If-Then Plans

If in this scenario, we then plan to do that, we'll more likely reach our goals

By planning when, where and how we'll do it, an if-then plan forms a strong link between moment and action, allowing us to make better decisions about our health and wealth.

Neter, E., Stein, N., Barnett-Griness, O., Rennert, G., & Hagoel, L. (2014). From the bench to public health: population-level implementation intentions in colorectal cancer screening. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 46(3), 273-280.

The study

Setup

Over 27,000 Israelis were mailed a self-administering Colorectal Cancer test kit. The kit either included an “if–then” leaflet with instructions of when, where, and how to perform the test or a standard leaflet with no such planning instructions (control group). They were then asked 2 and 6 months later whether they took the test.

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Results

71.4% of the If-then plan recipients took the test compared to 67.9% of the control group meaning If-Then plans resulted in 6.6% more of participants taking the test.

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In detail

Key Takeaways

Whether you’re designing them for yourself or for others, make your If-Then Plans easy and effective with a few tweaks :

Connect context with task

Link “when and where” to act (e.g. while waiting for the elevator) with “how” you could achieve the goal. (e.g. taking the stairs)

Act it out

As the behavioural designer, visualize each step of the action plan and imagine actually doing it. The mental image will encode it into memory and the next time you’re in the situation you’ll act effortlessly.

Choose If-Then Plans wisely.

Pick scenarios that are encountered often (e.g. on a daily basis) and are easy to recall. The easier it is to remember, the more it will be done.

Inform, do not instruct.

A vivid, relatable and subtly persuasive image or message will be more effective to change consumer behaviour, whereas instructing them could be met with reactance. Remove this threat to personal freedom by giving consumers more autonomy when they make decisions.

Inform, do not instruct.

A vivid, relatable and subtly persuasive image or message will be more effective to change consumer behaviour, whereas instructing them could be met with reactance. Remove this threat to personal freedom by giving consumers more autonomy when they make decisions.

If-Then Plans

If in this scenario, we then plan to do that, we'll more likely reach our goals

By planning when, where and how we'll do it, an if-then plan forms a strong link between moment and action, allowing us to make better decisions about our health and wealth.

Neter, E., Stein, N., Barnett-Griness, O., Rennert, G., & Hagoel, L. (2014). From the bench to public health: population-level implementation intentions in colorectal cancer screening. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 46(3), 273-280.

The study

Setup

Over 27,000 Israelis were mailed a self-administering Colorectal Cancer test kit. The kit either included an “if–then” leaflet with instructions of when, where, and how to perform the test or a standard leaflet with no such planning instructions (control group). They were then asked 2 and 6 months later whether they took the test.

Results

71.4% of the If-then plan recipients took the test compared to 67.9% of the control group meaning If-Then plans resulted in 6.6% more of participants taking the test.

Key Takeaways

Whether you’re designing them for yourself or for others, make your If-Then Plans easy and effective with a few tweaks :

Connect context with task

Link “when and where” to act (e.g. while waiting for the elevator) with “how” you could achieve the goal. (e.g. taking the stairs)

Act it out

As the behavioural designer, visualize each step of the action plan and imagine actually doing it. The mental image will encode it into memory and the next time you’re in the situation you’ll act effortlessly.

Choose If-Then Plans wisely.

Pick scenarios that are encountered often (e.g. on a daily basis) and are easy to recall. The easier it is to remember, the more it will be done.

Inform, do not instruct.

A vivid, relatable and subtly persuasive image or message will be more effective to change consumer behaviour, whereas instructing them could be met with reactance. Remove this threat to personal freedom by giving consumers more autonomy when they make decisions.

If-Then Plans

If in this scenario, we then plan to do that, we'll more likely reach our goals

By planning when, where and how we'll do it, an if-then plan forms a strong link between moment and action, allowing us to make better decisions about our health and wealth.

The study

Setup

Over 27,000 Israelis were mailed a self-administering Colorectal Cancer test kit. The kit either included an “if–then” leaflet with instructions of when, where, and how to perform the test or a standard leaflet with no such planning instructions (control group). They were then asked 2 and 6 months later whether they took the test.

Results

71.4% of the If-then plan recipients took the test compared to 67.9% of the control group meaning If-Then plans resulted in 6.6% more of participants taking the test.

np_read_2490885_000000

In detail

Pairings

Habit-forming

Chain the future to the present

Regardless of whether something is good for us in the long run, we tend to prioritise present needs over future benefits. We need tools to bring future and present us closer together.

By using if-then plans and precisely planning out daily habits, we can override whims and convert them to healthier routines by making it easier to do well.

For instance, instead of skipping the gym session and taking a call with a friend at home and, we could instead say IF I'm calling a friend, THEN I'll take a walk at the same time. This is the reverse of Temptation Bundling, where treats are unlocked only by doing the hard stuff.

Another example would be a banking app with a "Smart-Autosave" setting where IF it's the week after payday, when cash is more abundant, THEN it'll autosave round-ups with an increased multiplier for that week. Similarly, the week before payday, it could reduce autosaving proportionally. Doing so would boost saving and reduce the pain of saving when there is little money left.

This Pairing can be useful for achieving fitness or financial goals or even to compensate for boring administrative work that nobody wants to do right now.

Embracing Change

Creating familiarity with if-thens

We often recoil from the new and unknown. However, by just being in its presence makes us warm up to it. Companies launching new products can benefit greatly from this.

If-Thens have been successfully used to increase consumer’s direct experience with a new product, an increased liking for it and higher purchasing intention (Kardes, Cronley, and Posavac 2005).

For instance, in a pizza restaurant, IF a customer orders the bread and dips as a starter, THEN add the new dip to this selection for them to try.

Through repeated exposure, If-Thens change a person's attitudes towards a product by increasing familiarity and lowering risk, freeing them to focus on its best aspects (i.e., persuasion by our own actions; Higgins & Rholes, 1979; Janis 1968).

How can you reduce the reluctance of trying a new product with if-thens? Where are the consistent behavioural 'IF' patterns in your experiences that you can use to bolt on and de-risk new, unfamiliar 'THEN' ideas.

Task Completion

Create easy intentions during fresh beginnings

New beginnings offer powerful opportunities for change, but taking the first step is usually the hardest.

Use if-then plans as stepping stones towards goals. Once committed and envisioned, 'if-thens' remove the mental fatigue of planning, with the behaviour automatically implemented.

Using If-Then Plans at the start of new time periods is effective not only for doing the task itself but also for reducing any reluctance or forgetfulness in the beginning. As a bonus, If-Thens also work for extended periods of goal-striving, as well as protecting from distractions that take away attention from an ongoing task (Gollwitzer and Schaal 1998).

This Pairing is a great strategy to increase follow ups with doctors, for timely vaccination or dental appointments, insurance renewals or debt repayments. e.g. If the 1st of the month, then prompt to book appointment.

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If-Then Plans

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