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Why a research habit is 100x better than a plan?

Do you come up with elaborate plans to accomplish things? Do you have plan to write a research paper?

For the past 20 years I have sat down with dozens of research students and made plans to help them achieve the goals. I took into account their abilities, time commitments, personal life and worked with students to develop excellent plans. Plans if executed well could have achieved spectacular results. Less than 5% of the students followed their plan.

Why did the plans fail most of the time?

Most of the people were convinced that they had a killer plan guaranteed to work. I found that the most important thing was not the plan but the daily habits.

Many incredibly talented students achieved rather average results because they had poor habits. However, I have had below average students who achieved outstanding results.

If you have 10 great plans but don’t follow them then they are useless. The problem is not that people don’t know what to do rather people don’t do what they know. It’s the doing that makes all the difference. Knowing is not enough one must do.

How do you get students to do something rather than just sit and reflect until the cows come home? It’s not that people are not motivated. You can get people to do something for a few days. That is not hard, however to follow through consistently is the trick. How can you get them to stick to it?

When I started reading papers early on in my career, I knew I could do it for a few days but found it hard to stick to it. I decided to go to library straight to library after lunch to relax and read. I started to enjoy and look forward to my daily trip to the library. I read articles to enjoy them. Soon I got addicted and then kept going everyday. I hated weekends because I couldn’t go to the library. I couldn’t wait for monday to come. As my knowledge increased people’s started commented on my breadth of knowledge and I enjoyed the compliments. This made it even more enjoyable to go to the library. This became a daily habit during my PhD and many years after.

I have also recently had dozens of plans and exercise routines and do it for a week or so and then become a coach potato again. Sticking to it long enough to make a difference to my fitness and weight.

You need to find a way of creating a habit of reading papers or exercising to make it a habit you can stick to. Forming a habit that can be a part of your lifestyle then you’ll stick to it and then achievements and success will follow you wherever you go.

Here are the 7 steps to creating a habit.

1. Start small

2. Do it everyday

3. Never go more than two consecutive days without doing the habit

4. Reward yourself straight after doing the habit

5. Be accountable to someone whose opinion you care about.

6. Set incremental goals

7. Enjoy the habit

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