As part of my fitness self-improvement program, a few months ago I have purchased a heart-rate monitor. Since then, I’ve been logging my training stats on a daily basis. It’s been one of the greatest motivators I’ve ever found.
Whatever I do in my training session, I always feel great just by looking at my stats now and then. It’s not like I didn’t know that I was burning calories before, but knowing the exact amount helps a lot.
This reminded me of a great phrase I first heard when I was working for Sun Microsystems: That Which Is Measured, Improves. This principle worked for me back then, and it still helps me a lot with many daily activities. Read on to find out how.
Know where you stand
Measuring your progress is a very important step of reach any of your goals. Raising your own awareness of the progress you’re making is crucial to self-motivation. Recognizing the lack of progress made towards a goal is equally important, as it gives you a timely warning to correct your actions and realign with your goal.
Without knowing any measurable facts, you can easily deviate from your original plan, while believing you’re still on the right track. That’s why it is important to make sure that any plan of yours accounts for measuring your progress and verifying the achieved goals even when the project seems to be successfully finished.
I happen to do quite a lot of technical project management at work, and trust me – if there is the most important part of almost every project, it’s a test phase. Your original planning, preparation and even implementation of any project isn’t nearly as important as the test phase – because they are straight-forward and logically successive parts of the bigger plan. Testing, however, isn’t naturally part of your plan, and some think it can easily be skipped. But how else would you know if any of the earlier stages of your plan worked correctly and really helped you reach the goal?
Your implementation plan could be perfect – well planned, plenty of technical details, thoughtful sequence of actions and good time coordination. But a single human error – a typo or a split second distraction of a technical engineer – could cause a trouble, which will not be visible and may go unnoticed. If you skip testing in such a case, you may then believe you’ve got a successfully completed project. However, some or all of its major deliverables could be left unaccomplished and you wouldn’t even know. That’s why there is always a test plan. It looks simple, it seems stupid to re-do many steps just to verify everything works, but that’s the only way to ensure you know where you stand.
Measure your progress and use the data to correct your actions. The more often you get back to tracking your progress, the more aware and proactive you will be. Instead of working on something for days and weeks without really knowing is you’re moving in the right direction, just plan some checkpoints and make sure you analyze the measurements made. Even if you did everything correctly, such data will serve as an additional confirmation of your positive progress.
Quite often, people are much closer to reaching their goal than they think. However, they refuse to take a short break to acknowledge the progress, and opt instead to push harder and harder until they accomplish their goal completely. Does this work? It does. Is this the beast approach to reaching your goal? No, not even remotely!
We all perform much better when we like what we’re doing and enjoy seeing positive results. So taking just a few minutes a day (or even a week) to recognize the progress you’ve made so far is definitely worth the additional positiveness and motivation you’re bound to gain. Once you get into the habit of tracking your progress to further motivate yourself for the best results, you will really wonder why you never thought about this before. It is so much easier to be successful when you have proof of your steps already taken towards the goal!
Another motivating factor about measuring your success is the continuity of your improvement. Yes, it would be great if we could accomplish anything in a matter of minutes. But most self-improvement goals are long-term ones, which means there could be days, weeks and even years before you know that you’ve really accomplished your goal. It doesn’t mean you have to wait this long without really knowing if you’re doing the right thing at all or not! By measuring your success regularly, you will always know that your growth is slow but steady one, and this will server as an additional affirmation of the final goal being not only worthy, but also quite possible and real to achieve.
Discover new ways to improve
What I find really useful in tracking progress is how easy it is to discover new ways to improve yourself or the process in ways which you never thought of when you got started towards your goal. Everything in this world is interconnected, and by measuring your success you find out new connections and positive changes even in those areas which are not targeted directly.
Here are just a few examples of indirect benefits:
- Saving money creates the feeling of financial abundance.
You don’t have to be putting away your whole income – even if you save just a little sum, it will still benefit you in many ways. First – you will eventually end up with a planned amount of money. But even a bigger benefit to you will be the feeling of financial abundance you will have created after a short while. You will grow into thinking that you earn more than you really need, because with all your expenses, you still find it possible to put some money into your savings account. Knowing how much exactly you’re saving not only helps you feel safer, but also improves your financial confidence as you realize you can save increasingly more even staying on the same income level.
Cardio training benefits you in many ways. Without measurements, I would simply know that a whole year of at least 3 gym sessions a week has improved me somehow. However, I was carefully taking notes, and that’s how I know that my heartbeat rate at rest has improved by 20 beats per minute, that I can run not 5, but 30 minutes flat out and easily cover distances between 5 and 7 km. You see, without numbers it wouldn’t seem as big a deal. Seeing exactly how much I’ve grown, I can push even harder to reach further goals in my fitness.
Your website traffic is much more than just numbers. Typically, you would be interested to know how many people are reading your website. The more popular you become, the more closer look you take at your stats. First, you may only be setting goals like a few hundreds of visitors a months. Then, you realize that you want to also know how many of these are unique for a given month. A bit later you learn about the difference between visits and hits. Sooner that you might think, you’ll be aiming for a few hundreds and even thousands visitors a day! Now, how easy do you think it is to set and reach such specific goals without precise progress tracking? And what way is better to learn about all web stats parameters if not by starting simple monitoring of your website traffic?
Coming from a IT industry, I’m naturally drawn to precise measurements and progress tracking. That’s why it was easy enough for me to adopt similar approaches in my self-improvement. I clearly see the benefits of knowing where you are with any goals of yours, and I hope I’ve given you enough reasons to at least give it a try.
Do you have better examples of or reasons for progress tracking? Please let me know by leaving a comment!