I find myself tired a great deal, particularly when I face having to do my dissertation research. It is difficult: I want to finish my diss. and get that sheepskin, but my own inability to settle down is proving a problem. Any hints or suggestions? Any similar stories?
I took 6 years off between ug and grad school, and I'm tired, too, so I can imagine what it's like having gone straight through from pre-school :-)
Re restlessness--in my experience only one thing works: just do the work. The restlessness is usually the result of anxiety, and the only way to quell, rather than mask, it is to just get rolling. You will be trading the jitters for a feeling of accomplishment, which means you will be able to sleep at night. Some specific hints;
Create a regular schedule with one day per week which has nothing to do with school-- you need some down time to recharge and let your subconscious work on the problem, even if the day is filled with shopping, laundry, etc etc.
If you get stuck, work on your acknowledgement page--it will remind you of the people who have helped you and how they helped, this reminds you of the fruitful insights you had when talking to them, and you can write these down. Before you know it, you are working on the diss, not fretting.
just start writing--even if it is isolated sentences and paragraphs you will be clarifying how you think about the problem. This will help you with the research by producing specific questions you have to research the answers to. THe faster you can break these into smaller questions the easier the research will be. The sooner you have big chunks of text the sooner you can start editing/polishing/cleaning up, which easier than writing. ;-)
Get your chapters figured out ASAP if you haven't already. This turns a 350 page document into 5 70 page pieces--about double the lenght of a seminar paper, and we all know how to write one of *those*, right? Point being, if it is in smaller manageble pieces, it is easier to handle, lessening the anxiety.
For example, I have a file drawer devoted to the diss (about to grow to two) the drawer is subdivided into sections for background literature, for each chapter, etc. Thus while working on one chapter, I find stuff for the others, but this material goes into folders in the appropriate section of the drawer. Thus I don't have to try to keep everything in my head and it keeps anxiety about forgetting something to a minimum. Periodically I pull these folders out and go through the material, which includes those little scraps of paper with my own semi-random thoughts. This reminds me of the interesting ways each chapter topic relates to the whole and also helps unblock my thinking if I am having problems.
Also keep in mind that it is normal to be confused about the project. According to an informal poll I have been taking over the past 3 years, among students who work full time on the dis, a year is about average. If you aren't confused by the stuff you find, by figuring out how to think about it, and if you know right away what it all your research means, either you are a genius or your work isn't original.
Interestingly, every grad student I know who is this far along reports this confusion lessens all at once by a vision of the whole dissertation--what the chapters are and what order they are in (not that this doesn't change later). One student reports seeing her dissertation appear over a freeway overpass while stuck in a traffic jam, I saw mine one day in the shower, etc, Of course most students I know work on visual material, so maybe this is topic related. Anyone else have this experience?
A couple of other practical tips--find out what time of day you do your best writing and schedule everything else around that. I write best from 7am to noon, so I don't get dressed, I don't answer the phone, I don't read, I don't do anything but write for those 5 hours. Sometimes I get 3 pages, sometimes I get only a paragraph. Sometimes all I do is type in bibliographical information or work on my chronology of events. WHat matters is that I do not let anything disturb this time period.
Also, a hint by way of my brother in law, who wrote his dissertation during the year after his first child was born, and while teaching full-time. He got up at 5 am and worked until 7am, producing a page per day. A page per day is 365 pages a year--and barring a few weeks of clean up at the end, a year is what it took him. The point is, sustained steady effort gets you there, the only cure for the anxiety of procrastination is to just do the work.
hope this helps. I'd like to hear what works for other people, there is no reason we should have to reinvent this particular wheel :-)