In Germany, a social psychologist grabbed students on their way out of the door to Christmas vacation and asked them to be a part of a study. (The lesson here is to keep your distance from social psychologists!) He asked them to write an essay over the holidays. For one group, that was the only direction. For the other, they were given one more rule: to write down exactly where and when they would write this essay.
At the end of the holiday, 32% of the first group had written the essay. 71% of the “where and when” group did. You don’t have to be a statistician to know that is a significant difference.
A British study found that “if-then” plans were also quite successful in helping people lose weight. It made folks think through possible problems in advance:
“If there are cream donuts at the party, I will stand on the other side of the room.”
“If it’s rainy on my exercise day, I’ll work out to a Rumba DVD.”
For students, it can be something like this:
“If I don’t make a C on my first test, I will go to my instructor’s office hours” OR “If I find that I don’t get my reading assignments done at home this week, I will start doing them in the library.”
Faculty might want to have students make such plans at the beginning of the semester and have them post them somewhere so that they’ll be constant reminders.
Make an “if-then” plan. Research shows it works. It’s fairly easy to implement. What do you have to lose?