Whether you’ve got business goals, fitness goals or other goals entirely, assessing your progress regularly can help you see where you’re at, and make adjustments if they’re necessary. So If you made a handy list of New Year’s resolutions at the end of 2012, now’s a good time to look back at the month to see how things went. Here’s some tricks I use.
Health and fitness goals
The key for looking back at these is to focus not just on outcome (pounds of fat lost or muscle gained, tournaments won, new PRs reached), but also the process–which will help with the outcome. I track the amount of days I’m at the gym, and set a goal for the following month. Lately, I’m also keeping track of what I’m doing to rehab an old injury–not just on where it’s at, but the steps I’m taking to get there.
Looking at the process as well as the outcome is important because not everything always happens in a linear fashion–and because the process is ultimately the area over which we have the most control.
I do a financial analysis each month, looking at how much work I did, how much I invoiced, how much I received, and what my expenses were, by category (education, networking events, paid help such as a virtual assistant)–because it’s not what you make, it’s what you keep. I also list all of my clients for the month, and give them a rating. I have a 10-point system with five categories: pay (looking at both pay per hour and total pay per project), speed (how quickly I got paid), enjoyment (whether I had fun writing and reporting on the assignment or working on the project), PITA factor (a pleasant, simple experience is always a good thing) and whether or not the work was bylined (which is always a nice bonus). Having a list on hand helps track of these things, because it’s sometimes easy to forget some of the details.
Events cost time and/or money, and keeping track of ROI can be really helpful, although it’s sometimes difficult to track. For me, ROI isn’t necessarily whether I found paying work at an event (unless it’s for a professional group which is expensive–in which case I keep close track), but also how much I enjoyed it, whether I learned useful information in my industry, expanded my knowledge in an area, and made important connections (such as sources to interview for future articles). I also look for fit–places where I feel I can contribute and help others, as opposed to the ones where people stand on their soapbox, listening to their own echoes. In addition, I keep close track of people who have helped me. I’m lucky to have a handful of informal mentors, and keeping them on my radar allows me to at least try to give back, instead of waiting until the end of the year to send a holiday card.
When I have time, I spend one day a week on professional development–usually catching up on resources freely available from professional groups I’m already in via webcast or audio files. Making sure I’m consistently working towards my goals in key areas allows me to offer my clients the most value. For instance, I’m taking a course right now on data visualization and infographics, which is on my list of goals of skills I’d like to learn the fundamentals of so I can better communicate with the graphics team on projects we both work on.
I try to take a look at the end of the month to see what successes I’ve had. One way to do this is to take a breathe and look back at the work I did. For example, in January I wrote 20 articles and 10 tests, did 3 video interviews, edited six articles and one amazing book manuscript, and worked on two additional (secret) projects. On less busy months, I focus more on the marketing I did (query letters and LOIs sent) and assignments received, rather than completed. I also look at my Google Analytics to see which blog posts were the most popular, and use that to guide content decisions for the following month.
Whether your other goals are related to volunteering, projects around the house or something else entirely, it’s easiest to look at both personal and professional goals in one fell swoop.
Last but not least, I take a look at my annual goals and see where I’m at. For January, I made significant headway towards my own health and fitness goals, financial goals and blogging goals, but I also have a few goals I made zero headway on, and while some are on the backburner for various legitimate reasons, at least one of them will be a top priority going into next month. Writing them down is a very powerful way to hold oneself accountable the following month, while still allowing flexibility for whatever other circumstances arise.
Happy reviewing and planning!