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7 Habits That Can Help You Think Like a Scientist

7 Habits That Can Help You Think Like a Scientist
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“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison.

Many people believe that Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. The truth is that he did not. It had been around for several years. In fact, there were more than twenty other inventors and scientists working on the light bulb when Edison started on his. What separated Edison from the others is that he was the first to achieve a light bulb that lasted for many hours. Edison succeeded by creating a vacuum inside the bulb and finding the proper filament to use.

Thomas Edison succeeded by repeatedly experimenting until he found the right solution. He made over 1,000 unsuccessful attempts until he did succeed. To Edison, those 1,000 attempts weren’t failures, they were 1,000 steps toward success. By thinking and using habits like Edison and other great scientists, we can learn how to change our mindset and innovate new ideas. Here are 7 habits that can help you think like a scientist.

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1. Expect Failure and Then Learn From It

You’re rarely ever going to get something perfect on the first try. When you don’t get it right, learn from it. Scientists treat failure as a data point. As a matter of fact, it’s also how they treat positive results. Data points eventually lead to an answer. To a scientist, failure or any negative result is not a bad thing because proving something is wrong is just as useful as proving something right as long as you are learning along the way.

Treat your failures as data points that steer you toward the correct answers.

2. Approach Every Issue With A Goal To Find A Creative Solution

Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Scientists believe that in order to solve a problem, you have to be able to stand back, observe it and define it. The next step is to then rephrase it. Ask how can you reword this problem to make it easier to solve. For example, don’t ask yourself how to increase your productivity; instead ask how you can make your job easier. By using more simple ways of looking at a problem, it suddenly will become less daunting.

Once you’re able to change your way of addressing the problem, you’re going to be more likely to find a creative solution.

3. Challenge Assumptions

Dictionaries define assumptions as something that is taken for granted. Scientists don’t like to take things for granted. They like to challenge conventional thoughts and turn those ideas upside down. They do it by experimenting with the assumption and then testing it to see if the results prove it to be true. We should all do the same thing. Take basic assumptions you have about your work or personal life and then determine a way to experiment with them to see if your assumptions are really true.

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For example, one assumption in business negotiations used to be the opposing-parties model where each side lined up along a board-room table and faced off. But, that assumption was challenged and soon the concept of win-win in negotiations was created and businesses treated the other party they were negotiating with not as an adversary but as a partner instead.

4. Eliminate Bias

When testing a hypothesis, scientists are taught to conduct experiments and research that are designed to minimize or eliminate any biases the scientist may have about the hypothesis. It’s important to do this as well when you are looking for solutions in your own personal issues. If you have an idea for a solution, and you want to test it first, you must figure out a way that eliminates any bias you have toward that solution before you can get any true results.

5. Constantly Ask Questions

One thing that curious young children always do with their parents is ask questions. “Why is the sky blue? Why does a dog bark? Why aren’t there any more dinosaurs?” Kids do this because they want to learn. Scientists also constantly ask questions. You have to continue asking questions yourself if you want to keep learning. It’s impossible to know what answers your looking for until you know what questions to ask.

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6. Collaborate With Others

Scientists rarely work alone. Even the greatest ones of all time, like Einstein, Galileo, Marie Curie, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Stephen Hawking and Nikola Tesla all collaborated with others on their work. If some of the most brilliant minds in all of history were willing to happily collaborate with others on their ideas, why shouldn’t you? Collaboration is the practice whereby individuals work together as a group with a common purpose to achieve a shared goal. Collaboration is how ideas are bounced off of other minds for feedback and suggestions.

7. Communicate Your Results

For scientists, it’s important to share the results of their findings. Scientists often find solutions after knowing the findings of other scientists’ experiments. In business, by sharing your results with your colleagues, you are helping to better your organization because others can use that information to improve their results.

If it’s a breakthrough discovery, your organization may want to issue a formal report or a press release. Either way, information is best when it’s shared with those who need to know.

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Featured photo credit: Mark Sebastian via imcreator.com

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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