Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Effective planning

Rolf Dobelli writes, in his book "The Art of Thinking Clearly", about Roy Baumeister and his team of researchers who explored why the Zeigarnik effect - ie, that having a plan meant you could keep a clear head - worked. 

The research team organised students, all a few months from their final exams, into three groups.
"Group 1 had to focus on a party during the current semester. Group 2 had to concentrate on the exam. Group 3 had to focus on the exam and also create a detailed study plan."
"Then Baumeister asked students to complete words under time pressure. Some students saw ‘pa—’ and filled in ‘panic’, while others thought of ‘party’ or ‘Paris’."
"This was a clever method of finding out what was on each of their minds. As expected, group 1 had relaxed about the upcoming exam, while students in group 2 could think of nothing else. Most astonishing was the result from group 3."
"Although these students also had to focus on the upcoming exam, their minds were clear and free from anxiety. Further experiments confirmed this. Outstanding tasks gnaw at us only until we have a clear idea of how we will deal with them."
So, having a good, step by step, detailed plan written down - a plan that has had plenty of skull-sweat put into it to be realistic, include everything that you need to do, and allows plenty of time - will help us to get the job done and get rid of that nagging feeling of impending doom. 

It doesn't matter if we haven't done all the jobs yet: having a good plan allows us to juggle all our tasks and being realistic means we know how long each thing will take. A plan gives us the reassurance that we have everything under control. 

No doom.

  • Reference: Dobelli, Rolf (2013). The Art of Thinking Clearly: Better thinking, better decisions. UK: Hodder & Stoughton.

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