No motivation, always procrastinating - is there any hope?

posted
08-Aug-17, 09:56
edited about 26 seconds later
by Coarvi
Avatar for Coarvi
posted about 1 week ago
I've completed 2 years of my PhD, 1 more left. I really don't know how to get forward with my work, I'm always feeling down, and I feel like the laziest, most useless person at this university.

Is there anyway to get past this? Is quitting the only option? I kind of wish I could quit, but I don't know what else to do (I need a job!), I don't want to disappoint my supervisors (who are clearly more optimistic than I am), and once upon a time I really dreamed of becoming a researcher, and gain more knowledge on the topics I find interesting. Initially, I thought I was the perfect candidate for a PhD. Obviously not.

The requirement for my PhD is 3 papers. One is under review (and has been for 6 months now...), one is under work (has been forever...) and the last one is not even planned.

So what are my issues?
- I am lonely. I hate working alone. I need to work with people.
- I find the work difficult AND boring. I work with Stata and all I do is write codes, day in, day out. The topic is just a big "whatever" for me.
- I struggle on getting anything done. I've been working on paper 2 for over a year now, I am still not ready to WRITE, all I do is analyses in Stata, and the results are poor, hence - more analyses and codes.
- Therefore, I don't understand how I can ever, ever finish approximately on time.
- I find things difficult, and therefore feel stupid because there are so many things I don't understand, or manage to understand by reading.

All this leads up to me sitting in my office, glaring at my screen, doing (almost) nothing because the work I am supposed to do is boring/difficult/meaningless.

Sorry for all the whining. But how do I break out of this vicious circle? I've had 12 months off because I had a baby, so obviously having a break is not the solution.
posted
08-Aug-17, 18:11
edited about 12 seconds later
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 1 week ago
What do your supervisors think of your progress? How does it compare with other members of your research group?
posted
08-Aug-17, 19:03
edited about 3 minutes later
by helebon
Avatar for helebon
posted about 1 week ago
Hi, does your uni offer free confidential one to one coaching sessions? From student support. Mine does and sessions are for students of any level. It has helped me with dealing with procrastination and going forward.
posted
08-Aug-17, 22:05
by Pjlu 4 star member
Avatar for Pjlu
posted about 1 week ago
Hi Coarvi, I think Helebon's suggestion for coaching is a positive way forward, and/or you could try your university's counselling support services, particularly to help with breaking the negative cycle of repetitive thoughts you are describing.

The content of the thoughts you have provided are similar to thoughts that many of us go through in the extended process of the PhD. Coaching sessions or accessing a counsellor to support you through this part of the PhD are both viable ways of moving forward, as these types of thoughts often gather a life of their own while we are immersed in them.

Would it help to join some university committees or postgraduate societies? This might assist in managing the feelings of isolation and need for community? Even a meeting once a week or fortnight with others might make a small positive difference that could help overall.

The other thing I would add is that it isn't that uncommon to find when you are quite a way through the PhD that you don't really want either an academic position at the end or to keep working in your particular field. However, there may still be value in completing the PhD, even if you decide that afterwards your goals have changed.
posted
09-Aug-17, 09:06
by Coarvi
Avatar for Coarvi
posted about 1 week ago
Thank you for your replies, it helps!

My supervisors are not worried about my progress, but they don't know how much time I'm wasting. Sup A believes I am doing work with sup B, and vice versa. I'm not in any research group, and that's why I feel so lonely. I have PhD-colleagues around me, but they work on completely different things (I am doing economics, while most students are within marketing or leadership). I need to be able to discuss my topic and methods with someone who understands at least a little bit, but that is not possible, so I feel uninspired and demotivated. I also feel so, so stupid when I see their progress, and hear them discussing things that are totally blank to me.


My uni does not offer any coaching etc. They have coaching for students, but PhD students are employees and therefore we are not included. After I started this thread I actually contacted a therapist, so I will see him in 2 weeks, but it is very expensive so it's not something I can afford often. I guess it will take time to change my way of thinking, and in the mean time, time is running by.

I know it is usual to feel like this. I spent some hours yesterday (yup, I'm a talent at procrastinating) reading this forum, and it was a relief to see so many posts with similar struggles as I am having. But I've felt like this for so long. I had a bad and "unlucky" start, so I was sick of it all even before I started the actual research.

The worst is that I truly believe that an academic position COULD be the right thing for me - but not with this PhD/within this field! I see so much clearer now what kind of research would have suited me better, but it is too late to change. That is probably why I don't quit. But in the same time, this PhD is only breaking me down.
posted
09-Aug-17, 13:23
edited about 21 seconds later
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 1 week ago
Could you try to find students online that are doing similar things to you and reach out to them? Look at departments in different unis and see who is doing what?
posted
09-Aug-17, 17:10
edited about 1 minute later
Avatar for dotdottung
posted about 1 week ago
Coarvi, so sorry to hear what you have gone through. Actually, I have similar problems to yours. Not sure if you have read my recent post. I am losing my motivation for doing my PhD. I have started to feel fed up with my project. I am still working on my proposal that i have to submit next week. I am really under great pressureand i have never had that feeling before in my life. Sometimes i force myself to think about the positive side of doing my phd.. But that doesn't work. What i do now is to work out for a while every day and talk to my friends and share my feelings with them. That helpes me ease a bit of my pressure. No matter how busy you are, you should spare some time to do something you like - something not related to your project. That will help you.
posted
09-Aug-17, 22:43
edited about 19 seconds later
Avatar for linzedin
posted about 1 week ago
I love your honesty and can relate to all of this!
I have to work in small chunks, with rewards, and complete silence. I maximise on those moments when the brain is in gear.... When not in the zone, get out, give up and start afresh next day.
posted
10-Aug-17, 08:27
edited a moment later
by Coarvi
Avatar for Coarvi
posted about 1 week ago
Dotdottung: I've read your post. I'm sorry for what you're going through, you seem to've been under a lot of pressure. I think our situations are very different in that way - you ARE working a lot. You have been working non stop, long days. At least you can say to yourself that you are doing your very best! Appreciate that, and take of yourself.

Unfortunately I can't say the same about me. I'm not doing my best, and I'm not working nonstop. My problem is that I'm doing almost nothing, because it is soooo hard to get started on the tasks I really hate. When I work, I don't feel I'm doing proper research. I just feel it's a lot of nonsense, all of it.

Luckily, after I had my baby I've been very good at not thinking of work when at home. So I have many hours each day where I do things not related to my PhD. But as soon as I'm back at my office I feel like a lazy loser. I should just DO something, but it ends up with me staring at my screen, looking for other things to do than starting on those stata-commands again.
posted
10-Aug-17, 08:32
edited about 5 seconds later
by Coarvi
Avatar for Coarvi
posted about 1 week ago
Quote From linzedin:
I love your honesty and can relate to all of this!
I have to work in small chunks, with rewards, and complete silence. I maximise on those moments when the brain is in gear.... When not in the zone, get out, give up and start afresh next day.


But if I follow this advice, I would never get anything done. I never feel in the zone. :P Well, sometimes, when I work closely with my supervisor/co-author and I get clear deadlines ("do this and we'll talk again later today"). But that is rare, as she belongs to another uni and does not have a clear picture of what I actually do. It's only when she's here (a few times a year) I actually get much done. I do things in the mean time, of course, and send her my work maybe once a week, but if I had been more efficient I could have done the same work in one day rather than one week.

Again, thank you all for answering, it helps a lot just to tell this to someone!
posted
10-Aug-17, 21:43
edited about 5 minutes later
Avatar for aboutimeee
posted about 1 week ago
I have a similar problem. I feel absolutely unproductive and worthless which leads to even less productivity.
Considering I have a great and encouraging supervisor just exacerbates my guilt and self doubt. Recently watched a video on Youtube called "7 Ways to Maximize Misery" and it really hit me how every single thing mentioned in it applied to me. I've been given a great opportunity, to better myself and reach my potential, yet I'm just wasting it away.
Discussing my project with others is not really an option as everybody else is doing really different things which leaves me feeling lonely and isolated. Don't really have friends or a social life to speak of. I eat and sleep excessively while feeling slow and lethargic.
posted
10-Aug-17, 22:18
edited about 1 second later
by helebon
Avatar for helebon
posted about 1 week ago
From my coaching session, one technique for being productive is the 10 Minute Rule. You do something for 10 minutes then move onto another task.
You have the paper work for the tasks in separate piles on the desk ready to start. Set yourself an alarm on your mobile phone for example.
It does work as the thought of just 10 minutes work is ok when you feel less motivated. Then have regular breaks. I ended up working more than 10 mins on each task.
posted
11-Aug-17, 10:15
by Coarvi
Avatar for Coarvi
posted about 1 week ago
Quote From aboutimeee:
I have a similar problem. I feel absolutely unproductive and worthless which leads to even less productivity.
Considering I have a great and encouraging supervisor just exacerbates my guilt and self doubt. Recently watched a video on Youtube called "7 Ways to Maximize Misery" and it really hit me how every single thing mentioned in it applied to me. I've been given a great opportunity, to better myself and reach my potential, yet I'm just wasting it away.
Discussing my project with others is not really an option as everybody else is doing really different things which leaves me feeling lonely and isolated. Don't really have friends or a social life to speak of. I eat and sleep excessively while feeling slow and lethargic.


Yes, this is the exact same situation for me as well, except the last part. I have my family, so even though I don't have many friends, I feel I have a social life with my family. So for parts of the day I manage to ignore the fact that I'm lazy and worthless. But when it comes to the PhD and my "research", I absolutely feel lonely and isolated. I will take a look on the video you mention. Do you see any way "out" of this? How long have been working on your phd?
posted
11-Aug-17, 10:19
by Coarvi
Avatar for Coarvi
posted about 1 week ago
Quote From helebon:
From my coaching session, one technique for being productive is the 10 Minute Rule. You do something for 10 minutes then move onto another task.
You have the paper work for the tasks in separate piles on the desk ready to start. Set yourself an alarm on your mobile phone for example.
It does work as the thought of just 10 minutes work is ok when you feel less motivated. Then have regular breaks. I ended up working more than 10 mins on each task.


Good ideas. Usually, when I first get started on something, I manage to stay productive for some hours (with small breaks of course). My issue is mainly to actually get started. It just feel so overwhelming. Usually my tasks are of the type "figure out why this code is not working" or "come up with new specifications since the ones I have suck". So it's difficult to think of specific tasks since it often requires me to go through a lot of code and think what to do. And I am SO SICK of codes! I feel more qualified for a job in IT than finance/economics after this, even though all my education so far is within finance...
posted
11-Aug-17, 15:47
edited about 23 seconds later
Avatar for aboutimeee
posted about 1 week ago

Yes, this is the exact same situation for me as well, except the last part. I have my family, so even though I don't have many friends, I feel I have a social life with my family. So for parts of the day I manage to ignore the fact that I'm lazy and worthless. But when it comes to the PhD and my "research", I absolutely feel lonely and isolated. I will take a look on the video you mention. Do you see any way "out" of this? How long have been working on your phd?

I'm coming to my end of second year. Have a report due in by 31st of this month to present two years worth of work and an internal panel will decide if i'll be allowed in to 3rd year.
I have no idea at this point if I'll make it...

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