Effective Goal Setting + Measuring Progress
And in addition to the steps, you need to know how long. Research has proven that when goals are time-bound (I will run a marathon in 6 months, I will practice yoga daily for 1 week, I will get that job promotion by the end of the year), we’re more likely to accurately pace ourselves and are more likely to achieve our goal. Consider your time frame, and then plug your roadmap in. (This might even look like quite literally penning things into your calendar!)
Take the first step
Because you have already mapped out your plan, you know what Step 1 is. Now, we take it.
When things become challenging or overwhelming, drill back into the “next right step.” (Have I mentioned how much Frozen II we watch around here?) Grab your roadmap, ignore everything except for the next step, and get to work.
Schedule benchmarks to evaluate progress
When you’re planning your game plan, add benchmark checks. These are a pre planned time to measure and evaluate your progress—to troubleshoot, refocus, pivot, and celebrate. It can be helpful to include small mini-goals in your greater goal, and it’s important to celebrate progress.
I recommend 3-4 benchmark checks throughout any goal, perhaps more if it’s a longer goal. Take stock, figure out what’s working and what’s not, set the next benchmark, and carry on.
How do you know if you’re making progress? Around here, we consider anything above 0% improvement to be progress. It’s really true that small progress adds up over time.
If you’re running that marathon, perhaps you’re tracking your pace or distance on a spreadsheet. This gives you concrete data measuring your progress. If you’re mastering the hobby, maybe you can compare a recording of your current oboe concerto performance with one you recorded a week ago. If you’re trying to stay alcohol-free, compare how many dry days you had in the last 7 days compared to the previous 7. Tracking data along the way, documenting where we’re at, gives us something to look back on.
And if you measure your progress and discover you haven’t made any, that’s okay! Dial back into the action plan, the next right step, and revisit your “why” for that goal.
Arguinchona, J.H, Tadi, P. Neuroanatomy, Reticular Activating System. [Updated 2020 Jul 31]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK549835/
RAS (Reticular Activating System). Positive Psychology | UMN Extension. (n.d.). https://extension.umn.edu/two-you-video-series/ras.