Implementation Isn’t Implied

We’ve all done it. We’ve said we are going to do something…later.  Then it never gets done. We are going to go to the gym. We are going to call our mom. We are going to write that thank you card, article, novel, etc. But it doesn’t get done. Or it gets done only after oh, say, we wake up at 1:37 in the morning remembering it hasn’t been done. (Too oddly specific? There’s a reason for that.) Want a magic solution? Well, I don’t have one of those, but I do have a researched one that has proven effective.  It’s “implementation intentions.”

Implementation intentions are statements that set out the what, when, and where of your actions that you need to take.  Sometimes they look like this:

I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].

I will take Lola for a 2 mile walk at 7:00 am through the big park.

Other times, they look like this:

If or when [CONDITION OCCURS], then I will [BEHAVIOR].

When we can walk 2 miles in less than 35 minutes, then we will start walking 2.5 miles.

Often, it is a combination:

I will take Lola for a 2 mile walk at 7:00 am through the big park. If it is rainy and below 40 degrees, I will take Lola to the yard and then go to the treadmill for a 2 mile walk..

If you don’t trust Lola and me, know that by simply asking voters to the creation of voting plan along these lines increased voter turnout by 4.1 percent. It increased by 9.1 percent in single eligible voter homes. I know some politicians that would have liked that bump up in their votes.

The trick is to be specific. Detail exactly what you are going to do, when you are going to do it, and where or how it’s getting done. By doing so, it gathers its own momentum and soon it will be pulling you along. Imagine telling a five-year-old that you will take them for ice cream after school at their favorite place. You bet your buttons they are going to remember that and make sure it happens. Your brain is often similar to a five-year-old. Tell it something might happen sometime in the vague future, meh, we’ve got games to play. Ice cream at 4? It is there! Even more so if you write it down or put it on your calendar.

Your inner five year old won’t even let you think about skipping out – even on the hard stuff (It’s not all ice cream, I know). It becomes more automatic. You don’t have to think about where it will fit in, how you start, or when to get ready. In other words, it helps avoid the decision fatigue hurdle.

Still don’t believe me? Prove me wrong. Pick something – anything – and use the above formulas. See if it works. Lola and I will be waiting with the ice cream.