According to Mark Murphy, founder of Leadership IQ, ‘vivid description’ of one’s goals can actually result in a statistically greater chance that actionable steps are taken towards accomplishing them. In a study he conducted, participants who wrote down their goals were actually up to 1.4 times more successful than counter-parts who didn’t verbalise them. This is a pretty significant difference for something that takes little to no effort, and doesn’t require any other investment.
As Murphy himself states, ‘Writing things down doesn’t just help you remember, it makes your mind more efficient by helping you focus on the truly important stuff’. The simple act of putting thought to paper gets the gears in your brain in action.
When you’re writing down a goal, your mind is going through two separate processes. The first of these is external storage, which, as the name suggests, is as simple as making sure you’re remembering things correctly. We write for storage all the time in other areas of our life – grocery lists, for instance, so it only makes sense we should be applying the same principal to our large ambitions.
The second process in play here is known as encoding. Encoding involves the biological process of thoughts that are perceived shifting to ones being analysed. Multiple studies have also demonstrated the importance of self-creation when it comes to memorisation. What does this all mean? We’re far more likely to memorise and internalise something when we’ve a) come up with the idea ourselves, and b) are looking at this information on a regular basis.
If you’ve ever felt stressed, anxious, or dangerously close to burning out at work, writing out your goals can actually work to circumvent all that negative emotion and transform it into motivation.
In a study published by the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin in 2015, researchers found using ‘self-affirmations’, that is, vocalising/writing down what is important or valuable to a person actually boosted performance for employees when places in high-stakes situations.
Writing down your goals can therefore be a way to ensure you’re keeping your eyes on the prize, making it far easier to get through busy season at work and power through tough meetings with challenging colleagues.
The next time you’re having a day dream about scoring that promotion, don’t be afraid to write down exactly what it is you’re thinking of. Words turn to action, after all, so that promotion could be far closer than you realise.
Looking for more tips on productivity in the workplace? Head to LEAP and learn more.