Landmarks in the calendar such as New Year’s Day, and even standard Mondays, are the best times to set new goals, according to new research.
Time-based landmarks are more likely to encourage people to set goals when they make them think of new beginnings, so days that are deemed to be the ‘start’ of something, whether it’s a year, a month or simply a week, are ideal, says the study.
A new paper published in Psychological Science suggests that people favour the ‘fresh start effect’ associated with landmark days because it enables them to psychologically disassociate themselves from their past, imperfect self.
Five separate experiments were carried out by researchers at Washington University and the University of Pennsylvania to examine how people’s perception of time affects their ability to set, and more importantly reach, goals.
In one of the experiments, 165 people completed an online survey where they were asked to set a personal goal and choose a start day for it.
The participants were randomly split into two groups - the first was given a list of start dates all in the same format, while the second group was given a list where 20 March was marked as the first day of Spring.
Those in the second group were found to be far more likely to choose 20 March as their start day, suggesting that the ‘first day of Spring’ framing affected their decisions.
The research team also found that online search trends such as ‘diet’ peaked at the beginning of week and month, while data from a university gym website showed increased visits on similarly ‘landmark’ days.
The researchers point out that even if goals aren’t reached, there are plenty more landmark days in the year to choose from for re-setting goals.
Via: Science Alert