" subset of your 400+ papers and read those. Second, try to identify the "good" subset of the papers and read those. Then, (if at all) read the other papers; ...
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42 votes

What can a student who is already studying hard do to improve low grades?

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 ...
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  • 11.4k
39 votes
Accepted

What productive academic work can you do with minimal attention in a small (<30 minutes) block of time?

ff524's answer is awesome as usual, but the core problem for you may be that most of these suggestions are not, or at least not directly, useful to your research. If, as you say, most of your day is ...
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  • 126k
39 votes

How to deal with people judging your 'overproductiveness'?

If you publish many papers, there are several possibilities. One is that you are good. Another one is that you are higly specialized and solve problems hardly anyone else is interested in. Another one ...
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38 votes

How to prevent physical/psychological health side effects of workaholism in academia and research?

I put my health first by committing to healthy activities that involve other people, so I will have to stick to them. For example, I Have a standing weekly running appointment with a faculty member ...
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  • 107k
35 votes

Why don't I want to learn anything?

This sounds like a classic case of burn-out. You've been working hard, maybe too hard, and it isn't fun anymore. I think a lot of academics do that at some point and you need to find a way past it to ...
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  • 258k
34 votes
Accepted

How to know I have done enough work in one semester?

Everyone works at their own pace; moreover, the pace can fluctuate a lot depending on the time of year, your personal life, and "position of stars in the sky". Even though the semester seems like a ...
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33 votes

What can a student who is already studying hard do to improve low grades?

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: ...
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  • 431
33 votes

Graduate school with tinnitus

I have tinnitus as well and it started when I was an undergrad. I made it through that, grad school, postdoc, and am now a full professor. So there is an example of someone who made it through. I don'...
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32 votes
Accepted

How to speed up my research as a PhD student?

In many disciplines, research amounts to an endless series of frustrations, setbacks, and failures punctuated by the occasional success. So while it’s not necessarily true that there’s a slowdown in ...
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  • 171k
31 votes

Graduate school with tinnitus

Frame of reference: I am a mathematician with disabilities that impair my focus and my ability to do mathematics, but not tinnitus. Disabilities and chronic illnesses suck. Very often, there is no ...
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29 votes

First year Math PhD student; My problem solving skill has been completely atrophied and continues to decline

Let me add my perspective on the first two points in the answer of Spark. Some students, and I was one, reach the limit of their natural "ability" in math early on, and others later. Before ...
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  • 258k
28 votes

How do I regain my momentum in research after a long period of slacking off?

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, ...
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  • 6,522
28 votes

Discouraged by advisor to take courses, is there a way to navigate through this situation?

Audit the courses that you like, i.e., take them without receiving a grade/credit for it. You might not even need to formally audit courses, most professors will let you informally audit them. But as ...
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  • 469
27 votes
Accepted

How to prevent physical/psychological health side effects of workaholism in academia and research?

First of all. Sleep. And sleep well. Increasing sleep hours increases productivity and not the other way around. Sleep early (people are not supposed to work too late at night) and wake up after good-...
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  • 18.8k
27 votes
Accepted

What does it mean for a (assoc.) professor to have very few first-author publications while directing a lab/group?

The authorship standard in my field (neuroscience/biomedical) is that the first author is the person who primarily did the work, often a graduate student or post doc; the last author is the person who ...
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  • 64.5k
26 votes
Accepted

How to have productive meetings with Ph.D supervisor

Speaking from experience, both as a student and as a Phd supervisor in theoretical computer science. The meetings with your supervisor serve many purposes. To narrow the scope a little bit, let me ...
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  • 376

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