By Jiji Lee

Making Progress: Why Is It Important That Goals Be Measurable?


You're not likely to succeed if you skip this step.

Measurable goals are key to any successful goal-setting strategy, but it’s an important step that many of us neglect.

When we initially set goals, we have a vague idea or emotion about how we want our life to turn out. We want more money or we want to be fit or we want to be happier. Those are good starting points to have, but in order for us to actually improve or change our lives, we need to measure our progress. This is how we can tell if we’re moving in the right direction.

Another reason why measuring your goals is important?

We can see how far we’ve come. 

Setting a goal is fun and exciting. But seeing it come into fruition is the challenging part.

We begin to feel self-doubt or get down on ourselves when we realize how much more work we have to do. But the truth is, change is almost always at a glacial pace. And more often than not, we don’t even see the incremental change that is happening day-to-day.

That’s why we need to measure our progress on a regular basis. We need a way to keep track of all the micro improvements and recognize the gains that we are making.

For example, let’s say you want to run a 5k. To help you meet your goal, you’ll want to keep a log of your workouts and record data like the time and distance of every run. You’ll start to notice that the first couple of weeks you can only run 2 or 3 minutes without stopping. Then after a month, you can run ten minutes, then fifteen minutes without stopping. You’ll begin to see how much you’ve improved over the course of your training, and appreciate how far you’ve advanced. 

Below, we’ve provided tips and tricks on how to measure your goals in order to recognize how much you’re improving everyday and help you stay on track.

Why we forget to measure our goals

For such an essential component of goal setting, you’d think we’d all be measuring our goals every time we set out to achieve them. But there are pertinent reasons why many of us gloss over this step. Once you become conscious of doing these things, you’ll have an easier time readjusting. 

Fixated on results. It’s always worthwhile to strive for improvement. But if we get overly preoccupied with the end result, we forget about the hard work and discipline that goes into achieving a goal. This hyperfocus on results can lead to disappointment, burnout, or abandoning the goal altogether. But if we focus on the process, we’re more likely to stick it out and have fun experiencing the journey. 

No plan. We’d all love to live in a big house and have a dream job and be happy, but unless we have a concrete plan with specific tasks and steps, these goals are just wishes. Make sure to plot out your action steps so that you have a starting and end point, and have something to measure in between. 

Fear of failure. Another reason we skip over measuring our goals is because we’re afraid we’ll fall short of expectations. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Everyone has experienced fear of failure or fear that they’re not good enough. But if we avoid feeling uncomfortable, we also miss out on making progress. 

Monitoring our progress can be hugely motivating and help us realize that we’re doing a lot better than we think we are. 

Now let's take a look at how we can measure our goals to help us achieve success. 

How to measure your goals 

  1. First things first, when you’re formulating your goal, you’ll want to make sure that it follows the SMART framework: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Bound. 
  1. Next, write down the specific goal you have in mind. If you have a vague and abstract goal, try to make it as specific as you can.

    Example:
  • Vague goal: I want to be fit.
  • Specific goal: I want to run 3x a week for 15 minutes. 
  1. You’ll notice that the above running goal has a specific action step that’s easy to track: 3x a week for 15 minutes. Use your planner and keep a log of your running routine. Some people like to draw a little box and then put a check mark inside it after they’ve completed the task. Or you can even color in the box with a marker so that you can visually track your progress.

    With your log, you can see that you’ve maintained your running routine of 3x a week for 15 minutes, and you’ll know that you’re on the right track. 
  1. Once you’ve gotten into the habit of tracking your goal, you can include other relevant data to gain more understanding about your goal and your behavior. 

So to use the running example, maybe you want to jot down information like the route that you ran, what you ate before the workout, and other notable details to help you get a better idea of what goes into making a successful run.

You can also take note of any challenges like experiencing fatigue or feeling bored. This will signal to you to adjust your routine so that you can remove any obstacles. Maybe that means downloading a fun running playlist or choosing a different terrain on your next run. 

Tracking your progress can help you identify the variables to improve your environment, tools, or process so that you can feel better prepared when accomplishing your goal.

Measuring your progress helps you stick with your goal 

A big benefit of measuring your progress is that you’ll start to become aware of what your baseline level is and what your stretch level is. The baseline level is usually something that’s easy and comfortable to attain. If you’re a runner, maybe that means a 10 minute run is your baseline. And that your stretch level is running for 20 minutes—this level is more intense, and you have to push yourself to accomplish it.

Once you identify what your baseline and stretch levels are, you’ll have an easier time sticking to your goals. For instance, if your goal is to run everyday but you’re feeling sluggish and tired, you can simply decide to run at your baseline level, instead of not running at all. So often, we’ll skip a workout or an activity because we feel pressured to give it our all. But it’s better to do something at a lower level than to skip out on it. Because the key is to maintain momentum and get yourself in the habit of doing the activity on a regular basis.

Plus, you’ll always have opportunities to push yourself. On those days you’re feeling more energetic, you can pursue your stretch level and push yourself to make that maximum, intense effort.

Measuring your progress can help you see what your various levels are and show you what you’re capable of. This will make the process of achieving your goal that much more fun and insightful.