Planning Is Less Effective When You're Juggling Multiple Goals: Study

Can Planning Backfire?

When you've got a goal in mind, research shows that it works to have a specific plan in place to achieve it. But that may not be the case when you're trying to achieve several goals at once, a new study suggests.

The research, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, incorporated the results of several experiments carried out by the researchers. For one of the experiments, the researchers had study participants come up with specific plans to accomplish either one goal or six goals over a five-day period.

The researchers found that for people with just one goal, having a plan in place helped them to accomplish it. But that planning didn't help the people who had to accomplish six goals.

This may be because people become overwhelmed when they think of all that has to go in to accomplishing several goals, as well as the applicable obstacles.

"The present findings suggest that when people form specific plans for multiple goals, the difficulty of goal execution becomes more salient, commitment falters, and people fail to follow through on their good intentions," the researchers wrote in the study.

However, they did find that people were more likely to think it was doable to accomplish multiple goals if they kept in mind that other people have even more goals to accomplish.

Recently, a study in the Journal of Communication showed that even though doing multiple things at once leads to lower quality of work and added stress, we do it because it makes us feel better emotionally.

In that study, researchers found that people were more likely to multitask if they needed to work, study or complete a habitual task. But the researchers found that multitasking wasn't actually effective in terms of fulfilling those needs.

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