Monitor your plan
Now that you have set a SMART goal, have built commitment to achieving and maintaining it, and have broken it down into specific tasks that you are presently carrying out, what remains is to make sure that you are on track. This is where monitoring comes in.
Research is clear about this fact: those who monitor are much more likely to achieve and maintain their goal than those who don’t. This makes sense. If you are tracking your progress you will know whether or not you are on track. If you are not on track, you can take steps to get back on track. If you are on track, you can note what is helpful and continue those behaviours.
Monitoring involves documenting the behaviours that contribute to the goal. The most important thing to monitor is your SMART goal. Since one of the characteristics of a SMART goal is that it is “measurable” (i.e. it has numbers in it), it should be easy to monitor. For example, if your goal is to engage in moderate physically activity for 150 minutes a week, you can use a calendar to document how many minutes of moderate physical activity you did each day during the week and add them up at the end of the week. If that total is 150 minutes, you have achieved your goal.
As another example, if you have a nutrition goal, then you can create a monitoring sheet. Here is an example of a monitoring sheet for a nutrition goal based on the Canada's Food Guide (2007-2019).
Besides monitoring your SMART goal you can also monitor the tasks that you have identified in step three. We have already provided boxes in several of the activities where you can check off a task once you have completed it. This is a form of monitoring. Beyond these, you can develop a way to monitor other tasks you have identified. It is imperative that you monitor your SMART goal, but you don’t have to monitor the tasks and strategies from step three.
Monitoring is an extremely effective tool to help you achieve your goals. However, you only get out of it as much as you put in. The more aspects of your goal you monitor, and the more often you monitor, the greater your chances of achieving your goal. You don’t have to monitor for the rest of your life, but until the health behaviours identified in your goal become part of your lifestyle, monitoring helps you stay on track.
After monitoring, you still have work to do! You don’t monitor for the sake of monitoring. Rather, you must review your monitoring sheet every day—or every week in the case of weekly health goals such as physical activity goals—and then ask yourself “Did I achieve my goal today (or this week)?” If the answer is “yes”...GREAT! Think about the things you did that helped you reach your goal and repeat them on other days. If the answer to the question is “no” then you need to ask yourself: “Why didn’t I achieve my goal today?” After you have given that question some thought, answer the question: “What can I do tomorrow (or next week) so that I will be back on track?” Then you do some problem solving and put things in place that will get you back on track. Write down these questions and the answers to them on your monitoring sheet so you don’t lose track of these ideas.