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Goal Tracking Will Change Your Life

A handy guide to achieving your dreams.

Sam Ripples
May 25 · 6 min read

I was introduced to goal tracking through a college preparation course in high school — basically a throw-away elective to pad my GPA.

I hadn’t always had good grades, which is why I wasn’t in the running for any of the top ten spots, but that class changed the game for me entirely, and by the time I exited high school I felt like I was well ahead of the curve of most of my classmates.

I didn’t manage to hit the top ten, but I was in the top ten percent of my class and accepted to my first choice school — Florida State University.

Today, I’m going to tell you about the easiest, simplest technique for achieving your goals: tracking them.

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If you are trying to achieve a goal, the more often that you monitor your progress, the greater the likelihood that you will succeed, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

The idea of tracking your progress towards your goals is not a new one, though it is quite apt in our hustle environment — back in the 60s, Dr. Edwin Locke put forth the idea that tracking your goals does indeed lead to higher rates of success.

Countless studies have been done since then, like the one referenced above, and almost all of them have come back positive in favor of goal tracking. The more public you are with your progress, the better, according to the research.

There’s something laughably human about showing off. But I really do believe that’s why goal tracking works — we all want to live up to our own expectations and those of our peers.

Holding yourself accountable in front of an audience (such as on our dear Interwebz) is a surefire way to keep yourself motivated. Nothing like the chance of embarrassment and disappointment to spur you on, right?

I’m using this advice in my own life — last night I decided that I would start publicly tracking my goals on Instagram. I woke up to a bunch of messages of support this morning and it’s definitely motivating me more. Don’t underestimate the value of social rewards and how they motivate us!

There’s an acronym that floats around a lot on the desks of advertising and other business leaders: SMART.

CEOs and successful business people will always be the fascination of our capitalist culture, and they’re ahead of the game when it comes to tracking goals. In researching this article, every goal tracking Google search result had to do with using SMART goals to succeed in business!

I learned about SMART goals in a college marketing class and I’ve seen it in different iterations all across self-help books, marketing plans, and scientific papers. It’s rare to see a methodology so widely accepted across the boundaries of industry!

That’s because it works.

SMART stands for:

S — Specific: This means your goal must be narrowed down to exact specifications, not some nebulous idea of success.

M — Measurable: Your goal must be quantifiable, i.e. “I will lose 20 pounds.”

A&R — Achievable and Realistic: You should know you have ability to realistically achieve this goal. I like to call this one the “meh” recommendation because I personally believe in striving for greatness.

T — Timely: Your goal must be measurable in time i.e. “I will lose 20 pounds in 6 weeks.”

These are great guidelines to use to set our and reach your goals. They’ve helped me land jobs and write thousands of words over the years, just by being able to create goals that I can accurately measure.

For example, during National Novel Writing Month, the goal is to write 50,000 words in a month, which breaks down to 1667 words a day. So your SMART goals for that project would be: “I want to write 1667 words every day for 30 days to write a novel in one month.” Once you’ve set our your goals in this way, it’s much easier to see if you’ve made progress towards them!

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Once your goals are set, make sure you write them down. Break them down into daily and weekly tasks to be accomplished to measure points of progress as you go along.That’s the “tracking” part of goal tracking.

Everyone has a different way of tracking their goals and your method should be made specific to you and your needs.

I’m not a very visual person, so handwriting mine on composition notebook paper is my personal solution. I like to do a monthly spreadsheet and then daily to-do lists to help me follow through on monthly goals.

Every few years I also look over my five year plan to see if I’m on track to reaching the next milestone.

You can do it however you want: an Excel spreadsheet, a bullet journal, a giant monthly checklist poster — the possibilities are endless! What matters is that the way you organize your goal tracking works for you. It’s always helpful to look up other people’s ideas and there are far too many beautiful spreadsheets on the Internet to be inspired by!

It can also be helpful to gamify your goal trackers. The Medium story below really helped me come up with new ideas in that direction!

Right now, I’m working on keeping up with my own goal tracking. My father passed away back in January and keeping up with my normal self-improvement and productivity routines has been difficult while I go through this period of my life.

I find, however, that every day I record my progress towards my goals, I am more motivated to complete them. The more momentum I create and the more that I mark my progress off in my notebook and my spreadsheet, I actually feel closer to accomplishing what I set out to.

Right now, one of my biggest goals is try to match my Medium income to the income I make from my full-time retail job.

I’m not trying to live off of Medium exclusively, but more use it as a jumping off point to freelance nonfiction writing, so it’s important to me to create some sort of writing routine I can bring forward into the future.

In my daily to-do list, writing one Medium post is always there, right under writing 1k words in my novel.

When I record that to-do list data on my monthly spreadsheet, it’s incredible to me to see how much progress I’ve made towards that goal! My growth this month has been crazy, so I’m really excited to see what I can accomplish in the future. Having visual markers of how far I’ve come really helps keep me focused and on track for the great things that are yet to come!

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Creating goals that are both SMART and savvy and tracking your progress towards those goals is a great way to enhance your productivity and learn exactly what you’re capable of achieving! Implementing these ideas into your life is simple and takes little time each day but can add up to great things in the end. If you want a boost to your self-improvement routine and you also want visible proof your efforts, look no further!

Open your notebook and start your to-do list — it’s time to begin!

Sam Ripples

Written by

My name is Sam, I’m a writer, and I want to create art that makes the world a better place.

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