Need some advice on how to motivate oneself?

14-Dec-17, 12:12
Avatar for RougeMelon
posted about 3 years ago
I started my PhD in mid October of this year and it is for a duration of 3 years. I am currently two months into my PhD and I feel completely lost.

In the beginning I was really positive and excited about working and now I feel everything is a burden. I enjoy doing research but now I can't even focus on reading a paper. I don't feel motivated to work and whenever I motivate myself to be productive, I just feel lost and confused and I don't know where to begin.

After I joined the team, a few people left and new students and post-docs will be joining in January. So right now the room I work in is mostly empty. I feel really lonely in lab and back home. I hardly talk or interact with people. I have had a few breakdowns in the past couple of weeks.

I am worried and I don't know how to overcome this.

Any advice will be really helpful.
15-Dec-17, 10:33
edited about 11 minutes later
by Pjlu
Avatar for Pjlu
posted about 3 years ago
Hi RougeMelon, the PhD can get pretty lonely and isolated at times and the first few months are notorious for being confusing all round for many of us. Year 1 of the PhD can be a bit like finding one's way through a labyrinth blindfolded and on a unicycle! If you have a good supervisor, they are calling out encouraging advice from the side and if you have an unhelpful supervisor they are criticising you like mad as you fumble your way around!

So, what you are writing about does not sound unusual-not that this makes it any easier to bear mind you, when you are going through it-it can be a horrible experience at times.

I'm also wondering whether you are the sort of person who prefers working with others rather than on one's own and benefits from regular feedback from peers or your supervisors/academics. The loneliness of the PhD can take a while to adjust to. Can you set yourself some small goals for the next week or so and then give yourself a break over Christmas, so that you can do some things outside of the lab that you enjoy? Something that involves some form of socialising or similar or at least involves an enjoyable activity beyond the lab walls?

Some of the people here on another thread have set up a facebook site for meeting up or providing social media support, so that might be worth checking out as well. It is on the thread saying 'fulltime or part-time' located up at the top of the thread page at the moment.

It sounds like things might improve in January when some new students join your faculty/lab, so perhaps just having a bit of a plan to get through the next 2-3 weeks might assist with managing these negative and confusing feelings until you work your way through them. In most cases they do pass and you get beyond the labyrinth stage and move into the dire and gloomy marshes of data collection. If these feelings don't pass though or they do get worse, please make sure you seek support from friends or university staff or wellbeing or healthcare professionals.
15-Dec-17, 17:36
by bignige
Avatar for bignige
posted about 3 years ago
Hi Rouge Melon

Piju is right - don't be lonely! Come and join our Facebook page - "PhD ideas exchange"

18-Dec-17, 09:10
edited about 6 seconds later
Avatar for emmawood
posted about 3 years ago
Sometimes we want to be in charge and identify with ourselves sometimes. Connections with our inner selves can be lost in the constant distraction from friends, gadgets and unnecessary demands. Against the popular notion that being alone is weird, we search for moments of peace with ourselves. Such moments have triggered great ideas for successful icons like Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton. It is important to consider how solitude could increase and boost your level of success. Now you are one path to becoming a great hero in your life.
22-Dec-17, 02:28
by iwan
Avatar for iwan
posted about 3 years ago
Motivation is really an individual thing. The fear of failure or not being able to present substantial data on my thesis defence day is enough to get me all anxious. But after some time, i am able to direct that energy into meticulous planning and execution of my lab work. Im in year two now, and the first year was hard not so much about finding my feet, but my labmates are horrible people to work with. So i get how you feel about the lonely part. My advise to you is interact with people in other labs/offices. At least have a working relationship with them. Being friends on a personal level is just a bonus.

As for friends outside the institution it is a must because you need a shoulder to cry on from time to time. Get in touch with your family, for they are the most important people in your life.

Pm me if you need someone to talk to. Itd be great to know somebody outside of singapore.
22-Dec-17, 14:07
edited about 8 seconds later
Avatar for Risfy1994
posted about 3 years ago
Hi dear! Please, just remember that you have already contributed many time, energy and your resources to this work, so it is definitely worth to be finished!
04-Jan-18, 04:19
by Jane92
Avatar for Jane92
posted about 2 years ago
I'm in the exact same position, i have only just started, i'm drowning in literature and to top it all off i've been asked to write 2 papers in the next couple of months, as well as start my research out in the field.

To be honest, at first I felt like I genuinely didn't know what i was doing and so I did nothing, I went into uni and just sat on my phone all day.

But luckily I have excellent supervisors who are highly motivated - so they've steered me into the direction of tasks ( noted above ). So my advise to you, and to myself... is to take baby steps, each day. Don't put too much pressure on yourself.

In regards to being alone, I totally sympathise - i'm from the UK but moved to NZ for my PhD, I know no one and it's very isolating - however it's like any University journey, it takes time to make friends and to find your feet. You're at the very beginning of a big journey ahead, everything isn't going to fall into place straight away. Chin up - and remember, baby steps.


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