Data is fascinating.
Maybe it’s because of my old field of work in finance, or my love of STEM fields. I’m not sure really, but I’ve always appreciated what data can do for you. I love how it informs you, and how it is honest.
I love its objectivity.
In my past life, I used to work extensively with hedge funds to analyze data of their portfolio companies in order to assess performance. This meant looking at earnings reports, performance, price changes over time, etc.
Looking at a company’s balance sheet and analyzing its financial data is one of the fastest ways to reach a binary answer to the question: how is this company performing?
Be the CEO of You, Incorporated
In the past few years, I’ve started experimenting with an idea inspired by quarterly earnings reports of companies.
Every quarter, public companies report on their performance through standardized metrics compiling sales and revenue data, as well as expenses and growth to provide a high level snapshot of the company performed against their goals.
I’ve started created mini Quarterly Reports to track my goal performance over time. I’ve found that using data to my advantage and measuring myself like a business has helped keep me accountable towards my goals and a cadence I’ve set for myself.
What Data can Do for You
Over the past few years, I’ve consistently been collecting data to better understand myself, behavior, and performance.
It took me a while to realize that we all carry a personal narrative in our heads — our own story and perception of our life experiences. It’s the method our brain uses to understand the world around us and how it applies to us. Where it falls flat however, is when we believe our personal narratives to be the objective truth.
Armed with this understanding, this is why my data-tracking has been useful to me: to help me process the subjectivity of my own experiences.
In other words, it’s manual and tedious AF, but it forces me to be honest with myself, and helps me improve myself by making better choices. Instead of assumptions based on intuition and guesswork, data allows you to make informed decisions.
Setting the right goals
The first step is to begin establishing goals (I plan to have a follow up post on how to set valuable goals, so stay tuned). But in the meantime, the key item I want to highlight is creating action-based goals. This means setting goals you have definitive control over.
For example, instead of a goal of reading 10 books in a quarter, I chose an action-based goal of reading 300 minutes a week. These are all goals allowing myself full control of the situation. I can make a decision during the week about consciously taking these actions.
My weekly goals in summary:
- 📝 Write: Write 1 article
- 📚 Read: Read for 300 minutes
- 🌱 &E Conversation: Have 2 conversations with strangers to practice pitching my startup
- 🤓 Learn: Study 2 lessons in a course
- 👭 Connect: Catch up or connect with two different friends
- 🐸 Productive: Complete my most important task of the day
- 🥬 Food Grade Average: Choose healthy meal options (that have a food grave higher than 4)
- 🔥 Calorie Burn Average: Burn 2,300 calories a day (tracked via Apple Watch)
Setting a goal of 10 books is a fine and measurable goal, but the question is — does this represent a goal you have full control over?
I used to set a goal of reading XX books a year, but found myself always coming short. Books vary in terms of page length, spacing, density of material, etc. This impacts your speed of reading and how quickly you can finish a book.
In addition, I started noticing that when the year was coming to a close and I was behind on my goal, I felt the urge to “cheat” so to speak, and pick shorter books just for the sake of saying I finished reading a book.
But how much value does that provide?
When I used to create results driven goals, I’d create external pressure to hit this goal at all costs, which inevitably turns into cheating and “massaging of rigor.” Forcing myself to cut corners in order to reach this goal didn’t help my long term purpose: learn and build my knowledge.
Key takeaway: Select actionable goals that you can definitively measure.
2020 Q2 in Review
The image below shows the weekly results of my goals over time. I’ve established the weekly cadence I have for each goal, and every week I would log the frequency or time I spent working on this goal.
I’ve used conditional formatting to highlight missed goals for the week in red.
As you can see, there’s a shit ton of red.
But interestingly enough — when you take the cumulative results of all thirteen weeks in the quarter, you’ll see something interesting in the table below: I hit almost all the goals I set for myself.
And for the ones I didn’t, I was pretty damn close.
This screenshot is my Q2 2020 Summary — a cumulative sum of the frequency I needed to accomplish for each goal throughout the quarter. This was done simply by multiplying my weekly goal by the number of goals in the quarter.
Similarly, anything in red implies missed goals.
When I first started doing this, I remember feeling so discouraged seeing all that red. It wasn’t until I did my quarterly reflection to review my results and my performance, that I saw how many goals I had actually hit.
These action based goals also translated directly into results:
- I saw my @yinadreamsofspace IG following grow by 700+ users
- I finished 6 books in a single quarter
- I completed four courses
- I dropped 6 lbs from eating healthy
You get the idea.
By tracking my results, this removed the ambiguity of only thinking I was putting in the work on my goals, and helped me hold myself accountable.
In addition, working in this way allows me to replenish my motivation even on days I’ve missed the goal, because I know I do have time to play catch up.
Based on this data, I’m confident I have room to “level up” my goals for next quarter and see how this adds momentum to my progress.
Help yourself help yourself
I’m not necessarily recommending my system since I know it might not work for everybody, but one thing is fact: logging and tracking data helps keep yourself honest and hold yourself accountable.
This behavior naturally makes you more inclined to commit time and energy to the work you’re tracking, which inherently means progress. More progress leads to increased motivation, which leads to more time and effort spent, and thus creates a positive feedback loop.
- Data is valuable. It’s objectively allows us to make more informed decisions.
- If you are looking for an objective, more scientific way to approach your goals, start by measuring your data.
- Building out a weekly cadence allows you to track goal progress over time, while allowing for flexibility so you can compensate for missed time from other weeks.