New Years Resolution Goal Tracker

By Chris Newman •  Updated: 01/05/22 •  10 min read
How to create a New Year Resolution goal tracking spreadsheet in Excel

Why I Created This Goal Tracker

At the start of every new year, my wife and I have a tradition of going out to eat (without the kids) and discussing our goals for the current year. Typically, I just make a checklist in my OneNote App, which has worked reasonably well in years past. However, I noticed there wasn’t much accountability or urgency coming through my basic checklist. This got me thinking over my Christmas break about a more interactive way I could track the goals I set for myself.

In this post, I’ll walk you through what I created and touch on how I used Excel’s features to make it a bit more interactive than a simple checklist. If that doesn’t appeal to you, you are more than welcome to just download the Excel template (link at the bottom of this article) and start using it.

Two Goal Tracking Formats

I created two ways to track goals in this tracker to allow more flexibility for how I would like to track progress.

Simple Checklist Tab

This version of the tracker is a "Done"/"Not Done" listing where you can split your goals up into as many as six categories or themes. Each category will calculate the percentage of completion based on the number of lines filled out that are checked off. The thought is you would check off your goals as you complete them throughout the year. If there is a goal you weren’t able to accomplish, you mark it with an “X”.

Excel example of a goal tracking dashboard with check list

Itemized Percentage Progress List Tab

This version of the tracker is a bit more granular. It has the same basic premise where you can split your goals up into categories and the overall percentage of completion is calculated. The difference in this version is you can update the percentage of completion for each of your goals as you work towards them.

Excel goal tracking dashboard with percentage completed

How These Were Built Using Excel

There were some pretty neat techniques I was able to utilize while building this tracker out. Let’s go over a few aspects that will not only help you understand how the underlying spreadsheet works, but might lend themselves to finding use in other spreadsheets you build in the future.

The Green Bumpers?

So what’s up with the green cells at the bottom of each list? I ended up having to come up with a “creative” solution for a seemingly annoying/buggy design of Excel.

With any template you create, you have to account for users wanting/needing to insert delete rows and how that might impact your spreadsheet. We’ll discuss how the formulas were set up for this in the next section, but another factor is ensuring the formatting carries into new rows properly.

You’ll notice in my list, I have a couple of formatting features including font color, data validation, and border color. Excel at this time has this oddity where if you insert a row, all the formatting from the above row carries down into the new row…..EXCEPT for borders! The border formats actually carry up from the row below. So after sending a nastygram off to Microsoft, I came up with the solution of incorporating this green bumper-looking thing.

Excel check list with bottom bumper

This actually came out pretty nice in the end as it gives a good visual indicator as to where the user needs to insert their new rows and solved my formatting carryover issue.

Calculating Progress Percentage

I’m only going to cover the percentage formula in one of the tabs as they are both similar in concept, but this formula is a little more interesting than the other.

So the template needed a formula that averaged the progress of filled-out line items. This means we have to account for blanks and ensure they are not included in our average calculation.


At its base, we are counting how many checkmark icons are selected in the list and using the COUNTA function to see how many rows are filled out (not blank/empty).

Notice how the search ranges go all the way down to the green bumper. When you are setting up formulas in spreadsheets that will likely have inserted rows in them, you always need to set it up so that the search range overextends and will always pick up new rows (if you are not using a Table object).

Excel example of percentage formula

Finally, I had to wrap the formula with an IFERROR function because if the section is completely empty (ie not being used by the user) we get a dividing by zero situation which gives us a nasty looking error value.

Setting Up Grey Progress Bar

This was actually a last-minute addition to the tracker. I originally thought I would use a donut chart to display the overall progress of each group, but I think the bar chart I ended up using gives you the same “progress” effect however is more subtle than what the Donut chart would have been on the sheet.

So how did I get an Excel chart to essentially just be a grey bar? Look through the below slideshow to see how I made the transformation (note, I left the grey chart border in so you could see better, but ultimately that gets removed as well).

Excel progress bar example
Excel progress bar example number 2
Excel progress bar building
Excel progress bar building

Once I had my grey bar made, I ensured the chart length was the same width as my green Category Header underline and positioned it directly under the border.

Excel header progress bar

Displaying Days Left

I used the following formula to calculate how many days are left until the year has finished:

=IFERROR(DATEDIF(TODAY(),DATE(GoalYear,12,31),"d"),0) & " DAY(S) LEFT!"

DATEDIF( ) Function

The bulk of the work is being done by the DATEDIF function which allows you to plug in two different dates and the function determines the difference between them. I made the function’s inputs dynamic by using the TODAY function to pull the current date, and then I create a date for the end of the year (Dec 31) utilizing the Named Range (GoalYear) I set up as a user input to get the current year. The final input to this function is to tell it what interval I want my answer in (years, months, days). By using the “d”, I indicate I want my result in days.

IFERROR( ) Function

An IFERROR function needs to be wrapped around the DATEDIF function to handle an error result if the current date is past the goal year. This will happen after years of using this template as you go back to older files and review your goals and the progress you made. Since we are utilizing the TODAY function, we have to account for all possibilities.

Excel formula for days left countdown

Adding Cool Icons

We are SO lucky with the current versions of Excel. Microsoft is paying big bucks to provide us all with free graphics and icons directly within the Office programs. Just look at all the amazing content available in the Icon Browser:

Inserting icons into Excel sheet

As of this writing M365 has a very large library of icons with two different styles:

  • Solid
  • Thin

At the moment, the Thin icons are in-style. You can tell because Microsoft recently released Windows 11 and all the Microsoft Office iconography was updated to have very thin (1px) borders with very minimal color fills. So to align with current “modern” style preferences, I included the thin versions of a few icons that aligned with the New Year goal-setting theme.

New Years Resolution goal tracking icons for an Excel Spreadsheet

Preventing Users From Selecting Objects

Lastly, since I added some objects (icons, charts) that are really meant to sit in the background and be only viewable, I wanted to prevent users from accidentally selecting them while interacting with the tracker. We can obtain this by using the Protection options, but we have to be careful about how we set it up.

First, I needed to select all cells on the spreadsheet and put them into an unlocked state. If you don’t know how to do this, here is a quick GIF to walk you through the steps:

How to unlock all Excel cells

Next, we need to setup the spreadsheet protection. Notice how I wrote “spreadsheet protection” and not “password protection”. With templates, I like to protect sheets without a password added, so that users can easily unlock them and fiddle around if they so choose.

The settings for the desired protection I wanted were pretty straightforward. I wanted the user to be able to do anything they want accept select the charts and icons that I added to the spreadsheet. Anything that sits on top of the spreadsheet (not embedded in a cell) is referred to as an object. So the setup is simply checking everything in the Protect Sheet dialog box except Edit Objects.

Excel sheet protection settings

Download The Excel Example File

If you would like to get a copy of the Excel file I used throughout this article, feel free to directly download the spreadsheet by clicking the download button below.

I Hope This Helped!

Alright, I think I touched on all the interesting stuff that I worked through while building this. Hopefully, you gained some insights into what I think about when I’m putting together a template for the public. Well put together Templates are arguably one of the hardest things to develop in Excel because your end users can literally do a gazillion things inside Excel that could potentially mess up your creation. You have to be great at anticipating the interactions and needs of your users while also balancing how much freedom you should give your users.

If you have any questions about the techniques used in the template or suggestions on how to improve it, please let me know in the comments section below.

Keep Learning

Chris Newman

Chris Newman

Chris is a finance professional and Excel MVP recognized by Microsoft since 2016. With his expertise, he founded TheSpreadsheetGuru blog to help fellow Excel users, where he shares his vast creative solutions & expertise. In addition, he has developed over 7 widely-used Excel Add-ins that have been embraced by individuals and companies worldwide.