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I haven't had a break for several years now. Due to some circumstances

  1. Dec 3, 2009 #1
    I haven't had a break for several years now. Due to some circumstances I take about 13 classes now. Most of them are important (QM, particles, ED, solid state, general (EM and waves), numerical methods), some of them not but still require work. And labs. I still manage to get As - somehow. But I gradually started to feel tired and overhelmed - I started to lose motivation and I don't have fun. I need to do many boring projects - they are not very challenging but it doesn't change the fact that they are really time-devouring. I feel like I waste my time. It seems that very important things aren't even mention in classes so self-study is the only way you can learn it and due to major switching my background is poor. I know that at undergraduate level in-depth self-study is a essence of physics. But it requires time and energy. I am simply too tired to do this. I can't concentrate properly and my efficiency is about 3%. Even if I get good grades my knowledge is still superficial. I am fully aware of fact that world of science is harsh. No matter how talented (whatever that mean) you are - success still depends on many external factors. So it's obvious that you must have at least great knowledge - it's a bare minimum that allows you to survive (especially in a challenging field). Yet I lack it. I wish I could rest properly and get rid of boring stuff and concentrate only on self-study in peaceful place at my own pace (ok it isn't very realistic - so at least have possibility and time to do sth on my own peacefully). I wish I could do sth more challenging (it may be possible but in next year) - challenging not in terms of amount of boring work. I think I could bear with this situation but like I mentioned before - I didn't have any break. I am just tired. I can't skip any class, choose them on my own or take a semester break. I think that this situation is quite normal in academia so maybe if I feel like this I am not fit to be scientist? In the end everything is a situation when you need to overcome your weaknesses. That's why I am asking for advice - what should I do in this situation?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 4, 2009 #2
    Re: Solution

    Not completely true. You need to know enough to be able to suspect you're doing something wrong (and hopefully you have an advisor/mentor/labmate who'll help you out if you don't pick up the mistake) and be able to learn (preferably teach yourself) how to do it right. At the phd level, it's much more about having a ton of knowledge about your specific topic (which you get over the course of doing the phd) then knowing everything about everything.

    Nah, you're just really burned out, which is understandable and totally normal. Unfortunately, what you really need is to step back from all the coursework and research so that you can breathe a bit and figure out if this is what you want for the next however many years. As you don't have that option, try to break up the big block of boring work into micro-tasks and find a way to make them interesting. For example, some of the coding I do for my research is incredibly tedious, so I make a game of how to make it as modular/concise/etc. as possible.

    As crazy as it sounds, take a class in your hobby/interest if you have room in your schedule. It's a way of having some control and it's something different from all the physics. A club in your interest is another option if you don't want more coursework of any sort. I think having that one "nothing to do with school/major/work" thing is really important in mellowing the burnout a bit.
  4. Dec 4, 2009 #3
    Re: Solution

    I'm assuming this means you wouldn't be able to do an internship for a semester but if you could, I highly recommend it. I go to a co-op school so I do 6 months in class the 6 months full time working. I take at least 20 credits a term since I am BS/MS and I get completely burned out by the end of the 6 months. I consider the 6 months working a very nice break. If you could somehow work an internship in there it might be the break you need.
  5. Dec 8, 2009 #4
    Re: Solution

    I know that. But still - undergrad course are basics. So knowing everything about basics should lead you to great knowledge about your specific topic, right?

    I am certain that I want to do physics but there is stuff that I really hate. I hate programming, doing measurements and lab reports (especially when labs aren't connected with pure physics). However I am fully aware of the fact that every job include boring aspects. I lack experience when it comes to self-study but I guess that with practice you can master all nessesary skills. But I am really stupid when it comes to hard work and time management. Again - maybe if you practise enough you still can be organized.

    In my case it's just like running away from a problem.

    If I end this semester successfully I can change everythig and work peacefully so that I can get suffcient knowledge and overcome my weaknesses. However I'm afraid that I will fail. Like I mentioned before - the biggest problem isn't doing boring stuff or overhelming amount of work. I've seen really tired ppl but they could recover because of break. I haven't had a break for 4 years now which is about 1/5 of my life. I have no energy to study - I can manage somehow for now because of adrenaline rush 1-3 days before a deadline or leaving some work for later but in the end I need to finish everything before march (it would be good if I could finish it earlier so that I can take a break).

    For now my problem is: what should I do to gain energy? I won't take drugs because of effects that occur when you stop.

    It's different in my case because I am not from US. But I want to do it at the end of undergrad course.
  6. Dec 8, 2009 #5
    Re: Solution

    Not really. Most undergrad degrees get pretty broad because they want you to see a lot of your field before you pick your niche, but a lot of the stuff you cover may very well have little to nothing to do with your field. Only the first two or so years of undergrad cover the sort of fundamentals applicable to everything, and even that depends on the major. Your specific topic may need lots of specialized knowledge that can't be covered in any sort of depth on the undergrad level or won't be because it's too specialized to merit a class on it.

    For example many fields branch off into the theoretical and applied sections, and at some point they stop overlapping. In CS, the programming isn't very relevant to a theory guy and most theory isn't all that relevant to many types of programmers. You're never gonna know everything and most people don't expect it-it's really just about knowing enough to be able to learn your topic.

    I've found these two to be related. Bad time management leads to everything being done on these crazy highs, which leads to being too burned out to do anything. I've got the exact same issue, and haven't yet worked out the best solution. Doing things in pieces-a little bit everyday-helps somewhat. So does breaking up tasks into pieces and finishing a bit each day. Another thing that works brilliantly for me is to work in a study group/tutor someone else-it forces me to look at the material and learn it before the exam. A lot of self-study is making it interesting: find books that appeal to you, read the history sections in your math book, draw pretty pictures, listen to music, whatever makes it feel less like required work.

    Again, try to find a way to make it fun, or at least less soul killing. I know you can bear with it, but it does seriously bad things to your energy levels to be doing things you hate every day when you sound like you're at your breaking point.

  7. Dec 8, 2009 #6
    Re: Solution

    I'll pm you. It will be easier this way.
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