In the beginning of the year, I wrote to you about the power of a yearly theme. How do we start anew, bursting with energy and motivation along with a list of resolutions or goals that we set ourselves to accomplish throughout that year. Those first couple of weeks or months where you feel fully engaged and committed, your mind running a million miles an hour, you feeling determined and invincible. A yearly theme(s) intends to keep you connected to your overall plan or dream.
We are now a little over the first half of the year. In other words, time to take stock, time to check your progress. Most likely, you have done it consistently each week or each month. If not, you are probably delayed, but still in time to do it. Go grab that piece of paper or find that page in your journal where you have written your yearly theme – or themes if you have set up more than one. In case you cannot find it nor remember it, it probably means you have completely forgotten about your goals and plans. I surely hope not!
You deserve to achieve your goals and to see your dreams come true. This does not happen though, when you do not take accountability for your behaviors and decisions, when you do not take action toward your vision and your purpose.
When you do take action, when you move one step closer to your goals every single day, when you do the work to become the best person you can be, then progress is already happening. However, often we undervalue how much we have accomplished, how far we have come. This is why measuring your progress is key. Doing so is not about blaming yourself (or others), finding excuses or beating yourself up. You are where you are right now. No way to change the past. You can definitely learn from what you did or did not do, but keep that mindset toward the present and the future.
Let us look at 4 strategies to help you measuring your progress consistently and effectively.
1. Break big plans into smaller projects: We all have big dreams, some of them so huge that we are even afraid to share them aloud. Ignoring them or simply not voicing them out, does not make them smaller or magically disappear. Maybe you want to have your own business and lead a big team, or buy a house in an exotic island and live there with your partner and 5 kids. Perhaps you want to become a famous chef, or a renowned author and travel the world. Whatever it is for you, it is not going to become your reality overnight. What has to happen for you to get there? What steps do you have to take? Go ahead and break out these big plans or dreams into projects. It is perfectly natural to have several projects running in parallel. Some more focused in the professional sphere, others in your personal life. Thinking about that yearly theme(s) again, how is it reflecting into these projects?
2. Set milestones: You have your projects now. Some of them may take several months to a year, especially when in connection to a bigger plan or dream. Others can take less than 3 months, for instance, if you want to clean your storage room or learn how to plant your own vegetables. In order to keep moving forward, it is important to set milestones and deadlines. First, pick one of your projects and think about the immediate next steps you have to take to complete it. One task – however small – is never complete without some pre-work or smaller related activities. If we stick to the storage room example, you would have to 1) remove everything out, 2) choose what you want to keep and pack what you want to throw/ give away, 3) clean up the place, and 4) reorganize what is left. Set up these milestones helps you by letting you know exactly where you stand along the journey as well as keeping you motivated by visualizing the target one step closer every time.
3. Track your tasks: Do not leave progress to chance. You are progressing when you are moving forward, when you are productive, when you complete your tasks – tasks that matter to you, to you achieving your goals. How will you tackle all these tasks if you do not block time for them? Life gets in the way. You wear several hats in your life that require your time and energy. Tasks that you are probably not crazy about, but need to be done nonetheless. Yes, I am talking about grocery shopping, cooking dinner, picking up your kids, cleaning the house, answering phone calls, replying to emails – the list goes on and on. Make sure you schedule your tasks in specific time slots in your calendar, block the proper time to focus on them. This not only allows you to do the work that matters, but also to visualize where and how you are spending your time.
4. Perform weekly and monthly reviews: Self-assessment is key for improvement. Improvement leads to more progress. Depending on your goals, you can do a review on a weekly or monthly basis. However, doing both is ideal as they allow you to keep track more closely and adjust when needed. If you wait until the end of the month, it may happen that you feel already demotivated and disconnected, especially if you had a particularly tough couple of weeks. How to you perform this self-evaluation? It is all about recognizing your achievements as well as areas for improvement. Ask yourself: Am I satisfied with my results, with the outcomes? Did these actions take me closer to my goals? What got in the way of me achieving certain objectives? What can I do different next week/month? Where and how can I focus my energy and time next week/month? A weekly or a monthly review helps you stay on track – or get back on track in case something getting in the way of your performance.
To reach a destination you must know where you are going. In addition, to get there you need to keep moving forward, even if only one small step at a time. You may know you are moving, but how can you be sure you are moving toward your destination? I believe you do not want to end up at a random place asking yourself what you are doing there. Measuring your progress keeps you on track, encourages you to improve, pushing you to give your best and get where you want to be, faster and more efficiently.