Sad, but true: our thoughts and feelings are deceptive. Think things are going well? They might not be. Feel like you’re not making any progress? You could be completely wrong. That’s why finding external assessment tools is crucial.
For example, say one of your goals is to be fit and healthy. How will you determine whether you’re getting closer to where you want to be? You could try tracking your diet on a site like PhotoCalorie. You could track your workouts using Fitocracy, or on an online training log, tracking the number of hours you work out, or at the actual numbers you can hit. If you need to hit a certain competition weight, obviously your scale is your best friend. Otherwise, you could track your body fat percentage, or look at which clothes you fit in. Another option is to take photographs each month to see how your body is changing.
I’m not saying everybody needs to track every single thing. This can get time-consuming, frustrating and difficult to stick with. But if you don’t use any assessment tools at all, though, runs you the risk of thinking you’re doing great when you’re not, and then realizing you can’t lift nearly as much as you used to and have gained more fat than you’d thought.
Money is another area you may want to track well. Use Mint.com to keep track of your debt, investments, etc. and check your credit score regularly. If you’re a freelancer, invoicing software such as Freshbooks can also help you track the amount of hours you work, your pay per hour, your expenses (and income minus expenses), how long it takes clients to pay you, etc. Or you can create your own spreadsheets in Excel. If you’re a blogger or internet marketer, you probably already regularly check your Google Analytics, and you can pick a few specific areas to track as well. Heck, even something like cleaning can be tracked by looking at before/after photos of your office or bedroom, the amount of boxes you need to sort through, etc.
If you’re at a maintenance level, you may not need to monitor as obsessively as you would if you have a very specific goal to accomplish within a short period of time. But taking a look at your numbers once or twice a month certainly can’t hurt.
I use some of the tools above to regularly track my monthly income (amount invoiced and amount collected), hours I train (and in what), and a few other areas. I also review key events (good and bad) each month, and adjust my own strategy accordingly.
What are your favorite assessment tools?