The Tool I Use Every Day to Stay Motivated

By , SparkPeople Blogger
As a small company, everyone at SparkPeople wears several hats. Kelly, our office manager answers the phone, mails prizes, monitors message boards, and keeps our office life running smoothly (which involves about 1,000 other tasks). Paul is a programmer who also helps me shoot workout videos and provides comic relief (an important job). Rachel oversees our sister site, but also does accounting and HR work. And while I spend most of my time working as editor of, I also blog here, create fitness videos, and help brainstorm and test products that we sell in our online store. We are a busy bunch!

Working with the SparkPeople Store is a lot of fun, whether my involvement is as simple as testing the Bamboo tanks for a few workouts or more time-consuming, like writing the daily content for our day-at-a-glance calendar.

But there is one product from our store that I am particularly fond of, and not just because it is my brainchild. It acts as a motivational tool and a reward system all in one. It keeps me accountable, but it's also fun and easy to use. And now that I have it, I can't believe I went so long without it—especially because I have used it every single day since January 1 of this year.

I know how important tracking is to our members; it's the core of the SparkPeople program. Setting goals is great, but tracking them helps you stick with your plan, measure your progress, and see how far you've come, even if other things (like the scale) aren't going your way. That was the inspiration behind the Monthly Tracking Calendar. On the surface, it seems so inherently simple (a calendar where you track four goals each day), but once you start using it, it's amazing how much it really works.

I keep my tracking calendar on my desk at work, where I tally my daily cups of water, intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and fitness minutes. If I meet my minimum goals for the day, such as at least 10 minutes of exercise and 8 cups of water, I highlight the box. If I miss a goal for the day, I put a big fat X on it (case in point below).

Each day, I see all of my small successes, but I also see the times where I failed. On the days where I didn't meet my goals, sure I was a little disappointed. But because I could see all of my successes for the week, the month and the year so far, I didn't let a few mistakes get me down. I never want one X to turn into two, so I always right back on track the next day, which is no small feat for most of us. Using the tracking calendar helped me see (literally) that success comes more often than "failure." It's that visual sign of my progress that helps keep me going.

I love noticing a fitness streak that lasts several days or even a couple weeks, for example, and adding up the tick marks for each fruit and vegetable I eat inspires me to make good choices all day long.

I admit that in the past, I had a hard time staying motivated to exercise (I'm only human). But since I started using this tracking calendar on January 1, I have exercised more consistently than ever before. In January, I missed six days of exercise. Because I didn't like seeing all those big X's, I was motivated to work harder. By March, I only missed three days, and that's about where I'm at now (3-4 rest days per month). I hope to have a month-long fitness streak at least once before the year is over. I wasn't always this consistent with my workouts, and I attribute my increased consistently (and better fitness) this year to using this calendar.

In developing the monthly tracking calendar, I wanted to create something that you can use and instantly see how successful you have been. When you look at it, you are motivated to continue with your program. When you mess up, you can look at your progress and remind yourself that a single mistake isn't the end of the world. When you see your streaks of progress—exercising, staying in your calorie range, drinking your water—you'll be motivated to keep going. And when you have a bad day, it's easier to get back on track by looking back and seeing how far you've come.

With our new version of the Monthly Tracking Calendar ($12), you can start and use it any time of the year because you fill it in the month and dates on each page. Why wait for January? Even better, the newest version also comes with more than 100 reward stickers (fun!) that you can place on your calendar when you've met your goals.

I know that the tracking calendar has kept me motivated and helped me eat better, get fitter and reach more goals than I had in the past, and I think it can help you do the same.

Have you used SparkPeople's Monthly Tracking Calendar? Would you try it? What other stay-motivated tricks work for you?