You Should Be Making Slow Gains

So much of research is measured by short term goals – grants, papers, and presentations – when longer term outcomes are the real target – cures, change, and improvements. So, instead of chasing short term goals, aim for slow (but regular) gains. Start reading 5 minutes a workday, then increase it by a minute a day for two weeks and you’ll be at 15 minutes two weeks later.


Hey there bakers, writers, and rock stars! Today’s work vlog is all about making slow gains or being okay with slow progress.

As researchers, we can get caught up in trying to make fast progress. And research we know is not a fast process. And even fast progress is slow publications can take years from design to publication. Same with grants but often they’re the measures of success, and they’re still I guess, not necessarily quick but we want to see them getting turned over and made really quickly. But what I think we should focus on as well as or perhaps, even instead of grants or publications or collecting data is making small gains regularly or making slow progress. This idea comes from James Clear. So, what he talks about is going to the gym and today lifting 1 pound, and tomorrow lifting 2 pounds, and the day after 

lifting 3. And then, all we’re doing is adding 1 pound to our lift every single day. Now, not all of you will be lifters, and not all of you will understand the difference between pounds, and kilos. I know I don’t. But all of you are probably academics or certainly would be needing to write, and to read.

So, if you want to read more or if you want to write more or if you want to do more social media, go for small gains rather than big gains. What do I mean by this for reading writing or social media. Well for reading, if you want to read regularly start off by reading a minute a day and then add another minute, and reading one more minute is really easy to do just another minute. So, you might start with 1 minute a day. Then the next day do 2 minutes, and the next day do 3 minutes, and find your threshold. Find the maximum for you.

When it comes to writing, you can use the same approach right for a certain number of minutes, and then add another minute the next day, and another minute the next day until you hit your writing threshold. You’ll be quite pleased with how quickly you can get to writing consecutive days of 10, 15 or 20 minutes in a row of writing.

For social media, it’s really the same thing lots of people jump on social media and want immediate results. Maybe think about getting small gains. You know, getting one follower a day for a year gives you an additional 400 followers. Rather than trying to make the perfect post that’s going to get you 400 followers immediately. Particularly, if you’re not posting regularly. So, for social media you might also choose slow progress being or small gains being the idea of one follower a day, but it could also be in terms of the kinds of posts or the number of posts that you’re making. Or perhaps even how you’re interacting on social media. So, maybe today is all about logging in, and checking. Tomorrow is all about logging in, checking, and liking something. The next day is about logging, checking, liking, and commenting. The next day is logging, checking, liking, commenting, sharing. Then the next one is logging, checking, liking, commenting, sharing, and finally creating an original post from your own original content or ideas.

So hopefully you’ll find this useful. If you want to read more about Small Games, Google, “James Clear Small Games”. You get to have a look at how he talks about it. Particularly, in the context of lifting but I think you can apply it to basically anywhere of your research life. Good luck!