Have you set new years resolutions such as, I am going to lose 4 stones; run a marathon; become a millionaire? Have you achieved any of these goals? Almost everyone has grand new year resolutions and 90% of the time you set them knowing that you will give up in a couple of weeks. I am just like everyone else, I start after the new year with big goals and give up after a couple of weeks. Makes me feel like crap.
When it comes to setting goals and achieving things I have been telling people for years; “you need to stretch and think big. Come on you can do it; go for the best first; be number 1”. I say to people, “don’t believe in limitations because most are self imposed and arise from fear of failure.”
I should know better. As a Professor of Nanotechnology I know that small is magical and wonderful.
So how can you apply nano-thinking to your life?
1. Break down large tasks and goals into nanosized ones to maximise your chances of success and make permanent changes in your life. When you think too big you get excited about your goals but when it comes to implementation it your enthusiasm runs out and you get frustrated and give up.
For example as a research student you know you have to do a literature review. This involves reading perhaps over a hundred research papers, digesting them and then writing a high quality review. The review may be between 30-50 pages. Where do you start. Break the process down to nanosized tasks.
Look at one paper every day. What are the nanosteps?
a) Take 10 minutes to read the abstract and conclusions
b) Spend 15-20 minutes reading the experimental sections
c) Read the results section for 15-30 minutes; make notes.
d) Read the discussion for 30 minutes; underline key points; make notes in your book.
c) Summarise each section in your own words from memory – add the positive and negative things about each section. How can they be improved? If you were carrying out this study how would you do it?
d) At the end of the day you must write a review of this paper from your own prospective.
e) Now that you have completed the review of one paper, now follow the same steps for all the papers. Stick to your routine and repeat every day.
If you have 100 research papers to review then in 3 months you will be finished and complete the review. You may give yourself a few days to edit the whole document.
If you think about the whole review you will feel overwhelmed and scared. However, breaking the task down into nanosteps will make it easier to stick to a routine and get the job done.
Why does nanosized thinking work?
1. By thinking in nanosized steps you develop a laser like mental focus. Focusing on too many things at the same time makes you less effective, scattered and achieve less. Narrow focus increase your chance of success.
2. Nanosized focus keeps your enthusiasm going for longer and gives you more energy. Every time you complete a task you will feel fantastic. You can then move onto the next task. You won’t run out of steam early trying to do big and hard tasks. By doing little things and achieving them develops your confidence, skill and experience thus maximised your chances of completing the large goal.
3. It’s easier to handle nanosized tasks particularly at the beginning when you are in the learning mode. Easier is better.
4. Break down the tasks into so small size that you are guaranteed to succeed. The series of small goals are built up into large ones. An elephant is built atom by atom and molecule by molecule and grown into a giant animal. Thinking small ensures that you succeed.
5. When you make gradual and small changes then the change is longer lasting. Most people don’t keep up exercise because they try to do too much at the beginning and give up. If you start small and establish a habit then you will continue to succeed.
Apply nanosized thinking to:
1. Writing your literature review
2. Writing a journal paper
3. Transfer report
4. Conference presentation
5. Laboratory work
6. Writing your thesis
7. Personal goals such as exercising, dieting, fitness, mastering a language, playing a piano and learning to swim or ski.
Start nano thinking now and I’ll look out for your when you are a big star in your field.