“It’s not happening fast enough.” “I can’t figure it out.” “I’m not getting anywhere.”
I often hear statements like this from clients who feel stuck in their goals.
They don’t see the progress they expect.
They think it’s not working.
They feel discouraged.
And they want to quit.
(Have you been there before? I know I have!)
Here’s what I’ve also found.
When we’re in this situation, it’s usually because we skipped a crucial step between setting and reaching our goal.
What’s that step, you ask?
Measuring your progress along the way.
Our world today thrives on instant gratification: immediate streaming services, next day delivery, speedy food delivery, etc.
With this expectancy for quick turnaround, we tend to forget that long term goals are exactly that.
They happen over the long term.
And when we don’t have a way to show our impatient brain our progress, we start thinking, “it’s not working.”
We feel frustrated.
And we want to stop.
This is where tracking our progress come in.
By intentionally creating benchmarks along the way, it’s so much easier to see your forward momentum.
It’s so much easier to believe it’s working.
And it’s so much easier to stick with it.
And on episode 78 of the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast, I’m sharing my best strategies to create benchmarks and track your success with ease.
Check it out today.
Start tracking your progress.
And watch things happen.
Listen to the episode below, or stream it on your favorite podcasting app here:
Prefer to read? No problem! Keep scrolling for the entire podcast transcript.
Listen To The Podcast Here!
In This Episode, You Will Discover…
- Why we often get discouraged working toward long term goals
- How to set benchmarks and track your progress
- Tips to assess and adjust to stay committed to your goals no matter what.
Links From The Podcast
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Episode #78: How to Easily Measure Your Progress On Long Term Goals (Transcript)
Hey, everybody. How are things? What’s going on with you?
For a quick update on my banana extravaganza from last week, I’ve now been indulging in all the banana bread and banana muffins the past week and it’s been delicious. Not going to lie, I am not mad about this mistake.
Anyway, what are we talking about today? Well, today I want to dive into what I think is a crucial yet overlooked component of following through on our goals. So last week we talked about the importance of embracing the concept of the 50/50 experience of positive and negative emotions. And that even when things are hard and not going according to plan for our goals (or anything in life), that doesn’t mean it’s time to throw in the towel on our goal.
Tracking Progress On Your Goals
Well, this week we’re talking about the importance of actually tracking our progress and setting measurable benchmarks to keep us moving forward to the end goal. Because without that, it’s easy for our brain to start finding evidence that it’s not working, get discouraged, and want to quit.
Now, we’ve talked about this in the abstract. We’ve talked about the importance of creating measurable goals and why we should make our goals super-specific. And we know that we should map out the steps of our goal to get us from point A to point B. But we haven’t talked about how to measure this important in-between period. How do we know we’re staying on track to reach the end goal? What are some actual strategies we can put into place – regardless of whether we’re working on a giant career goal, a health goal, or we want to simply get to bed on time regularly. What strategies can we use to keep us on track?
As I mentioned, the reason why I think this concept is so important is that when we miss these smaller benchmarks along the way, it’s easier to let the goal slip. What I’ve seen with my clients is that without those benchmarks or checkpoints, we feel that confusion or lack of direction because we’re questioning whether we’re even making forward progress at all. We don’t have any indication that we’re moving in the right direction.
And often from that space of questioning, we easily slip into feeling discouraged. And this is especially true when we’re working toward the big impossible goals like we talked about way back in episode 20 and 21. We set these goals that we plan to work toward all year long, and when we don’t see clear measurable progress after the first few weeks, it’s easy for our brain to get frustrated. We start thinking, I’m not making any progress anyway. There hasn’t been any change. It’s taking way too long. And we decide to stop. We don’t follow through. And once again, we add further evidence to the story that we never stick to anything.
So for example, if you set a goal to build a successful Etsy business by the end of the year, how do you know in May if you’re on the right track? Or if you want to complete a novel by November, how do you know that you are making the progress you need to make it happen?
If we don’t have those measurable benchmarks or those ways to check in with ourselves, it’s easy to stop feeling committed. It’s easy to let things slip because we don’t have anything to gauge our progress. In fact, the most common objections that I hear from people when they’re working toward their goals are “it’s just not happening fast enough”, or “it’s just not working.”
How Do You Know?
And my response of is: “how do you know?” And if we don’t have benchmarks, we have a great place to start. Because without the benchmarks or a way to measure progress, it’s more challenging to maintain clarity. Plus, it’s hard to know what to work on first. Instead, we’re just staring at this big nebulous goal at the end of the year without a way of knowing whether things are working or not. We have no qualifiers to decide whether we’re on track.
So that’s what I want to talk about today. What are some different ways that we can measure our progress as we work toward our goals? What are some ways that we can track our progress and know, “yes. I am on track. These things are working.” or “no. things aren’t on track. Here’s where we might have a problem. And from that knowledge, we can adjust and iterate our process to ensure we keep moving in the right direction rather than floundering in confusion and overwhelm about not knowing what to do next.
So let’s talk about this.
How to Track Achievement Goals
Now there are several different ways that you can measure progress toward your goals. And I want to start by exploring the bigger results-driven goals that many of us set at the beginning of a new year or a new quarter. Now a results-driven goal or an achievement-based goal is something that you’re working toward that produces something. So maybe in 12 months, you will have published a book. Or at the end of the year, you will have built a business to $X in revenue. Or by June you will have gotten a promotion at work.
In other words, you have the result or achievement at the end. You have the book in hand. You have the revenue on your accounting statement. Or you have the new job title on your door. And when you’ve reached the end of your time frame you can check in with yourself and say, “yes, I’ve done this.” Or “no, I have not.”
And one of my favorite ways to measure progress with achievement goals or results-driven goals is by breaking up your big goal into smaller benchmarks throughout the year. So let’s stick with the writing example, since I’m working with a few clients who are working on books right now.
If you want to write a book, what are all of the different steps that you need to take to reach that end goal by December 31st? Get all of the different ideas out of your head and into paper.
Group Ideas Together
Can you group certain ideas together? Do you see the steps unfold in some kind of logical progression? Perhaps there is the research phase, the outline and proposal phase. Maybe one of them is looking into editors or publishing companies. Maybe you have the writing phase or perhaps you want to break that down further into individual chapters. The editing phase, etc.
Once you identify the different phases of your goal and the smaller steps that get you there, then you can divide them throughout the year to help your brain stay on track. So by February 15, I will finish the initial research. By March 30th, I will have the proposal written. And so on and so forth as you create these benchmarks along the way to make things happen.
The reason why this is so valuable is that when you sit down to work on your book – or whatever goal it is you’re working on – you’re not just thinking, ”Okay. I need to get this done by December.” Instead, you know your first goal has a deadline of February 15th. This is the first main benchmark you’re working toward. And then how can you break that down further in the weeks ahead to keep you moving toward that first checkpoint?
And again, this goes for any achievement based goal you’re working toward.
Other great built-in checkpoints that businesses often use are the first, second, third, and fourth quarters of the year. In other words, with each quarter, you use it as a check in to see if you’re on track with your goal? Yes or no? So where do I want to be at the end of 1st quarter? How about 2nd quarter? Etc.
Check-in And Reassess
And another reason why incorporating these checkpoints or benchmark is SO important is it allows you to pause and reassess what is and what isn’t working. If you had a goal to make a certain amount of money in the business, and you assumed you would make it by selling a certain product, but that product just isn’t selling, it is time to reassess.
What’s not working? Is it the way you’re marketing the product? Is it the time of year? Is it who you’re marketing the product to? Is it the product itself? What’s working, what’s not working, and what do we want to try next? By having in those build-in benchmarks, it allows you space to adjust as necessary so you can continue to flourish.
Process Goals and Habit Goals
The next goals that I want to explore are process goals or habit-based goals.
As a reminder process or habit based goals might look like meditating daily or walking five days a week, or journaling for 10 minutes every morning.
Now when I talk with clients about these types of goals, I often find them feeling stuck or confused because it seems like there’s not much to check in on. How do you measure benchmarks with daily meditation? Sure, we can use a habit tracker, which is an effective way to help us track and see our progress. But because it’s the same habit over and over, our brains – especially ADHD brains – have a tendency to get bored.
So what can we do? How can we create some kind of benchmark or larger-scale check in than a daily “did I do this yes or no”? What can we think about and work toward to keep that commitment strong?
Well, the first place I like to start is thinking about the bigger picture. Because the truth is this; you probably didn’t decide to establish a habit just for the sheer fun of doing a habit, right? There is probably some larger objective of why you chose to dedicate your time to this or that activity. And the first thing we want to do is remember what that reason is.
Why Did You Choose The Process Goal?
So start there. Why did I choose to adopt this habit? Why did I want to start meditating for 10 minutes per day? Why do I want to cook meals instead of ordering takeout at least 4 nights per week? What was the reason I decided to practice daily self-coaching?
Maybe you chose to meditate for 10 minutes so you can start increasing your awareness of your thoughts and manage your focus for longer stretches of time. And maybe you decided to cook meals from home 4 times per week so you can save some money.
Well, what I think is really interesting here, is your larger “why” is actually another version of an achievement based goal, right? If I cook meals at home 4 nights per week instead of ordering takeout, I will save $X per week, which equals $Y amount per month and $Z amount each quarter. So by thinking about your “why,” you have that measurable benchmark already built-in; you just have to be a little curious to figure out what it is specifically.
Who Will You Be?
Another way to think about the process goal is who will you be after following through on the habit for one year? What will change in your life once you’ve successfully established the habit and and it is now a regular part of your routine?
So for example, if you decided to meditate for 10 minutes per day, who would you be if you meditated every day this year? What would be different for you? Who will you be after 3,650 minutes of meditation under your belt?
Perhaps you will be more present in the moment. Maybe you will be someone who is more aware of their racing thoughts. If you’re an ADHDer or have ADHD tendencies and you struggle with distraction, maybe you’ll be someone with an increased attention span and greater ability to maintain focus.
Well if that’s the case, you set checkpoints throughout the year, maybe once per month, maybe once per quarter, where you measure your focus and distractability. Perhaps track your time for three days each quarter to measure how long you stayed on task. Maybe you use a program on your computer or an extension in your browser that tracks what you’re doing on your computer so you can see how much time you’re working on the projects for work and how much time is spent scrolling Facebook or reading articles on Reddit.
So even with less concrete goals like focus, there are ways we can establish benchmarks to check-in and measure our progress. And just as we talked about with the clear achievement-based goals this allows us to identify what’s working, what’s not, and what adjustments we want to make to ensure we’re making the process we want.
Homework This Week
So as you think about the goals and resolutions you set this year – or whenever it is you found this podcast episode – think about where you will be in one year from now. What will be different? What will you have created? Or what will have shifted or transformed due to your consistent work throughout the year?
Once you’ve identified that clear, measurable end goal, then divide it up. This might look like breaking down the different, tangible steps if you’re working on an achievement-based goal. And again, these might be the different steps for writing a book, or starting a business, or launching a YouTube channel.
And it also might look like subtle shifts or transformations in different areas of your life if you’re working on habit-based goals like journaling every morning, calling a friend twice a week, or posting 4 times a week on your Instagram business account.
Whatever those measurable benchmarks are, divide them up throughout the year ahead to help keep you on track toward your year-end goal. Where do you expect to be in March? Where will you be in June? What about September? Or alternatively, when will you have your product created? When do will you finish your website? When will you start selling the project? Etc.
Don’t Skip It
I know these might seem like tiny details. And I know they may even seem tedious. But I’m telling you, they make all the difference. Because these benchmarks help you keep your brain focused on the goal. They help you measure your progress. And when you feel yourself getting discouraged or frustrated or bored with the goal, which is totally normal – especially when it’s a long-term goal that challenges us – we can silence that voice that says, “Nothing is working. It’s not happening. There’s no point in trying because I’m not moving forward.” Because we have the data. We can see the progress. And we can decide intentionally what’s working, what’s not, and how do we want to move forward as we continue following through on making our goals happen.