Tag Archives: goal setting

Step 7: Choosing Metrics

This step is new to the annual planning process: we added it in this year when we realized that “number of objectives achieved” was a crude and inaccurate measure of our accomplishments: some projects weren’t expected to be completed (they were clearly multi-year projects from the start); some objectives were started in February and could be expected to be completed; some were such micro-projects that completing them was no big achievement. We wanted to be able to more accurately measure what we had done.

Enter Metrics

I wrote earlier about the benefits of metrics in your business (just not competitive metrics!), why not use metrics for the rest of your life as well? Especially since our goals this year were process oriented, providing direction but not distance, we needed a way to measure how far we’d come, so we could compare our accomplishments year to year.

I wasn’t really paying attention to the process while we did this; I was focusing on making metrics. So I’m kind of reconstructing it; please bear with me.

Decide what’s important to you

Look down your list of goals, and decide which of them want metrics. (For some goals, the best measure of success might be “Did I achieve it?” In those cases, you don’t need separate metrics — you’ll already be able to measure accomplishment next year.) For others, where achieving it is unlikely to happen within a year, or where “did I achieve it” is a question without a clear answer, you’ll want to make metrics.

Decide how to measure them

Some examples:

As I mentioned previously, my partner and I decided that maintaining and improving our relationship was our #1 priority. This isn’t really a project… we’re not making to-do lists and checking off tasks to accomplish it… but we do want to have some way to measure what we’re doing.

One such measure is simply subjective assessment: do we think we’re doing better or worse. We’ll grade ourselves each day, and try to keep our “better” days as high a percentage as possible.

Another way to measure it is average duration of a fight: the time elapsed from when the fight begins, to when it’s resolved (both of us understand and accept the other’s position, and we have arrived at a decision that neither resents, and made up). We want to “fight” productively, respecting each other’s opinions, communicating effectively, and making decisions that work for both partners and for the relationship. So keeping that as low as possible will help us measure our success there.

Another objective is to be healthy… but what does that mean?

To me it means eating right, so I’m going to rate my diet each day on a scale of 1 – 10, and try for as high a score as possible by the end of the year.

It also means being able to do things without wearing down so fast or running out of breath, so I Googled a test for aerobic capacity, that measures how quickly I can cover a mile and how much it raises my pulse to do so. I will measure this monthly, and want to maintain or improve my score on this test over the year.

And finally, I want to be able to lift more, and to not injure myself doing everyday chores like gardening. So I want to measure how strong I am, and aim to maintain or improve my lifting capacity over the year.

Decide what the best way is to measure the things that matter to you.

Decide when to measure them

Different metrics make sense at different intervals: I need to eat healthy almost every day, but measuring my aerobic capacity on a daily basis would be a waste of time and drive me crazy. So decide how to measure your progress, and how often you want to do so.

Set up a system to remind you to measure your metrics on the appropriate schedule; use mine if you’d like — it has a tab for daily goals and a tab for monthly measurements, and they’re both printable.

And… you’re ready!

That was quite a process. You analyzed where you’re at and what’s going on, put together long-term goals and short-term goals, and assembled projects and metrics to help you get there. You deserve a reward. My partner and I usually go out to dinner and see a play at the local theatre, but pick something that works for you (guys). And enjoy the year!

Resources for Further Reading
Annual Planning
Using Metrics

Step 5: Goal Setting

Goal setting is step 4 of the Annual Planning process if you’re doing it for the first time, but in subsequent years you need to add in a step (review last year) that bumps it back to step 5. As we discovered at our second annual retreat, you also need to modify this step some.

We weren’t sure what to do about this step. I was thinking to just re-do the whole goal-setting process, because I was afraid that re-using the same goals year after year would lead, eventually, to growing disconnected from our own goals. I wanted to be sure that our objectives grew and changed as we did. But my partner felt (quite accurately), that it would be silly and wasteful to just duplicate all the effort we went to last year, and that we’d be so busy trying to remember what we said last year that we wouldn’t think about new stuff. What we came up with, to answer both of our concerns, was this:

Write down last year’s goals

Just like last year, write down each goal on a separate piece of paper or an index card (or if you happened to keep last year’s cards, you can just pull them out again.)

Write down any new goals

A friend of mine is opening a business this year, and I’m helping him out – that obviously wasn’t on our list last year. You might have discovered something new you want to try doing, or a new event to which you’d like to travel. Or you might have thought of something you forgot last year. Whatever the reason, write down any new goals you may have, each on a separate piece of paper.

Sort them

This process is the same as last year: take all your goals, draw them out one at a time, and put them in order of priority. (They’re on separate pieces of paper so you can easily rearrange them.) This is likely to be faster than last year, because you already have a feeling of how these goals compare to each other, but you should still discuss why the goals are important to you as you decide where to place them.

Ta-Da!

You now have a prioritized list of what’s most important to you, and if you did this with a partner, you guys are now on the same page about where you want to go. That’s pretty sweet!

The next step is to make it tangible and turn it into a plan for the year, so move on to Your Projects: Assembling the Plan

Using Metrics

One of the primary benefits of setting goals is that having a clear goal lets you figure out whether or not you’re making progress. Which is true, as far as it goes — I set goals last year for our first annual planning session, and there’s no doubt that I have made a lot more progress over the last year than I did the year before. But I’d like to be able to say with more certainty how much progress I’ve made.

Enter Metrics

When you’re ready for the next level of tracking your progress and reaching your goals, it’s time to start using metrics.

Metric is from the Latin word for measure, and in this case, it means simply that: measure what you’re doing. If you set SMART goals, then your goal is already measurable, you simply need to actually measure it. Otherwise, you need to sit down and make your goal SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound).

Selecting Metrics

For each objective you have, figure out what you could measure to determine if you’re making progress. In some cases, this might be really obvious: if your objective is to lose weight, then clearly you want to measure your weight. In other cases it might require more creativity: if you want to improve your relationship with your partner, you might need to get more specific (“I want to have fewer fights”) or to select a set of metrics for this goal (“Number of fights” + “Number of positive interactions” + “Time spent together per week” + “Subjective assessment”)

For each metric, jot down the following:

  • Why this metric matters
  • How this metric will be used
  • Tracking methods to measure effectiveness
  • How data will be captured

For example, for the losing-weight objective, you might write down:

    Metric: My weight
  • This metric matters because none of my dieting and exercise matters if I don’t actually lose pounds
  • Add each weight measurement to a graph, so I can see the overall trend.
  • I will weigh myself once a week, on Sunday, before breakfast.
  • I will capture the data using my bathroom scale.

When I had an objective of keeping my temper under control, my metric was how many times I lost my temper per day (yes, multiple times per day!) My list would have looked something like this:

    Metric: How many times I lose my temper each day
  • This metric matters because I’m trying to keep my temper, and how often I lose it is a good measure of whether or not I’m succeeding
  • Compare average temper-loss-per-day month to month.
  • Write down how many times I lost my temper today on the calendar, so I have an amount for each day.
  • Wear a length of chain around my neck, and tie a knot in it every time I lose my temper

Using Metrics

Once you have a metric, and have determined that it’s a good metric for helping you achieve your goals, and have determined how to measure it (and how often), the next step is to actually do that. Monthly and weekly goals can be reviewed at your monthly planning and weekly planning. For daily goals (and especially things where you’re likely to have some fluctuations, like weight or spending or keeping your temper), it’s often helpful to have a graph, so that you can see the overall trends. If you have a “Do/buy/sell/earn this much stuff” type of goal, one of those thermometer-style graphs like they use for fundraisers may be helpful.

Whatever you choose, I do recommend keeping your metrics out in front of you. The more you see them, the more likely you are to act on them.

Resources For Further Reading
Annual Planning

Monetize Yourself Media – Share Your Expertise For Free

This post is part a series on specific media for monetizing yourself. Today I’m going to talk about another category of potential media: sharing your expertise for free.

That Doesn’t Sound Like Monetizing Myself

This is the least intuitive category, so let’s take a moment to examine it. As I discussed in Distillery Tours and Alternate Monetization, “free” doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not making money. That post used the example of Maker’s Mark Bourbon, who will let you tour their facilities for free, and make a lot more money selling you souvenirs than they ever could have made on the tour itself.

Free is the newest craze, and it works really well in some cases. The best example is our favorite search engine: Google doesn’t charge you for the use of its amazing search technology. They make their money “through the side door”, as Jeff Jarvis would say.

You, too, can open a side door.

Share your expertise…

Make a website

A website is actually just another form of Information Product: a way to provide information to those who need it. It can be less daunting than writing a book, and may be a better fit for the information you want to provide, since it lets readers easily browse information in whatever order is useful to them. It’s also easier to edit and update than a book, which is great if your area of expertise is expected to change itself in your lifetime.

Start a blog

Blogs are another way to share what you know. Since the days when they began, as a way for teenage girls to keep each other constantly updated on their social lives, blogs have evolved into a great source of information for whatever you may be interested in — from fantasy football to making money. And whatever you’re an expert in, you could write one, too.

…or site-blog

Blogs are great because you can keep them constantly up-to-date, and can write about whatever comes to mind. But websites are really nice because your readers can find the information they’re looking for (without digging through years of chronological posts). A compromise that’s coming into vogue is the site-blog: a blog that has all its posts in chronological order, so you may read back issues to your heart’s content, but also has the posts sorted into categories like a website, so that you can find specific, targeted information.

Make a podcast

Does your area of expertise lend itself better to audio or visual media than to text? Make a podcast or a video podcast. It’s not as hard as you think, and it can probably be done with free software.

Check out my first YouTube video.

You can do better than that. So why don’t you? You get to talk about your favorite stuff once a week, and you can call your mom and tell her you’re in a video.

… and monetize

If you make good stuff — a website with good information, a podcast that’s entertaining, or a blog that keeps people up-to-date in your industry — people will enjoy receiving it. And then all you have to do is monetize. Do this by

  • Selling ads
  • creating premium content, available for a fee
  • selling your services as a consultant
  • selling related products through an affiliate program
  • creating an information product you can sell to people who want more
  • selling t-shirts and coffee mugs related to your work

Low Risk… So Why Not?

All of the above can be done for free, or for very low cost. So why not try it out?

Resources For Further Reading
Site Build It! (A great resource for making a website – but the only resource on this list that isn’t free.)
WordPress (This is where I started my blog)
How to Podcast: 4 Basic Steps
How To Make Money From Your Blog

How to Invest

In a forum I hang out in, I recently received a private message from another user, asking about investing. He had $100/month to spare, and wanted to make good use of it. My advice to him follows:

Hey, John:

Sorry about the delay; I haven’t logged into the forums much this week. I’m not a certified financial advisor and I don’t know the details of your situation, so just be aware that what follows is generic rather than specific advice, and you should ignore anything that doesn’t sound like it applies to you.

Stock Market

How best to invest depends a lot on what your goals are for yourself and for your money. When most people think of investing, they think of the stock market. There are 2 smart ways (and a whole bunch of stupid ways) to invest there:

1) You don’t want to have to mess with it. If you invest $100/month at (an average of)10% interest for 30 years, you’ll have invested $36,000 but you’ll have an account worth $226,000. If you’re just looking for something to keep you off the street in your old age, this is a good method. You set up an account to automatically withdraw $100 from your checking account and invest it some index fund — it really doesn’t matter which — and forget about it.

2)You think business and finance is awesome, you love analyzing financial statements, and you have several hours per week to spend on analysis. In that case, you may enjoy investing in individual stocks. The stock market is full of stupid and emotional people, and there are plenty of stocks out there that are massively over- or under-priced. But you have to be willing to read — really read — a document 1/4″ thick, look at all the numbers, compare them to the numbers from last year, figure out how the company’s doing, keep up on news and trends that might affect this company, etc…. for every company you want to invest in. It can be cool, but it can also be a full-time job that takes training. If it interests you, I’d recommend investing the first several months’ worth of money in books on accounting and business and stock-market terminology. You can call any company and get their prospectus — that’s the 1/4″ document with lots of small print — for free, so look it over and practice your business analysis.

Anything between these two extremes, I’m going to say is stupid. I’m willing to entertain suggestions on what someone thinks isn’t stupid, but unless and until I see it, I feel pretty comfortable calling them all stupid. If you aren’t willing to put in your hours of analysis, it’s dangerous and risky to buy stocks & bonds; you’re putting your money into something with no safeguards, with no idea what’s actually going on. If you’re going to go in mutual funds anyway, then any time spent analysing is a waste: mutual funds all go up and down together, in sync with the market, and professionally-managed mutual funds often under-perform monkey-with-a-dartboard-manged mutual funds. Pick one with low fees and forget about it.

Real Estate Investing

Another place people often think of is real estate. Real estate investing can also be very cool, and your analysis doesn’t necessarily have to involve long columns of tiny numbers. There are lots of ways to make money in real estate: buy-rent-hold, fix-and-flip, short sales, lease-option, etc. Short sales and lease option are making good money in this market; if you have the credit to afford a property right now, you can get good deals for buy-rent-hold. Again, if this interests you, I would invest the first several months’ worth of money in education, and I would see if I could find a current real estate investor to help me out.

Invest In Yourself

Next possibility: invest in your own brand. The internet has made it totally possible for people to make a living doing things they (at least kinda) enjoy. You might want to start your own business, or make crafts and sell them online, or run a website on a topic that interests you, or write a blog, or make videos, or whatever. If you have something that you’ve been thinking of doing, use your money to buy business cards or a domain name or materials for your business. (If I had $100/month to invest, I would use it to try assorted advertising campaigns for my partner’s business, to figure out which are the most effective.)

If you don’t have an idea of what you’d like to do, but the build-my-monetization-potential sounds good, then I’d put the money into something low-risk/low-yield, like a short-term CD, a government I-bond, or just an interest-bearing Paypal account. My extra monthly money goes into my Paypal account, and I just save it up for use when I want to develop a new income stream; that’s what made it possible for me to start up my website when Steve Pavlina pointed out SBI as a good method. So save it up while you study possible monetization plans and make decisions about what you want to do.

Another possibility in the investing-in-yourself line is to look at what you want to do. Would you like to get into management in your company, but don’t have the necessary degrees? Go back to school. Would you like another career entirely, but don’t have the necessary skills? Look into workshops or training-style classes you can take. Do you have a hobby that you think you could make a business? Read some books on starting a small business.

Investing Summary

So, I realize that it’s probably not the “Go here, do this” answer you were looking for, but the long and the short of it is that step 1 has to be deciding what you want. I would put the money in a savings account until you know what your goal is, and then you’ll have it ready and waiting for you.