Lost all interest.


Hi all,

I am a full time second year PhD student, start my 3rd year in January. I don't know what's happened in recent months, I seem to have lost all interest in my PhD. Since August I have been so bogged down with my full time job that I have done next to nothing on my PhD and I have got so behind. My job has recently calmed down a bit and I'm able to find more time for my research but I have entirely lost all motivation, I can't seem to get my head back in the game. I have literally done no writing at all and I'm heading into my 3rd year. My data collection stage is nearly complete and my supervisor has asked for a first draft of my introduction chapter and my methods chapter by January, I have spoken to her about my job and she has been a little lenient but has now kind of said, enough is enough you need to get your finger out which is fair enough. I just have no idea how to get motivated again and start to get caught up.

I did look into going part time but my supervisor has said that is not an option as I would lose my funding and have to pay all my fees back.

Any advice or a kick up the arse would be greatly appreciated.

Avatar for Pjlu

Hi Claira, I wasn't sure that I understood this in that I do get that you are receiving funding for a full time Phd, but you also mention working full time. I didn't think that was usually an option? (Part time work yes but full time not usually-unless you are talking about research work in the lab or tuition and teaching at the uni that come with your funding?). I know most universities I have studied at (4 different universities at present for 4 different qualifications) have quite strict rules about the amount of work you can actually do with a fully funded PhD. Please correct me if I have misunderstood this, though, I may have the wrong end of the stick.

It sounds possibly to me like you are overloaded and when we are mentally and physically overwhelmed with our workload, we usually have to pull back a little on some aspect of our life. My experience (in a life time of regular incursions into 'overload' modus operandi) is that I really lose interest in things, and in the past I lose interest especially in the PhD, which at times feels like a real burden. It is always the thing I most feel like leaving or feel is unnecessary or undeserved. (This is not true btw-it is just what I think at these times).

If it were me in this situation, I would take a small amount of time to just think about what I wanted and then work out how to cut back a few things so I wasn't feeling so overwhelmed and overloaded. Usually once things are in balance the motivation comes back. Best of luck-hope this is a little helpful but ignore it if not.


Hi Pjlu

I have probably not explained this very well. It's not a fully funded PhD, I am a fee waiver student which basically means I have my fees waivered on the condition I do some unpaid work for the university. I dont actually receive any funding so full time work is necessary to keep my house and pay my bills, etc. If I could afford to go part time at work I would but it's just not an option at the moment.

However, if I decided to go part time with the PhD I would have to pay back the fees waivered and the fees for the time it takes to complete it which would probably mean working extra hours to afford it and totally defeat the purpose.

Up to now I have been doing ok working my studies around my work and unfortunately I'm not in a job related to my research so thats a bit of a bummer too. It just all seems unreachable at the moment but I know it is if I just get stuck in.

Avatar for Pjlu

That's a really tough situation. Of course you need to work to support yourself. I am sorry that I misunderstood this. Do you think just a very short break might help-like a weekend away from both work and phd or some sort of reward you can use to look forward to every time you finish something. I would drop any illusions (if you had them that is-you may not have) of being a perfectionist about your work and just get things in draft, you can always go back and nitpick and fine tune later. You probably do need to push yourself through a bit, but I think you need to be a little more gentle on yourself in terms of understanding-it is a tough gig you are facing-good on you for doing what you are doing and getting through so far.


Hi clairaN

If you are working full-time and keeping up with the schedule of a full-time PhD, I would say you are doing incredibly well! I would be tempted to take a little break as Pjlu has suggested, to see if it helps to re-set things in your head. It's possible that you're not considering the bigger picture with your PhD (ie the research is nearly done and just the writing up to go) but are focusing on the fact that things feel hard and your supervisor is being a bit tougher on you - it's so easy to see the little bit of negative and lose sight of all the stuff that's going well. It is going to take a big push to the finish line, but I think you are in a really good position with everything you've already done.


I feel like a bit of an idiot for even thinking I can do both full time. I'm hoping it's just the second year blues that people talk about.

I think the thought of been so behind and having so much to do is what is overwhelming me into not doing anything at all. I know that sounds so back to front. I've got the next 2 days off work so I'm going to try push myself to work through some of it, even if I can make a small dent in my to do list it will be a start.


I did my masters while working and self-funding and I have to applaud you for being able to get this far with a PhD and full time work.

Making sure that your supervisor is aware of your situation is a a very good idea. Hiding problems and trying to deal with them yourself can just make things worse.

My other recommendation - or its what I did anyway - was to have dedicated writing days and non-writing days. The temptation (guilty feeling) was to try and write everyday after work but there was no way I could keep that up personally. Instead when I had an assignment or dissertation chapter due I would try to keep work and rest separate to try to prevent the feeling of it taking over completely and you feeling unable to do anything else. I know its a lot harder with the increased workload of a PhD but I would recommend having allocated on and off time. Or at least discuss the idea with your supervisor and perhaps they'll be able to help come up with a timetable that gives you a realistic timescale and doesn't consume your entire life.


Hi HuntAnthem

Thanks for that advice. I was the same with my masters, doing both full time and it was hard going. I don't know about you but I found that a lot easier because of the set deadlines for assignments, I didn't have the choice to skive because I would have missed my deadlines and failed.

I have tried to set myself deadlines for different aspects of my research but it doesn't work because I know they are my own and nobody knows if I miss them. My supervisor is aware that I'm struggling a bit with my job taking up so much time at the minute, she has been quite flexible and allowed me some breathing space which I'm grateful for but if I'm honest that hasn't helped. She keeps saying she trusts that I'll get it done but at the minute I need that extra push, I don't know where her faith in me comes from because I haven't wrote a single word yet and I'm due to start my 3rd year in 3 weeks.

I passed my second year viva last month and I didn't exaggerate what I've done so far but I feel as if I'm conning people into thinking I'm better than I actually am and I'm not usually that type of person.