When we decide to make a change to the way we work or live, we know that setting small, attainable goals is the most impactful way to form a new habit. But it’s equally important to regularly check in with our progress toward those goals. After all, when you’re committing to a Microstep, following through with it comes down to regularly checking in with yourself to make sure you’re on track.
We asked our Thrive community for the specific tips and tools they use to stay accountable to a new habit. Which of these will you try the next time you set a goal?
Use a journal
“I use a bullet journal to track my progress toward goals large and small. I make a monthly spreadsheet in my bullet journal where I track progress for up to eight goals each day. I write the days of the month in a long column and then I record what I ate for dinner, whether I ate out or cooked, whether I exercised, spent time outside, read, wrote for work, or did yoga. I make sure to open my journal and fill out the tracker every day. The creativity aspect of the journal makes tracking more fun and makes me motivated to keep going.”
—Elizabeth Dorrance Hall, professor, East Lansing, MI
Enlist a “goalmate”
“When I have a goal, I enlist a ‘goalmate’ to help me be accountable, and to give me support. My goalmate and I have been going to the gym three to five days a week for three years now, even when it’s 10 below zero or colder! Without a goalmate, it would have been easy to stay in my warm bed every morning. I’ve learned that when you don’t want to show up for yourself, you’ll show up for them!”
—Sarah Stokes, PR consultant and transformation coach, Eau Claire, WI
Mark deadlines in your calendar
“I’ve found that the most effective way to track progress is to set a deadline and then work backwards. Once I’ve broken down my big goal into small, actionable steps, I write them down on my calendar. I check my calendar daily so I know what I need to work on each day. Trying to do too much in too little time or last minute is stressful, and leaves room for mistakes.”
—Rubeena Ianigro, mindset coach and founder of The Gray Muse, Jersey City, N.J.
Download a tracking app
“At the start of 2020, I wanted to focus on daily and weekly habits rather than resolutions. I downloaded a habit tracker app. This has been great for the past 23 days, and I’m enjoying it. Being in a habit-focused state of mind has helped improve my well-being, allowing me to tick things off a to-do list, and work towards my greater goals for the year.”
—Nick Peacock-Smith, event producer, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Donate a dollar for every success
“Since January 1st, I’ve run at least a mile a day outside — and running outside in the snow and near-freezing temps isn’t for the faint of heart! I’m using an activity app called Strava to track my progress, and I also am running with a purpose. For each mile I run this year, I’m donating at least a dollar to charity, so this motivates me to stick with my well-being goals.”
—Kristin Meekhof, life coach and author, Birmingham, MI
Check in with yourself
“I’ve been trying out new morning routines to help set me up for the day, like drinking warm lemon water, holding a one-minute plank, meditating, and journaling. I’ve been tracking everything in a habit tracker and I mark when I’ve completed the task. I look at it every week and ask myself, ‘Is the habit helping me? Do I even enjoy it?’ Then, I make adjustments if needed and keep tracking my habits.”
—Kathryn Djordjevic, pharmacist, Toronto, ON, Canada
Make a spreadsheet
“To track my habits, I have been using the G-suite app with Google sheets to set up a list of goals and milestones. I can access it anytime from my computer or phone, and can make updates at my fingertips.”
—Isabelle Bart, marketing director, Irvine, CA
Set tiny goals
“When I’m working toward a goal, I break down my goal into micro-goals for each day and schedule them into my week. For example, when writing my first book, I created writing goals each day, like writing one or two chapters. To ensure I had time both to work on my book and complete work for my clients, I woke up a few hours earlier each day and was able to cross that item off my daily task list before I even made it to the gym. The sense of accomplishment that I felt before 7:00 a.m. was a great way to start my day.”
—Blair Kaplan Venables, entrepreneur and marketing professional, Pemberton, B.C., Canada
Mark an “X” when you stay consistent
“The best tip I have for tracking progress toward a goal is inspired by comedian Jerry Seinfeld. I once read that he works on his jokes every day. When he finishes, he makes a big red ‘X’ on a wall calendar. The chain of red marks keeps him motivated because he does not want to see a break in the chain. I use a similar method on my computer when I am doing a big writing project. It is both surprising and gratifying how much you can get done when you focus your attention on one task for a specific amount of time.”
—Maria Baltazzi, Ph.D., television producer and happiness teacher, Los Angeles, CA
Write it down, cross it out
“To track a new habit, I use a regular spiral notebook where I brain dump everything that I want to do, or all the steps to reach a goal. As I complete things, I cross them off and I add tasks as necessary. I also add in the date I finished a task so I can track progress over time. There is nothing more fulfilling than seeing pages and pages of tasks, goals, or habits crossed out! Looking at what has been accomplished motivates me to keep moving forward.”
—Meagan A. Robles, wellness content creator, Bronx, N.Y.
Download a running app
“I use digital tech to track my progress and encourage my patients to do the same. With apps like Map My Run, we get visible representations of how close we’re getting to our goals. Plus, as a physiotherapist, I can see how a patient’s progress is going without relying solely on their memory. I can see how far and fast they went, and see exactly when their injury may have started bubbling up if they suddenly went slower. This enhances accuracy, informs my treatment plan, and helps them get closer to achieving their goals.”
—Caitlin Reid, physiotherapist and wellness coach, Nelson, New Zealand
Map out a timeline
“To help me track progress toward my goals, I break my goals down into small tasks, set deadlines for each individual task, and map these dates out in my planner so I can journal my progress against my timeline each week. Setting dates on a specific timeline allows me to track my habits and hold myself accountable.”
—Alyssa Swantkoski, executive assistant, Denver, CO
Use time blocks
“There is something about using pen and paper to plan out goals that resonate with me. I use a Best Self Journal and take time to map backwards the milestones I’ll need to hit weekly to be on track for the quarter. I also love the daily pages where I time block my day, and I start and end my day with listing items I’m grateful for in my life. I have never accomplished this much before including launching my own business!”
—Tara Bethell, HR and wellness consultant, Phoenix, AZ
Write down your “why”
“I find tracking easier when you write down your ‘why.’ For example, if you want to get more fit, set a goal to wake up half an hour earlier every day and go for a run or do an at-home workout. Ask yourself why you want to do it, what has not doing it cost you in the past, and how doing it would make you feel. Once you have your reasons, cement them into your planner in a compelling way that captures each ‘why.’ So, instead of writing ‘6:30 a.m.: Exercise’ replace it with, ‘6.30 a.m.: Get my health back!’”
—Rosalyn Palmer, transformational therapist and coach, Newark-on-Trent, U.K.
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