3 Steps to Completing Your Work
on Time

By Dr. Betty Vandenbosch, Dean of Students

“Studies show that being really specific about when, where, and how you will accomplish something makes it much more likely that you will.”

Why is it that even when we really want to accomplish something, we don’t always succeed? New Year’s resolutions rarely work. Our commitment to spend more time with our families, exercise three times per week, or eat more vegetables seldom results in more family time, more exercise, or better eating habits. While this might seem pretty hopeless, it’s actually not at all. Research has shown that taking a few simple steps can turn your best intentions into tangible results.

  1. Plan exactly when, where, and how you will achieve your goal. Studies show that being really specific about when, where, and how you will accomplish something makes it much more likely that you will. For instance, this past September, Todd Rogers, a researcher at Harvard University, talked to a group of Kaplan University faculty about his work. He found that people were much more likely to vote if they planned in advance exactly when in the day they would do so.
  2. Make your specific plan immediately—in writing—the moment you receive your assignment. Research has also shown that if you plan when and where you’re going to do your assignment as soon as it’s assigned you’re much more likely to complete it on time. So, the next time you receive an assignment, don’t do anything else until you’ve written down your plan of action. Don’t wait or say “I’ll figure it out closer to the due date.” In one study, three-fourths of students who immediately planned when they would complete a report were successful; of the students who did not plan, only one-third completed the report.*
  3. Make it a habit. Past behavior is a great predictor of future behavior. If you get in the habit of doing something regularly, you don’t think about it anymore, you just do it.

Take the challenge! Start following these three simple steps with all of your assignments. They can make the difference between resolutions and results.

*Source: Gollwitzer, P.M., & Brandstatter, V. (1997) Implementation intentions and effective goal pursuit. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 186–199.