How to Chart Your Success Through Life, Week By Week


Update (5/24/14): Thanks for all of the great feedback on this post! For your convenience, I’ve included starter templates at the end of this post for those of you who would like to have this system for yourself.

For years now, I’ve been using a system called Key Lifestyle Indicators (KLIs) that I modeled after the idea of Key Performance Indicators in business.

My KLI definitions have changed over the years; here’s my current set-up (click the image to view the full size version):


This system works very well for me, consistently reminding me where I’m slacking and where I’m succeeding. The best part: it requires less than 10 seconds per day to enter the necessary information (nowadays it’s simply 1s and 0s transformed into a moving average).

It wasn’t until this past week that I found a way to leverage this tracked data in a new, interesting way. The inspiration came from reading Wait But Why’s post on what your life looks like plotted out into weeks (hint: You have less than 4,500 weeks in your life to spend – how have you been using them?).

I loved the idea of a meaningful reminder of the limited number of weeks we have on this planet. Thankfully, Wait But Why offers some sweet calendars that allow you to track how you’re living out your weeks – either with hand-scribbled notes or via color coding.

I’ll probably pick up one of these awesome calendars some time in the near future, but I wondered if I could use my years of KLI data to graphically represent this without needing to create yet another place to track my progress through life.

This post describes how I took my KLI data and created a Wait-But-Why-styled life calendar that lives in Google Spreadsheets (or Excel, if that’s your thing). If you track similar data in a spreadsheet, this article should help you in creating a similar set-up (read Wait But Why’s post for a deeper understanding of why a life calendar is awesome).


Step 1: Prototype the end result

Here’s what I wanted my life calendar to look like when all was said and done:


Note how I keep untracked weeks in gray, but everything else is colored yellow, green, or red depending on how my KLIs looked that week. The goal was to have this automatically calculated for me, as manually-inputted tracking can get quite annoying. But in order for this to become automated, I needed to pull together all of the necessary data, which brings me to step 2…


Step 2: Survey the current datascape

The calendar prototype looked good, but the data I needed was siloed in different cells. In other words, because none of the data was rolled up by day or week, some intermediary data compilation was required before the calendar could pull what it needed.
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Key Lifestyle Indicators: A Powerful Tool for Long Term Success

In one of my most popular posts of 2010, I proposed the idea of Key Lifestyle Indicators (KLIs). Similar to how a business can use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to gain a quick snapshot of the overall success of the company, KLIs can quickly let you know how on track you’ve been with the most important parts of your life.  Depending on your life priorities, these indicators can track how often you spend time with your family, work on a side business, spend time with friends, and more.

I mentioned in that post that although the idea makes sense on paper and works incredibly well for large businesses, I had yet to test it for personal use. So I decided to start a two month experiment, in which I would track my KLIs every day. After two months of tracking, I’m happy to say that the KLI system exceeded my expectations and I plan to continue tracking my KLIs permanently. This post will discuss my findings on the importance of KLIs and how you can use them in your own life to keep you on track towards achieving your most important goals.
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