What to do when you can't see any progress

It’s that time of year when we’re all feeling a bit... bleurgh. I’ll stop short of rolling out the stats on the percentage of people who have given up on their New Year resolutions by now. But, needless to say, it can be discouraging when we feel like we're not making progress.


I actually love the start of January and the fresh-slate feeling of a new year. However, at the end of the month, I sat down to look at all my January business goals and guess what? I couldn't tick off a… single… one. Yet, this doesn’t mean progress hasn't been made. In fact, there’s much I should be proud of over the last few weeks.

At times like this, it's important to remember that growth and development can often be slow and steady. 

10 strategies to keep moving forward

Here are the things I’ll be doing to keep me moving forward:

1. Reflecting on goals

Taking the time to check in with what I set out to achieve and why. Are those tasks I outlined at the start of the month the best way to get me where I want to be? Making sure my goals are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) can also highlight where I’ve been too vague or unrealistic in my expectations, and give me a framework to review and improve what I’m aiming for.

2. Celebrating small wins

Recognising and celebrating progress, no matter how small, can be incredibly motivating. Reviewing your ‘done list’ instead of your loitering ‘to-do’ list will remind you of what you’ve achieved instead of what you’ve not yet done.

One thing I started doing earlier this month is jotting a nightly brain dump of to-dos in my phone before going to bed (after reading that those who did fell asleep on average nine minutes faster). It does the job of cathartically ‘emptying the bucket’ before my head hit the pillow. In a grump of unproductivity the other night, I went back through the nightly lists and, to my surprise, I had actually done so many more than I realised I had. Win!

3. Learning from failures

This is an ongoing life lesson for me but I’m increasingly reminding myself that failures are friends, and opportunities to learn and grow. Looking at what went wrong, what you could have done differently, and what you can do in the future to avoid making the same mistakes can be invaluable, and will inevitably get you closer to your goals not further away.

Events earlier in the month originally left me with feelings of rejection and failure. But after reflection, I have now improved and streamlined some processes as a result, and feel good about it.

4. Seeking support

Reach out to friends, family, or colleagues for support and encouragement. Surrounding yourself with positive and supportive people can help you stay motivated and focused. This can sometimes come from unexpected places.

By staying open, friendly and curious, you can have conversations and gain insight that leaves you feeling reassured and bolstered. I’ve done more of this recently, and not only has it been lovely but has also opened up ideas and opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise found.

5. Staying organised

Keep track of your progress, create a plan of action, and prioritise tasks. This will help you stay focused and avoid getting overwhelmed. Tools and systems that have been working well for me are keeping my tasks from life and work in one place (I use the Things app). Then, each morning I have been listing out the tasks for the day and estimating the time it will take me against each one. It’s challenged me to get realistic about what I’m hoping to achieve within a day and has helped me timebox for each task.

6. Staying positive

Maintaining a positive attitude and a strong dose of self-compassion can go a long way when things are tough. Remind yourself of the good things in your life, surround yourself with positive influences and engage in activities that bring you joy! Curate your social media feed to lift you up rather than ignite the comparison monster.

A silly little thing I’ve been doing is a “grati-teeth” - thinking of what I’m grateful for while I’m brushing my teeth! Giving it a name has been a prompt that reminds me to cultivate a gratitude practice that I otherwise have struggled to make a habit.

7. Staying motivated

Find ways to stay motivated, such as setting realistic and achievable goals, rewarding yourself for progress, and taking breaks when needed. I’ve been using the Pomodoro technique to keep me focused and enforce regular breaks. Also, don’t judge yourself for writing down that easy win if you get a kick out of crossing it off. 

8. Getting outside my comfort zone

Trying new things and embracing new experiences will not only help you grow and develop but can also bring new opportunities your way. Plus the fact that you did something new/different/a little scary will fill you with a sense of pride and momentum.

9. Staying persistent

Don't give up, and don’t underestimate consistency. An improvement of 1% each day will still have you looking back a month/quarter/year from now shocked at how far you’ve come. Don't let setbacks get in the way, or derail you from your destination.

If you took a wrong turn on a drive, would you follow the re-routing or stop in the road and give up? At the end of the day, would you rather get there late or not at all? If the honest answer is the latter, then return to step one and review whether the goals you’re working towards are the right ones.

10. Adopting a growth mindset

Seeking out new information, skills, experiences, and learning new things can help you stay motivated, grow and develop. Make this little word your friend: ‘yet’. You aren’t there… yet. You haven’t figured it out… yet. It will help you replace a feeling of lack and brick walls, with one of potential and possibility. 

At the end of the day, remember that progress doesn't happen overnight. It takes time, effort, and persistence to achieve your goals. When you feel like you're not moving forward, take a step back, reflect on your progress, and make a plan of action to keep moving forward. And don’t forget to be kind to yourself in the process.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, SE6
Written by Kate Kilby, Transformative Coach | Life & Career Fulfilment | Confidence
London, SE6

Kate is a Transformational Coach, working with women who are feeling lost, stuck and overwhelmed. She supports them to regain clarity, confidence and control in their personal and professional lives, enabling them to move forwards with renewed purpose, direction and self-compassion. Kate lives in South East London with her husband and two children.

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