Planning for success: The advantage of writing down goals

June 07, 2011
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Writing down your goals is extremely important and it has a significant impact on whether you will achieve a goal or not. If you are willing to do some extra work in planning your goals, you can also considerably increase the probability of achieving a goal.

The Dominican University of California conducted a study on this subject. This article gives attention to part of that study; the full study can be found here.

The study subjects were divided into five groups.

  • Group 1 thought about their own goals but did not write them down.

  • Group 2 recorded their goals in writing.

  • Group 3 recorded their goals in writing and also defined the first steps in order to achieve these goals.

  • Group 4 recorded their goals in writing, wrote down the first steps in order to achieve these goals and also informed a friend about them.

  • Group 5 wrote down their goals, defined the first steps, and agreed to give weekly updates to a friend about their progress.

The results of the study were that the subjects in Group 5 had achieved considerably more goals than all other groups (the success rate was almost twice as high as in Group 1). Each group had achieved a better result than the respective preceding group, the only exception being Group 3 (the first group which defined concrete steps to reach their goals), which was worse than Group 2 (more on that later).


The comparison between Groups 1 and 2 shows that simply writing down the goals has a significant increase in the likelihood of success. For this reason, everyone should take the time to think through his or her goals carefully and to write them down.

The problem with Group 3: Why was there a decrease of achievements in Group 3? My interpretation of the poor performance of Group 3 is that the subjects had lost the perspective of the actual goals after the definition of the first steps and, therefore, achieved less than the previous group. But taking also Group 4 into consideration, it is however possible that this negative effect can be reversed by letting a friend know about the goal. Also it must not be overlooked that the results of Group 3 were still an improvement over those of Group 1. Therefore it is not advisable to skip planning the next steps towards achieving a goal, despite these somewhat poorer results.

The social obligation: Especially when comparing Groups 4 and 5 with the other groups, the effect of linking a personal goal to a social obligation is shown very nicely. A social link can be set, for example, by a bet, or, as shown in the study, by telling a supportive friend about the goal. The result is the same: an increased probability of success in achieving the objective. The secret behind this is that through such a social link there is a risk that other people might find out about your failures. To avoid this, you will automatically put more energy towards reaching the goal and, thus, increase the likelihood of succeeding. You can increase this effect even further by increasing the number of people you inform about the goal.

This study shows that there is definitely a big difference between simply thinking about a personal goal, and putting it on paper, and if necessary taking additional measures to increase the likelihood of success.

Another advantage of the written collection of goals must not be forgotten. By writing down a goal you are committed to it and take it on as such. Goals are this way perceived to be more concrete. Writing down a goal often has the consequence of that goal being immediately approached.

In order to support you in planning your individual goals, TasksOnSteroids offers the possibility of applying the aforementioned methods to achieve your objectives. With TasksOnSteroids you can plan your short-, medium-and long-term goals in writing, and to achieve an increase in the likelihood of success, you also have the option of introducing social obligation by publishing your goals at you own discretion.

The TasksOnSteroids team wishes you a great success in planning and achieving your goals.


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