A Spreadsheet for Breaking Down & Tracking Big Goals

Defining and achieving goals is hard. In this post, I’ll describe a tactic to quantify your goal, demonstrate a tool to track it, and review the positive impact that this tactic will have.

Let’s say, for example, that you want to get better at managing your time and effort. That sounds great, but it’s pretty vague. Let’s make it concrete.

1. Break Down Your Goal into Measurable Chunks

I’m not going to lie—this is the hard part. How does one take a qualitative “get better at X” and quantify it?

Image of a large object being broken into smaller objects.
The first step is to break a large goal into smaller chunks. Image credit : Julie Sandeen

One tactic that can help is to break it into manageable pieces. In this example, a good small chunk is “I want to ask a team member for help at least once a week during Q3 2018.” Great. That’s small, obvious, and easy to track.

2. Start Tracking

I like to use a Google spreadsheet to track goals like this. Google Sheets are nice because they :

  • Have a convenient checkbox cell format
  • Have formulas to count progress
  • Are easy to share with team members

Snapshot of a goal tracker spreadsheet.
My small goal tracking sheet helps visualize and measure progress. Image credit : me.

Here is a link to a spreadsheet I’ve created to track our example goal.

Note how I’ve used two formulas–COUNTIF and COUNTA –to automatically update our progress tracker when cells are checked or unchecked.

Feel free to copy this spreadsheet and use it for your own needs.

3. Feel Satisfied

Despite this spreadsheet being fairly tiny, it has a big impact:

  • Checking items feels good–who doesn’t enjoy marking something complete?
  • Checkmarks visualize progress–checking a cell provides immediate visual feedback.
  • Checkmarks measure progress–the tracker makes it easy to quantify forward progress.
  • Don’t break the chain!–keep up the momentum, and soon you’ll be done.

Achieving goals is hard, but by breaking them down, visualizing, and measuring progress, they can be complete before you know it.