How do you know when you are making progress?

This week I took a deep dive into an interesting book called The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer. The book is based on research conducted across 7 companies, 238 employees and over 12,000 of their daily journal entries. It is the most extensive study done into what is called your inner work life.

Inner Work Life

Inner work life is defined by how much attention you give to tasks, how engaged you are with projects and how committed you are to your goals. Prior to reading this book, I hadn’t heard the term inner work life but I would say that we definitely talk to a lot of people who are dealing with the challenges of a difficult inner work life which looks like distraction, disengagement or inability to follow through or finish projects and giving up on goals before you’ve been able to complete them. 

Hence, we agree that having a good inner work life not only contributes to the success of an organization it also contributes to your overall wellbeing. Since we aren’t one human at work and one human at home, a good inner work life means better health, better outcomes and greater feelings of meaning, purpose and self-efficacy. 

What was interesting, and agrees with our experience, is that the greatest contributor to a positive inner work life was the feeling that one was making progress. That was true even in the presence of setbacks and frustrations. In fact, the study showed just how important it is that we feel consistent forward movement in meaningful work

The tricky part is how do you make sure that you are experiencing that progress?

Here are some key takeaways from the Progress Principle:

Celebrate small wins:

I personally find this is much less about how you celebrate and more so that you acknowledge the win.

Break goals into smaller steps:

In our lingo we are always talking about commitments. Each week our members are making and keeping commitments and those small steps inherently feel like progress.  

Keep track of progress:

This is something that we are really good at here because we are tracking everything in our app. How can you keep track of your progress? It could be as simple as keeping a journal or spreadsheet or using the notes app on your phone.

Get feedback: 

Ask for feedback, depending on what it is that you are working on you could ask a manager, colleague, client, spouse or friend for feedback on how a goal or project is progressing. Being open to both positive and constructive feedback is key.

There’s long been a saying around here, Progress over Perfection. We aren’t trying to do everything right, we are simply trying to consistently move forward in the direction of our goals and vision. The Progress Principle affirms with data that knowing that we are making progress is critically important to our motivation and drive. The key is knowing that we are making progress. 

So how will you know if you are making progress?