How to Trick Your Brain into Better Planning

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You make plans all the time with the best of intentions, whether they're hangouts with a friend or New Year's resolutions. Above a certain level of commitment, though, they may tend to fall apart for you. A simple workaround might help you follow through and keep leveling up in life.


While all kinds of very good reasons could be holding back your planning powers (stress, disinterest, lack of structure, simple forgetfulness), something you may have overlooked is the language you use to make those plans. Which task seems easier to accomplish: "Read more interesting books this year" or "Read my library book before my loan expires in 10 days"? In all likelihood, you're drawn to the specificity of the latter — it has clear expectations and a near-term or foreseeable deadline.

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Training yourself to be more specific can help you in just about every part of your life, day to day and for the big picture. Despite the uncertainty brought on by COVID and everything else, for instance, we're still embracing financial resolutions in 2021. If the thought of getting really exact about your biggest dreams feels overwhelming, start really small. Give yourself lots of chances to succeed. If you need some guidelines to help your ambitions grow, look around to see how others have done what you want.


Finally, if you're worried about dropping any of those balls you're now juggling, be patient with yourself. Research suggests that it takes about 66 days for a habit to form and really stick. That's the kind of specificity you can work with.