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Planfulness is essential to achieving your goals

Want to achieve your goals and turn aspirations into reality?  According to new...

Planfulness is essential to achieving your goals

Want to achieve your goals and turn aspirations into reality?  According to new research planfulness is the way to do it


As the evenings get colder and darker the temptation to put off going to the gym and, instead, spending the evening on the settee in front of the TV gets increases.  At least for most people.  Some energetic types, on the other hand, do manage to exercise, despite the allure of a box set and a takeaway, in the same way that they’ll probably also get round to doing more of the things that they need to do at work and to meeting more of their goals.


So how do they do it?  Why is it that some of us achieve what we need to achieve at work as well as where our fitness is concerned while other don’t?  The answer, according to new research lies within the idea of “planfulness.”


"Much of what professional firms do in the name of strategic planning is a complete waste of time, no more effective than individuals making New Year’s resolutions,” writes David Maister, a former professor at Harvard Business School, who is also widely acknowledged as one of the world’s leading authorities on the management of professional service firms, in his paper Strategy & the fat Smoker “We know what to do, we know why we should do it and we know how to do it. Yet we don’t change, most of us, as individuals or as businesses.”


Turning high-order goals into reality


“So often we work with teams of leaders who seek to turn their vision or high-order goals into reality,” says Nikki Brooks, client operations manager  at Threshold.  “What they find is that setting motivating, inspiring goals is the easy bit.  Far harder, though, is actually turning those goals into a reality.”


According to research conducted by Rita Ludwig and her colleagues from the University of Oregon’s department of psychology.  Highly “planful” people are adept at translating the often-abstract concept of a goal into decisions that will deliver tangible benefits.  They’re better at long term planning and more affective when it comes to developing a workable strategy that will deliver their goals.


So far research in this area has mainly relied on people reporting their own achievements instead of measuring them objectively.  However, Ms Ludwig’s research focussed on one particular behaviour – that challenge of actually getting to the gym.  To do this she and her colleagues recruited nearly 300 users of the University of Oregon gym.


The Planfulness Scale


These people were then asked to complete with a questionnaire that assessed various personality traits.  To assess their rating on the Planfulness Scale they were asked to agree or disagree with statements such as: “Developing a clear plan when I have a goal is important to me.”  They went on to detail any projects in which they developed this well-defined plan.  The research team then tracked how often they swiped into the gym over 10 weeks, the course of the experiment.


The researchers discovered that those who had scored more highly on the planfulness scale visited the gym more often.  A one-point increase (out of a total of five points) was associated with eight and half more gym visits during the period of the research.  This correlated with the number of gym visits made by these people over the previous term, before the experiment had started.  When they tested for other factors that might be associated with conscientious gym visiting such as self-control and grit, the researchers discovered that it was planfulness that was the deciding factor here.


More goal-directed behaviours


There’s still more research to do in this area, according to the University of Oregon team.  However, they do say: “the accrued evidence to date suggests that measuring planfulness may be uniquely useful for researchers investigating a variety of goal-directed behaviours, including the pursuit of health and lifestyle goals.”


Nikki  says: “We’ll be watching closely for further research in this area.  However, already it’s clear that organisations that instil a culture of planfulness alongside other factors such as ‘playfulness’ that are aimed at encouraging creativity, are more likely to see that creativity and their other aspirations turned into solid reality.”


Part of the HOW TO WORK WITH HUMANS series, by Threshold.



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