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Implementation intention: a simple trick to achieve your goals

2 min read

Need a simple trick to make you more likely to follow through with your plans? Try out implementation intention.

Implementation intention means to decide where and when you will do something. For example, "I will write for 30 minutes [ACTION] on 25 April 2021 [DATE] in the library [PLACE] at 9.00 am [TIME]

Studies have shown that this simple technique makes you more likely to follow through with your plans.

In one study, researchers observed a group of 3272 employees who were supposed to get flu shots. They found that the employees who wrote down the specific date and time they planned to get their flu shots were more likely to go for the shot.

Researchers in Great Britain did a study in 2001 to determine how to make people stick with exercising.

The subjects were divided into three groups. The first group was the control group, where they were asked to track how often they exercised. The second group was the 'motivation' group. They were asked to track their workouts and read up on the benefits of exercising to motivate them. The third group had to do the reading as well but were asked to complete this sentence "During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME] in [PLACE]."

The results showed that only 35 to 38 per cent of people in the first and second group exercised at least once per week. Being motivated did not impact their behaviour at all. The third group? Ninety-one per cent exercised at least once per week, double the average rate.

By writing down how they intended to exercise, they were more likely to do it. Clarity pushed them to action. Motivation didn't. The gap between thought to action is not bridged by motivation but clarity on how you want to do it.

We never get clear on how to do something. We tell ourselves that "I'm going to study more" or "I'm going to eat healthier", but we never ask what actions we will take, where we do it and when we will do it.

Hoping that we'll remember to do it is not a reliable way to get it done. With implementation intention, we get clear about achieving something, and we turn it into a concrete, achievable plan of action.

How can we easily do this? Before we go to sleep, think of what we want to achieve the next day. Then, think about what is the first step for each goal. Being clear on the first step makes you more likely to get started. Then, block the time you want to do it on your calendar, and state the location where you want to do it.

When we know how, when and where we will do something, we are more likely to do it.



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