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Studying What to do when not feeling like studying?

  1. Push, force on

    5 vote(s)
  2. Take a break until the body/mind feels like studying again

    25 vote(s)
  1. Jun 29, 2007 #1
    I have a question for those who have some experience in doing maths or theoretical physics or other mathematically oriented subjects. Do you ever have times when you just don't feel like doing maths hence also your subject? What do you do to motivate yourself? Is it a sign that your body needs a break to do other things remote to maths?

    Or in those times do you push on and force yourself to study? I guess things are harder when there is no exterior element to force you. For example, when its not during semester and you are just thinking of doing some work for your own sake. I am in this situation at the moment. What should I do?

    I think that studying doesn't have to be torteous and the best work is done when you enjoy your work. For example, most sporting records are broken by atheletes who actaully felt good while breaking the record. It is the case that they are in the zone and pain is absent even though they pushed to the absolute limit. However studying is a bit different. Humans are naturally lazy and is it best to just push on and hope the interest come back again? Certainly for kids under 18, it might be best for parents to push them even if they don't feel like studying. But what about for adults 21+?

    I guess these periods of not feeling like studying, especially doing maths increase with age even for the keenest academics? That is why Hardy said pure mathematics was a young man's game for people below 40 years of age.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2007
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 29, 2007 #2
    The first requisite for success is to develop the ability to focus and apply your mental and physical energies to the problem at hand - without growing weary. Because such thinking is often difficult, there seems to be no limit to which some people will go to avoid the effort and labor that is associated with it....

    -Thomas Edison
  4. Jun 29, 2007 #3


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    It depends if you are talking about needing a break for a few hours now and then or feeling like stopping for a few days or weeks. Also it depends a lot on the situation: are you doing that as part of work? As part of studies? Or for personal pleasure? I am trying to do research for the sake of doing research (I am not paid for this) and what is hard is actually the lack of people to interact with. It's key to have people to discuss with and to motivate oneself. I am much more productive when I am trying to figure out something that I know I will be able to explain to someone else.
  5. Jun 30, 2007 #4
    I am not talking about needing a short break but a long one. For example, when you don't feel like working even after having gone for an hour ride or walk. At the moment any work I do would be purely my own interest. So no outside pressure whatsoever. Ideally and in the past, I usually work hard in these situations but not now. I don't have your need of needing to talk to someone although I have often found talking to someone else helps. But that is assuming you are motivated already. I need this first step.
  6. Jun 30, 2007 #5


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    So, you're talking about not wanting to self study anything at the moment. Well, that's fair enough; give yourself a summer holiday!!
  7. Jun 30, 2007 #6


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    Hm, I voted for "Push, force on", although I basically agree with what cristo suggested. It depends on the motives behind your self-study. I have many interests, but I'm, unfortunately, often too lazy to self-study, so I should force myself to do so. Don't know how things work in your mind though, so I can't give any specially useful comment.
  8. Jul 1, 2007 #7
    Self-study is the word I left out. Thanks for reminding me. The thing is I overloaded during semester by doing one extra subject and so felt that I pushed myself to the limit and so don't feel like doing any studying during the break. Normally I do do studying. I wonder if its because of overloading that have caused this.
  9. Jul 1, 2007 #8
    I'm self studying as well and occasionally need a few days (or longer) break from pushing myself. What I do is I find a math/physics book that is not for general readers (e.g. A Brief History Of Time is not chosen) but that also does not require too much concentration.

    'Classic' books on topics you already know about or want to get started on are good. Choose a book depending on your current background. Even just reading the first couple of chapters before changing books can make sure time is not completely wasted:

    'The Principles of Quantum Mechanics' by Dirac
    'Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell' by Zee
    'The Road To Reality' by Penrose
    'Space-Time Structure' by Schrodinger

    Scientific biographies are great. Choose from Feynman, Schrodinger, Bethe etc.

    Also, are there any topics that have always made you think 'What is that about? One day I'll find out.' Things like Galois Theory, Spinors, Cosmology and so on?

    Finally you could get some books on the courses for the coming semester and read to get an early introduction.

    If after a few days motivation doesn't return it may be time for a positive-thinking book like those by Anthony Robbins. Reading something like this really gets you thinking about 'why' you are doing what you are doing - the result being either you get a boost in productivity or you realize you are doing the wrong thing.
  10. Jul 1, 2007 #9
    Not that i can add anything extremely practically but as jasonwer suggested reading biographies and books on theory helps to relax you a bit and for me it reinvigorates interest.

    I self study and I take a break by reading stuff like a " The world of Mathematics" by James Newmann ..a collection of papers from Hardy to Turing, ..that really could get you going.
  11. Jul 1, 2007 #10
    I think I should vote "Push, force on", yet it is the only motivation to get me study "seriously", but somehow I just couldn't bear the suffer of everyday torturing myself ...
    If I were taking a break in half way of my study, I would eventually never go back to study again or fell asleep sometime and left all the homeworks undone...
    This surely is a ruinous habit. After reasoned out by my own, a possible way is to abandon all of your interests other than which relate to your courseworks and try to let math becomes as whole of your interest anytime instead.
  12. Jul 1, 2007 #11
    motivation often comes AFTER one begins to study. So I would say force yourself to start studying for a couple minutes or so, if the interest still doesn't come, then take a break or skip to another subject.
  13. Jul 2, 2007 #12


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    That kind of works only if you have more than one subject to skip to...
  14. Jul 2, 2007 #13
    or you could skip to a different chapter or topics in a book and come back later when you feel more comfortable.
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