Your boss just messaged you saying she wants to talk tomorrow morning about the big idea you pitched at the weekly meeting.
If you're like most people, your brain will start firing on all cylinders at this point, formulating a plan of what you're going to say, what materials or supporting research you can bring, and how you're going to present yourself in the best, more professional way possible.
But, how should you make this plan?
Should you start with the first step and work towards your meeting? Or should you think backwards from the result and find where your future and present meet up?
It might seem like an arbitrary question, but according to new research from the Korea University Business School, how you choose to plan your path to success can have a major impact on the outcome.
Backward planning leads to higher levels of success
The researchers ran a series of studies asking participants to plan for an important event or goal, like the meeting with their boss or launching their new company. In one study, they asked students to create a study plan for a final exam in either chronological or reverse order.
After the exam, they compared the students' results against their planning method and found those who planned backwards performed better than those who planned forward.
Backward planning keeps the final goal always in sight
The researchers attributed these results to the fact that when we're told to start at our goal, it makes it feel more attainable and closer to coming true.
They also found that people perceived they had a clearer set of steps to hitting their goal when planning backwards and felt more confident in the choices they were making.
That is, because they know where they want to end up and where they are now, they were essentially 'filling in the blanks' rather than facing a wide array of options of how to get from their current position to their end goal.
Using backward planning in your own life
So how does this apply to our original scenario: the big boss meeting?
You might know that you need to gather documents, do further research, talk through your pitch with a friend, and choose the right clothes for the meeting. But instead of thinking what you can do now and then being left with a multitude of paths to get to the successful meeting, start with the very last essential step and work backwards.