I use a combination of transits and primary directions. Primary directions are like progressions, except they use degrees of right ascension instead of Zodiac degrees. The distinction is that different Zodiac signs have different rising times, Cancer through Sagittarius taking longer to rise, and Capricorn through Gemini having shorter rising times. They’ve worked very well with my chart and others I’ve done charts for.
I’m a bug for Solar and Lunar Returns and swear by them. I can usually time events within 24 hours as well as interpreting the indications that will take place from those events. That speaks volumes to me.
Think of transits as short-term transitions. They’re over a shorter period of time. They affect you in the present. Progressions are your changes over a period of time. Progressions are how you grow. They’re more of a long-term thing. You’re still you. Your natal chart is you from birth – your potential. Transits are the things that play into how you grow. Progressions are much like those things that parents use to track their child’s growth. Should a change happen in your progressed chart (like a planet moving into a new sign), the effect will be more of a long-term things, at least that’s what I believe. Does this make any sense?
The two are not really mutually exclusive. They work well together.
I like solar arcs, the very quick and easy thing espec for beginners.
All transits simply act as background influences until they make a mathematical aspect to another planet or angle ie: Ascendant and Midheaven.
learn about transits
learn how to read an ephemeris, the glyphs are the shorthand for signs/planets http://www.astrologyweekly.com/forum/showthread.php?t=42496
learn secondary progressions here
learn solar returns here