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Tracking your progress is THE most important thing you can do if you want to be successful.
Moment of truth!
You’ve stuck to your diet (mostly) all week. You walked the dog twice a day, that’s exercise, right? (Yes, yes it is!) And you drank your 8 to 10 glasses of water. Every. Single. Day.
So here you are.
The scale is right in front of you and you’re standing buck-naked in your bedroom.
You get on and …
Let’s back up for a second. WHY are you getting on your scale?
Because you paid good money for it, darn it?
Because you’re going to use the measurement as a baseline for weighing the dog (you&dog – you= dog)?
Because it’s a fun activity when you’re naked?
Nope, maybe and NOPE. (Surely you have better things to do with your nakedness!)
You’re weighing yourself because you did the whole weight loss, healthy habits thing all week. And now you want to see how you’ve done.
You’re tracking your progress.
And why are you doing that?
So. Many. Reasons. But let’s start with …
There’s a higher rate of success associated with tracking your progress.
A LOT higher rate.
That’s why weight loss groups are all about accountability. If you’ve ever been to Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig, you know that they require weigh-ins and meetings to measure, analyze and talk about your progress.
Gyms set up new members with a few personal trainer sessions and write up a goal tracking template that you can check off as you do the exercises each week. They also promote personal training packages but those are not only about making money for the gym. They’re also another tool to help you reach your goals.
Do you monitor a health condition? A heart-rate monitor can send you an alarm when you should lower the intensity of your workout and can also help guide you in making healthy changes to reset it to where it should be.
Small habit changes can be tracked right in your paper planner.
Do you have a goal of drinking more water every day? Add 8 little drop symbols to the bottom of your daily page and fill them in each time you drink a glass of water. A simple daily habit tracker that you can see and use.
Are you a smoker or do you want to quit drinking soda? A discreet little x (your own personal tracking code) at the hour mark on your planner shows you visually that you’ve gone 5 hours, 6, 7, 8 HOURS without the bad habit you’re trying to break. Yay, you! You made it through your stressful workday without a smoke or a sugary soda.
Do you have high blood pressure? Maintaining a healthy blood pressure might include medication, stress relief and doctor follow up. But it will definitely require you to keep track of your blood pressure measurements until you are stable.
Diabetic? You should be tracking your blood sugar several times a day. Without tracking, you won’t know if you need to make an adjustment to your diet or take insulin. Your life depends on it.
There’s a huge industry in devices designed to bring you bigger goal success with tracking. Fitbit makes a line of trackers that also double as watches. They can track your steps, workouts, heart rate, calories burned, and even let you know when you have an email or text waiting.
Don’t like wearing a watch? Motiv makes a fabulous tracker ring! No one will ever know it’s a tracker!
And trackers aren’t only about achieving goal success with tracking.
Tracking your progress …
1. Gives you a baseline.
How do you know you lost weight since starting your diet?
You know because tracking always begins with where you started.
Did you ever see that funny cult movie classic “Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension?”
If you haven’t, you totally should. It’s ridiculous and camp and impossible to describe.
Why am I bringing it up? Because of a famous line from the movie that’s lived on with most people not even knowing where it came from.
“No matter where you go, there you are.”
You can choose to interpret it as meaning that you are still the same person inside no matter how much you might change about yourself and your life on the outside.
Go ahead and go all metaphysical on me. I’ll be waiting right here.
How do you know how far you have to go, or that you’ve traveled at all unless you know where you started?
Tracking gives you a starting point, and each task accomplished is another step along the way. But when you look back and see how far you’re gone, it all begins with that starting point.
It’s what makes tracking so valuable.
2. Helps you reach your goals faster!
Measuring your success with tracking begins with setting a timeline for each goal and task.
It’s not enough to drop a “Research and apply for a business license” notation in your calendar (or worse, your to-do list!
What happens to that task if you get interrupted? When will you do it? How important is it?
Without making it a priority, giving it a deadline and setting aside the time you need to complete it, it’s likely that it will keep moving down in your list of things to do.
Instead, you need to set a specific time when you’ll be researching business licenses and block out the time you need to do it. It may only take a 10-minute search of your city’s business bureau website for you to answer your questions and download the forms.
Then the next scheduled task is to fill out the forms and mail them.
At the end of the day, you can track your activities and see that you completed your goal. You have a business license now, not sometime this week. Or whenever.
And once you’ve completed this first important task, you’re free to move forward with the next step.
3. Tracking keeps you motivated.
Tracking is literally seeing progress made in front of your eyes.
☑ Put away the magazines all over the living room.
☑ Go to Bevmo during lunch and pick up the wine for the party.
☑ Call and remind the babysitter she’s due at 7.
_Put the brie out to get to room temperature.
_Shower & get ready.
You see that checklist before heading home and your mind is immediately relieved. All you have to do is put out the brie when you get home and go get ready for your party.
When you track everything you do towards your goal, you have a visual reminder of how far you’ve come. That makes everything that still needs to be done that much less.
And as you track your progress, you gain more and more confidence that you can do the rest.
You’ve GOT this!
You’ve motivated and you’re in control!
4. Keeps you in control.
Are you a control freak?
Whether you are or not (and boy, am I ever!), with any project, you need to be in control if you’re going to be successful.
That’s where tracking gives you the edge.
The process of setting goals, breaking them down to achievable small steps, and then watching your progress is a system you create and control.
The ultimate control is in tracking your progress. Tracking lets you see what you’ve done, what you still need to do, and what changes you need to make.
Feeling in control is a tremendous confidence booster and the more confident you are, the more you’ll keep the momentum of your goals moving forward.
5. Gives your goals focus
Tracking forces you to focus on what you’re doing, even if it’s for only a few minutes a day.
By paying attention to the behavior, the tasks, the habits that move you forward, you’re keeping your focus right where it matters most. On the dream and big goal you’re working so hard for.
That focus keeps your big goal front and center in your mind and won’t let you ignore it or be distracted away from it.
As you get further and further along on the journey, the need for this focus will be less important. You’ll have momentum going for you. But at the beginning, when you need every bit of help you can find, the tracking focus will be a huge help in getting your project off the ground.
6. Makes you accountable.
When you know that you have to account for your actions, you’re going to give it 100%.
Remember that scale in your bathroom?
It’s an inanimate object but when you haven’t done all the things to reach your goal, it starts looking a little scary. More and more each day until weigh in day.
When you’re at work and reaching for a cookie someone is offering you, does thinking about your scale make you shiver and pull away from the cookie?
That’s accountability in a nutshell.
7. Lets you make critical course adjustments.
Regular tracking means you can make micro adjustments to your plan when you see problems.
Let’s be really clear. When something doesn’t work, it’s not a failure of you or your system.
Successful people reject the very idea of failure.
Many times, when you have a goal that has many steps from start to finish, you’ll run into a roadblock. It could be because you either forgot or didn’t know about extra steps you needed. Or your approach itself is creating problems that can’t be easily solved. Or your timeline is too ambitious and you simply can’t complete the needed tasks the way you’ve set them up because … life.
These are not failures. They’re an opportunity to see and understand the obstacles and then make the changes you need to get your goal back on track.
Think of them as course corrections.
You’re sailing along and the wind shifts and blows you in a different direction. Time to tack and swing yourself back into the right direction.
The wind dies completely and you’re at a standstill. Time to power up the motor and get some distance while you wait for the next wind you can catch.
You don’t give up, go home and stay on dry land forever.
You just correct for the inevitable glitches on your trip.
Tracking is both your map and your compass on your journey. And it’s only by tracking that you know if you’ve moved off course.
Tracking your progress is your roadmap to success.
Just like a map, tracking helps you figure out where you are and allows you to plot a course to where you want to be.
You’ll recognize distractions and time-sinks for what they are and won’t let them weaken your commitment or take you from your chosen path.
And you’ll get better and faster at everything you decide to go after.
Ready to set some goals?
Join the Plotting A New Course community and download our 10 Goal Setting Hacks.