Monitoring your progress plays an important role in reaching your goal. Done the right way, it can motivate you to attain your goal. Done incorrectly, it can fill you with a premature sense of accomplishment that may lower your motivation.
Why assesses your progress? We need to assess our progress because of the way our brain works. When our brain sees a discrepancy between where we are and where we want to be, it reacts by throwing resources at the discrepancy: attention, effort, deeper processing of information and strengthening of willpower. So assessing one’s progress is a way of motivating yourself to achieve your goals.
Since assessments help us, how often should you assess your progress? Should we assess more or less? The answer is, it depends. If it is a long-term goal, you may want to monitor your progress once a fortnight or even once a month. If it is a goal to be attained quickly then more frequent assessments may be required. Assess the time you’ve given yourself to attain the goal and then decide on how often you want to assess progress.
While assessments are good, there are times when assessments should be deferred. A premature assessment, when you haven’t learned enough about a topic, may create stress that will interfere with learning and performance.
Now that we’ve decided how often we should assess progress, during an assessment, how should you view your progress? There are two ways to look at your progress. One way is to look back and see how far you’ve come and the other way is to look ahead and see how far you have left to go. When you focus on how far you’ve come, you may feel a premature sense of accomplishment and stop devoting sufficient time to focus on the goal and achieve it. If instead, you focus on how much further you have to go, motivation is not only sustained, it’s heightened. Hence, when you are assessing your progress, stay focused on the goal and never congratulate yourself too much on a job half-done. Save it for a job well and fully done.
If you are a completion junkie and thrive on accomplishments, you can break your goal into sub-goals that can be achieved quickly. You can then celebrate the achievement of each sub-goal. However, keep an eye on the final goal to sustain your motivation.
As has been the case with the earlier articles, here is how you can put these tips into practice:
Try it. The science of motivation says it works.
In my earlier articles, I had written about making your goals specific and about seizing the moment to act by reminding yourself to act (using if-then planning) when time becomes available.