It’s Easy & Motivating to Track Goals with This Method

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Chip and I in our new "robes" settling in for bedtime. It will be lights out by 10pm (my goal).

In 2008 I decided to make 2 heatlth changes. This health goal was the easiest one I ever implemented. In any given week I am 95-100% compliant with drinking 10-12 cups of water daily.

This change, however, continues to be difficult. It still requires ongoing monitoring in order for me to get to bed by 10pm on a consistent basis. I am 40%-50% compliant.

The last week of December I decided it was time to implement 2 more health goals. They both have to do with mindful eating. I decided to start that week instead of waiting until January 1, 2012. I knew I had to make the changes ridiculously easy in order for me to stick with them.

What are these ridiculously easy goals you ask?

1. Don’t eat after 7pm. I am a HUGE mindless evening snacker.
2. Have a green smoothie for breakfast. I am a breakfast eater, but I am trying to ingest more superfoods and vitamins on a daily basis.

Here it is January 7th and I have been doing well.


I cannot believe how well the “Don’t eat after 7 pm” change has been working for me. Several times I got food OUT of the fridge for a snack. Then I remembered to look at the clock and saw that it was past 7pm. BUT I really wanted that snack!

I told myself I COULD have it. Only not then, in the MORNING. For some reason my brain and mouth were okay with that compromise.

And my eyes were VERY happy to see 6 /’s on the calendar by the end of this first week in January. I am putting a / through each day that I don’t eat past 7pm.

I went to a party Wednesday night. I knew I would eat after 7pm. I did allow for the calories and adjusted my food plan accordingly that day. I am not sure how to handle these types of situations as far as my / goes. Yes, I did eat after 7pm. But it was a planned for and mindful eating. Any advice?


It has been simple to have the smoothie for breakfast. It is tasty and easy to prepare. And I like that it is portable for those mornings when I don’t leave enough time to eat before going to work.

My eyes were VERY happy to see 7 \’s on the calendar by the end of this first week in January. I am putting a \ through each day that I drink a green smoothie.

So when I do both on a particular date, there is an X on the calendar. This simple marking system is very motivating. (I’m a simple woman.) I am in good company though. I read this technique is used by Jerry Seinfeld.


Jerry calls this “Don’t Break the Chain.” The difference between our markings is that he uses an X for one goal. You can read about that here.

There is something psychophysically satisfying in seeing a row of X’s. It makes me THINK about whether I REALLY want to break that chain. Luckily, so far, my answer has been “NO!” So, one week down and 51 to go.

You can buy one of those HUGE year-at-a-glance calendars to reward progress. Or you can go to this site and print out a calendar which has the whole year on one A4 sized page. Chris Vertonghen created a (free) pdf  for leap year (this year!) and non-leap year calendars. THANKS, Chris, for this helpful resource.

Or you can use a regular calendar for this. I do. I know I will not have a year filled with mindful eating. So I know there will be times when I don’t get a /, \, or X. That will bug me. It will bug me so much that I will be soooo tempted to not continue with tracking my goals. By using a regular calendar I am setting myself up for success. Each new month (only 29-31 days) brings me the opportunity to have all X’s. That will please and motivate me.

Your Turn . . . 

  1. Do you think this marking method would work for you? Why or why not?
  2. What is a goal (or two) you could monitor using this method?
  3. What do you do to keep track of and motivate yourself regarding your goals?

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Recounting Blessings at the Start of the New Year 2 Sweet Potato Recipes: Mashed Sweet Potatoes & Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

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  • 1. Gillian Rouge  |  . at .

    Hi Susan, sounds like you are making good progress with your health goals. I am thinking of trying your ‘no food after 7pm goal’, except for I will make it 8pm instead. Often we don’t eat dinner until close to 7pm, so that wouldn’t work for me. I like the idea of checking off each day on the calendar. I work well with lists, and always feel a sense of accomplishment when I am able to go back and check things off, so I think this would work well for me. I agree with you though, that it is best to start each month with a clean slate.

    What do you put in your ‘green’ smoothie? Several of my friends make smoothies for breakfast, and I know it is a healthy way to start the day. However, in the winter, I like to have something warm for breakfast, so I usually end up with oatmeal and fruit. The thought of a cold smoothie makes me go Brrrrr! Last week I made pumpkin oatmeal – it was delicious! But back to your smoothie – I’m told that if you put spinach in a smoothie you don’t even taste it, but you still get all the nutritional benefits. Have you tried this? Maybe it is what’s turning your smoothie green :)


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