92

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 (or answers on Academia.SE!) about how to be more productive as a grad student. Read a few pages of a book on data analysis, visualization, academic writing, or ...


84

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 the type of work that I was trying to do. I discovered this through a passage of despair, when I felt so brain-fogged and useless that I decided that I was ...


80

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 per week, and even that would achieve a fourfold increase only if your peers are putting in just twenty-five hours. Instead, it's possible that you are ...


69

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 the material that it is being exposed to. The two class approach is highly beneficial in allowing students to focus. However, the reduction in exposure to the ...


56

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 previously able to complete with ease, unable to remember or retain information, and exercising incredibly poor judgment (on par with being intoxicated). For me, at ...


52

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 is something specific about the lecture environment that is triggering your sleep. The approach to fixing it depends on the cause. Two likely possibilities: ...


52

Ask a librarian. They usually know the place well, and are often quite happy to help.


50

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 terms over the course of an academic year. One reason more colleges don't do this is that most students seem to be not like you and tend not to like summer classes....


49

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. While potentially unintentional, these terms are insulting in that they suggest that the person you are talking to is not productive and not a hard worker. Your ...


48

My experience is almost exclusively with mathematics papers, and applies little or not at all to other fields. Much of eykanal's post applies to math as well, but one big difference is that math papers are much more varied in their structure, not having an actual experiment to tie them together. A good paper will generally explain its organization in the ...


45

This post refers to research in the STEM fields, and may not be applicable to other research topics. One of my biggest epiphanies in research came when I learned how to read a paper. Reading scientific publications is completely different from reading literature or news. At the beginning of your research career, you can expect to spend a full day (if not ...


44

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/challenging conversations and debates with people you respect Bonus: Meditation Yoga Brain games P.S. I am a 57 year old PhD student. "22" is neither ripe ...


44

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; perhaps you are doing all this with the intention of writing a review, in which case it makes sense to read oldest-to-newest to get a sense of the history. The ...


43

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 someone else." The fact is, that the world is very large and full of a lot of very intelligent and very hard working people. Some of them are very ...


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 ...


38

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 at my school. I won't cancel this appointment because she will be disappointed. Have a standing non-academic volunteer commitment one afternoon each week (...


38

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 spent in this way, even "productive procrastination" may be too much procrastination and too little actual progress. In that case, you have two options: Learn ...


37

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 is that you can communicate well and work efficiently together with other people. Still another one is that you abuse your social skills to make your coauthors ...


36

Literature search, to me, is like the recipe of potato salad: everyone has at least one, and they always claim that theirs is the best. In fact, we just use what we feel comfortable and, so far, has not caused any major meltdown. So, bear in mind that these are just what work for me, and you should modify them along the way. Schedule a meeting with a ...


35

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 be successful. Some of the solutions can be fairly simple and others not. Getting advice from a counsellor or therapist may be needed. Probably useful in any ...


34

If you know that the relevant literature is mostly in one community, then the approach you've described works fairly well. It may be "inefficient" if there are lots of related papers, but (to use computer science jargon), it's efficient in the size of the output :) I have found that finding a recent survey helps a lot, because it taxonomizes the literature ...


33

I think the more general form of the question is: (a) what do I need from my supervisor and (b) if my supervisor cannot/will not provide this, then what can I do? Here's a few things I think supervisors are most important for early on in graduate studies: Discipline and Motivation So you need to put in long hours to succeed in graduate studies and ...


33

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 decent amount of time to average out those fluctuations, I don't think it is. I would try to use the following criteria to estimate the term success: feedback ...


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? ...


32

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 the middle, it’s usually the case that there are periods of lower output than others. The only projects that go smoothly from start to finish have either been ...


28

To be sure, chooosing your advisor is one of the most important decisions in your academic career. That is not to say that people don't switch advisors for one or more reasons (they do), but it's probably best to take the time to figure it out now (which it sounds like you are doing by asking the question in the first place!) so you aren't faced with that ...


28

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-solid 8 hours of sleep. Then when you wake up, you will realize that you have amazing clarity and excellent productivity. Also, two hours before sleep abandon ...


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

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 only discuss the type of meetings you mention - where you read a research paper and discuss it to a high level of detail with your advisor. In TCS (and maths, I ...


26

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 easy way around them. But that doesn’t mean that you should give up on mathematics, not remotely. Giving up means that you don’t even have a chance of living the ...


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