Employees are consistently looking for ways to deal with the unique and often multi-faceted challenges that their work brings. One of the most common strategies is for employees to plan out their week, including setting work-related goals and preparing for potential obstacles. Researchers (Uhlig et al., 2023) investigated the positive outcomes that this type of planning can have.
THE RESEARCH STUDY
Using a weekly diary approach, the researchers collected data from 208 participants across a variety of academic and occupational samples. Participants were given a general questionnaire and asked to record their baseline levels of how engaged they were at work, how many unfinished tasks they had at the end of a work week, how often they ruminated on problems or mistakes, and how much they were able to adapt to new situations.
Then, the participants were led through a brief training session, teaching skills such as work prioritization, proper goal setting, breaking down and planning work steps, anticipating and planning for obstacles, and visualization of the work tasks and goal achievement. Participants put these skills into practice and recorded the outcomes over the course of four weeks. Utilizing the work planning strategies taught in the training led to participants reporting lower levels of unfinished tasks, lower levels of rumination, and higher levels of cognitive flexibility.
The nature of work includes challenges and demands that employees must face every day. By encouraging weekly planning, organizations can help employees better deal with these difficulties. Based on this research, organizations should do the following:
- Encourage weekly planning. By breaking down work into manageable steps at the weekly level, employees can be better equipped to deal with their work and its associated challenges.
- Organizations should help their employees set and achieve goals by providing them with training in how to properly set goals. For example, employees should be taught that goals need to be specific and attainable. Organizations can also encourage goal achievement and make sure to provide the necessary resources that will allow goals to be met.
- Incorporate “hinderance anticipation” into planning efforts. All work efforts will face some sort of hinderance or challenge that could potentially derail employees and their goals. Organizations should spend time discussing and planning for potential hinderances to better equip their employees to face these challenges. This can include plans to deal with the work-related challenges, as well as coping skills that employees can use to deal with their feelings toward the hinderance.
- Spend time in reflection each week. A plan is only good if it is effective and executable. Leaders should spend time with their employees evaluating how their weekly planning went, paying attention to what was successful and what needs to be tweaked moving forward.
Uhlig, L., Baumgartner, V., Prem, R., Siestrup, K., Korunka, C., & Kubicek, B. (2023). A field experiment on the effects of weekly planning behavior on work engagement, unfinished tasks, rumination, and cognitive flexibility. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 96, 575-598.
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