Becoming a Successful Researcher in 4 Easy Steps…

Four steps to becoming a successful researcher:

  1. Define success (or what does life look like in 5 years).
  2. Work backwards to today – what does each year imply about the year before it?
  3. Create a detailed plan for the next 12 months.
  4. Revisit the plan weekly and revise the plan every 3 to 12 months.


Hi there bakers writers and rock stars! Welcome to another episode with me, Dr. Richard Huysman. So, today we’re talking about having a plan for your research or becoming a successful researcher, and there are 4 easy steps. I’m not sure that they’re all as easy as they seem but anyway.

So, the first one is to define what you think of as success, particularly in the context of what’s successful look like in 5 years. So, I’m not talking about projecting forward 5 years from now. I’m talking about you thinking about what your 5 year self will be like? So, there’ll be all sorts of things that you might have in there that could be where you live? Who you live with? What your lifestyle is like? But it’s what will your life be like in 5 years time. So, that’s what does that you know describe as much of that or as little of that as you’re happy to do.

The next is to work backwards from then to today. So, if you’ve got your 5 year plan, what’s 5 minus 3 plan? What does that look like if 3 years prior to your 5 year self, where would you have to have been? If you want to be overseas in 5 years, 3 years before that where would you have been? If you want to be in leadership in 5 years, 3 years before that what would your experiences have been? If you want to be at the cutting edge of something in research, 3 years before that, what would you have been? So, you need to work backwards. If you think about planning and career planning, and the idea of working backwards, it’s something that we do a lot of when it comes to driving somewhere. So, for example, we won’t get in the car and just drive without an idea of where we want to go. We’ll generally think I want to go to the shops. I probably need to drive. This is the direction I should go. We rarely if ever get into the car without a purpose for where we’re going to drive through. We never just go, “Oh, I’m going to head straight for a bit.” Which but this is often how we treat our careers. We often just go, “I’m going to head straight for a bit just see what happens.” Which is fine, if you’re going to be content with the outcome, but if in 5 years time you don’t like where you’ve got to, you can’t blame anyone but yourself obviously. But if you didn’t have a purpose or a plan, you’re going to end up nowhere. Okay, so you’ve defined your success, and you’ve got your worked backwards, and you’ve got a few years backwards from that.

So, you’ve got 5 minus 3 and then 3 minus 2, I recommend as well. So, you’ll have an idea of what your career and life will look like in a year from now. So, now you get to do the forward planning grid. Now you get to say okay if in a year from now, I look like ABC. What do I need to do to get there? So, if we go to our planning example again. We think about you know, going to the shops perhaps or going somewhere further like going for a drive that might take us you know, a 4 or 5 hour trip, the things that you need to do now for then would be to prepare where your rest stops would be. It would be to prepare when you’re going to refuel. It would be to know that you’ve got the right kind of vehicle to handle the terrain that you’ll need to go on or over. So, in your own career, what are the same kinds of things that you’ll be doing? Over the next 12 months what will you need to do to hit that point that allows you then to launch off and go and hit your 5 year point.

Then finally, once you’ve got your detailed one-year plan and even though they are detailed, I still recommend people keep them to one page rather than any longer than that. So, now that you’ve got your detailed 12-month plan, the key once you’ve got this is to revisit, and to revise the plan. So, revisit means to look at it, and I recommend every week. Just quickly read over the subheadings or the major points in your plan. “What are my goals for this next 12 months?” “You know, am I trying to learn a new technique?” “Am I trying to build my skills as a leader?” “Am I trying to learn the newer data analysis program?” “Am I trying to write more frequently?” Whatever the goal is. So, if you read those every week, what that does it reinforces in your mind what’s important to you, and one it helps you prioritize it. So, when things come up that might distract you, you can reflect up, “That wasn’t in my plan, I should say no to that.” Or it can help you see and take opportunity. So, someone might say to you, “Oh, there’s a free place left in this leadership course and it might be next week.” And you might be busy planning data analysis or data collection but you might be able to move that in order to go and do the course. So, that’s the revisit part, and then the revised part is to adjust the plan based on the conditions that you’re faced and you’re facing and the change to your goals. So again, if we go to our trip example, we might have planned to go on a on a visit interstate or overseas, and we might find something like covert happens. So, then we can’t go interstate or overseas. So, what does that mean? Do we do a trip all inside the current state or country that you’re in? Or does it mean we postpone our trip all together? Or does it mean that we focus our attention somewhere else and do a staycation? So, these are the kinds of things that you need to be thinking about when you’re planning for your research success.

As always, hit me in the comments below or shoot me a message, and I’ll help you with your planning.