I’m working on a small project which involves personal data tracking, so I’ve been doing a bit of user research on people who set goals and track their progress towards them.
43Things is a popular and easy-to-use site for setting goals and recording your progress, and I’ve enjoyed using it in the past myself. I figured they might have some useful information on what types of goals people are setting and tracking today as well as some predictors for success.
On their “Zeitgeist” page, 43Things aggregates some interesting lists from member data such as all-time most popular goals (“lose weight” is the top goal by far), new goals (“Become the next Frank Sinatra” was on there as I was writing this), popular goals today, and more.
I took the list of top 100 all-time goals and list of top 100 achieved goals and merged them to see where the overlaps are, where the gaps are, and if there is a correlation between popular goals set and popular goals achieved. I found some interesting things.
THINGS PEOPLE ACHIEVE:
If you regularly set personal or professional goals for yourself, it won’t surprise you to learn that the goals with the highest number of achievers are generally measurable. It’s probable that no one marked off having achieved “Get in shape” or “Be more confident” because they’re hard to quantify. “Lose weight” is a bad goal because unless you give yourself a bit more guidance, it is difficult to say when it’s accomplished. “Lose ten pounds in three months by decreasing my soda and snacks intake and working out three times a week” is definitely more wordy, but it’s also more concrete and has a higher likelihood of success.
I won’t try to argue if the top achieved goal, “Fall in love”, is quantifiable, but most of the top achieved goals are, in fact, very measurable.
THINGS PEOPLE IDEALLY WANT TO DO BUT DON’T:
The next interesting thing is the gaps where lots of people are setting goals but no one seems to be achieving them. Some of these are, as above, not so measurable. But others are more along the lines of “things I’d like to say I did, but I don’t have the time or the passion.” There are quite a few language learning goals in this category, as well as things that require a large commitment of time such as running a marathon, traveling the world or writing a novel.
THINGS PEOPLE DO WITHOUT EXPLICITLY SETTING A GOAL:
Have you ever written a to-do list, and then thrown an item or two on there that you’ve already finished? Just to make you have some feeling of accomplishment? I have, especially if the day’s task list looks endless. The last interesting category I noticed seemed to be these things. Things people did without realizing it was a goal they wanted to achieve. Graduating from school, getting a passport, donating blood, doing ten full push-ups all fall into this category. They’re often not the types of goals people think they need to be strategic to achieve, but that’s not to say they’re any easier than the other goals.
CREATING THE CHARTS:
[UPDATE-30/8/2011]BLOG POST FROM 43THINGS:
The creators of 43Things.com, The Robot Co-op, featured my blog post on their excellent blog about 43Things & the other projects they build. You can read the post here: http://blog.robotcoop.com/2011/08/30/fun-with-43-things-data/. Thanks for taking a look, Robot Co-op, and keep up the great work!
[UPDATE-27/8/2011]ALTERNATE VIEWING OF INFORMATION:
It was suggested that since Highcharts doesn’t work in some mobile browsers, I include an alternate form of viewing the data, so I’ve added the images below in case that helps. Thanks for the great suggestion.