Miguel Panao | Professor and Author

Finding ways to improve scientific writing and academic productivity.

Learn to be faithful in small things

The grand narrative of our life unfolds in how faithful we are to the small things. It is not easy, but we can learn. The question is: how?

Photo by Ksenia Makagonova at Unsplash

Photo by Ksenia Makagonova at Unsplash

There are several reasons why we may fail in small things, but in my experience, I see four: 1) forgetting; 2) bad habits; 3) distraction; 4) negligence.

Don’t wait

The best way to avoid forgetting is to address the small things the moment they come up. Otherwise, use reminders apps, or write in a small pad the small things you need to remember. However, even with simple strategies, you may still forget. Addressing the second reason might help.

Create good habits

By bad habits, I mean procrastination, or too much switch-tasking (not multitasking because it’s a myth), which distracts you from small things. The best way to overcome bad habits is to create new ones, but good. And the best way to develop good habits is, precisely, through small things. So small you can’t ignore them. There’s an enormous reward feeling when you accomplish something, no matter how small.

Pay attention

If you want to remember and create good habits, you also need to pay attention. I suggested making 2019 the Year of Attention. If we develop the skill of paying attention, it’s easier to remember small things and take small actions which create good habits. If we survived as a species, mostly was the result of paying attention.

Value smallness

Finally, we often neglect the small things and stopped being faithful to them because we think they’re unimportant. But consider how a small virus may affect your entire body and make you collapse. Consider how small is a tipping point, expressed as a moment in time, which turns your life around into something completely different. If you value smallness, incremental change happens, and you consolidate your life.


We may forget, fail and disregard being faithful to the small things, but once we experience how much we learn by being faithful, we’ll discover a more meaningful life. And who doesn’t want that?

About Miguel Panao

I am a Professor at the University of Coimbra in Mechanical Engineering. I am also author of books in the fields of environmental ethics and Science and Religion. From the several research projects, this site is personal and dedicated to the search for the best approaches, tools, techniques to improve scientific productivity.

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