Why isn’t the title say: Tips How to Track Your Progress? Because making progress doesn’t necessarily mean you are going in the right direction.
We all make progress in our lives and knowing what progress we make definitely helps. Although without knowing how such progress adds to the success, the progress is no more than a step forward. We don’t know how big the step is or if we, in fact, walk on the yellow brick road.
But by tracking your progress, you do more than most people do. The question is whether it is enough to achieve high performance and the level of success you are happy with. And there is another question. If tracking your progress itself is not sufficient, then what is?
Tracking a goal, assuming the tracking method is fit-for-purpose, will give you sufficient information on both your progress and the added value of your efforts to your success.
But what method can you use to track your goals?
You are not tracking the goal itself; you are tracking your progress toward the goal, you are tracking how close you are achieving the goal in time and quality. That makes sense, doesn’t it?
Naturally, you can choose methods to track your progress against a goal if you sufficiently specified the goal. Which means your goal needs to be specific enough for you to be able to measure your progress against it. What then means, your goal has to include specific details about it. E.g., a deadline, or a certain % of the progress you would like to achieve.
E.g. My goal could be: ‘I would like to read two books every month this year.’
- The goal in this example specifies what I would like to achieve and in what time frame. What I would like to achieve is to learn from two books and I do that in a month.
- It also tells me how I will achieve it. I achieve the learning by reading.
- Moreover, it tells me that unless I read two books (100% of the book) a month, I am going to stay behind my goal.
You can define for yourself the progress you have to make each month, or a week, or even a day to achieve your goal. In the example before I did just that.
And sometimes achieving such progress is not going to be linear; or you have to do different things each time to get where you want to be.
All in all, if you have a long-term goal, breaking it down to smaller pieces will help you better understand how you meet it and will reduce the risk of not achieving it, too.
Additionally, it will also help you revise your strategy, if needed, along the way.
But some people say that setting goals is meaningless anyway, so why do I bother tracking them?
This is a question I received many times this year. I realised there were articles out there with titles suggesting goal setting had no added value, even though the articles mostly included the benefits of goal-setting in various ways. So, here is my answer.
- Setting goals just for the sake of it is meaningless.
- Setting a goal that does not resonate with your life strategy and plan, doesn’t matter how SMART your goal is, is also meaningless.
- Without setting goals though, even if you have a clear view of your life strategy or your priorities for the next three to five years, you will struggle.
Because goals are basically milestones. At least they should be. They are the lights at both sides of the path you walk on in the park. And I am not suggesting life is a walk in the park. I am suggesting life is a journey.
Imagine you are travelling by ship. A beautiful large ship with all the facilities and programmes to make your journey exciting and joyful.
- How would this ship make a long and successful journey without knowing where the harbours are and where it needs to stop for supplies?
- What is the way to enjoy the journey without knowing you are safe, and the staff knows exactly what to do and when to make your journey pleasant?
- How would the staff know what to do and when without planning?
- And how would the staff be able to plan without goals?
But tracking your progress against a goal is not just about knowing what you want to achieve. The goal or in that case the milestone is an outcome; and what takes you to the result is action. During your journey, you want to know what you need to do to get the desired result.
Once you know what you want to do, your goal essentially
- you need to know how success looks like, and
- how you can measure the success, and
- what is the shortest time period which is reasonable to measure for progress.
And that answers an important question. Should you track your progress daily, or weekly or monthly, maybe quarterly? It all depends on your goals and on your discipline.
And what tools can you use to measure your progress?
This is an interesting question, because there are many good tools out there.
Nowadays there is an app for everything.
- If you want a few clicks and nothing more a day because you are extremely busy, you can do that.
- If you trust detailed information, you can use a spreadsheet or a project or task management app.
- You are not good with written words, just use a voice recorder or a transcriber app.
I suggest you don’t waste time on finding the perfect tracking tool first. Find one that is good enough and perfect your tracking method. Once you are satisfied with the way how you track your goals and performance, you will find the perfect tracking tool, too.