Advertising

Last Updated on November 27, 2020

5 Strategies to Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

Advertising
5 Strategies to Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

I had always considered myself an active person, able to keep track of goals and stick to them.

Then, I had a wake-up call at my yearly check-up. My doctor asked how much I exercised in a week, and I realized how much time I spent sitting down at a desk. If I wanted to stay healthy, I would need to step it up—literally.

I’ve always been the type to keep track of goals, so I decided to create a simple system to boost my exercise. 70,000 steps a week seemed like a lofty goal—until I began tracking my daily activity with a digital step counter.

I couldn’t believe how drastically my activity levels increased. Understanding how active I’ve been is as simple as a quick glimpse at my wrist. If I lag behind, I receive an hourly notification reminding me how many steps I need to complete to stay on track.

Goal-tracking not only increased my activity levels, but also my energy levels and overall well-being. Now, I keep track of goals in other areas, like work, finances, and hobbies.

I like to think of goal-tracking as creating mile-markers. You’ll be more motivated to complete the journey when you know how much you’re already accomplishing. Plus, big goals seem less overwhelming when you break it down into smaller steps.

Advertising

Want to keep track of your goals? Here are 5 strategies to do it effectively.

1. Visualize the “Chain”

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld popularized a goal-tracking concept called “don’t break the chain” (Develop Good Habits: Don’t Break the Chain: Jerry Seinfeld’s Advice on Sticking to a Habit)).

The idea is that every day you stay on track and work toward your goal, you mark the calendar (or your journal or whiteboard), and then you keep going until your goal is met. Your only job, according to Seinfeld, is not to break the chain.

Remember: One day’s success might not seem all that important. But people meet goals little by little, one small success at a time. By keeping your progress visible, you’ll gain motivation and build momentum toward the finish line.

It’s rumored Seinfeld used this system to meet his goal of practicing writing jokes every day, marking a large calendar with a big, red “X.” But you can use whatever system that makes sense for you.

Some people use graph-style journals to create their own goal-trackers. If you’re artsy, you can create a fancy bullet journal spread for your progress chain. To keep it simple, just grab a poster board and use Post-It notes, stickers, or a colorful marker to reflect your progress. Then, keep the progress chart somewhere motivating.

Advertising

If your goal is to eat more nutritiously, hang a calendar in your kitchen. If you want to hone your graphic design skills, keep track in your workspace. If you’re not an analog person, then enlist the help of a dedicated app. There are plenty of goal-tracking apps on the market.

The only detail that matters is visibility. Without visible wins as your “mile markers,” you may start to feel lost on the journey, making you more likely to give up altogether.

2. Celebrate Your Wins

What’s the point of tracking your progress if you don’t even notice it? Once you start building your chain, don’t neglect to reflect on, and celebrate, each step towards your vision. Noting how far you’ve come (and, in turn, how little you have to go!) can be a major motivator toward whatever you’re aiming to accomplish as you learn how to keep track of goals.

When Harvard Business professor Teresa Amabile studied the daily habits of workers, she discovered making progress in meaningful work to be the most important component of motivation during the workday. According to her research, the more you experience a sense of progress, the more productive you’ll be on a long-term basis[1]

Most of us don’t count “small wins.” We save the celebration when the end goal gets checked off the list. According to author Jocelyn Glei, that’s a problem: “Most of us make advances small and large every single day, but we fail to notice them because we lack a method for acknowledging our progress. This is a huge loss,” she writes[2]

To feel more productive, and therefore be more productive, take time every day to celebrate how far you’ve made it. When you realize you’re a step closer than you were yesterday, you’ll be filled with fresh motivation for the rest of the process.

Advertising

3. Create a Reward System

My fitness tracker sets me up for success with a simple, built-in feature. Every time I reach my goal for the day, the watch face explodes into a miniature celebration, complete with a disco ball.

It may sound silly, but this reward keeps me going. If I would have checked my fitness app to see I’d reached my daily step goal, I may have felt a sense of accomplishment. But a more tangible—and honestly, fun—incentive reminds me how good it feels to stay on track, and makes me want to get up and do it again tomorrow.

For some people, the rush of crossing something off the list (or in this case, marking the calendar with a nice, big “X”) is enough motivation to keep going. However, if building in your own rewards to your goal process will boost your inclination to keep going, then find a way to put a little “bait” in your line of sight.

Maybe you buy yourself something you’ve been eyeing if you stay on track for a month. Maybe after a week of daily walks, you order takeout from your favorite restaurant. Either way, the premise is to incentivize your progress. When you have something to look forward to besides the goal itself, you’ll be more likely to attain the goal.

4. Find an Accountability Buddy

Sometimes, self-motivation can only go so far—and you have to invite someone else into the process if you want to keep track of goals you’ve set.

By sharing your goals with someone else, you’re essentially making a commitment. You’ll be less likely to make excuses that derail you when you know someone is going to check in with your progress. That’s because having no progress to share feels like letting that person down, and it never feels good to disappoint someone. Plus, when you’re expecting someone to check in with you on a regular basis, you’ll have all the more reason to keep track of your goals.

Advertising

Choose someone you trust, ideally someone who has similar goals or a shared perspective on success and growth, and invite them to check in with you on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. You may be surprised how much you achieve.

5. Start Every Day at Zero

You probably already know that breaking up your goals into smaller chunks—say, shrinking your monthly sales goal into daily metrics—makes them less intimidating and therefore less attainable. But there’s another psychological component involved.

When you start each day at “zero” instead of building on another number, you’ll more easily see where you started and where you are headed. The so-called “middle zone” of a large goal can feel nebulous and difficult to measure, which can result in wasted time and lost progress. Plus, feeling like you have 80% of the work ahead of you makes your daily contribution feel less important[3].

Starting at zero also boosts motivation through a phenomenon called the “fresh start effect.” You know how you’re so motivated to do new things at the start of a new year? The same principle applies when your FitBit resets at midnight or when you create a fresh to-do list in your notebook.

The brain registers “new days” as temporal landmarks, which are known to increase aspirational behavior by disrupting one’s daily routine[4]

The good news is, you don’t have to wait for a new year or even a new week to start meeting (and tracking) your goals. Getting the motivation you need to move forward could be as easy as downloading a new app or buying a new journal. All you have to do is decide that today’s the day to start.

Advertising

The Bottom Line

Learning how to keep track of goals can be a tricky process, but it can be made easier by incorporating a few simple tools and strategies. Find which one works best for you and your goals, and see where it takes you. You may find that your goals start taking care of themselves!

More Tips on Keeping Track of Goals

Featured photo credit: Sarah Shaffer via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Aytekin Tank

Founder and CEO of JotForm, sharing entrepreneurship and productivity tips at Lifehack.

smart objectives What Are SMART Objectives? (And How to Use Them) How To Set Employee Goals To Help Everyone Grow What Is Block Scheduling? (And How It Boosts Productivity) The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again How to Increase Attention Span If You Have a Distracted Mind

Trending in Goal Getting

1 What Are Process Goals? (With Examples) 2 8 Simple and Effective Ways to Start Reaching Goals Today 3 How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals 4 20 Excuses Most People Make That Stop Them From Reaching Their Dreams 5 Goals vs Objectives: What Are Their Differences?

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Published on September 16, 2021

What Are Process Goals? (With Examples)

Advertising
What Are Process Goals? (With Examples)

Ready. Set. Go. For years, this was my three-step mindset when it came to goals. I would reach for the moon and hope to land among the stars without feeling the pain of the fall. This approach was all or nothing, and as a result, I experienced loads of burnout and almost zero productivity. In short, my task list was filled with high-level intentions, but I hadn’t taken the time to create a map to reach the destinations. I was lost in the planning stages because I didn’t understand process goals or have any examples to follow.

Since then, I’ve learned how to embrace the journey and break my outcome goals into smaller and more manageable process goals. This approach has improved my focus and reduced frustration because I’m now working towards a surefire strategy that will take me where I want to go––I’m creating a plan of action with achievable daily targets (a process goal).

What Is a Process Goal?

A process goal is not a destination, it’s the path you plan on taking to get there. For example, if you want to become better at writing, your process goal would be to post one blog article per week and learn from the feedback you receive. The destination is a monthly goal of 12 articles.

This distinction is important because it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that these types of goals are not all or nothing. Think about it. You’ve heard it said: it’s not about working hard but working smart.

Well, a process goal is an actionable target with what we call SMART criteria:

Advertising

  • Specific – The more detailed your goal, the better. For example, instead of “I want to be fit,” you would say, “I want to lose five pounds.” Make sure your goal is crystal clear.
  • Measurable – You need a way to measure progress and success, so it needs to be quantifiable. This is where you decide what “fit” actually means for you (more on this later).
  • Achievable – If your goal isn’t challenging, then it’s not going to be motivating. On the other hand, there must be a steeper mountain to climb if you want substantial results.
  • Realistic – “I want to run a marathon” is not practical for most people. Ensure you have the time, energy, and resources (e.g., training program) required to achieve your goal.
  • Time-Bound – Your goal needs an assigned deadline or it’s just a pipe dream. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming, but what happens when the fantasy ends?

To summarize, these are the essential components of any process goal: specific, measurable, achievable within a certain time frame, and realistic.

What Is a Destination Goal?

A destination goal is a point in time when you plan to be at a particular destination. For example, if your goal is to get to represent your country at the 2025 Summer Olympics, you right need to focus on smaller increments to attain that success. On your way to that goal, you need to focus on smaller destinations. First, make the national team. Then, compete in a few events and so forth.

If you try to make it to the Olympics from the very start without any milestones along the way, it would be too daunting. On the other hand, if you focus on each milestone as a destination goal, it will all seem possible and achievable.

Process Goal Template

Let’s say you want to become a better cook. Here is one way of writing the process goal: “I will save $100 per week by cooking all my meals at home for 12 weeks.” This would be your destination (monthly), and the steps required to achieve this goal (weekly) would be:

  1. Spend one hour on Sunday planning my meals for the week.
  2. Shop for groceries after work on Monday and Tuesday nights.
  3. Cook all meals at home on Wednesdays through Sundays.
  4. Pack my lunch for work on Mondays and Tuesdays.
  5. Save $100 per week in cash by cooking at home.

This process goal will help you become a better cook by teaching you to save money through planning, shopping, cooking, packing your own lunch, and trying new recipes. It also includes a weekly reward (saving $100 in cash) that will help you stay motivated.

Advertising

Process goals encourage you to reach your ultimate goals. When you feel like you can accomplish smaller goals along the way, you gain sustainability and confidence to move forward.

In many ways, process goals are a lot like faith. Each accomplishment brings you closer to seeing the fullness of the life that you desire––it breaks through the fog and makes things clearer.

What Questions Helped Me Find My Process Goals?

After several years of setting lofty goals and becoming increasingly frustrated when I wasn’t getting the results I wanted, I decided to take a closer look at my approach.

Now, there are many ways you can do this, but here’s how I went about it. Last year, I asked myself the following questions:

  • What am I doing right now?
  • How can I get better at this?
  • Is this process goal leading me closer to my ultimate goals?

The choices I made from the answers to these questions became my process goals. They were the driving force that kept me motivated and moving forward when I wanted to give up and throw in the towel. Since then, I’ve been able to accomplish lifelong goals that I had given up on years ago. For example, I’ve been able to obtain a publishing contract, create more digital products for my business, and enjoy the moment.

Advertising

Before I broke down my goals into smaller ones, I was struggling to just get out of bed. The thought of my endless list kept me stagnant. Now, I look forward to each morning and taking on smaller projects to reach profitable outcomes.

What Are Some Process Goals You Can Try?

So, now that you understand the importance of process goals, let’s get you started with some examples that you can utilize this week:

  • Sign up for a new class.
  • Complete one portion of your project by Thursday.
  • Start walking around the block instead of running a mile.
  • Improve your writing by spending 30 minutes everyday journaling.
  • Practice your interview skills.
  • Read at least one book from the library this week.
  • Do ten push-ups each day before you leave for work.

You get the idea. These process goals don’t have to be complicated. If anything, you want to break down your plans to the point of them feeling easy or at least doable without needing a week’s vacation. By breaking your goals down into smaller pieces, you can accomplish a lot more in a shorter period. You’ll also feel more confident that you’re able to accomplish something within the moment.

It isn’t easy to continue towards your goal if achievement feels too far away. You need to celebrate the small things and embrace the process.

What Do You Need for Process Goals?

Think about how much time and money you’ve spent on new clothes, books, technology, etc. Many of us want to keep up with the latest trends and purchase the best gadgets from Apple or Microsoft. But all of these extra investments come at a steep price.

Advertising

To find your process goals, you may have to face some difficult emotions or situations bravely and confront them head-on. You might need to forgo the new outfit or the latest Mac book to meet your overall objectives.[1] Remember, process goals not only protect you from feeling overwhelmed, but they also keep you from being distracted.

Final Thoughts

You may feel overwhelmed at first when trying to set a process goal. Sometimes, just thinking about change triggers stress hormones, which only leads to more worries and anxious feelings. However, if you keep yourself focused and take small steps in the right direction, you’ll soon realize that goals don’t have to be complicated.

You can achieve your process goals one day at a time, and you can start today by breaking down your larger goal into smaller steps. It doesn’t matter if the process takes a week or six months, what matters most is that you’re moving forward and doing something to make yourself better.

Now, go on out there and achieve one of your process goals!

Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

Advertising

Reference

Read Next