Yesterday was the start of a new semester for me and so it was an opportunity to draw a line in the sand and start fresh on my research progress. I printed out a new research brick wall and I posted a picture of the template I create on Instagram. I use it to create a positive research habit. It seems a lot of people have the same issues of keeping on track with research. The post received more comments than any other before and a few people asked if they could use the idea. Of course! I believe there is not enough academic kindness in our world. I will post a downloadable editable document below, but first, let me explain my thoughts behind creating the document.
“Start before you are really ready”
We will never be really ready. There is always more literature to read, more statistical methods to learn, more data to collect. Nobody is ever really ready to start. So start today!
“Stop before you are really done”
Ok, this one might seem a little counter-intuitive at first but it actually helps with the first part of this quote. If you work on research until the point of being done inertia will set in and it will be hard to start the next day. I don’t have to tell you all, you know too well that overwhelming feeling when trying to tackle a new part of your write-up or research. If however, you feel great, on a roll you should finish at your set time and feel great and ready to start tomorrow.
Obviously, this is important. If you don’t repeat then you will not achieve eventual mass. The problem I had was that I would abandon one day, because something came up or I was overwhelmed with teaching or service requirements. Days would pass, then weeks and all of a sudden a month or two would pass with no progress on my research projects.
Enter the research progress sheet to help me create a positive research habit. The metaphor of a wall of bricks actually came from a project I worked on over 6 years ago building houses in Vietnam. I was so fast at building the wall that it would get too high and become unstable because the bricks at the bottom hadn’t set yet. That had long since been my research style. After a few months of no research, I would try to write up a whole paper in a day or two. I’d get so frustrated with myself when it wouldn’t come together or wasn’t a strong paper.
You don’t have to look far for advice and research indicating that a little each day is the most efficient and output-orientated approach. That developing a research habit to do a little each day is the way to success. So I set myself the goal of 1 hour a day. I created a brick for each day and built a wall. For each day I colour in a brick when I complete my 1 hour of research. It visually shows me that if (ok when…) I miss a day my wall will start to have issues. After a number of missed days, my wall will still stand but the quality won’t be great.
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