Setting (+ achieving) your own personal KPIs

Whether you’re starting a brand new job, transitioning into a new position within your current company, or you’re looking to set aggressive goals for yourself, setting personal KPIs is key (no pun intended.)
Even if you’re stellar at your job—in marketing, social media, or graphic design—it’s important to set and keep track of goals. Why? For many reasons. Setting goals, both achievable and more grandiose, will keep you motivated and accountable—on a daily basis.

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And, as we said, KPIs aren’t just for work. If you are struggling with to-do lists piling up at home, relationships that haven’t been nurtured, or mounting health issues, it’s important to set KPIs around all of these things.
Let’s dive into the setting (and surpassing!) your own key performance indicators—in your personal and professional life.

What are KPIs?

KPI stands for Key Performance Indicator. Typically used in a business setting, KPIs are measurable values that track and indicate performance. At the business level, you have two kinds of KPIs, high-level and low-level. High-level key performance indicators include (you guessed it!) more overarching goals like the overall performance of a company. Lower-level KPIs will be more departmentally-based, such as performance around marketing, sales, and customer support.
Every KPI is only as effective as the motivation it sets into motion. It’s crucial to set KPIs that have a sensible, achievable, and valuable goal. For example, to set a KPI that your company will make $1 million in revenue—without any context or plans—is not a plan. Instead, KPIs should be more laser-focused on how you are going to achieve this. If your company has the goal to earn $1 million, what does that mean in terms of generating site traffic? How is your marketing team going to play into this goal?
How does your sales team take marketing’s efforts and translate them into real dollars?
It’s important to make both high-level and low-level KPIs. If all of your lower-level key performance indicators can work together to reach the ultimate high-level goal, you’ve got a great accountability system in place.
KPIs defined for you, in this video.

How do I define a KPI?

In a business setting, goals and directives can get muddled in an unnecessary amount of complicated jargon. Let’s remove all of that to set some real KPIs.
Setting your first KPI, whether it’s personal or professional, means running it through a couple of filters. Ask yourself these questions before putting it into motion.
  • What is my desired goal?
  • Why does this goal matter?
  • How long will this goal take?
  • How am I measuring my progress towards the goal?
  • How often am I measuring progress?
  • How will I know when I have reached my desired goal?
Here’s an example of a personal KPI you could set to learn a new skill at work.
  • What is my desired goal? My goal is to learn how to create Excel spreadsheets
  • Why does this goal matter? Having a deep knowledge of organizing data in Excel will make me a more proficient marketer—and help me disseminate important data points for my team.
  • How long will this goal take? The course takes six hours to complete and I will break it up over four weeks.
  • How am I measuring my progress towards the goal? I am taking an online course to learn different aspects of using Excel.
  • How often am I measuring my progress? I am spreading the course over four weeks and measuring my learnings on a weekly basis.
  • How will I know when I reached my desired goal? I will have the knowledge base to organize an entire year of data into a digestible report. I will present to my manager.
Use this line of questioning whenever you set a goal for yourself. Some goals will be more open-ended in regards to time spend, outcome, or progress. If you can answer each of these questions at the start, you are already well on your way to achieving whatever goal you are after.
In addition to asking these questions, you will want to ensure that your KPIs are SMART. By running your KPIs through a SMART system, you can keep track of the relevant data points throughout the process. Your SMART KPI will be:
  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Bound
Let’s set some KPIs!

At-home KPIs

Here at Career Contessa, we talk—a lot—about success in the workplace. We talk about productivity hacksnegotiation tactics, leadership challenges, and much more. What we don’t talk about enough is where you start your day—at home.
We are all guilty of letting a few home things slide. We might have a stack of bills sitting on our kitchen table with a post-it reading “Do Not Touch!” and we promise we will get to it sooner or later. Weeks later, this three-inch pile has turned into a table full of unopened mail. Your at-home KPI can be as simple as devoting a specific set of time to organize at-home tasks—or as overarching as scheduling daily home check-ins to conquer tasks.
If you’re skeptically reading this (hi!), you might argue that getting your laundry done on a Tuesday isn’t—and can never be—a KPI. To that, we say boo! It is our belief that anything can be a KPI, especially if it helps your overall productivity. If you want to be extra diligent, you can keep track of how much time is being spent on different tasks, where certain chores can be delegated to other people, and how to consolidate several tasks into one dedicated time period.

Relationship KPIs

When you first befriend someone, or when you’re first starting to date someone, you likely put in a lot of work. You make time to grab a coffee, you have discussions about your dreams and fears, and you likely spend time analyzing the relationship. Where is this relationship going? How does it serve me? What are we both getting out of this? Is this worth my time?
After a while, as with any relationship, less work is done to nurture and maintain the bond. As a result, some friendships fizzle off, some relationships slowly putter out, and others experience rocky patches.
It’s important, especially with your more important relationships, to give more consideration. Just as you wouldn’t want to work with a paying client once then brush her off forever, you don’t want your most important relationships to fall into disrepair.

Fear-based KPIs

Are there certain things that scare you right down to your core? Maybe it’s time to conquer a few fears. No, you don’t have to submerge yourself in a bathtub full of snakes. However, there are some fears that do not serve you—in your personal or professional life.
Some fears worth setting a KPI towards could include:
  • Public speaking
  • Confidence at work
  • Networking IRL
  • Asking for a raise
  • Transitioning to a new role
You can set KPIs to attack any of these fears. Use data-based steps to face these fears head-on. If you are looking to overcome your fear of public speaking, you can take small, trackable steps to conquer it. Let’s go through them together.
  • What is my desired goal? To overcome my fear of public speaking.
  • Why does this goal matter? Overcoming my fear of public speaking will open me to new career opportunities, allow me to share my ideas in a public forum, and will open me up to leadership roles in the future. (Specific + Relevant)
  • How long will this goal take? I want to take the next three months to take real steps to conquer my fear. (Time-Based)
  • How am I measuring my progress towards the goal? Every work week, I will explore new ways to speak publicly. I can take a meeting with my team to kickstart some new ideas. I can create a web-based webinar to share my skills. I can take an online course on public speaking. (Attainable)
  • How often am I measuring progress? On a weekly basis. My goal is to make one leap per week over the course of three months. (Measurable)
  • How will I know when I reached my desired goal? I will have reached my desired goals when I feel confident and maybe even excited to speak publicly. (Specific)

Budgeting KPIs

We have to talk about money. When you’re not paying attention—buying that coffee, skipping that gym class (and incurring that $15 cancel fee), and taking Lyfts everywhere—your budget can go out of the window.
Setting budgeting KPIs is the first step toward personal financial success. A word to the wise—taking money steps isn’t always easy. But, you don’t need to set out with the goal to save $5,000 in one month. Instead, set smaller, more achievable goals. If you spent $300 on coffee last month, try to reduce that budget by $200. Make coffee at home. Invest in a portable coffee cup.
Your personal budget could be a great place for a high-level KPI, too. A great place to start is by looking through last month’s total spend. Separate your expenses into your musts (rent, insurance, food, gas), your nice-to-haves (meals out, gym membership, clothing), and your less wise choices (constant meals out, expensive cocktails, too much shopping.)
From here, cross out what you could have gone without. This doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun or eat out with friends. Some KPIs you can set around budgeting are:
  • Spending X less in a given month
  • Saving X amount in a given month
  • Spending less on X in a given month
  • Saving to buy X by a certain date


Fitness KPIs

Fitness KPIs are up to you. We’re not here to tell anyone how much they should be working out, but the benefits speak for themselves. The good news is that fitness KPIs are easier than ever to track. There are countless apps and devices to help you to keep track of your steps, heart rate, water intake—you name it and they can track it.
Set your own fitness KPIs. Use devices and apps like Fitbit, Strava, and MyFitnessPal to set and grow your fitness goals. Be careful not to fall too deeply into competition with yourself like David Sedaris did.
Some goals you can set are:
  • Mileage per day
  • Steps per day
  • Steps per week
  • Active minutes per week
  • Working towards a race
  • Gym classes per week
  • Dance classes per week


Chilling (the heck) out KPIs

This one is worth adding because, sometimes, we need to give ourselves a  break. Life can get ahead of us at times. If we aren’t paying attention, we could go a full year without taking a long weekend to just relax, read a book, and eat a whole cheesecake in one sitting.
No, we don’t think your “chilling out” KPI should be housing a full cheesecake. In fact, you can use these kinds of KPIs to focus on your wellness, both physically and mentally. Combine your downtime with going for a walk, listening to an audiobook, journaling, learning a new skill, or spending time with loved ones.
Set some time aside for you—and only you. If you want to spend it bingeing Killing Eve on Netflix, do it. If you want to spend it creating new goals for yourself, do that. The goal behind setting these particular KPIs is to give yourself a break from everything and pat yourself on the back.
You’ve got this. Get out there and set some goals!
This article originally appeared on Career Contessa.