The Magic of Specificity

Purnima Chawla
January 19, 2016


Here is a magical tip that will improve your landowner outreach and your New Year resolutions: The more specific you can get regarding how, when and where something should happen, the more likely it is to occur. 

So, don’t just tell landowners to contact you. Be more specific. Say: “Call us at this number.” Or, better still, say: “Call us at this number when you’re thinking of harvesting your trees.”

Why do specific goals and directives work better? 

  • First, additional context and granularity helps people remember the call to action better. 

  • Second, by telling people exactly what to do, you save them the trouble of figuring it out. Basically, you reduce the gap between intention and action. 

  • And third, specificity encourages people to take responsibility for acting and enables them to hold themselves accountable to their plans and intentions.

As a New Year’s Resolution “I will get fit” is not very helpful. It’s an outcome that relies on a lot of things, some of which are beyond your control. It allows you to shed responsibility for taking any particular action. “I will exercise 2-3 times a week” is a better resolution. At least that’s more in your control and you can track whether you did or didn’t do it. “I will go to the gym before work on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays” is even better because now you have both a goal and a path to accomplish it.

So good luck with your New Year resolutions. And your outreach.