Update: The goal tracking spreadsheet has been updated for 2018.
I follow a goal-setting process that works well for my life as a stay-at-home, work-from-home mom.
As I outline in Work the Plan, I always start with what I call directional goals, but at some point those have to be translated into actions. The best kinds of actions to work on over the course of a year, however, are not project-type actions (though those are my preference) but habit-type actions.
What small actions, repeated over and over, will move you in the direction you’re wanting to grow? That’s the essential question to answer.
A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules. – Anthony Trollope
I’m much more of a spasmodic Hercules by personality type, so those small repetitious actions are what I really need to focus on because it’s easy for me to overlook or even disdain them. But habits build up much more effectively than projects. They make actions automatic, so we don’t have to spend willpower and decision-making energy on choosing the right thing anymore. That’s huge.
Now, I have a love/hate relationship with measuring goals and resolutions. “What gets measured gets done” is our very American motto, and that bothers me because what is most important to us usually cannot be measured. If we focus primarily on what can be measured rather than what direction we’re heading, we are liable to spend our time in the urgent but not important quadrant rather than the not urgent but important quadrant, an essential distinction Stephen Covey made in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Goal tracking, however, reminds us about what is in that not urgent but important category.
So, I determined 3 daily habits, 2 weekly habits, and 1 monthly habitsI wanted to work on building this year. Now what?
The popular “don’t break the chain” method of tracking was tempting simply because of its ease of use, but I know myself too well to start down that path. First, one day it will be too inconvenient to mark down my habits and I will tell myself, “Well, you did them and that’s what counts, not the tracking.” So, then my tracking will derail and be inaccurate while I feel good about myself for letting it go. And once it’s inaccurate, I will totally lose motivation to use it at all. Second, the first time I do break the chain – because it will happen – I will have lost the game. Game over. Start again next year.
So, that method of goal tracking is out.
But if I don’t track my habits at all, then this year will be like the last: I will simply forget about them completely. I need to find some method to keep them top-of-mind.
Hence, the goal tracking spreadsheet.
This last year I have tracked some blog-related statistics on a spreadsheet with a group of other bloggers. It was fun to see growth and also be able to spot trends.
I realized that after twelve months of filling in a goal tracking spreadsheet once a week, that was becoming routine, so I could add life tracking to that routine and possibly also spot trends and growth, which is what I want out of tracking.
It’s not the writing it down that is motivating, it is seeing a difference being made and growth happening.
One fun element of using a goal tracking spreadsheet is that it does the math for you: so each time you enter your habits – best done during your weekly review – your score tally goes up! Seeing the points accumulate reinforces the accomplishment you’re making.
How to Create a Goal Tracking Spreadsheet
Setting up a goal-tracking spreadsheet is simple. I put the months down the rows and then my three daily goals, 2 weekly goals, and one monthly goal across the columns.
Every month I can go in and note the number of days I performed my daily habit and put an x on the monthly habits that happened.
Tracking this way is like collecting “points” rather than striving to “not break a chain.” Once that chain is broken, well, then you start all over again. If one day I miss a habit, it’s not “go directly to jail, do not pass GO, do not collect $200.” Rather, I am one point down, but the next day’s point still counts just as much!
I made a template for the goal tracking spreadsheet and made it free to download. I hope it helps you reach your goals!
Click the button, enter your email, and I’ll send the Excel file straight to you:
Goal tracking spreadsheet has been updated for 2018.
Of course, I need to know how many days I kept my habits in a month, and that will require daily (or close to it) tracking still. There are many habit apps or habit-tracking sites that will help you do that. I set up a free one called “Full.” It’s simple, pretty, and I can check things off that list (and get reminders on some of them if I want) when I’m swiping around on my iPod Touch wasting time.
But it’s the year-long tracking that will really help us see our progress, help us work to improve our “score,” and keep those habits top of mind.