The everyday habit that turns fitness dreams into reality

If you want to crush your goals, you have to write them down. It’s really that simple.

Research suggests that people who write out their goals regularly are 42% more likely to meet them. If you’re not writing things down, you’re missing a huge opportunity.

This habit is important to develop because it sets you up for success. If you write down your goals and then track your progress regularly, you can quickly figure out where you’re at and what you need to do to get to where you want to be. More importantly, you’ll be able to tell when you veer off course and can make adjustments accordingly.

Some researchers describe writing down goals and tracking progress as the most effective technique for changing behaviour. It’s often referred to as the cornerstone of making lasting change.

When companies want to cut costs or sell more stuff, they set targets and then track their progress to see how they’re doing. People are no different.

HOW TO SET GOALS

If you want to be more active, writing down your goals is a good place to start. Whether you’re trying to stick to a new workout routine, training for a race, or just want to move more than you currently do, grab a pen and paper and write down your aspirations.

As you’ve probably heard before, when setting goals it’s important for them to be SMART - specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based. Simply saying “I want to exercise more” won’t cut it. How many times a week and for how long? Where and when? The more details you can include the better. Specifics help because they give you something to measure, allowing you to determine whether you’re on track.

Similarly, you should also carefully consider the type of goal you’re setting and what you really want to achieve. Think about why you want to move more. Is it about feeling stronger and more confident? Or about maintaining a healthy body weight and improving your health? Good goals flow from clear objectives. Figure out what you really want and then turn that into a goal you can easily track.

It’s also important to think about the size of your goal. If your goal is really big, like running a marathon, it’s important to break it down into smaller steps. Setting small incremental goals helps because you can accomplish them faster, which builds momentum, gives you a sense of accomplishment, and pushes you toward your bigger, loftier goal.

HOW TO TRACK PROGRESS

When it comes to keeping track of your progress, consistently writing things down is easier said than done. It’s another habit on top of the habit that you’re trying to develop.

Yet, tracking your behaviour is necessary because it makes you more aware of your progress and helps you recognize patterns. Are you moving in the right direction or are you stuck? Do you tend to have an easier time during the week, but ‘fall off the wagon’ over the weekend?

Luckily, once you recognize the importance of tracking and focus on consistency, it gets easier. The main idea is to make sure you’ve set goals that you can measure regularly. It could be the time and distance of your runs, the number of steps you take each day, or whether you made it to the gym. As long as what you track matches the goal you set, you’re good to go.

Here are a few tricks to help you get into a good routine with writing down how things are going:

1. Do it at the same time every day. Whether that’s first thing in the morning, right before you go to bed, or some time in between. If you’re using a digital device to do the tracking for you, then make sure you’re regularly charging and syncing your device.

2. Do a larger review once a week. Once a week you should set aside a little more time to take a step back and see how you’re doing with your day-to-day tracking and overall goals.  

3. Do it with your to-do list. If you’re a list type of person, get in the habit of tracking your progress when creating your daily to-do list. Or, add it to your list!

4. Get a streak going. One of the easiest way to track a goal is with a calendar or day planner. Simply put an X every time you meet your daily goal. The satisfaction that comes from a whole month of X’s is incredible.

5. Create a schedule. When it comes to being more active, or training for a race, a schedule is crucial. Printing off a calendar and writing down each run you plan to complete is a good way to go. Or you can put it in your digital planner.

6. Create a rewards system. You want to create a positive association with writing things down. One way to do this is to reward yourself when you’ve had a successful week or months of tracking your progress. Some examples could include going for a massage, getting some new workout gear, or treating yourself to a nice dinner. The other obvious reward is that it works! Once you start seeing results and making progress, they become the reward.

7. Write down something positive. A final tip is to write down the good stuff. Write down how your latest run made you feel. Or jot down the best thing that happened to you all day. Life gets better when you focus on the good stuff. 

THE BIGGER PICTURE: HOW TO LEAD A MORE ACTIVE LIFE

Over time you may not have to write down every single little goal and detail. The lifelong goal is to make being active a normal part of your day. It should become a way of life.

But when you’re just starting out, or looking to make a big change, writing down your goals and tracking your progress is essential. It greatly increases your odds of success.

Set goals. Track progress. Lead a more active life.

Go write that down.