If-Then Planning is a brilliant system that came out of research on motivation to help accomplish your goals and form healthy habits. Making progress at work and in life is all about accomplishing goals, but this only works if we are actually able to accomplish them. Research tells us that our brains ignore goals if it is unclear what we actually have to do. I.e. you will only accomplish a goal if the steps to complete it are clear.
Goals such as "be less distracted" and "complete a specific big project" sound big and would feel great to accomplish, but they really beg the question of "how?" If-Then Planning, therefore, works to break down these big goals into the "hows" and the "whats", enabling you to take focused action.
This is because it reduces procrastination, as people have already worked out the actions. This helps them create the triggers to do those actions. E.g. If I’m going to bed, then I brush my teeth. If I’ve got a meeting, then I must arrive 10 minutes early, etc...
In fact, over 100 studies on If-Then Planning have recognised that when the system is used effectively, it can increase your chances of reaching your goals by up to 300%!
How does If-Then Planning work?
It is all about how you design your goals. Rather than picking a goal, and just going for it, you build a highly specific process of condition and behaviour that result in an outcome that reaches towards your ultimate goal.
That process is this: If/When [situation happens], then I will do [behaviour].
These can be used in almost any situation, for example getting more exercise (IF it is 5pm on a Wednesday, THEN I will walk straight to the gym). If you are really struggling, then (IF I'm feeling tired, THEN I will put my gym clothes on anyway, and take it very slow to begin with).
It can also be applied during the work day. For example (IF I have 20 minutes before a meeting, THEN I will take that time to think about the meeting goals and what needs to be discussed).
Go ahead and give it a try! Remember, for best results your If-Thens should be specific mini-goals that lead towards your bigger goals.
When coaching action-orientated people add value by asking, “… and when you’ve done that, what happens next? “ It makes them think about the consequences of their actions, and plan ahead.