If/Then Planning in OF

Hi all,

I recently read an article in HBR and one suggestion I really would like to try out is the if/then planning. Here’s the relevant excerpt:

Reason #3 You are putting something off because it’s hard, boring, or otherwise unpleasant.

Solution: Use if-then planning.

Too often, we try to solve this particular problem with sheer will: Next time, I will make myself start working on this sooner. Of course, if we actually had the willpower to do that, we would never put it off in the first place. Studies show that people routinely overestimate their capacity for self-control, and rely on it too often to keep them out of hot water.

Do yourself a favor, and embrace the fact that your willpower is limited, and that it may not always be up to the challenge of getting you to do things you find difficult, tedious, or otherwise awful. Instead, use if-then planning to get the job done.

Making an if-then plan is more than just deciding what specific steps you need to take to complete a project – it’s also deciding where and when you will take them.

If it is 2pm, then I will stop what I’m doing and start work on the report Bob asked for.

If my boss doesn’t mention my request for a raise at our meeting, then I will bring it up again before the meeting ends.

By deciding in advance exactly what you’re going to do, and when and where you’re going to do it, there’s no deliberating when the time comes. No do I really have to do this now?, or can this wait till later? or maybe I should do something else instead. It’s when we deliberate that willpower becomes necessary to make the tough choice. But if-then plans dramatically reduce the demands placed on your willpower, by ensuring that you’ve made the right decision way ahead of the critical moment. In fact, if-then planning has been shown in over 200 studies to increase rates of goal attainment and productivity by 200%-300% on average.

How might you use OF to implement this suggestion? I was thinking of playing with perspectives. Perhaps I could create a general one If/Then Perspective or one or two more specific ones, but I am a bit at a loss. I would love to hear your thoughts.

HI @Anna_123, i’ll take crack:

First you need a way to track the IF part, i.e. the trigger that will prompt you to take a certain course of action. I did remember reading that HBR article too. I think the triggers can be:

  • An item on your @Waiting list. In this case I’d put the link to the next action I want to do in the notes field of the thing I’m waiting on. For example, in your example, I’d have an action on @Waiting called “Boss: respond to raise request”. When the due date comes up, I’ll take an action in the notes field “Remind boss about request for raise”. This can either be through a task you pre-created, or simple some text in the note field that you then use to create a next action.
  • Time e.g at 2pm, stop what you are doing and work on the report. Seems to me this is quite straight forward, just schedule “Work on report for Bob” for 2pm.

Then again, I find that with proper planning and regular GTD weekly reviews, you can avoid having to make a decision (thus expending willpower)

I hope this helps.

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Perhaps this blog post from Kourosh Dini can help?


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This is an advanced feature that I’ve wanted for a while: If/Then conditionals in tasks maybe like this (excuse the OF1, Im on 10.8 at work)

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Thank you, parexcellance, wilsonng, and BrianC. You all provide very useful explanation. Brian, I do use OF 1 on my laptop, so the example is great.