How to develop good habits for a successful academic career in 5 easy steps?

Wonder how to develop good habits? By building good habits early in your career, you will succeed in academia. Here are 5 easy steps you can use today!

Our habits are responsible for a large fraction of our daily decisions, behaviours and actions.

For example, think about what you do in the very first second after you wake up? Do you pick up your phone, go have a coffee/breakfast or go for a walk or run?  

Have you ever thought about why you do it in the first place? Is this something you decided to do before you fell asleep or you do it every day unintentionally? The latter represent your habits and these can be good and bad ones.

Some time ago, Magda talked about why setting SMART goals is important and how it can help you to achieve success in your research and academic careers.

However, I want to ask you if you ever felt that something is missing after you hit the goal you set for yourself?

It is because regardless of how ambitious your goals are, meeting them accounts only for a fraction of the overall happiness you can generate.

Doing a PhD is a great example of this. Your goal, of course, is to get the PhD degree. At the very beginning of your programme, you’re inspired, eager and motivated.

But imagine you experience lack of support from your supervisor, continuous rejection without appropriate support, negativity or even bullying during your journey. I bet you’d just want this to be over and will be relieved you completed your PhD, rather than being more inspired to change the world.

Ever wondered how to develop good habits? Read on to learn the 5 step process you can apply today and build successful academic career!
Ever wondered how to develop good habits? Read on to learn the 5 step process you can apply today and build successful academic career!

You see, habits are the means to achieve your goal(s). Setting goals is not trivial but is much easier than developing and sustaining good habits. And this is especially true for good habits, which are much more difficult to develop and sustain than bad habits.

However, as Buddha said, “drop by drop is the water pot filled”.

Do you know how to develop good habits and boost your academic career? Here I share the process you can apply directly in your career to develop good habits and become motivated academic.

Define the goal and commit 

Once you set your goal (i.e. to complete PhD in 3 years), you need to find a way of achieving it (i.e. a habit of reading ten papers per week; a habit of writing on a daily basis for 1 hour)

But finding the right way is not always sufficient to get motivated, develop your habit and achieve your goal.

What you need is a declaration of your commitment. The best way to do so is to write your commitment down. Remember, you’re 42% more likely to do something if you write it down!  

So get your pen and write your commitments on a piece of paper now.

Define and state your motivation

Why do you want to achieve this goal and develop this habit? Answer to this question is crucial to keep you motivated and inspired, even though you hit a roadblock or a dead end.

Once you write down your habit, write down as many reasons why you want to do this and the benefits of doing this. The more you write, the more motivated you’ll be.

Return to this piece of paper when you’re down and need a bit of motivation.

Define the cue

To develop a habit, you need to set a cue (or several cues) that will trigger your new habit.

A cue can be a specific time of the day (i.e. writing in the morning for 1 hour), environment and location (i.e. writing in a coffee shop), chain of events (i.e. write for 1 hour after completing the set of experiments) and so on.

How to develop good habits? Cues are crucial to develop good habits. For example, working in coffee shop can trigger your habit of writing!
Cues are crucial to develop good habits. For example, working in coffee shop can trigger your habit of writing!

Cues act as triggers that will initiate your habit.

Even though you may not feel like writing this day, if you’ll sit in the same place in the same coffee shop, you’ll subconsciously feel the need to write something.

Set rewards 

Rewarding yourself for performing your good habit is key to keeping you motivated. Define what it is that you’ll get or allow yourself to do every single time you perform your habit. Please write it down next to your habit and your motivation.

For example, if you want to develop a habit of writing 1000 words every day, you can reward yourself by watching one episode of your favourite series.

Track your progress

It is believed that you can form a habit by performing a specific task for a minimum of 18-21 days (average for 66 days) in a row. Therefore, it is crucial to reward yourself at the very beginning of your journey to develop good habits.

It is also crucial to keeping track of your progress and reflecting on your performance. Such self-reflection will help you understand how you can optimise your working pattern and make it easier to fall in love with your habit.

Tracking your performance will also help you understand when your habit becomes an activity that you’ll do automatically when triggered by set cues. 

Sounds cool right?

A final word…

Developing good habits early in your academic career can put you on a fast track to success.

Good habits will also help you enjoy the journey and the goal itself, yielding maximum happiness out of your experience, inspiring you to grow further.

Go ahead share your ways of becoming motivated academic. Share also how you develop and track your habits?

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Academic Coach at Motivated Academic, senior lecturer at Cranfield University, UK.

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