I have been in a state of confusion. This phase often comes after the completion of one project and thinking about next project or direction. I cannot generalize this to all researchers but I often get plagued by this. I know of researchers keeping themselves busy with multiple projects, which might prevent them from `this’ bewilderment.
This phase starts when you begin to rationalize that your last work was much below your expectation (even if it is good!) and slowly begin to pursue a bigger picture for your research plans. Other symptoms are that I typically start thinking about challenging myself with a difficult problem and often try to devise ways to learn something that I don’t previously know. When I say ‘devising ways’ it means that I might try to look for a problem that requires learning a method that I previously don’t know and learning this method might require more effort than usual. It might seem like a fun period from description but it is not since there is a lack of focus, less work and the guilt of not doing something concrete hits you repeatedly. You might also think of this as a time when you start thinking of a new idea or next step for your thesis. Although I might seem to be cynical about this phase but on the positive side it gives me a chance to realize that I might be maturing as a researcher by seeking a broader perspective in my research and I also get a chance to read more than usual. The advantage of reading more is that after a time your mind starts to arrange and connect things with each other which I often refer to as `deconstruction’.
Referring to this as the confusion phase, I don’t have much intuition on what is the best way to proceed and re-building your focus. For me this phase has prolonged a bit this time owing to a departmental examination (prelims) and an incoming trip to India. May be in near future as I get more data points and experience I would be able to shed more light on this. Till then good luck.