Psychologist Heidi Grant recommends using if/then planning to improve performance and increase your chances of reaching your goals by 300%.
If/then plans work, she says, because they “are built into our neurological wiring.” This kind of thinking helps “people decide exactly when, where, and how they will fulfill their goals,” providing powerful triggers for taking action.
She recommends using these three styles of if/then thinking:
“If I start to engage in an unproductive behavior (procrastinating, worrying, stressing out, etc.), then I will do _______________.” Choose an activity that will interrupt it (relaxing, focusing on your values, seeking advice from a colleague, etc.)
“If I feel the urge to ________, then I’ll ignore it.”
This form of thought suppression has been proven to be very effective.
“If I slip into a bad habit (over-working, over-eating, etc.), then I’ll choose to interrupt it.” By consciously making this type of commitment, you are more likely to remain on track.
From Fantasy to Action: Mental Contrasting with Implementation Intentions (MCII) Improves Academic Performance in Children. Duckworth AL, Kirby T, Gollwitzer A, Oettingen G. Soc Psychol Personal Sci. 2013 Nov 1;4(6):745-753.
Promoting the translation of intentions into action by implementation intentions: behavioral effects and physiological correlates. Wieber F, Thürmer JL, Gollwitzer PM. Front Hum Neurosci. 2015 Jul 14;9:395.
The neural correlates of emotion regulation by implementation intentions. Hallam GP, Webb TL, Sheeran P, Miles E, Wilkinson ID, Hunter MD, Barker AT, Woodruff PW, Totterdell P, Lindquist KA, Farrow TF. PLoS One. 2015 Mar 23;10(3):e0119500.