Menu Close

Trouble Staying Motivated? Monitor Your Progress Today to Achieve Your Goals Tomorrow

A few tweaks to how you keep track of your work could make all the difference when it comes to meeting your objectives

Photo by Brad Barmore on Unsplash

This post was first published on my Medium blog—follow me there for the most up-to-date entries!

Lack of motivation is a killer for us high achievers who want to set and achieve lofty goals. What, then, will help us to supercharge our motivation? A well-done meta-analysis (a study of studies) has shown that six dimensions of motivation are related to one factor: monitoring. You have to monitor your progress to achieve your goal.

1. Focus of monitoring

When we monitor our progress, we’re focusing on one or more factors: behaviors and/or outcomes.

Let’s say your goal is to write a book. A behavior you might measure is how many words you write each day — Steven King says he writes at least 2,000 words each day. You might also call it a habit; in this case, King has developed the habit of writing at least 2,000 words daily. That habit is part of his process.

The outcome would be finishing a chapter (and eventually, the book).

Although the Donabedian Model was designed for healthcare professionals, the King example illustrates its 3-legged framework of structure, process, outcome. King’s structure is 2000 words per day. His process is the habit of writing those words 6 days a week, each week, for decades. And the outcome is that he is an incredibly prolific and successful author; he has written 65 novels/novellas, and won multiple awards. Wow.

Monitoring your progress to achieve your goal means setting a target, finding a way to measure your progress towards the target, using an intentional cadence, being aware of how it’s working, and finally, relating all of that to the outcome.

2. Public versus private monitoring

As the words imply, this is related to keeping your intention private, or making it public.

Private monitoring is better than nothing. But it’s tougher to keep up your motivation when you aren’t telling anyone else what you’re doing.

Multiple studies have shown that unquestionably, going public is more effective. When you make a public commitment, you’re more likely to maintain your motivation long after the initial inspiration wears off.

This explains why being part of a weekly accountability group works. In that group, you are verbalizing your goals (“going public”).

Nevertheless, you can choose whether to do public or private monitoring, or both. But make sure you’re monitoring your progress to achieve your goal.

3. Analog versus digital recording of monitoring

It’s not enough to simply “monitor” what’s going on. You’ll make more progress towards your goals when you record your behaviors and your outcomes.

There are two main ways to accomplish such recording: analog and digital.

Analog recording could be whatever you want it to be. As I’m certified to offer training for the Full Focus Planner, I write my goals in my planner, and write behaviors I must do to achieve those goals and then check them off as I go along. But you might choose something as simple as writing in a 77-cent spiral notebook. The key is, record it somewhere.

Digital recording can also effective. There’s no doubt that forming good habits is key to productivity and profitability. I like several apps (for various reasons) to track habits. My favorite habit-tracking app is Habit Bull, but there are several good ones out there, depending on your personal preferences and needs.

Surely you’ve realized that when information is just floating around in your head, it can disappear. That’s why recording is vital. You’ll see your progress in black and white, and you’ll remember to hold yourself accountable.

4. Three ways to view a reference value

Reference values are about comparisons. Basically, you can compare your outcomes to:

  1. Your past: If you made $500K last year, you feel motivated to make more than that this year. That’s a reference value.
  2. Your future: If set a goal to make $800K by the end of the year, that’s a reference value, too.
  3. Someone else: If you know someone who is writing one book each year, you know that’s an achievable goal. You feel more motivated to do such a thing yourself. That’s also a reference value.

But let’s look at that last one, about comparing ourselves to others.

Comparing ourselves to others can be self-sabotaging. Here’s a quote from Tim Hiller:

“Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle, or your middle to someone else’s end. Don’t compare the start of your second quarter of life to someone else’s third quarter.”

I agree. But before you swallow that down whole, consider Jim Rohn’s famous quote:

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

I’d encourage you to think about who you are comparing yourself to, and who you’re hanging out with. But at the same time, remember that being aware of that reference value is part of monitoring your progress to achieve your goal.

5. Rate of progress versus distance from goal

You’re motivated by the speed of your progress towards a goal, or perhaps demotivated by your distance from that goal.

Just take a moment and look at it this way. Speed, or lack thereof, is about the goal. But the goal is not a destination. It’s a journey. Keeping your eye on your progress through monitoring is a way to keep your morale high, especially when that journey is long and the goal far in the distance.

6. Passive versus active monitoring

Remember that monitoring need not be a chore, nor is its method prescribed. You could decide to do passive or active monitoring. Or both.

Passive monitoring simply means that we pick up the cues around us. Let’s say your goal is to grow tomatoes. You stroll out to your garden and notice the tomatoes growing taller and taller each day. That’s not a chore.

Active monitoring, according to Harkin and colleagues, is when you’re making “deliberate efforts to attend to goal-related behavior, and/or seek[ing] out information about goal-related outcomes.” So in the tomato plant example, you might measure and write down the height of the plant or the number of tomatoes gown.

In short, both passive and active monitoring help you with motivation. But if you’re not paying attention to either, your motivation will falter.

Putting monitoring to work for you

If you’re not doing any sort of monitoring, you’re unlikely to reach our goals. Monitoring gives us feedback. In his book Flow, Csikszentmihalyi emphasizes that feedback and goal achievement are inextricably linked, and there are over a hundred studies to back him up.

But how you choose to monitor might have a greater or lesser impact on your goal achievement. There are lots of “right” ways to monitor your progress to achieve your goal.

For today, ask yourself:

  1. Do I measure my behaviors or my outcomes (or both, or neither)?
  2. Do I make my goals public or private?
  3. Do I use digital or analog methods to record my habits (process) or my achievements (outcomes)?
  4. What do I use as a reference value for my goals? My past or future achievements, or the achievements of others?
  5. How do I view my rate of progress towards my goals?
  6. Do I passively observe the data surrounding me, or do I actively seek and dig out the objective data that shows my progress towards goal achievement?

And in the meantime: Which of these ways of monitoring your progress to achieve your goal comes easiest to you, and what do you have to work harder at?

This post was first published on my Medium blog—follow me there for the most up-to-date entries!

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *