Countdown Days to Achieve Goals

Countdown Days to Achieve Goals

Disclaimer: I have learned not to place too much stock in psychological studies due to the “replication crisis” where a large and increasing percentage of published research findings cannot be replicated.

That said, I have been experimenting with research findings that suggest using a frame of reference where we track our goals using a countdown timer of the “number of days” we have left until the due date.

Studies suggest that a countdown showing how many days we have left can be more effective in terms of getting us to take action now, as opposed to just viewing a due date – weeks, months, or years into the future. Seeing a countdown of days will make us less likely to procrastinate, and more likely to take action sooner.

Start by scoping out your Goals properly.

Before you charge off and set up a countdown clock, make sure your goal is grounded in reality. A common mistake I see client firms fall victim to is a phenomenon called the “planning fallacy”. This term describes our universal human tendency to underestimate the amount of time it takes to complete complex Projects and Tasks. In my experience, people are generally far too optimistic about what they think they can get done within a given time frame. This invariably leads to Tasks not being completed on time, and the due dates for the Projects being overshot by a considerable margin.

“The world needs dreamers and their dreams. But dreams of what is possible are best balanced with hard facts and realistic projections about what is probable.” (Professor Bob Sutton)

To overcome the “planning fallacy” I have written about the importance of conducting pre-mortem meetings to scope out Strategic Projects, so they are grounded in reality, rather than wishful thinking or magical best-case scenarios where nothing ever goes wrong (because let’s face it, s… always happens).

I have also written about conducting after action review debrief meetings, just like the military performs after each mission so that we “bank the learnings” to improve the way we plan and execute our goals in the future.

Ok. So let’s assume we have scoped out a long-term Project or Goal, and everyone involved agrees the scope is very achievable within the given time frame, as long as we apply ourselves diligently and conduct weekly meetings to drive progress.

Now let’s countdown the days to achieve our goal. Think about how you can display your due date deadline in a highly visible place whereby it shows the number of (working) days you have left until that Goal is due for completion.


Until next time…