Have you ever put something on your to-do list, only to find that it’s still on the list days or even weeks later? To be honest that kind of delayed action can be a problem for us, so we got interested when we came across this suggestion from Heidi Grant Halvorson at the HBR Blog:
What you need is if-then planning (or what psychologists call “implementation intentions”).
This particular form of planning is a really powerful way to help you achieve any goal. Nearly 200 studies, on everything from diet and exercise to negotiation and time management, have shown that deciding in advance when and where you will complete a task (e.g., “If it is 4pm, then I will return any phone calls I should return today”) can double or triple your chances of actually doing it.
So take the tasks on your to-do list, and add a specific when and where to each. For example, “Remember to call Bob” becomes “If it is Tuesday after lunch, then I’ll call Bob.” Now that you’ve created an if-then plan for calling Bob, your unconscious brain will start scanning the environment, searching for the situation in the “if” part of your plan. This enables you to seize the critical moment and make the call, even when you are busy doing other things.
We’ve talked before about to-do lists, and we’re always interested in optimizing these basic tools. Any tips that you’ve found to be especially effective? IF you have a useful suggestion THEN leave it in the comments.