Goal Tracking


It’s the first Monday of a new month, which seems like a good checkpoint to revisit your New Year’s resolutions. If you rolled into 2020 with lofty diet and exercise goals, it may be a bit cruel to check in on your progress the day after Super Bowl Sunday. Odds are, you’re back at your desk today, groggy and suffering from chips-guac-and-beer remorse. Maybe today’s not the best time to examine your health and fitness progress. But, what about career and business goals? Did you aim to make any changes to your professional life in 2020?


We did. And, so far, we’re seeing progress.


The new office has been purged, cleaned, organized and upgraded with new, higher-powered internet. The new website has launched and we’re making slow-but-steady progress on the social media presence. Health insurance has been procured, clients are being billed through a swanky new online accounting interface, and our first strategic planning offsite meeting was a success—and included a chance meeting with a promising new business partner. Not bad, considering this venture didn’t officially launch full-time until January 16.


Of course, there’s still a long way to go from point A to point B, and the slow but steady pace can be mind-numbing for an impatient Aries like me. That’s why checking in is so crucial. I find that taking an occasional inventory of incremental progress helps to keep me and the rest of my team motivated for the long journey ahead.


If, upon reflection, you feel like you didn’t make sufficient progress toward your goals in January, consider February your chance for a do-over. Here are a few tips to help you get back on track and ready for your first-Monday-in-March checkup, 29 days from today. It’s a Leap Year, so you get a bonus day to push through your goals this month.


Divide your goal into small chunks.
Let’s say you vowed to get organized in 2020. Rather than dismantling your office to install a complex new shelving and filing system, why not set a more manageable target? Instead, set a goal to clean out one file cabinet drawer per week throughout the month of February. By March, your paper files will be in order, so you can switch gears to tackle your digital files—one file at a time.  Thinking small and dividing your goal into manageable steps increases the likelihood of success. Not only are you less likely to become overwhelmed or burned out by the work, you’ll also see measurable progress more quickly—and that builds momentum to keep going. Which brings us to…


Keep track of small victories.
A quick Google search shows there are 100s of online goal tracking platforms, and just as many apps for your smart phone. The problem with recording your progress this way is that it doubles your workload. Not only do you have your big goal to work toward and keep track of, now you’re adding an extra layer of inputting data into the app. It’s another new, daily step to add to your routine and, unless you’re already super-efficient and organized, you could be setting yourself up for failure.  I propose starting small. Keep a notepad on your desk, or start a note in your smartphone to record small victories. Think of it like a ‘to do’ list, only it’s more of a ‘did it’ list. Remember, the purpose is to record incremental progress you’re making toward your larger goal so, at the end of the month, or even at the end of a day when you’re feeling discouraged, you can look back and see that you are making positive forward motion—even if it’s in small quantities.


Don’t get hung up on perfect.
Stick-with-it-ness is hard to sustain in today’s age of instant gratification, especially when it comes to arduous goals. It’s difficult to stay focused on the slog of working toward a lofty ambition when we’re constantly comparing our progress with the sanitized social media personas of our “friends” who all appear to be accomplishing so much more, so much faster and with such ease. Don’t fall for the hype. No one’s life is perfect, regardless of what their Instagram filters try to tell you. As best-selling author Jon Acuff advised in his book, Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done, “The problem is that perfectionism magnifies your mistakes and minimizes your progress. It does not believe in incremental success. Perfectionism portrays your goal as a house of cards. If one thing doesn’t go perfectly, the whole thing falls apart. The smallest misstep means the entire goal is ruined.” Don’t let small obstacles kill your dreams. Keep your eye on the prize.


Stay motivated.
Sustained enthusiasm for a goal is, hands down, the hardest thing to maintain when working toward any goal, particularly when visible results are slow to surface. Think back to January 1, when your passion for your new goal burned white hot. Feeling that same gusto on the first Monday of February? Probably not. We’re only human, which means we have a short attention span for hard work. If keeping track of your small victories and reminding yourself you’re making progress isn’t enough to keep the coals burning, it’s acceptable—and even recommended—to turn to outside sources of motivation. As corny as it sounds, I’ve found that starting my day with a little audio inspiration sets a positive tone for staying focused on the long slog of my goals. I’ve already confessed my podcast addiction on this blog, and one of my favorites is ‘The Quote of the Day Show.’ Each weekday, host Sean Croxton compiles a brief audio snippet from big name motivational speakers, authors and business leaders. In 15 minutes or less, each episode gives me the perfect attitude adjustment to tackle the day ahead. Podcasts aren’t your thing? I also recommend the ‘Motivation’ app. It’s free for iPhone and features a daily motivational quote on a wide range of topics, from self-esteem and success, to relationships and dealing with stress.


Put in the work.
Strange as it may seem, I think we can all take some inspiration from Ellen DeGeneres’ famous animated character, Dori, the forgetful fish sidekick in Finding Nemo. Dori’s motto “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming,” is an elementary—and utterly effective—mantra to adopt as you journey toward your goal. Whether you’re working to shed 30 pounds or determined to launch a self-sustaining business so you can say goodbye to the drudgery of working for someone else, getting to the end goal is going to be a slog. The only path from here to there is through the middle, and that’s where all the hard work is. It’s a difficult and unavoidable truth: success doesn’t happen overnight. The only way to accomplish great things is to put in the work, day after day. Even when you’re tired, and even when you don’t feel like it. The late Arthur Ashe, the only black man ever to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open said it best: “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.”