It’s important to have a plan if you want to achieve a certain goal. If you're dreaming of a trip to Europe, for example, then you’d better start planning your itinerary and budget right away. Without a plan, you’ll have a difficult time going from point A to point B. However, there are also a few exceptions to the rule. According to a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, the meticulous planning you usually do for one goal may prove to be detrimental when you have multiple goals in mind.
Researchers Amy Dalton (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology) and Stephen Spiller (University of California, Los Angeles) conducted an experiment to find out whether planning for several goals would be more effective than doing so for a single one. They gave participants a to-do list and encouraged volunteers to plan for each task as specifically as possible. Some were only given one task, while others were assigned a few more.
The results showed that while planning for one goal is a good idea, planning for several is an entirely different matter. It’s a situation many people are familiar with. According to both Dalton and Spiller, most people "are juggling multiple goals in [their] lives and jobs and managing a busy schedule is difficult."
Is there an explanation for why planning for multiple goals isn’t effective? According to the researchers, planning for several goals at once may make them seem more challenging than usual. The act of planning itself may have reminded the participants about all the obstacles awaiting them along the way.
Despite the results, researchers say that planning for more than one goal won’t have such a negative effect once people see others dealing with more goals than themselves. Once they see that they’re not alone in the fight or that their goals are slightly easier to achieve, they are more likely to achieve success.
(Photo by Jerry Bunkers via Flickr Creative Commons)