Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Bored people are boring.

Usually in January/February in my PhD office it is extremely quiet. The new PhD students don't start until March, and neither does teaching. A lot of people (not me, unfortunately) take this to mean they have an extended holiday. Also, besides a couple of weeks of summer school, there's no first year psychology students to experiment on. So really, all that leaves to do is writing. 

I am definitely keen to finish my thesis this year, but am expecting it won't be until the end of the year. I don't seem to go very well with long term goals like that. Also, with no teaching or testing, there's no real reason to go into the office as I can read and write at home. 

So here I am, at home. I try to work, but it just doesn't seem to happen. I could always set shorter goals for myself, e.g. write 1000 words today, but I can always rationalise those sorts of things. What happens if I don't write 1000 words today? Well, nothing. My supervisor is working on a paper I sent her, so she doesn't really need to see any other work from me right now. So I don't even have that as a motivation. I guess I need to recapture the initial excitement I had for this project - I was one of those nerds in my office who got started early on their PhD by coming in to work even when my office computer hadn't been delivered yet, and was pestering my supervisor for suggestions of readings to do. How I can feel that again however, I'm not sure right now. It's not that I hate my project now, but I have no new experiment findings to think about, and no new experiments to plan (all the experiments I'm doing for my thesis have been planned, some finished, and others started, but I now have to wait until March to continue).

So I have some questions for you:
- Do you ever have problems like this?
- What do you do to overcome motivation problems?
- What do you do to overcome procrastination problems? 
- What do you think of this picture?

[via imgur]


  1. I had ALL kinds of motivation problems with my honours thesis. I mean, it's obviously nowhere near the same ball park as a PhD, but still. I used little rewards throughout the day. Like "Okay, me. If you write another 500 words, you can go and watch an episode of Buffy on DVD." Rinse and repeat, and the day flies by in a semi-productive fashion! ;)

  2. Ugh. Honestly, I'm feeling this way about some of my blogs right now. For clarification, I have three. I've been keeping up with my personal one (partially because all of my readers would freak out if I took a hiatus from The Saga of Office Boy, but anyway...), but I've been failing horrendously to keep up with my A&E one and my project blog. I look at them, and I think of things I could write about. And then I just don't.

    When it came to writing papers in college, I turned on this wonderful application on my Mac called self-control, which would allow you to blacklist certain websites (like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) for up to 12 hours. That worked great...but then again, that was because I didn't have a smart phone at the time. *le sigh*

    But the little rewards system tends to work pretty well. At least it did in college. That's what self-control helped with. 45 minutes of writing and 15 minutes of Facebook time or whatever. Try just might like it! :)

  3. I like the picture a lot.


    *still thinking about the Muppets*

    I find working from home makes it difficult to motivate myself, so I try and go into uni, but I don't have an office so there are always undergraduates to contend with, which sucks. I try and set word count goals, or get-to-the-end-of-this-book-chapter goals, or whatever, but at the moment I have 11 months left and a lot of my research has been done - now I'm stuck with putting it all together and making something coherent, which means less daily goals and more "focusing on the thesis as a whole", which is my supervisor's new favourite phrase. That, and, "so, what's it all ABOUT?"

    I have banned myself from checking emails more than twice a day on campus, which has helped quite a lot! A while ago I was about ready to throw my entire project out the window, but then someone asked me to explain it and I suddenly loved it again. So maybe you should regale people on public transport or in the post office queue, until your motivation comes back...

    I still like the picture. :)

  4. Aaah. Motivation and the PhD student - I find it comes and goes. I like to blame my lows on fatigue as I tend to do too much some days and then feel completely flat after one of those "highs". I do go into uni everyday, as I suck at working from home (unless I have an assignment to do or a test to study for - perhaps those short-term deadlines are what encourages me). I have an office that drives me nuts, but I have a higher chance of getting work done than if I was at home!

    Sometimes I lose a desire to work as I feel overwhelmed - so it's not that I lack the motivation, I just have no idea where to start and which tasks have the highest priorities! As a result, I have become one of those list makers. Sometimes I'll rewrite the list each day, even though there's only been one or two tasks that have been crossed off, just so I can re-prioritise. It also depends how I'm feeling on the day!

    I love Munch's The Scream! I find it's a painting that reflects how I feel at times - where even what is generally unnoticed begins to stand out and it can be overwhelming. I also love Beaker very very much, so the picture is pretty high in the awesome stakes!

  5. I'm pretty sure one of the biggest challenges of getting a PhD is learning to self-motivate. My PI might be the least motivational person in the world. I could probably come in once a week and he'd be like "meh." Cool, right? Not really...because then it's all on you to motivate yourself and that gets exhausting! Especially when successfully motivating yourself means working a lot and being more exhausted.

    (she says as she procrastinates heading into lab...)


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