Keep goals vague, says GSB prof, reports on the work of business professor Baba Shiv. The article contains some counterintuitive recommendations. Here are a brief summary of what the article says:
Numerical ranges and vague deadlines are more effective at sustaining motivation than precise numbers and deadlines because they give people more psychological leeway. The individual desires a biased outcome. The brain functions on that which is favorable out of a desired range. But if the individual is forced to look at all the precise measures and information, then the brain will tend to focus on the negative. If people see their targets as spectrums, their minds will focus on the more easily attainable portions of those spectrums and they will perceive their goals as within reach, and they will stay motivated. By contrast, if they are reminded of their precise previous performances and told to shoot for precise improvements, they will tend to focus on the negative. That attitude will lead them to interpret any minor setbacks as discouragement or failure, and they will lose motivation. Frequent updates can only discourage. There is evidence that the more people keep track of their exact progress, the more likely they are to give up.