Productivity Tips from Dr. Melissa Gratias
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How to set goals when you are burned out

By Melissa Gratias, Ph.D. 

My friend Lou is the most positive and upbeat person that I know. We met in college, and my life is better for having her in it. I hope everyone has a Lou in their life.


Yesterday, I had a short conversation with Lou as she was driving to an appointment. Lou is feeling very stressed and unmotivated right now. I think Lou is burned out.


For me, Lou being burned out is a “canary in the coal mine” sign of an impending apocalypse.


“I suddenly find myself needing to know the plural of apocalypse.” ~Riley Finn, Buffy the Vampire Slayer


As validating as it is to have Lou join my party of burned-out professionals, it is also my mission to help us all move forward.


To that end, I give you WOOP. Yes, WOOP.


As non-scientific as the name sounds, WOOP is a research-based methodology to help us improve our lives through visualization and goal setting. In scholarly journals, you will see WOOP (more boringly) called Mental Contrasting with Implementation Intentions (MCII). Dr. Gabriele Oettingen of NYU is the psychologist behind MCII/WOOP.


So, move past the mental images of whooping people and/or coughs and read on.


WOOP involves answering these four questions:

  1. What is your wish?
  2. What is the best outcome?
  3. What is your main inner obstacle?
  4. What is your if-then plan?


On Dr. Oettingen’s website,, there is a lovely, gentle explanation of how to do your first WOOP. You don’t have to provide any personal information to use the step-by-step guide. <<sigh of relief>>


I went to the website and WOOPed this morning. Don’t worry, nothing came out of any orifice.


It was enjoyable. I took deep breaths, did my visualizations, filled in the blanks, and downloaded the text file of my WOOP.


This is a huge step for me. I have been struggling with setting goals all year. And goal setting is something I have always loved doing!


If motivation is a long-lost friend right now, try WOOP.




Invite the Quad City DJ’s to your burn out party.



The post How to set goals when you are burned out appeared first on Melissa Gratias.

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