How If-Then Planning Helps You Reach Your Goals

Do you ever struggle with sticking to good habits? Have you ever made significant progress toward a goal, but then lost momentum when “life” got in the way?

Don’t worry; you’re not alone.

For many of us, working toward goals feels manageable starting out.Β  Whether we’ve set an intention to hit the gym three times a week, journal nightly, or cut sugar from our diet, these early stages of habit formation seem attainable…possibly even exciting.

Why? Because motivation and excitement give us that extra nudge of enthusiasm and dedication to follow through.

Once the novelty of a new routine wears off, however, and going to that 5:15 a.m. gym class now feels like a chore, we start finding excuses.


For example:

“I’m on vacation, and I can’t get to my 5:15 class. Oh well, I’ll exercise again when I get back home.”

“Yikes! It’s already 11:30. I’ll skip journaling for tonight and start again tomorrow.”

“It’s the holidays! It’s okay if I indulge in these cookies…just for today.”

Sound familiar?

Yeah, those excuses are rather alluring once the excitement of new habits wears off.

So what can we do? How can we stick to our good habits when life inevitably gets in the way?

I have three words for you: if-then planning.

Yep, if-then planning is your new wild card.

So if you find yourself battling excuses, or you struggle with sticking to good habits, read on to learn how if-then planning helps you reach your goals and stick to your habits for good.

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How If-Then Planning Helps You Reach Your Goals

What is if-then planning?

Good news, if-then planning is an incredibly easy strategy that you can implement into your life immediately.

Essentially, if-then planning is a tool that minimizes decision making and helps you work through any obstacles that come between you and your objectives.

The equation for if-then planning looks like this: If X happens, then I’ll do Y.

I’ll stick with the gym example to show you how it works.

Intention: Exercise more often.

Specific Goal: Go to the gym three times per week.

If-then strategy: IF it is Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday, THEN I will go to the morning gym class.

Alternative plan #1: IF I feel too tired, THEN I will put on my gym clothes and take it easy in the class.

Alternative plan #2: IF I have a meeting Tuesday morning and can’t make it to the gym, THEN I will go to the 5:30 class after work.

By creating a backup plan, you eliminate unnecessary decision making, which helps you plow through those common obstacles with ease.

In short, you maintain your good habits and keep working toward your goals.

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Benefits of If-Then Planning

One of the most significant advantages of if-then planning is its ability to remove unnecessary decision making. It eliminates decision fatigue, which saves you time and helps you maintain your habits.

You see, when you battle with yourself over completing an undesirable task, having an if-then strategy in place helps silence that inner monologue. There’s no need to deliberate because you already know what you need to do. In turn, you have an easier time sticking with your goals.

In fact, as Heidi Grant explains, “We’ve learned from more than 200 studies that if-then planners are about 300% more likely than others to reach their goals.”

300%!!! I don’t know about you, but I’ll take those odds any day.πŸ™ŒπŸΌπŸ™ŒπŸΌπŸ™ŒπŸΌ

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Other Uses for If-Then Planning

The beauty of if-then planning is that you can use it just about anywhere. Here are a few examples:

1. If it is 4:00, then I check my emails.

2. If it is Saturday at 10:00 a.m., then my kids and I clean the house.

  • Alternative: If the kids have practice, then we clean the house on Saturday at 4:00 p.m.

3. If if it Friday at 12:00, then my employees send me their weekly reports.

4. If it is Saturday at 5:00 p.m., then my husband and I have date night.

  • Alternative: If Saturday night doesn’t work, then we have date night on Wednesday at 5:00 p.m.

5. If it is 3:30 p.m., then I walk the dog.

  • Alternative: If I have meetings in the afternoon, then I will walk him in the morning.

See how easy it is? If-then planning helps you reach your goals and stick to good habits just about anywhere.

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How To Use If-Then Planning

As I mentioned above, using if-then planning is very simple. Just follow these five easy steps, and you’ll be sticking with your good habits in no time.

1. Think about your intention: what do you want to achieve? (i.e., Get in shape)

2. How will you reach that goal? (i.e., Go to the gym three times per week)

3. What obstacles often get in your way? (i.e., I feel tired; outside obligations; vacations, etc.)

4. What is your if-then plan? (If X, then Y.)

5. What is/are your alternative plan(s)?

And that’s it! Those are the five simple steps to if-then planning. Put them into practice, and you’ll be reaching your goals in no time.

Are you ready to give this strategy a try? Great! Then download my free worksheet, which walks you through these five steps and get started today!

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Question:

What are your top tips for maintaining good habits? What are your challenges when working toward goals? Have you ever tried if-then planning? Do you think this strategy would work for you? Let me know below!

22 thoughts on “How If-Then Planning Helps You Reach Your Goals”

  1. This sounds like such a great planning method. I am definitely going to start doing this.

  2. I absolutely love this! I definitely need to try it. Planning for every situation really does make it almost impossible to not stick to goals.

  3. So good! This seems like common sense, but it’s really not! I need if then planning for every stage of my life, lol. If my baby wakes up 5 times…then…if my baby wakes up 3 times…then I might only need xyz πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks! I agree, it seems like we should naturally have these if-then plans in place, but then we get caught up in the chaos of decision making, and “common sense” goes out the window. Lol. I’ve found it to be super helpful for the everyday decisions that otherwise bog me down.

  4. Annemarie LeBlanc

    I love these pieces of advice. I feel that we must be creative in preparing for any eventuality that may affect reaching our goals or completing daily tasks. I will try your if-then method and I am positive this is the best way to get things done.

  5. Kristine Nicole Alessandra

    Sounds like really good advice to me. It is always good to have a Plan B so we can still achieve our goals when things don’t go as planned.

  6. I’m doing much better with keeping up my schedule with working out. However, I’m failing on my goals to eat right. I’m eating sushi for lunch right at this moment πŸ™

    1. Congrats on sticking with your fitness goals, Jenn. That’s a HUGE accomplishment!! Maybe you could try the “if/then” plan with preparing lunches. If I’m making dinner, then I’ll prepare enough to have healthy lunch-sized leftovers for tomorrow. Or “If I eat a healthy lunch, then I get to treat myself to

  7. sounds like a genius way to hold yourself accountable & get things taken care of instead of just giving in & throwing in the towel at any opportunity or roadblock – I’m going to start practicing this strategy!

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