Small wins, part 2

By James Hayton,
March 27, 2019
I'm James, I'm a former physicist (PhD, Nottingham, 2007) and author of "PhD: An Uncommon Guide to Research, Writing & PhD Life".
Since 2010, I've been helping PhD students all over the world overcome barriers in their research and writing
My strategies have helped thousands of PhD students just like you to build confidence, write better and finish on time

Yesterday, I wrote about focusing on the small wins, rather than the big goals or major breakthroughs.

The first step is to define your threshold for success in the short term.

What would make today a successful day?

When I was writing my thesis, I set myself the target of writing a minimum of 500 words per day. This meant that I had a specific metric of success; on a difficult day, if I struggled to reach 501 words but fought my way through, it was still a successful day. If I blasted through 2000 words easily, it was a great day.

Sometimes, though, you aren’t in complete control of the outcome. Things can go wrong, equipment can break, experiments can fail... On days like these, your effort might not produce measurable forward progress.

But it’s days like these where your effort is most important. It’s the ability to stay engaged and creative when things go wrong that will make all the difference in the long run.

It’s still a win if you kept trying. It’s still a win if you stopped to think about the problem instead of just working on something else. It’s still a win if you stayed curious and engaged.

If you think this way, if you can look back on even the most frustrating days and say you did your best, more tangible success will come. It takes time, but it will come.

See also
Be like the ocean
Free Live Webinar:

How to adapt your PhD during the coronavirus crisis (and beyond)

Sunday 3rd May, 5pm UK time*
(6pm CET, 12 noon EDT, 9am PDT)
register free
*if you can't make the live event, you can still register and watch the recording

Stay up to date...

The PhD Academy:
Online training and support for PhD students

learn more...

For more detailed guidance and support...

The PhD Academy All-Access Pass

Weekly calls with James

You don't have to do it all alone! Get the All Access Pass for weekly group calls and Q&A sessions with James

Every online course

Build your skills and confidence with our detailed video courses. Go at your own pace and get advice and support when you need it

Get the book!
PhD: an uncommon guide to research, writing & PhD life

order now on amazon