Everyone loves setting goals.
Head over to Pinterest and you’ll find thousands of vision boards with unfulfilled dreams. When it’s January 1st, you can expect your Newsfeed to be flooded with people declaring that “this year is different.”
We all know that setting goals is the fun and easy part, but completing them is a different animal. What’s the missing piece to the puzzle?
In my experience, the most overlooked aspect is measuring your progress.
I have a hypothesis that one of the brain’s job is energy allocation. It’s always trying to figure out what activities to give more energy to, and where to take energy from.
So if you’re giving your brain “evidence” that you’re making progress towards a goal, then it’s going to create a motivation loop. The human mind loves feedback.
There were several times in my life where I tried to put on muscle. I always made sure to track my weight, and to take progress photos on a weekly basis. Every time I saw evidence that I was making progress, my brain would give me a dopamine boost that said, “It’s Working. Keep Fucking Going.”
Let’s zoom out and look at how organizations operate.
Every major company measures its progress using Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
- If your goal is to improve your customer satisfaction, then you should keep track of your refund rates, average email response time, and the net promoter score.
- If your goal is to improve your marketing, then you might want to keep track of the size of your email list and your social media channels.
Key Performance Indicators are a GPS for your business.
There’s another reason why measurement is so important.
No one likes pain. No one likes to feel “uncomfortable.” It’s easy for your brain to comes up with stories, narratives, and re-frames about your progress.
Numbers keep you honest – you either achieved it or you didn’t.
A few years ago, I had an insight that we’re all the CEO of our own personal lives. Why not bring over some proven business practices to help keep track of my own life?
That’s when I had the idea to start a Key Performance Indicator Dashboard for my own personal life.
It’s a simple Spreadsheet that I use multiple times a day. It reminds me of what my yearly and monthly goals are. It reminds me of what habits I’m trying to achieve on a daily basis.
I’m going to share with you what I think is worth tracking, and I’ll share with you what I’m personally using as of August 2019.
What Metrics Should You Be Keeping Track Of?
We have different goals so we’re going to be tracking different metrics.
Figure out what your goals are, and then reverse engineer what you should be tracking.
- If I were trying to become a comedian I’d keep track of how much time I spent writing jokes and how often I’m performing stand up comedy.
- Let’s say that losing weight is important to you. You can track habits like how much water you’re drinking, how many times you’re going to the gym, and even add in how many steps you’re taking per day via your FitBit.
- Are you trying to get rid of debt? You could track what you’re spending on a daily basis.
My main focus is my career – I want to level up.
In order to do that, I want to my sure that my brain and my health are as optimized as possible. I want to be a clear and calm thinker, and have plenty of energy.
Here’s what I’m tracking now.
- Pomodoros. It’s how much deep work I’m getting in each day.
- Going to the Gym
- 64oz of Water
- Sleep Length – Tracked by using an Oura Ring
- Sleep Score – Tracked by using an Oura Ring
- Listening to Podcasts
- iPhone ScreenTime
Habits can change on a month to month basis.
For the past several years I kept a reading habit of at least thirty minutes a day.
I’ve realized that it’s not the most effective habit for me to learn anymore. After reading several hundred business books, they’re all starting to sound the same. I realized that podcasts are more relevant to me now, so I replaced reading with listening to podcasts.
In a few months maybe I’ll switch over to a different form of learning.
Your dashboard will evolve with you just like how you’re evolving as a person.
Creating Your Personal KPI Dashboard
Here’s a look at my personal KPI dashboard with some fake numbers to help you visualize things.
The first thing you’ll notice is that I’m keeping track of a ton of different metrics and data.
I don’t recommend doing this for most people.
If you’ve never worked out before, then you’re not going to try lifting the same weights as a professional bodybuilder, right?
Start small and track around three metrics.
The problem with starting too big is it becomes a big mental drain to keep track of. Then you give up after a week.
Remember that consistency beats intensity.
You might be wondering why am I using a Google Spreadsheet when there are so many cool iPhone apps and software.
It’s because I like to keep things simple and flexible.
Link to the Spreadsheet
(It’s best if you make your own copy of it)
Using the Spreadsheet Consistently
One of the hardest things will be to keep consistent with measuring your data.
The first issue is remembering to keep track of the data.
I have two spreadsheets.
First, I print out a physical copy. I keep a physical copy next to my nightstand, and I fill it in before I go to bed. I find myself more consistent filling it in physically, and it does feel more rewarding.
Second, every Sunday I take the data and fill it into the spreadsheet online. I do this so that I can see what the scores are on a weekly basis, and I can do some color coding to help me visualize.
The next issue is to keep measuring when you’re not making as much progress as you’d like.
This was a huge issue for me several years ago. I’m a perfectionist by nature. It SUCKS to have a perfect streak of a week, and then you “fall off the wagon.” You’re not going to the gym as much and seeing that sheet is a painful reminder of it.
Have you ever felt that way before?
Remember that the Dashboard isn’t here to judge – it’s here to help you improve. Embrace reality and realize that it isn’t a big deal.
You might notice that I started the sheet with July 29th, rather than August 1st.
It’s because I like tracking and measuring data on a Monday to Sunday schedule.
How to Analyze the Data From Your Spreadsheet
Tracking the data is half the battle – you need to analyze the data to make meaningful changes.
I like to have what I call a weekly standard. Think of it like a video game score that I’m trying to beat on a weekly basis. I highlight my weekly averages with green or red to indicate how I did.
If I didn’t hit a certain goal for the week, I take some time to reflect on what happened.
Some observations and improvements I’ve made:
Everything’s connected to each other
If I’m using my iPhone a lot, then that affects my sleep. If I’m not sleeping well, then that affects the number of pomodoros I can accomplish.
If I’m not hitting my pomodoros then that lowers my happiness score.
Sometimes I want to stay up late and watch TV on weekdays. If that happens, I remind myself what the “cost” is.
It’s difficult for me to hit my goals if I’m traveling
It’s part of the reason why I don’t travel as much as I used to. It’s easy to think, “oh, it’s just a 5-day trip.”
The jet lag, sleep debt, and not exercising as much means that I’m paying for it even after the trip is over.
I had a hard time hitting my water goals.
So, I sat back and tried to diagnose the root cause. I noticed a problem was that I’d have to keep going up and down the stairs to refill it. It’s a pain in the ass.
How could I lower the friction? I switched to a huge 64oz water jug that I fill in the morning. Problem solved!
Do you see the point? The data tells me the truth about my behavior, and it allows me time to reflect and make meaningful changes.
Are You Accountable to Yourself?
I haven’t had a boss in over twelve years.
My parents and my girlfriend don’t put too much pressure on me these days.
By all means, I can “chill” for the rest of my life. No one’s putting pressure on me to work hard.
But man, deep down I still have this fire inside of me that wants to see what my potential is. No one’s going to push me to get there but myself.
That’s why this personal dashboard is so important to me – it keeps me accountable to myself.
Featured Image by Kentoh