2024 New Year's Resolutions for Researchers

In this blog, we delve into the process of selecting a resolution that aligns with your research and professional goals. Then, we outline the steps necessary to ensure its successful implementation.

Updated on December 5, 2023

researchers writing down their new years resolutions

As we stand on the brink of yet another new year, with resolutions swirling all around, we are inundated with excitement and motivation. It’s the “fresh start effect,” a phenomenon which attempts to explain this universal instinct to sync major lifestyle changes with specific moments in time.

These significant junctures act as catalysts, propelling us towards aspirational behaviors and big-picture thinking. They allow us to shrug off past slip-ups, zoom out to see the grand scheme of things, and ignite the motivation needed to reach our goals.

Whether spoken aloud, silently acknowledged, or scribbled in the margins of our planners, resolutions serve as reminders of a commitment to personal growth. For researchers, though, these pledges extend beyond personal aspirations to become strategic tools for advancing their work. 

Let's begin by delving into the process of selecting a resolution that aligns with your research and professional goals. Then, we will outline the steps necessary to ensure its successful implementation.

Ask yourself the hard questions

Our personal resolutions often spring from knowing what we don’t want in our lives. “I don’t want to be broke this year, so I will work this much more. I don’t want to binge-watch Netflix every night, so I will start this new hobby,” and so on.

Professional resolutions are the same. Ask what you don’t want and brainstorm some possible solutions. For example, many scientists and researchers share some of these common challenges that lend themselves to countless valuable resolutions:

Challenge: Confirmation bias - The tendency to favor evidence aligning with existing beliefs

Possible resolutions:

  • I pledge to champion a more rigorous scientific approach by encouraging and thoughtfully considering critical views.
  • I commit to ensuring that all stakeholders engage directly with primary data, avoiding reliance on the analysis and summaries from a sole individual. 
  • I will actively design experiments to genuinely test our hypotheses, fostering a more robust and evidence-based research process.

Challenge: Overconfidence pitfall - The conviction that we're infallible, and that our theories and hypotheses are flawless

Possible resolutions:

  • I will conduct "premortems" to anticipate risks and prepare for negative outcomes. 
  • I vow to actively seek feedback from various sources with diverse perspectives. 
  • I choose to embrace mistakes as learning opportunities by reflecting on areas for improvement.

Challenge: Tunnel vision trap - Becoming so immersed in the research at hand that breakthroughs in other fields are overlooked

Possible resolutions:

  • I commit to earnestly seeking connections beyond my immediate field of research to explore opportunities for collaboration across disciplines. 
  • I resolve to foster collaboration with fellow researchers by appreciating their unique talents and points of view. 
  • I pledge to broaden my scientific horizons by aiming to uncover innovative discoveries beyond the boundaries of my usual research focus.

Challenge: Lacking communication skills - Makes collaboration and dissemination challenging

Possible resolutions:

  • I resolve to truly listen to what others are saying and refrain from formulating responses while they speak. 
  • I will ask for clarification when needed to minimize the risk of misunderstandings. 
  • I pledge to pay more attention to the non-verbal cues of communication like body language and facial expressions. 
  • I vow to treat everyone with equal respect and consideration.

Challenge: Waning creativity - Decreases the ability to find novel solutions and adapt to changing conditions

Possible resolutions:

  • I will prioritize breaks to let my mind wander, foster relaxation, and reset my attitude. 
  • I resolve to challenge my presuppositions by opening my mind to new information and ideas. 
  • I pledge to try unconventional approaches and explore areas others might overlook. 
  • I commit to overcoming the fear of being wrong and will view mistakes as valuable learning opportunities.

Ask others to whom you can relate

“Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery - it's the sincerest form of learning.”

George Bernard Shaw

When you reach out to fellow researchers to inquire about their aspirations and resolutions, you can tap into a wellspring of inspiration. In fact, discovering the goals of your peers introduces the fresh perspectives and novel approaches necessary for pushing yourself towards true, substantive personal and professional growth.

It works to build a supportive network that facilitates the exchange of insights and experiences while addressing common challenges. This shared pursuit not only provides accountability but also opens avenues for collaborative projects.

The diverse backgrounds of colleagues further enrich goal-setting by offering a variety of perspectives and values to help reshape your resolution strategies. Embracing this diversity enriches your own thinking and encourages a more comprehensive approach that promotes continuous learning and growth.

Here are some of the New Year’s resolutions contemplated by other researchers

  1. Stay healthy, enthusiastic, and curious despite the exhausting hours that come with research.
  2. Be more humble by actively listening to nonscientists, considering their perspectives without judgment.
  3. Allow yourself to be bored to foster creativity and new ideas.
  4. Stop letting negative statistics influence career choices.
  5. Focus more on the present and be open to changing your mind.
  6. Engage in more hands-on work to enhance practical skills and understanding.
  7. Wait, listen, and act at the right moment for effective decision-making.
  8. Go out of your comfort zone to disseminate your work through videos and presentations.
  9. Practice saying "NO" when necessary to maintain focus and balance.

Keep your resolutions by making SMART choices

Now that you have some ideas for resolutions, what strategies can you use to ensure their completion and success? 

Remember to employ the SMART goals model. Make them Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based

  • Specific: Your goal should be clear and well-defined, avoiding vague language. Specify exactly what you want to accomplish.
  • Measurable: Establish criteria to quantify your progress. This provides a tangible way to track your success and know when you've achieved your goal.
  • Attainable: Ensure your goal is realistic and feasible. It should challenge you, but still be possible with effort and commitment.
  • Relevant: Your goal should align with your broader objectives and be meaningful to you. It should contribute to your overall success and aspirations.
  • Time-based: Set a deadline for achieving your goal. Having a timeframe creates a sense of urgency and helps you stay focused on completing your objective within a defined period.

Take a moment for introspection, examining your research-oriented strengths and weaknesses within the framework of New Year's resolutions. SMART goals will play a pivotal role in transforming this reflection into a meticulously crafted strategic plan. 

The shift looks like this:

  • Too vague: I want to effect some positive change for disabled academics.
  • Specific: I will develop training for line managers and universities on how to best support their disabled colleagues. Kate Sang 
  • Too vague: I want to protect the well-being of myself and my colleagues.
  • Attainable: I will write down my personal and professional values and expectations in a "lab philosophy" statement that will be shared with the members of my lab group. Melanie Stefan

By encouraging you to step out of the confines of your research comfort zone and into a proactive realm, this method acts as a motivator and performance enhancer. Transforming broad resolutions into SMART goals will provide the structure needed to stay on course and judiciously allocate your time toward endeavors that align with your research aspirations.

Final thoughts

Remember, resolutions aren't just for personal growth. They contribute to the advancement of the entire scientific community. Each resolution, no matter how small, adds to the collective progress. 

So, whether refining your lab philosophy, injecting some fun into your research, or seeking support on your scientific journey, know that every resolution counts. With each one, no matter how minor it seems, researchers contribute to the entire scientific community’s base of knowledge.

Here's to a year ahead filled with impactful breakthroughs and collaborative strides. AJE wishes all of you a Happy New Year and success in your research journeys!

Goal Setting
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