The Benefits of Budgeting Time First for Multiple Goal Setting and Pursuit

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Consumers often have multiple goals and limited time to pursue them. Running out of time means that people may fail to achieve, or to even attempt, one or more valued goals. When time constrains multiple goal pursuit, what might encourage consumers to protect time for downstream goals (i.e., goals that occur later in a sequence)? I propose that a subtle shift in the way people think about setting multiple goals in relation to limited time can help. Nine experiments demonstrate that, compared to only setting goals, budgeting time first (i.e., allocating total time across tasks before specifying goal levels) encourages people to set more realistic (i.e., more accurate) multiple goals that better fit within the total available time. This occurs because, by disaggregating the total time available for multiple goals into distinct accounts, budgeting time reduces implicit “double dipping” into a shared time pool when setting goals. By encouraging people to set more realistic upstream goals, budgeting time first increases time spent on downstream goals, boosting how much people accomplish toward, and whether they ultimately achieve, those goals. Further, by protecting time for downstream goals, budgeting time first discourages consumers from exceeding the total time budget and spending against future periods. This research contributes to understanding of the relationship between goals and time, multiple goal setting and pursuit, and mental accounting and budgeting. The findings also have substantive implications for consumer goal pursuit and well-being.





Memmi, Sarah (2020). The Benefits of Budgeting Time First for Multiple Goal Setting and Pursuit. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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