Measuring Progress

In the academic world, progress metrics are plentiful. I think that’s why many people never leave school. You go to class, you put in the work, you get the grades, the grades become GPA. Boom, you can translate your effort into a percent, a couple of honor cords, a piece of paper on the wall. And you get some self-esteem out of it, too.

In post-academic life, however, progress can be harder to get your hands around. You can count the hours you spend working, but how do you measure the fruit of those hours? For smaller endeavors, it’s not as difficult. Summer working retail = money for study abroad. But when you’re working towards a more distant goal, one that requires immediate investment for a very delayed payoff, how do you tell if you’re moving forward?

For example, let’s talk about writing a book (how funny! something I’ve spent quite a lot of time doing this week). What do you have to show for 8 hours of completely internal concept work that doesn’t translate into a paycheck or even a page count? Not instant gratification, that’s for sure. But if I’m ever going to finish the novel, I have to have faith that it will matter, and that it’s worth the present sacrifices.

In fact, I think some of the most important things can’t be quantified at all in the short term. Think about growing a prayer life or spending time with friends and family. You can’t measure your investment until you enjoy the final result: a sweet relationship with God or other people. Even though it can feel like wasted time in the right now, it’s much more valuable to do things that matter in the big picture than to be able to instantly prove yourself by the numbers.

Now, with all that said, this week God has given me some progress signposts that give me hope. My big-picture goals may still be far in the distance, but these are good reminders that I’m at least on the way.

1. Adding some great resources to my collection at the library sale

2. Applications from 2 new tutoring students (hopefully this isn’t what my hair looks like!)

Free Student Clipart
Source: Clipart Pal

3. Having lunch with my mom in mid-November rather than taking midterms

Source: Aqui

4. Writing “owner” after my name on an application for a tutoring business license


5. And last but not least, finding a perfectly-sized coffeepot to fuel my continued endeavors! 

6 thoughts on “Measuring Progress

  1. No, your hair doesn’t look like that. If it ever does, I’ll let you know.And isn’t it nice to go out for lunch when you want to without having to worry about tests and homework?

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  2. Thank you, Audry. I knew I could count on you to catch my hair flubs. And not worrying about tests and homework is definitely one of the major perks of post-graduation life!

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  3. It’s good to see that you are still wearing your bifocals :). I’m told there is a phrase that describes the phenomenon of ideas that pop repeatedly into our lives: ‘sacred echoes’…Hang onto those–they keep pointing you in a consistent upward direction!Thanks for sharing your illuminations, pictures, events, coffee, and lunch…These all add to my joy in life!

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  4. Angela: I’m glad you agree 🙂 Mama: I appreciate the reminder about “sacred echoes.” I’m afraid my current echo is “let go of security…let go of security…let go of security…” but I’m glad you see the trend moving in an upward direction 🙂

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