Why Writing Down Your Goals is the Key to Accomplishing Them
We get it. Writing goals down seems like a lot of effort; why write when you can think, internalize… and then execute?
Sure, writing goals can be a lot more time consuming, not to mention requiring a level of savviness with the pen.
But what if we told you that doing so can help you get on the right track, that is, fuelling you to earn a higher income and really, to a more successful life?
We figured you’d want some evidence.
Why Writing Goals Leads to Better Results
The first clear sign showing the connection between writing goals and success was via a goal setting study done with Harvard MBA students in 1979. The study conducted surveys over a 10-year period on whether each student had goals, whether their goals were written down, and whether they made specific plans to achieve them.
And what researchers found was a little extraordinary – but first, here’s a little context:
Harvard MBA Study on Goal Setting:
- Only 3% of Harvard MBAs wrote down goals and subsequently made specific plans to achieve them
- 13% had goals, but didn’t write nor make specific plans
- 84% had no goals
Clearly in the 80’s Harvard MBAs didn’t write goals, however, that’s not the astonishing part.
When researchers followed up on students 10 years later, they found that the 3% who had goals and wrote them down were earning up to 10 times more than the other 97% of students. COMBINED.
That’s not a typing mistake.
If earnings alone don’t motivate you, consider two more studies – one performed by a Dominican University and the other from a consulting company – that found writing down your goals makes you 42% and 1.2 times more likely to achieve them.
Oh, now you’re listening…;)
Why Do Writing Down Goals Work? The Science
So, why does writing down your goals equate to more success?
Taking a deeper dive into the 3 studies mentioned provides a better glimpse into a number of cognitive principles at work.
Here’s a breakdown of each:
External Storage: The act of writing goals down consistently creates an external storage place, where you can more readily recall what’s written. An external storage is memory that uses cues from the environment to aid the remembrance of ideas – think of post-it notes or to-do lists on the refrigerator – that makes information both easy to access and review at a moment’s notice.
Encoding: When you write down your goals and view it, this travels to the hippocampus where it’s reviewed, and from there, it either gets stored in long-term memory or is forgotten – this is referred to as Encoding. The chance of something being stored in your long-term memory is greatly improved when you write it down, therefore you’re more likely to remember and recall it later.
Generation Effect: One study shows that people are more likely to remember something they generated themselves, rather than something they just read or passively absorbed. This is referred to as the Generation Effect (or the Self-Generation Effect), which is the act of generating info for the purpose of better recall. Think of writing as a better means to internalize information.
Gender Differences in Goal Setting: One of the 3 studies above also discovered that women should pay extra attention to visualizing their goals, instilling them with a greater sense of urgency. Men, by contrast, ought to increase their emotional connections to their goals, and make those goals more difficult. Could this be generalized to even a greater scale?….
6 Tips for How To Record Your Goals Effectively
Given that writing goals down might be that much needed tool to give you an extra push in accomplishing them, here are some important steps you can take in being a better goal-setter.
1. Remove distractions and find a quiet place to write: It can be hard to concentrate on a journal when your laptop is open and your phone is buzzing in the background. Remove distracting devices from your immediate environment, and find a quiet place to sit and write. Put aside 15 minutes a day to commit your full attention to the task. It will become easier to zone out of your surroundings and dive into the writing the more you do it.
2. Write down your goals in detail and regularly: Make sure that you actually write down your goals in an effective manner, meaning they’re clear, well-planned and vivid as they can be. Think, visualize and decide about what you want. Remember to be imaginative when you think of the medium to long-term future. Do this on a regular basis. If you need an extra push, the “one thing” is an enormously influential book.
3. Break down goals into manageable chunks: If your goals are split into smaller, easier-to-achieve pieces, they’ll be less daunting and more realistic. This way you’ll also be fuelled with motivation and inspiration every time you tackle a portion. One effective way of doing this is creating a 30-60-90 day plan.
4. Set timelines for each milestone: Set a timeline for each chunk or milestone that leads to your overall goal. Is it 1 month from now? 6 months from now? A set date makes things seem official. It will kick start the process of what you need to do to reach your larger goal, and will get you thinking about how this draws you closer to what you want to achieve at the end of the tunnel.
5. Manage and track your progress: Devise a way to make your goals manageable and to track your progress. For example, if your goal is to run a triathlon, track how far you run or cycle each week, and keep a record of your progress over time. This will help you identify gaps and weaknesses, allowing to make much needed improvements.
6. Create accountability: Lastly, goals are much easier to attain if you have others holding you accountable – and one way of doing so is by having an accountability partner. With an accountability partner, you can both have regular scheduled informal meetings to review, discuss pain points and create consequences to ensure the both of you are on the right track in making your goals more of a reality.
By taking this approach to goal-setting, you’ll feel more confident, you’ll be more systematic and realistic in tackling your ‘never-ending’ list of goals. As a result, you might also radically increase your earnings as well, which is no small feat!