Leading indicators of personal productivity


What do most of us do each year in the November and December period?

One of the most common answers has to be: “Look back at my goals from the past year and think about what I want to accomplish next year”

Not bad on the surface and it’s certainly better than having no guiding purpose.

But what is it that these goals really provide for us?

For myself, they provide the guiding light.

Much like a lighthouse, except maybe the light is coming from where I want to head towards, not the jagged coastline that can wreck my ambitions-ship.

I find that having broad goals in a few areas helps center myself when I get busy, frustrated, or lose sight of the bigger picture.


That can happen and you’re still, OK??

Yup, happens to everyone.

We all go through ups and downs, cycles, periods of high and low stress…that’s just life.

It’s up to us to even it out and work on what stress we allow in from the outside and the stress that we put upon ourselves.

Which brings up an interesting thought.

Do goals put the right stress on us?

For example, Scott Adams has a good analogy where he talks about setting yourself the challenge of losing 10 pounds as a health goal. [Source: Growth Without Goals – The Investor’s Field Guide]

The problem, from his perspective, is that you’re “failing” that goal until you reach the goal.

And then what?

Do you lose 10 pounds and have great health?

What if you had an unhealthy diet but lost that weight?

Maybe it’s not sustainable and you put back 12 pounds in a few months.

It’s an interesting way to view goals and something that I’m going to be looking at more moving forward as this also ties into business planning.

More specifically, it relates to the idea of leading and lagging indicators.

For example, looking at the revenue for your business for the past month and seeing how much you brought in – very important information – but that’s a lagging indicator. 

It’s past.

That number won’t directly affect the outcome of something else – you might make decisions based on it, but by itself it’s not especially significant as a key performance indicator for the long term.

What about leading indicators?

This could be something like “booked phone calls with prospective clients”.

If your company closes 20% of the booked phone calls with prospective clients…and you have 100 calls booked…then you can pretty accurately forecast what the revenue will be for the month, what you should do to hit revenue goals, etc.

Taking this back to the personal productivity realm, what if you identified the 5 “leading indicators” that led to success in your life?

Instead of failing your someday goal most of the time, what if you were accomplishing your leading indicator habits 80% or more of the time?

And before you think this would be difficult, think about what some of these might look like:

  • Going for a walk each morning
  • Reading for 15 minutes
  • Not looking at your phone until after 11 am each day
  • Tracking food intake daily with an app
  • Eating a salad once per day
  • Creating or updating 1 process in your business

These are all things that are within our grasp and can have huge impacts when done regularly over time.

How can you develop your own best leading indicators?

Start simple.

Ask yourself what it is that gets you the best results in your life.

Then break that down to the simple & specific actions you take.

Here’s an example

I am more motivated, healthier, and get more done when I am “fit”.

That is neither a goal nor something I can “do”.

So let’s break that down into what I can do daily that will provide the benefits of being motivated, healthy, and getting more done:


How much, when, where?

That’s up to you! For me, I know that doing at least 30 minutes of exercise will provide the benefits I need. The point is to try, test, and iterate so you end up with the best habits for you.

The “goal” is to find out which ones have the biggest impact in your life, and then work them into your daily routine.

About the author

Adam Moody

I'm Adam Moody with the Productivity Academy. Get your productivity, time management, automation, and organization questions answered here. Be sure to check out the Productivity Academy YouTube Channel and the Real World Productivity Group.

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