Performance can be entirely too subjective. Your ability to hit targets set by your boss or achieve goals for your business are at least partially dependent on what those goals entail. And a lot of the time, goals are too vague or don’t exist at all.
That’s why key performance indicators (KPIs), sometimes called key success indicators, are so important. These are measurable metrics that provide a snapshot of how well you are doing (or your business is doing) in meeting specific goals. They can evolve over time and be benchmarked against other metrics. The best part, though, is that they can be used for personal and professional development alike. While commonly used as part of the performance review process, they can be equally valuable to set and measure goals for yourself on a personal level.
Let’s look at how to set these personal KPIs, learn what they can entail, and discover some tools to help you track them.
How to Set Personal KPIs
There are several types of KPIs. In a business, there are organizational KPIs, team KPIs, and individual KPIs. Each of these corresponds to a set of goals set at each of those levels. For personal KPIs that you set for yourself, it’s important to use the same process.
What are your goals, and what can you do to influence your pursuit of them? This process starts with vision – what do you want to achieve in the long term or be known for personally? From there, you can set a specific objective and then craft a KPI to measure that objective.
Here’s an example:
- Vision: Become a viable candidate for a senior leadership position.
- Objective: Develop new skills and run several projects that position you for a promotion.
- KPI: The number of successful projects run that require new or developing skills.
The KPI is the thing you will measure, the objective is the measurable goal to which you aspire, and the vision is the ultimate result of achieving that goal. Too many people start with the vision and little else – they want a promotion, but they don’t have the apparatus in place to get there. That’s where KPIs can help.
What a Good KPI Looks Like
At a personal level, you can set KPIs for just about anything. Your fitness, diet, reading habits, time spent with family – these are all key components of your life that can be measured and improved. For this reason, it’s easy to get carried away and assign KPIs to everything. The most effective KPIs are the ones that represent the most important objectives in your life, leading toward your ultimate vision for how you will live and work in the future.
To set KPIs for yourself, you should ask yourself a few important questions.
- Fully understand the role of your KPIs – Ask yourself what you want your future to look like; what your overall objectives are, both personally and professionally; and what you think you need to focus on to achieve your vision. If the vision is traveling the world and working remotely, what factors do you feel are going to most influence your path to get there?
- Define what should be measured and when – As you map out your vision for the future, what metrics can you define that will guide you toward that ultimate goal? How often can you realistically measure these things, and how many metrics do you need? It’s tempting to make a laundry list of KPIs and aim to measure them frequently. Be realistic about what you can achieve and what you’ll be able to and willing to measure.
- Define your benchmarks for success – If you struggle to find a benchmark, your KPI may be too vague. In our example above, you could speak with colleagues in local networking groups or review LinkedIn profiles to see what others have on their résumés. If you don’t know what success looks like, though, it’s hard to measure effectively.
- Decide what cheating would look like – Be honest with yourself up front and recognize that you may end up trying to cheat at some point. What would that look like, and how might you safeguard against it?
Building KPIs is as much about knowing yourself and what you are likely to do in certain situations as it is about knowing what you want to achieve in the long term. Be realistic and set goals that will work with you, not against you.
How to Measure and Track KPIs
There are dozens of tools that can help you measure and track your performance against these indicators. Some that work well for individual plans include:
- Fitness KPIs – For your personal health, there are thousands of apps and devices you can use to set and measure goals. The most commonly used is a personal fitness tracker that measures steps, calories burned, workouts, and total exercises against objectives you can set. Examples include Runtastic, MyFitnessPal, and FitBit.
- Productivity – Personal goals around productivity can help to minimize the time spent skimming Instagram or checking email incessantly. Thankfully, we now have tools that can measure these goals and help set realistic KPIs. Toggl is a powerful resource that supports Pomodoro tracking. Momentum includes an autofocus mode that will force you to look at only your to-do list. If you have an iPhone, Apple’s screentime tools can be calibrated to shut down certain apps if you use them too much and block out access during certain times of the day.
- Task Management – Todoist is a GTD-style task management tool that allows you to organize your day’s tasks, set goals for how much you will get done per day and per week, and build up “karma” that shows how productive you’ve been over time. There are dozens of similar apps that can be used to measure productivity and task efficiency.
- Business Metrics – If you run your own business or want to keep track of your personal business-related KPIs, tools like Geckoboard, Tableau, and SimpleKPI offer varying levels of sophistication to set up and display KPIs in easy-to-read dashboards.
The goal of this exercise is to know what you want to achieve and how you are going to do so, and then to measure your performance in attaining those objectives. Whatever your goals entail, there are dozens of tools, many of them free, that can help you achieve them. Invest time in better understanding what you want to achieve, and you’ll be well on your way to creating a list of actionable, measurable KPIs.
Great article and I have found using KPI’s for individuals and teams to be very powerful!