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?

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Seems like a great visual to keep me motivated. I'll have to look into this. Report
Great idea. I would love to see afood journal created maybe with inspirational spark quotes and success stories-I would get that in a flash! Report
I'm using my $20 Gift Certificate from preordering The Spark to get this calendar. It's so neat! Report
I think I might order one with my pre-order book certificate Report
Just ordered one....looks great, and will definately help keep me accountable! No more "starting over" next Sunday.... Report
I am so excited about the Monthly Tracking Calendar! What a great place to track everything - all in one spot - and be able to have a visual of your progress! This sounds like just what I need. Thank you! Report
This looks like just what I need, but alas, It is to weep...I have tried to order 4 times now and each time I get an error code telling me the certificate is invalid. I've emailed the company, but no response yet. I sure hope this gets taken care of before these great looking little calendars get all bought up! I've been so off-track it's pathetic and this would certainly help me get back! Report
Ordered my calendar on the's the 16th and I just got it in the mail. Really nice quick shipping! Thanks! Report
Great idea!!! I'm a visual person and I think this will help me stay motivated. Will plan on ordering one. Thanks for the push. Report
I have started my own Monthly tracking calendar today. Thank you for the inspiration and the idea. I hope it keeps me motivated like you. Report
I'd like to see a free printable download version. Report
I have bought my 2nd set of your Spark Calendars, both the daily calendar and the wall calendar and I LOVE them! Keep up the great job. Report
I LOVE tacking! I do it on the computer, but it is hard when I travel. I will for sure look in to to getting one of these calanders! Thanx for the info! Report
Why oh why is it so expensive to get things from sparkshop delivered to the UK? I would love to purchase a number of items but every time I look the delivery cost is more than the value of the items! Come on help us out here - we would be good customers and I don't have this problem buying other goods from the US Report
Thanks for the blog and highlight on this calendar. I saw it in the store when I was ordering items after receiving the $20. gift certificate for ordering The Spark. I ordered the Day at a glance calendar as I have been using it at work and really like it. I thought about this tracking calendar but decided against it as I was not sure if it would be an effective tool for me.
Well, Nicole you have convinced me. I haven't kept up my exercise and goals this week partly due to not feeling up to par - fighting off a cold, but also know that I just lost motivation. I know this calendar would be a great help- so my next order will definitely include this, may even buy one or two for gifts. Thanks! Report
I don't use this particular calendar, but I do have my own "tracking calendar". In addition to keeping track of my workouts, it also keeps track of important things at work. At the end of the month, it is great to see that excercise takes up 90% of the chart... rather than work! I also realized today (I've been in a bit of a rut and have not been making my 6 weekly workouts) that although I thought I had not exercised in like "forever", that I actually worked out 3 times last week... good motivation to get back on the wagon. It proved to me visually that things are not as bad as I am thinking they are right now Report
I do use a tracking calendar, and I hate to miss a day, I don't like to leave a spot, so it really keeps me motivated. Report
I really like this idea. I am a visual learner so this would work for me. Thank you for the blog. Report
I am definitely gonna order me the calendar. Thanks for the blog! Maybe this will help keep me more motivated! Report
I love the calendar idea. I am so ordering. What a great idea. Thank you so much for sharing. Report
I have one of these calendars and would like to purchase another one for next year. I like the idea of highlightening the days where you have met all goals. I like to use color on my calendars. I had no idea that Coach Nicole designed this great tool. Before using SparkPeople's site I used a calendar all the time to track my fitness. Report
Last year they ran out of these least there weren't any when I ordered in December. So, if you want one, don't dilly dally. Report
I haven't tried it, but I think a visual reminder is always a great tool. I think I will try this to see how tracking goals visually helps me. Thank you for sharing your experience! Report
Sounds excellent! Like many others I will be using my Spark Certificate towards this useful tool! Thanks. Report
I think this is a great idea. I love the visual of a month all filled out. Makes me want one!! Report
I don't have one YET. Hopefully I'll win one in the daily giveaways. But if not, I'm going to buy one. Report
I have considered using the Tracking Calendar. I glanced at it at the Cincinnati/Kentucky Convention. I should've taken a better look. I do keep a journal every day since 09/30/09 (right after the convention!).

Next time I place an order, I will order the Tracking Calendar.
Smiles! Deb Report
I've been tracking everything since I started my overall weight loss goal...that was on July 12, 2008 and I'm still going strong. I am a trackaholic at best. I have my own weekly sheets that I add to my 3 ring binder and it works well for me. I record all of my meals and fitness and water intake on it. I got the sheet from another resource, but it works well for me so I'm sticking to it. I will order the SparkPeople Calendar because I'm going to need a new one for next year. I'll just order my runners calendear for 2011. Thanks for the article Nicole! Report
I'm not only going to get one and use it, I'm getting some as gifts for my best work-out buddies, my sisters! Knowing that Coach Nicole benefits from this was the clincher for me. Now if I can just figure out how to claim my $20 gift certificate for pre-ordering THE SPARK........................... Report
this is a great idea! i'm a very visual person and doing something like this would be super helpful! Report
I was wondering what to do with my gift certificate from SP! Report
I do like the calendar idea and stickers too; I might just have to add it to my cart the next time I shop. The online tracking tools are great, but I also keep a spreadsheet (that I had been using before finding SP). It shows the days of the week, a description, and columns for miles, cardio, strength training, core training, and days off, with a total for each column each week. It is a bit time-consuming to get it set up, but quick and easy to enter the information daily, even when I don't have internet access, and being able to see how many days a week I've stayed on track wtih my exercise, is really great for me. Report
I bought one of these with part of my SP gift certificate for buying "The Spark." You have no idea how much I've wanted something like this! I've been trying to create my own, but let's face it ~ this is so much more beautifully produced!

I had no idea how multi-faceted all of your jobs are, and I appreciate more than ever the work you all do for us.

Can you tell us who writes the "Healthy Reflections" emails? I enjoy them so much! Report
Great idea. Report
Love this idea ...I think it might work..I need something to keep me on track with the strength training (my hardest modivation area) But can't purchase anything til christmas is out of the way! May start out the new year with this calendar! Keep up the great work! Report
WOW! I having been doing something VERY similar since I was 12! :-) I thought I was the only one!!! Every day I get to look at what I've done AND at the end of the year I can see how much I did! (hint: I am at the lowest weight on the months where I exercised and ate right most of the days!) Report
I noticed the calendar in the store and would like to get it someday. Maybe I'll get it with christmas money for 2010. Report
I preordered The Spark, and I used my Spark Store coupon for this item. I've only been using it for a few weeks, but I love it. Tracking definitely keeps me on track, and having a visual is the best motivation! It was a great idea to make it an "any month" calendar, otherwise I might not even have bought it. Now that I have it, I would recommend it to everyone! Report
I think its a wonderful idea, I need to see where I go wrong and where I go right. And what a good idea to highlight to see where you have you more motivation to try harder. not only is this site fantastic but it is giving me a whole new life. Report
I have been tracking everything online and I also made up a journal with a food tracker and exercise log for work. It also has a homemade calendar. Now I know how to make the calendar work for me. I can't believe how much motivation you can get by making sure every thing is filled out and just looking over it. It has been a big help to me. Report
Great idea with the calender. Will have to try it. Report
I'm such a Sparkgeek, I love these little glimpses of life behind the scenes of my favorite website! I'm looking forward to checking out the calendar, don't know how I missed it. Report
I do like the idea, but I'm already tracking everything on Spark! I don't have a desk job, so I couldn't use it at work. For me, it would just be redundant. Maybe when I retire............... :) Report
I like the looks of it. I do track on SP everyday. This will be a visual to see in my bedroom before I go to bed at night. Now I know what to use my SP gift cert for. Thank you, I love this site. Report
I like I like, I think my goals would be water, miles (training for a half marathon), and minutes...need to figure out the other goal! Report
I am that motivated without the calendar! I am game to try it though, it's always fun to try new things. Report
I don't have the Spark calender, but I keep a handwritten food diary and also note in it my fitness activity, weight, and the medications I take for the day. I also keep track of my fruit, veggie, and water servings. Report
Thanks for the great blog !! Not sure if i will get it .. i track most all of evrthing here Report
Just ordered one of these now, before they were out of stock. Look forward to using it! Report