How did you get your motivational flow?

25-Feb-19, 15:27
by Pubs
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posted about 11 months ago
Hey guys, first time poster and I just have a question for anyone who is studying or has studied a PhD.

I am a 1st year PhD student and am only a matter of months in, I am just wondering what you did to find a rhythm of doing work and staying motivated ? I ask this because I’m feeling like I’m just not doing any work or can get into a rhythm of doing a decent amount of work daily.

Some background: I always wanted to do a PhD but just presumed I would later in life, but then opportunity arose sooner. I started this PhD after I had graduated from my Masters (taught). My PhD topic is a continuation of my Masters (dissertation) so I have the ground running already. My supervisor has got this great faith in me that I don’t actually seem to see in myself, as I have had staff at my uni come up to me recently and ask “are you ... who is working with ... (supervisor) I’ve heard great things about you” (I had her for my masters project, so we’re well acquainted). And it was she that encouraged me to apply. I really enjoy researching and gaining knowledge as I research, however for some reason I can’t get my rhythm or motivation going?

Prior to even applying i had a long time off, just for myself to get my head back mentally strong after suffering from deep mental health problems during my Masters so academia has been the last thing on my mind. No that I’m back in academia, I’m like ok....?

I’m used to having deadlines with 3 week intervals and surrounded by peers doing I guess the ‘same question’. Now that I’m left trying to find my own pace I just can’t? So this then leads to worries of my capabilities of doing this PhD and if I made the right decision etc.

If anyone has any advice I would be really grateful thank you :)
25-Feb-19, 15:59
by rewt
Avatar for rewt
posted about 11 months ago
If you work out the magic formula please share. I will pay a handsome sum for it.

Seriously. This a problem a lot of PhD students face and never compare yourself with others.You sound like you have the beginnings of impostor syndrome which is quite common among PhD students. The trick is to talk with your supervisor and set realistic goals. If you can't meet them ask for help meeting them or work out how to improve. The only way to get going is to put one foot in front of the other and just start.
25-Feb-19, 19:09
edited about 14 seconds later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 11 months ago
I have been thinking about this a lot recently. Motivation is an emotion and therefore it comes and goes. It is misleading to think others have it in abundance.
Focus is the big thing you actually want to get hold of. That is not an emotional drive and so doesn't fluctuate as much. For focus, you need clear and achievable goals, well defined prioritised tasks lists and a very strong desire to hit an outcome.
I will guess that you are struggling to know how to break your PhD problem into manageable chunks.
Fix that and focus on each piece of work and actually you might find your motivation resolves itself.
I think you might be searching for the wrong thing.
27-Feb-19, 13:07
Avatar for GhostGirl
posted about 11 months ago
You are not alone at all in how you feel - I think anyone who says otherwise is lying to us or themselves! I found that being a good PhD student is very different to being a good Masters student. Like you, with regular deadlines and the moral support of peers, my motivation was fantastic and this was reflected in my output. Now I am left with swathes of time to manage and fill, I am finding it far too easy to fall into laziness and have very little to show for my (lack of) effort.

pm133 has made a really good point, in that we are probably caught up in the emotional side of things rather than sticking to the practical. I have talked to my supervisor about all this and I am lucky in that she is very approachable and understanding. We agreed that small deadlines and breaking the PhD into manageable segments is far easier for me psychologically than seeing this as one long project.

I find that lists always help. Even noting down the smallest task is worth it, as ticking that off will give you a sense of achievement! Have a weekly and daily planner. Remember to factor in time off - planned relaxation/fun activities feel much better than a day spent angsting about your PhD but doing nothing anyway.

Depending on how you work best, you might also benefit from finding other regular things to do and create a routine. I need the slight stress that comes from feeling busy as, conversely, this chivvies me along! For me, this is helped by my weekly teaching hours but over the long summer, I really struggled. I now volunteer as well, which helps with the routine and gives me an outlet from academia.

You might also benefit from connecting with other PhD students. My university offers informal research cafes and support sessions, which are useful for reducing the isolation and reminding me that my feelings are normal. See what's on offer locally and do keep chatting on here. It's a friendly, supportive forum :)


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