At the beginning of the year, I made myself a promise; I was going to become fluent in Portuguese and decided to start tracking my daily practice. I started on the right foot, every night I would study Portuguese, and I made some significant progress. And then I skipped a day, I felt horrible, and then I skipped another day. And soon I realized that five days have gone by without practicing… oh, what a failure.
I decided to take a different approach to tracking my progress. Following the example of my fitness regiment. I take one day off a week, two maximum, a cheating approach. I am not married to take a particular day; I just know that if I don’t feel working out today, I can take the day off. So I decided to do that with my Portuguese, I decided to take two days off a week.
I recently read an article on NPR about the report of a study that tracked people in Pittsburg on a weight loss program. The results are that individuals with fitness trackers lost less weight than the people without, what gives?
The problem, the study points out, is that people with the fitness trackers focus on short-term objectives (going to the gym every day of the week). When people fail these short-term goals, they seem to abandon their initiative. That is what was happening to me with my daily Portuguese fix. When I missed a day, it was easier to miss another and another and then a whole week had gone by.
The author of the study, Marissa Sharif demonstrated, that people prefer goals that give some flexibility, cheating if you will. I was doing that when I used to tell people that my diet was 100% Paleo 75% of the time. I was achieving my goal, while ‘cheating.' My Goal at the time was to reduce my carbo intake NOT being 100% Paleo. Similarly, my goal is to become fluent in Portuguese not achieving 100% in lesson compliance.
This brings me back to the fitness tracker story; I think we should stop over-monitoring ourselves, our children, our spouses, our employees. Technology is great and gives the ability to track every meal, every calorie, every heartbeat, and we should be more flexible and track the bigger goal rather than the short term goal, the mere activity.
How are you tracking your goals?