You are a master strategists. New Years resolutions, monthly goals, vision boards, five-year plans, and to-do lists keep you on track and pushing toward the next level. But is there a such thing as too much planning? Is it possible that all of the planning actually holding you back? A new study says that too much planning may make your goals seem unattainable and set you back.

“Research has shown that forming specific plans for a single goal makes success more likely,” write authors Amy Dalton (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology) and Stephen Spiller (UCLA). “Most of us, however, are juggling multiple goals in our lives and jobs and managing a busy schedule is difficult. This raises the question of whether forming specific plans can help us accomplish more of the tasks we set out to do.”

The authors looked at what happens when consumers make specific plans to pursue goals. For example, someone with the goal of eating a healthy meal might plan to “eat a salad with low-fat dressing at lunch tomorrow in the cafeteria.” The research involved laboratory and field experiments that manipulated whether or not people plan in advance how they will implement their goals and the number of goals participants formed.

Why is specific planning less effective when applied to a number of goals? The authors believe that planning reminds people of all the obstacles and constraints that stand in the way of achieving goals.

But planning isn’t always detrimental to achieving multiple goals. In an interesting twist, the authors found that people came to see their goals as more manageable if they thought other people were juggling more goals than they were. “These people framed their goals as relatively easy to carry out and were more likely to benefit from planning,” the authors write.

When should you just let things flow? How much planning is too much?

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  • thinkpink

    Interesting and insightful article. I am huge planner but executing…well thats where things get tricky. I like the idea of making goals very specific and focused on the present. I suspect thats how real change occurs.