Skip to content
Michelle Carlyle Jul 20, 2017 12:00:00 AM 4 min read

“I don’t have time.” Sound familiar?

Studying and thinking.jpg


When a person wants to achieve an outcome, but they don’t, and their reason is “I didn’t have time”, what goes through your mind? Here’s what can go through mine. 

  • Maybe you didn’t want it as much as you said you did …
  • Really? What received priority then?
  • But we agreed this was important for you!
  • Yes, you did. You had 7 days of 24 hours. What’s the real reason?

I know. I’m not very gracious. I find “I didn’t have time” the least creative excuse there is, and I often wonder why people still use it. But they do. All the time. I’m not referring to flimsy goals that someone isn’t all that attached to. I’m referring to goals that a person does want to achieve. The sort of goal that once they complete it they’ll feel so happy and proud of themselves they’ll pop!

Gabriele Oettingen, a Professor of Psychology at New York University, must’ve thought the same so she developed a model called WOOP. The acronym stands for:

W = Wish
O = Outcome
O = Obstacle
P = Plan

Her research has successfully demonstrated the WOOP model helping individuals achieve their “wish” (goal) across several domains including vocational studies, time management, weight loss, and even dating. She’s the author of Rethinking Positive Thinking and has spent the last twenty years working with thousands of college students.

In her research studies, students who WOOP try harder in the classroom, are less disappointed, and bounce back more quickly from minor setbacks. Those who don’t WOOP and instead believe their positivity is enough to carry them quickly and efficiently towards their educational goal, are less resilient and are more disappointed.

The WOOP model brings “action” to “wishful thinking” and it mixes a dollop of realism into positive fantasy.

So how does the WOOP model work?


… is the outcome you want to achieve. The goal. It could be a daily, weekly, monthly, or longer term goal. If you have a very specific goal you want to get done today, then WOOP it. You could WOOP for the first 10 minutes of your day at your desk at work.


… is spending a moment or two dialing-in to your imagination. Imagine how you’ll feel ticking this goal off your “to do” list today. Pretty good right?


… what could get in the way? This is the dollop of realism. And this next sentence is very important. The obstacle needs to be an “internal” obstacle which means you have control over it. The obstacle is not dependent on anyone or anything but you. It might be an emotion such as “my nerves might get in the way”, or it might be an irrational belief such as “I’m not good enough to achieve this wish/goal”, or it might be a bad habit such as “I know I’m going to get distracted easily”. What is your internal obstacle? An obstacle such as “my boss might ask me to work an extra shift” is an external factor. The internal obstacle would be “I might feel embarrassed/worried to say ‘no’ if my boss asks me to work an extra shift”.


… if that obstacle becomes a reality, what are you going to do about it? How will you overcome it? This is where a little IF/THEN planning comes in. IF (obstacle) happens, THEN (plan) this is what I’ll do.

Let’s work through a real example:


To finish my assignment this Friday


Feeling good about being one step closer to my qualification.

Feeling relieved and pleased with myself for not procrastinating.


Getting distracted at home doing my assignment when the family is there all wanting a bit of my attention.


For this week, plan a couple of blocks of time to study at a friend’s house that is quiet so you can put 100% attention towards doing the assignment.


How can you help your students to WOOP?

  1. Conduct a “how to WOOP” session at your next student workshop
  2. Write a blog for your next students’ newsletter on the WOOP model so they can try it out
  3. Have your Student Support Team or Trainers work through the WOOP model with students who are struggling with managing their time, planning their studies, or feeling overwhelmed. They can ask students the following questions:

WISH: What’s your goal for this week/month? Is it specific, realistic and achievable?

OUTCOME: How will you feel if you get to the end of the week/month and you’ve achieved it? Ask your student to be vivid with their description here. No one word answers such as “good”! How will they feel emotionally? How will they feel?

OBSTACLE: What could stop you from achieving it? “Not enough time” is not an answer. This is something they can control such as an emotion, belief, or a bad habit.

PLAN: What will you do if this obstacle shows up? Say this in IF/THEN language. IF [this emotion, belief, habit] shows up THEN [this is the action I’ll take]

There are many models I’ve been introduced to over the years personally and professionally. There are only a few that are easy to remember and just as simple to implement. This is one of them.

(Image source:

Has your training organisation tried other ways to help student's manage their work load? Share your results and experiences with us below!

Want more posts like this? Subscribe to the Wisenet Blog!


Michelle Carlyle

Michelle Carlyle is the founder/owner of Thought Ratio. She’s also a coach, mentor, runner, cyclist, facilitator, presenter, step-mum, and a Licensed Thrive Consultant. Michelle has over 20 years of experience in global education organisations as a senior leader. She is MBA qualified, a Graduate of the Company Directors course, and a Fellow of the Institute of Leaders and Managers. Thought Ratio’s vision is to educate people so they can thrive in every aspect of their lives.