The Best Laid Plans: Planning Skill Determines the Effectiveness of Action Plans and Implementation Intentions

Julia L Allan, Falko F Sniehotta, Marie Johnston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

33 Citations (Scopus)
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BACKGROUND: Theories of action control emphasise the importance of planning, but plans are not universally beneficial. PURPOSE: The present study investigates whether the effectiveness of plans depends upon the skill of the planner. METHODS: Study 1 prospectively predicted changes in unhealthy snacking behaviour over 1 week from intentions, action planning and performance on a standardised cognitive test of planning skill (n¿=¿72). Study 2 experimentally randomised skilled and poor planners to receive (or not) a planning intervention before completing an online food diary (n¿=¿144) RESULTS: Spontaneously generated action plans about snacking explained significantly more variance in subsequent snacking if produced by a skilled rather than a poor planner. The planning intervention (implementation intention) significantly improved goal attainment but only in poor planners. CONCLUSIONS: Plans are only as good as the people who make them. Poor planners' plans do not help achieve goals. Planning interventions can compensate for a lack of planning skill.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114-120
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number1
Early online date28 Feb 2013
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013



  • planning
  • plans
  • implementation intentions
  • action plans

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