Tracking Goals

a person who is black, male, and a wheelchair user in a narrow library aisleYou're more likely to reach your goals when they're SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based).

Tracking your goals makes you more likely to achieve them. This can be done by writing them down in a planner or on a Post-It note, using a log sheet, goal-setting applications, and more.

Once you set and begin working toward your goals, take time to regularly review how you're doing and the progress that you've made. 

Turning Your Goals into Action

Most people find it easy to make New Year’s resolutions but hard to keep them. A resolution is a type of goal, and knowing how to set goals is a great start to achieving the things you want in life. However, just thinking about your goals isn’t enough. Goals need to be turned into action! It’s important to track your progress toward meeting your goals and to review that progress regularly. For example, if Maya wants to lose weight by exercising more, she probably won’t reach her goals by just thinking about them now and then. But if she sets SMART goals (as described in the HAIL “Goal Setting” fact sheet) and tracks and reviews them regularly, she is much more likely to exercise and reach her weight loss goal. Here are some tips on tracking and reviewing your goals so you can reach them.

Track Your Goals

Tracking your goals means you document what you’re doing to accomplish your goals in a way that works for you. This helps you stay “on track” to achieve your goals and assess your progress. You can also share your tracking documents with other people who are part of achieving your goals. There are different ways of tracking goals; here are some ideas on how to do it.  

Write down your goals. Writing down your goals is a tracking method that does not rely on access to high tech devices or the Internet access. All you need is a pen and a piece of paper to get yourself started!

  • First, write down your SMART goals, and include the key information: what you want to achieve and the time frame you have set. The physical act of documenting a goal makes it real and tangible. Seeing your goals in print can also help you evaluate whether they are SMART enough.
  • Write your goals on something that is convenient and useful for you. You can use a notebook, a calendar, a planner, a whiteboard or blackboard, or even Post-It notes.
  • Put your goal documents in visible places to remind yourself every day of what you intend to do.
    • Post them on your walls, desk, computer monitor, bathroom mirror or refrigerator as a constant reminder.
    • Or set up a whiteboard or blackboard that you can write on and see in your room.
    • These visible goals are not only a reminder to yourself, but also may remind people around you to prompt you to stay on top of your activities. 
  • If you like, create a weekly or monthly log sheet so you can check off each goal you have achieved. Your process goals (the steps you take toward your short-term goals) will be checked off most often. For example, if Maya plans to exercise four times a week, she can see the record of her progress on a log sheet. It is satisfying and inspiring to see a physical reminder that you have followed through on your goals.

Use technology to monitor your progress. Technology can make many things easier, including tracking goals. If you don’t like using pen and paper, or if you just want to have several tracking methods, you can benefit from using technology to track your goals.

  • You can record your goals in a computer program like Word or Excel, or on a smartphone or tablet application.  
  • You can also use tools that are interactive:
    • Electronic calendars (for example a Google or Outlook calendar). You can sync your calendars between different devices such as a computer and a smartphone. You can even share your calendar with your family, friends or professionals who are involved in your goals. These calendars can send reminders to help you stay on track with your activities.
    • Goal-setting applications. These “apps” vary, but have some common features. They can help you write your goals, remind you to perform the process steps you’ve chosen, and allow you to keep an electronic record of your activities and progress.  They can also provide small visual rewards when you meet your goals (such as congratulatory messages and trophy icons), and they enable you to share your progress with your social network. Many of the goal setting applications have free versions, though you might need to pay for functions like setting up group goals and sharing goals with others. If you are interested in using an app to track your progress, see the “Resources” at the end of this fact sheet for ideas. 

Feel free to use any of the ideas here for tracking your goals, or be creative in developing your own method. Whether you use traditional paper and pen or new technology, the key is to keep a record of your progress toward your goals and to review your goals regularly.

When to Track. Depending on the nature of your goals, you may want to track them daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly. One rule of thumb is to review your process goals and short-term goals more frequently than your outcome goals and long-term goals. Review of your short-term goals might influence you to change your long-term goal.

For example, Maya set an outcome goal of losing 30 pounds in 12 months, with three process goals to help her achieve that: to exercise four times a week for at least 20 minutes, to cut her soda drinking from one bottle daily to one bottle weekly, and to reduce her intake of fatty and sugary foods by eating more fruits and vegetables. Maya can make daily and weekly notes to see how much she exercised and whether she reduced her consumption of soda and fatty or sugary foods. But she doesn’t need to check her weight loss that often. Since her goal focuses on losing two to three pounds per month, it makes more sense to track her progress toward weight loss once a month. 

Example Weekly Goal Tracker

Maya's Weekly Goal Tracker
Exercise 4 times/week for 20 minutesx xx xxExceeded my goal!
Cut soda drinking to one soda/week x  x  Didn't reach my goal because I went to a party with friends
Eat two fruits or vegetables every dayxx x xxI need to find more vegetables that I like
Lose 2-3 pounds per month (check at end of month)      xThis is the last week of the month, and I lost 2 pounds!

Review Your Goals

Knowing that you are making progress towards your goals can improve your well-being, satisfaction and happiness. Not only will this progress make you feel good about yourself, it will also motivate you to keep pursuing your goals.

Once you have started pursuing and tracking your goals, it is also important to review and assess your goals regularly. For example, if your goal tracking log has no recordings for a period of time or you haven’t made progress, perhaps it’s time to revisit your goals and make some changes. Using the SMART goal framework to help you assess, you might discover that your goal is not attainable or realistic for you at this time. Or maybe your goal isn’t relevant because it’s not challenging enough.

If you review and assess your goals regularly, you can get immediate lessons that you can incorporate in your plan to increase your chances of success. The key is to develop your own goal reviewing habit. Set aside some time to review your goals and stick with it.

Assess and adjust. As part of your review, you can ask yourself several questions to assess how you’re doing with meeting your goals: Am I meeting my expectations? Am I exceeding my expectations, or am I falling behind?  

The simplest way to answer these questions is with a “yes” or “no” regarding whether you have achieved your goals. If it helps you adjust your plans, you can also rate your goal achievement with a more detailed five-point scale: 1 = not achieved, 2 = partially achieved, 3 = mostly achieved, 4 = achieved, 5 = achievement plus something extra. If you are using a goal-setting app, an assessment function is usually built in, so the app will prompt you to evaluate your goals. Otherwise, you can just write your goal assessments in your goal notebook or type them into the Word document you use. 

In addition to knowing how well you are doing reaching your goals, question yourself to understand what is contributing to your success: What or who is helping me reach my goal? How can I focus on this type of support to further improve my results?

It also helps to analyze the obstacles that may have hindered you in pursuit of your goals. Ask yourself: What is standing in my way or making my actions difficult? Can I do anything differently to keep moving forward? Should I abandon the task instead?

Use your review as an opportunity to assess and update your goals. If you are satisfied with your progress, give yourself some credit and celebrate your success! Or you may need to make some adjustments. If you feel you could have done better, the review process can help you get back on track. 

Perhaps you encounter an unexpected obstacle on your way to meeting your goals. Reassess and determine if you can adapt your action plan. For example, Maya might decide that only drinking one soda a week isn’t realistic for her right now, so she changes her goal to a limit of two sodas per week. This is not a failure, but an acknowledgement of the change she feels she make now. She can always readjust her goal again. Remember that even if you don’t achieve your goals one hundred percent, you can still make progress by pursuing them.

When you set goals and take actions, you build your self-image and self-confidence. Goals that may have seemed far away and out of reach eventually move closer and become attainable, not because your goals shrink, but because you grow and expand to reach them. You see yourself as worthy of these goals, and develop the traits and personality that allow you to possess them.


The 7 Best Goal-Setting Apps ( 

7 Apps to Help You Achieve Your Goals and Build New Habits (Michael Hyatt)