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Losing motivation to study

  1. Nov 8, 2008 #1
    What do other mathematicians do if they get "in a rut" and feel like they're losing motivation?

    I'm a 4th year MMath student in the UK and this term I'm taking courses in Stochastic Analysis, Differential Geometry, Brownian Motion and PDEs. I'm also supervising 1st year students (4 hours a week plus planning and marking work) which I'm getting paid for and quite enjoy (except marking) but it takes time. Also I need to start work on my 4th year project and possibly apply for a Phd...

    I find that after I get home (after 5 most weekdays) and finish marking first year work I'm quite tired and lack the motivation to work on example sheets, read lecture notes or do research for my project. Often if I start something I'll get distracted or give up if I can't do it quickly. Obviously leaving these things until the Christmas holiday is far from ideal.

    I'll probably be taking one fewer course and have a little less marking next term but I'd appreciate any advice for keeping up my motivation and making the best use of my time. There's hopefully no significant chance of getting less than a first class result given I have 90%+ for my first 3 years but I should really be enjoying the material and it shouldn't feel like such a chore...

    Thanks for any replies.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2008
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 8, 2008 #2
    I think everyone naturally gets burnt out, especially graduate students. I can definitely relate to that feeling, although you are probably taking a harder schedule than I ever did.

    It's just a natural part of the system. You get burned out, too much work, too little time. But I think you need to just hang in there and somehow get through it. Because you'll definitely get stronger from it.
  4. Nov 8, 2008 #3
    Hey, if you're receptive to the idea of possible solutions, I would change the environment you do your grading of the papers in. Maybe if you do that work outside, and then come home to do other things, you wouldn't feel so burnt out.

    That might not be a viable solutions, granted, but I deemed it mentionworthy!

    In any event, I hope you get your drive back! I'm kind of going through the same thing at the end of my engineering education!
  5. Nov 8, 2008 #4


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    Good suggestion. I worked from home for years, and that created problems because I equated time at home with time to work. When I was programming, I would often stay up past midnight coding when I had to be at a client's work-place at 7:00. Not good.

    I was motivated, because more coding = more program development = more sales = more money. It was a problem in that I neglected a lot of relaxation/personal development stuff like playing guitar, writing songs, etc that I should have been doing when I was at home.
  6. Nov 9, 2008 #5


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    Maybe you should take a broader range of classes? Three of those four classes are analysis.
  7. Nov 9, 2008 #6
    Thanks for the replies and encouragement.

    There's only 4 weeks left in the term and I'm still following the vast majority of my lectures. Hopefully if I hang in there I might be able to catch up with example sheets and work on my project over christmas.

    I think a change in environment might be a good idea. At the moment when I get home I seem to look for excuses not to do work - whether it be cleaning my room, ironing, checking email or a thousand other things!

    As for taking a broader range of classes that's kind of difficult. My project is also in analysis and analysis or probability theory are the areas I'm hoping to do a Phd in.
  8. Nov 9, 2008 #7
    I'd give up marking, cleaning, e-mail, forum surfing and ironing, and 'a thousand other things'. This year is the most important academic year of your life. Nothing will impact on your career/life more than the result you get next summer. The pittance you earn from marking will not make up the difference in a months wages of the work you will get from a good degree compared to the work you will get with a bad degree. Or the difference in intellectual self-affirmation. Do you want to spend the rest of your life thinking 'I could have got a first if I'd only tried harder'. Try now and see if you really could/can! And cleanliness and a few creases are irrelevances (in this period!). Your coursework is all you should be doing in your waking hours. Feelings of 'feeling in a rut' and 'lack of motivation' are irrelevances that you can't afford to indulge until after final exams. For now 'Just do it' 24/7 (with eight hours for sleep and shovelling food). Please don't respond. You should be hitting those analysis books!
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