There are goals and there are KPIs. If you don’t know what a KPI is, it stands for Key Performance Indicator. In other words, it is a metric that you can track and which represents directly and indirectly performance in a certain area.
For example, how many sales you make is a KPI. If you are closing 10 out of 100 calls a day, then you have a KPI of 10 or 10%.
I’ve decided to go the KPI route some time ago, frustrated that traditional goal setting was not working so well for me. This combined with my love for the quantified self movement, allowed me to create a system based on three different areas:
– Determine the AOI (areas of influence).
– Collect data in a precise manner and in a quantifiable manner.
– Determine goals based on this data.
Sounds too complicated? Let me give you an example.
I know from experience that if I wake up earlier, I’ll get more done, I’ll have a better mood and generally, it will be a better day. I can’t remember a single usual day that went out properly if I woke up at 11:00 or 12:00.
My goal is to have an average wake up time at 07:00. I could do better but for now, since I’ve fallen off the wagon (I had a wake up time of 05:50 for a long, long time), I need to take small steps.
So how do I use this?
First of all, I collect the data.
This is done using a FitBit Charge HR tracker which I wear on my wrist at all times. It is rather accurate and it detects when you go to sleep and when you wake up with 95% accuracy.
This means that every single day, I can sync the FitBit and see when I’ve got out of bed. It determines that I’ve woken up in the moment I perform more movement than I usually do when I sleep. I don’t understand the science behind it exactly but the point is – it is accurate.
I take this data and transform it into a goal. However, since just waking up once at 07:00 it is not really going to help me, I’ve decided to use the “average” method. In other words, all my goals are calculated as an average, usually for the last seven days, so I can have consistency.
Fortunately, FitBit does this automatically for me and calculates it but with some other goals, I have to do it manually (which is not that hard – sum of the last seven days or tracking period divided by seven or the number of days).
I place everything in a spreadsheet and for every day improved, I highlight the new valor with green. For every day that I’m dropping, I’m making it with red. My final goal at this point looks like this …
“SLEEP – WAKE UP HOUR #1 – Reach an average of 07:00 and keep it for at least seven days.”
Here’s how it looks like:
WAKE UP TIME
Once I reach those seven days and I have an 07:00 average, I will decrease it to 06:30 and so on, until I can reach optimum or high performance values.
What are the advantages of this method?
– You know exactly if you are moving forward or backwards.
– Since it is calculated daily, you must move forward, like a marathon, not a sprint, towards the desired goal.
– It gives you pattern based data over time.
– It is an amazing tool for self-improvement because it is one thing to think you are good at something and another to have the data to prove it.
– Anomalies eventually get canceled because the value is always an average of all values (or for the time period) and not the highest one. This means that if you would track income and you would earn $5000 in a day and nothing in the next 9, then the value on the tenth day would be $500/day and not $5000. This is a good thing since it is very easy to lie yourself with statistics and the more data you put in, the more accurate it becomes.
What are the disadvantages of this method?
– It requires passive tracking or the discipline to do this manually. Some goals like productivity or how much I study (as in books finished) are tracked manually but I admit – I wouldn’t be tracking my sleep without a sensor to absorb and interpret this data for me.
– You can’t lie to yourself. If you are failing, you are failing and the numbers show this to you. So it is not for the faint of heart.
Now every single day is about asking the question – what can I do to improve my stats in these areas? These stats range from fitness to financial to my own happiness (which is not correlated yet, only tracked through an amazing IOS app called Happiness) to how much work I put in.
For now, I’m not doing high level correlations. I’m not trying to see if there are links between values and how changing one changes the other. I may do this at a later date and I only have seven days of info so far in this system.
But what I’m doing is …
– How many steps do I need to walk / run today to hit my 7500/day average?
– How much do I need to exercise today to hit my calories goal average?
– How close am I’m to getting my next badge on FitBit (this acts as a normal goal but since the value resets itself every day, I track it).
– How much work do I need to invest in Pomodoros to reach my average of 10 Pomodoros a day?
And so on. It seems complicated. It is not. It is actually very simple. The problem with SMART goals is that you don’t even know what you need to do and it is easy to fool yourself. A SMART goal would be to earn $5000 in one month.
However, there are two problems with this:
– How do I know I’m on the right path? How do I know I’m progressing?
– What if it takes more than a month – then do I need to update my goal?
Instead, you can have a goal to earn just $161 per day. In some days you’ll earn nothing. In others you’ll earn five times the sum. At the end, it all balances and if you see that you are in the red too much, then it means what you are doing is not working. If you are in the green, then you are raising your average (even if it means from $10 to $15) and you know you are heading towards the right destination.
I find it fascinating and while I would like to take the credit for it, I can’t. These procedures have been used in management for a long time but I’m glad that I’ve found a way to apply them into my own life.