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The Achievement Loop: Plan, Execute, Review

Published 30 Dec 2013 | Category: Theory

A common theme can be found amongst people who have mastered a skill, become highly successful, or achieved something seemingly impossible. In nearly all cases, a large part of their progression towards success can be attributed to two things: regular time commitment, and efficient use of that time, ensuring that they're always moving closer towards their goal.

Whether you're looking to improve your fitness, learn a new skill, or complete a big personal project, these same strategies can be applied. The method we describe here, the "achievement loop" can be an extremely useful technique to ensure you're spending your time wisely, and always making progress towards your dreams.

The technique involves setting out repeating cycles (a week in length is a good starting point) consisting of the following:

  1. Plan how you're going to get the most tangible progress out of the week ahead. For example, by deciding on a tactic to get past any newly emerging "blockers" that are preventing you from progressing.
  2. Over the week, stay as dedicated to the plan as possible. Don't let procrastination or laziness get in your way; trust yourself that you had your best interests in mind when you made the plan, so it only makes sense to stick to it, rather than letting your more primal instincts get in the way.
  3. At the end of the week, review how much you've progressed; see whether it matches what you expected, and if not, try and work out why.

It can be tricky to stay true to this strategy. Neglecting just one of the parts can lead to the whole thing falling apart. For example: seeing progress towards a fitness goal plateau over a period of months, despite the same amount of time being put in every week, due to a failure to plan and adapt when the strategy started losing its effectiveness.

Need for Achievement aims to help with this, as an app which adds automation and structure to much of the process, making it much easier to form a habit around progression and achievement. The following section describes how the three parts of the achievement loop can be applied using the app:


Create a main goal as ambitious as your dream, and from there use your the best of your current knowledge to break it down into sub-goals and steps. If you don't yet know how you'd even set about getting started, make one of your first steps to research into that, so that once you've got a more informed idea you can adjust your plan to be more accurate.

Set up repeating steps for the elements of practice which you should be doing regularly. If necessary, set a time of day, and use the SMS/email reminders to make sure you stick to it.

Finally, think if there's something relating to the progress which you can quantify, and turn into a tracker. Even better if you can set a target for the end of the week, so each day you can be focusing on getting closer to the target.


With most of the setup done in the planning stage, now all that's left is following it. Use the To-do List and Trackers tabs to keep everything updated daily. Visit from your smartphone to do so if it's more convenient than using a computer. You can also take advantage of the daily to-do list summaries, which are emailed every morning, to plan out your day.


Once the end of a cycle comes, take a fresh look back over your progress from the last week, and see what you can gain from it. The streaks, history chart, and graphs, should give you an idea of how well you stuck to your plan. You may have even reached a milestone by completing a sub-goal. It's easy to trick yourself into thinking you followed a routine more strictly than you really did when you keep it in your head, but your history of steps overcomes this by keeping everything on record.

Look over your trackers and see how much you progressed, and whether you met your targets. If not, try and think why not. If your progress is consistently less than expected, or reaching a plateau, it's probably time to try a new set of actions.

Finally, jump back to the Planning step, and adjust your goals, steps and targets for a new week. Learn from the mistakes and inefficiencies of the previous week, and use it to make an even more rock-solid plan.

By staying disciplined and continuing to follow this strategy, gradually, week-by-week, you'll be able to watch yourself closing the gap and progressing towards your dream.

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