Your daily teeth brushing routine is a great opportunity to plan a new goal. Today, try doing calf raises, squats, or lunges for exercise while brushing your teeth. Use the time to meditate by focusing on the taste of toothpaste and the sound of water. Or schedule a push-up, yoga session, or yoga session once you’re done.
Why am I doing this?
Choosing a time and place for a new goal makes it much more likely that you do. Keep it simple by matching your new goal with a consistent habit you already have. Brushing your teeth, enjoying your morning coffee, coming home from work, sitting down for dinner, and getting ready for bed are all daily rituals that provide great opportunities for programming a new habit.
When you choose a specific time and opportunity to start a new goal, this is called an “implementation intent”. A study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology showed that people were twice as likely to achieve a goal if they made a plan for a time and place to start doing it. For this study, rethe researchers recruited 248 people who wanted to start exercising and divided them into three groups. The first group was invited to follow their exercise. The second group focused on motivating them to start exercising by discovering the health benefits of physical fitness. The last group had the same motivational talk, but they were also asked to make a specific plan for when and where they would exercise for 20 minutes.
Just over a third of the people in the first two groups did the exercise. But in the group that made a plan for when and where to train, 91% followed suit.
In other research, 90 students in Germany were invited to test a new bus line. In the control group, 31 percent kept their promise. But in a group who were asked to set an implementation intention – indicating the specific time they would take the bus and the stop they would use – 53% followed.
Another study found that having a plan was just as effective as a monetary reward in convincing people to pursue their goals. In this study, 300 students in Germany were asked to buy organic food. Half of the students received a 2.5 euro voucher, but a group was asked when and where they planned to buy the food. In the group that made a specific plan, 50 percent followed, compared with only 34 percent of those who did not. The researchers increased the voucher amount to see if money was a stronger motivation than developing a specific plan. They found that giving more money was no more powerful than setting an intention. Fifty percent of people who had more money bought the food – the same percentage as those with less money who have made a specific plan to shop. When people were given both options – more money and the order to name the time and place they would shop – follow-up was highest: 61% did as promised and bought the organic food .
Katy Milkman, professor at Wharton School and author of the new book “How to change: the science that gets you from where you are to where you want to beSaid that it is important to create specific clues that can remind you of your goals. Making a plan, picking a time to do it, and putting it on your calendar are all clues that can help you follow through on an intention and achieve a goal.
“Vague intentions are easy to push back,” Dr. Milkman said. “If you make a vague plan to exercise more and feel lazy, you may be like, ‘I’m still planning to exercise, and I’ll do it later.’ But clue-based plans are more difficult to postpone.
You can increase the likelihood that you’ll stick to the plan if you tell someone else about it, thereby creating accountability, Dr Milkman said. And you are more likely to succeed if you set yourself a single goal rather than several.
Another form of intention definition is setting a goal and then associating it with another activity that you really enjoy. Dr Milkman calls this the “bundling of temptations”. It works because you give yourself an immediate reward for completing a task like exercising or doing your homework.
In a study, children allowed to listen to music and snacks while studying math spent more time completing worksheets than a control group. An example of a bundled temptation might be to watch a favorite show, like “Bridgerton”, while you are walking on a treadmill. Students who don’t feel like studying might reward themselves with a treat like frozen yogurt or iced coffee on their way to the library.
“People have the wrong mental model for reaching a new difficult goal,” said Dr. Milkman. “They think they have to go through something they don’t like, but people do better if they pursue a new goal in the funniest way possible.”