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Is Planning Ahead Good for You?

Planning ahead is not always good for self control.

Although planning tends to aid subsequent self-control for those who are in good standing with respect to their long-term goal, those who perceive themselves to be in poor goal standing are found to exert less self-control after planning than in the absence of planning. This occurs because considering a concrete plan for goal implementation creates emotional distress for those in poor goal standing, thereby undermining their motivation for self-regulation.

How can you make planning more effective?

…although not tested in this research, other factors that may help make planning work advantageously for the individual include expert guidance and more rigorous reinforcement and monitoring systems to accompany planning. For example, under expert guidance, one may tailor one’s plan to one’s own habits and abilities, thereby making the plan easier to follow. Further, “lock in” mechanisms, such as stocking one’s fridge only with planned items or bringing one’s own snacks, as well as substantive punishments for deviating from the plan, may also help secure the benefits of planning. The effects of all these mechanisms and their interactions are rich grounds for future research.

Still curious? Read the full paper: Is Planning Good for You? The Differential Impact of Planning on Self-Regulation