The Hard Facts: Let’s Make a Plan

It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.

“While you are more likely to do something if you plan it in advance, research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), shows that partnering up or planning with someone can really boost the likelihood of sticking to your resolutions. This finding suggests that ‘buddy schemes’ could make a big difference to people following dieting plans, health programmes and could be integrated into government well-being initiatives.” (“If You Plan, You’ll Do… But It Helps To Have a Friend” ; 1/04/2012)

I’ve talked before about how friends can help you lose weight or show up at the gym. And with the new year and the rampant resolutioning that goes down this month, it’s no surprise that another study has been published to that end. What’s a tad different about this study is that it looked specifically at the act of joint planning.

Research has already shown, apparently, that setting up “if, then” cues to plan behavior is the key to follow-through. As in,”If that nice girl from yoga class is there today, then I will ask her out.”

But even more effective than setting up these cues is setting them up with a buddy. 

For the study referenced above, a group of participants were asked to increase their exercise. The authors of the study found that “it was quite clear that working together and joint planning really helped employees stick to their new exercise regimes. Moreover, the involvement of a partner in planning had a sustained effect that was still noticeable after six months.”

I extend this bit of research to all the long-distance BFFs out there. As much as you love each other, you’re not in the same city. I’m sure you each want the other to have pals in her current hometown. (Friends don’t let friends get lonely.) So I say, make a plan together. In between gossip about Blue Ivy and the upcoming Golden Globes, prepare for this week. “If I run into my neighbor, then I will ask her to coffee.” “If I want to go out, then I will follow-up with that long lost friend.”

Whatever it is, make the plan together. If you’re feeling super go-getter, you can even hold each other accountable at the end of the week.

It might sound like some sort of friendship support group, but then, it basically is. No matter. As one of the researchers said, “Individual change can of course happen, but it is even better to have a friend on your side!”

Will you try joint “if-then” planning? Have you? I’ve always felt that speaking my plans aloud holds me accountable. If you make your friending plans as concrete as these “if-thens”–and you do it with a buddy– you’re sure to follow through. What do you think?

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1 Comment

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One response to “The Hard Facts: Let’s Make a Plan

  1. Heidi

    My sister started a fitness group on Facebook and we call it the Zombie Post-Apocalyptic Team. Every week we post our goals and if we make all of them, we get a point. The sessions are 13 weeks, and we also set a BIG goal for that session. It’s a lot of razzing (between my sister and I) and cheering, some from people I’ve never yet met. IT’s not the same as setting a goal with someone who’s in the same town, but I feel oddly accountable to them. The goals are primarily geared around fitness, but have extended to creativity and other areas. Even long-distance, it’s nice to know someone out there cares what you’re doing.

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