Immediate Goals are Effective Goals

Derail procrastination by helping your employees believe the future is nigh. (Fire up the Delorian!) Research shows that short-term goals are more effective in creating healthier habits because they make the future feel closer and more important.

One study shows that when you decrease the increments of time, such as using days rather than months, you bring the future version of the individual closer to the current person. And because of this, that future self is most closely like the person you are today, and well, shoot, you’ll certainly want to take care of them when you get there. In the study, participants planned to start saving for any goal, such as retirement or kids’ college funds, four times sooner when they thought the event was days away, rather than months or years away. It was the same amount of time, just measured differently. The researchers concluded that the participants felt more connected to their future selves, so they were more willing to save. And get this: Even if the event was tens of thousands of days away, people felt more compelled to start saving than if it was a couple of years away.

They explained that reducing the mountain of a task (e.g., starting a workout regimen) to a mole hill (e.g., walk today) is an easy way to reach a goal that does not require willpower, character or even an ounce of caring. It is merely a time trick that seems to work and does not appear to be personality-specific.

The study explores saving money, but this strategy can certainly be applied to your employees and their wellness program participation, which requires daily action toward healthiness.

Procrastination May Harm Heart Health

Helping your employees feel closer to the future can improve their health because you move away from procrastination. Chronic procrastination can have adverse health effects, such as:

  • Making people more vulnerable to conditions like cardiovascular disease and hypertension
  • Causing excess stress, which can have an exhaustingly negative impact on the body
  • Postponing important preventive measures, such as an annual physical or health screening

Make the Future Imminent to Your Employees to Influence Health Outcomes

  • Frame any wellness program goal in days, rather than weeks or months.
  • Implement the technique of easily attainable short-term goals with mini-challenges, which highlight one daily health task at a time, such as “Do one more healthy activity today, like walking one (extra) block.”
  • Invite employees to set health goals for the next five days, rather than a week. What can your employees do within five days to get healthier?