Track and Measure

If you listed the habits of successful people, tracking and measuring would be near the top of that list. I see it with people, companies, and teams that I work with. I see it in my own behavior.

When the Gotham Gal started making angel investments with our personal capital nearly a decade ago, I put together a spreadsheet to track all of them. That spreadsheet is now almost 100 rows long. If she wants to know how it is going, I can give her the numbers ten different ways. And we do that from time to time. A portfolio review of sorts.

When our best portfolio companies start building a new product or feature they scope out how much investment they are going to make in this new product or feature and they build a base case for what the results of this investment will be. They instrument the product or feature to make sure they can track the results they expect to get. And they track the actual investment vs budgeted investment and they measure the actual results vs the expected results. Not only do they know how they did versus expectations, they also know whether they got a positive return on the investment or not. This informs how they approach the next investment.

I see people doing this with their health, their education, their finances, and, most commonly, their work.

Technology helps immensely with this desire to track and measure things. From google sheets, to Fitbit, to Duolingo, to Foursquare, I find myself tracking and measuring more and more of my life every day, and its easier and easier to do so.

But technology alone will not get you there. You have to want to do this. Some of that is learned and some of that is innate. But it can be taught. I’ve tried to pass my track and measure habits on to our kids. And it makes me happy when I see them doing it.

If you want to get sharper and better at something, track it and measure it. It will help you do that.

#life lessons

Comments (Archived):

  1. Rob Underwood

    “How did I do?” … I think it’s Charlie Rose who said he gets that from his most successful guests, across industries, invariably after every interview.

    1. fredwilson

      Yup. Twitter is a good place to find that out. After I give a talk I check for mentions on Twitter and I get really good feedback

  2. pointsnfigures… My daughter sent me this. Great post on tracking and measuring what you are doing on social media. I knew a lot of this from gut feel, but really didn’t know how to track it. Avinash put it out there. As a person that thinks macro, tracking and measuring along with having a principles based process keeps the wheels on the track. Without it, I am totally unorganized.

    1. Twain Twain

      Thanks for sharing, very useful resource.

    2. Vasudev Ram

      Thanks for the link. Scanned it some, will read in depth later. Intriguing that Avinash says businesses should not spend a lot of time on Twitter – if I read that right (did it fast).I personally have got, and keep getting, business results via Twitter [1] as well as other social media sites (including my blog [2] and my LinkedIn page [3]), but then, while I’m B2B, I’m not a big company like the ones I guess he is talking about. Maybe the individual vs. ”impersonal, faceless corporate” thing makes a difference. I know I hate it when it happens to me as a consumer. (Anyone know “the ant letter”?) In fact I think he talks about that in some of the companies he uses as examples.[1]…[2][3]

  3. bsoist

    I used to ask myself a lot of questions I don’t need to ask as much anymore. What day was that when we ran into Bob at the store? Where did all our money go? Did I wear this shirt at the last meeting? WTF did I eat last night?

  4. LIAD

    I wonder whether the act of tracking and measuring begets success or that tracking and measuring turns it into a goal, which plays into humans being goal driven and goal seeking, and that, then begets success.

    1. jason wright

      the human hamster wheel

    2. fredwilson

      Some people are goal oriented at birth. One of our kids is like that.

    3. Richard

      Fred did jump from correlation to causation without looking.

      1. LIAD

        i dont know about that.i’m just playing my self-imposed role of provocateur.

    4. LE

      tracking and measuring begets successDefine success first. What is success? Like defining love. Success to a Trump kid is not being a pharmacist most likely. To someone growing up in the projects it probably is. Not to mention that even if you look at edge cases why does that even matter? So Sonya Sotomayor grew up in a crappy part of NYC and is now a Scotus. Who cares really. Edge case. Even 1000 edge cases to me don’t matter. To many uncontrolled variables.How about just working hard everyday toward a goal? Some people don’t actually need to track things. This may come as a surprise. Guess what some can actually lose weight without validating the loss with a scale every single day and micromanaging the gain and loss (which also creates anxiety).

  5. jason wright

    do you have a power meter on your bicycle?do you have a watch on your wrist?

    1. fredwilson


      1. jason wright

        neither do i.i do however measure exactly how many times a i run up the flight stairs in my house (precisely thirteen steps) three times a week, precisely one hundred and ten times. i do it to measure whether i’m gaining or losing fitness.generally i think i tend to measure and quantify the things i don’t enjoy doing.

  6. Drew Ryder

    Tracking and measuring is big growth industry in info-starved industries such as agriculture. the more feedback everyone gets in the supply chain – positive or negative – the more motivated they are to improve. Which is good for people as individuals, as behavioral science has proven. And it’s good for our economy as a whole. Informed people have a sense of purpose and are naturally more productive.

    1. pointsnfigures

      One distinction that I think is important is that the information that you tracked should be private. For example, suppose I have a Nest thermostat in my house and I want to keep the heat at 76 degrees F. But, the government wants me to keep the heat at 68F. I shouldn’t be able to be compelled by the government to keep my heat there, fined for not doing it, or have my power shut off because I am doing it. This is the danger of data and things.

      1. LE

        Valid point don’t disagree. But interesting to point out that there would be many ways to hack that data stream so that the government would receive 68o.

      2. Matt Zagaja

        Kind of like how Volkswagen felt about tailpipe emissions.

        1. LE

          Creative risk taking. The fact that it happened (kind of unbelievable) is just an indication that similar things occur that nobody even knows about because it’s never uncovered. That risk taking and feature of human nature also produces much good actually. [1] If everyone was as straight up and respectable as they believe the Pope is we wouldn’t have many of the things that benefit us today. We’d be living in grass huts. See: Jobs took advantage of Wozniak.[1] I deal with a particular real estate salesman who is a bit slippery. I say that because I have caught inconsistencies in some of the ways that he operates. Some of those have impacted me and I typically let it slide. Why? Because I know that he is acting in a similar fashion on the other side of the transaction. So as long as I can manage the risk to myself I look at it as a net gain. Not something I measure by the way.

  7. LIAD

    the ironic thing is the most important things in life can’t really be measured.3 lbs of love.2 miles of awe.600 dollars of peace.30 feet of friendship1.5 tons of excitement

    1. Twain Twain

      FB, TWTR, AMZN, APPL, GOOG et al would disagree with you since they track all our activity.They’d claim they know us, our family and friends and how we all think and feel about each other and things better than we do:*

      1. Chimpwithcans

        I heard the same story about the FBI when I was a kid pre-internet – and I grew up in deepest darkest Africa 🙂 Big Brother is watching, tracking and knows you better than you know yourself. Maybe it’s true, but i think there is an element of human condition / fear-of-the-almighty stuff in there too.

    2. fredwilson

      Well yes. That’s the counter point. What really matters can’t be measured.

      1. obarthelemy

        To put it back into an Entreprise setting, how do you track talent, execution, and innovation ?

      2. hetianye

        while happiness can’t be measured, i actually think what is interesting is that measuring and tracking can lead to happiness.for friendship, what about setting a goal to catch up with one close friend a week and tracking it? what about grabbing dinner with your family 5 times a week or calling your parents twice a week? for peace, what about meditating for 1 hour? for excitement, what about taking a trip or meeting someone new every month?while the end result can’t be measured, the tactics to reach them can. and i think that’s where the power in measure and track really’s in getting one to think about how to act in a consistent manner to achieve one’s goals whether it is in career, family, or otherwise.

        1. Twain Twain

          Actually, in 2009, two Nobel prize-winning economists Joseph Stieglitz and Amartya Sen were commissioned by then French President Sarkozy to develop a model for measuring Happiness:*

          1. hetianye

            This is great! What i find interesting is how some of the attributes are easily measure, others aren’t.For example in Time Use, “Sleeping hours” easily trackable, but “Education attainment” isn’t trackable as a single measure.But knowing that education attainment can lead to happiness, I can set a goal to devote a few hours each week to taking an online course or researching a topic of interest.Effectively, an immeasurable attribute can be turned into smaller measurable pieces. Over time measuring and tracking progress on those smaller pieces will yield progress, even if we can’t generate an overall metric for the larger category.Simply put some progress is qualitative, others are quantitative. Qualitative progress can still be measured and tracked by being broken down into smaller quantitative parts.

          2. LE

            That chart makes no sense to me at all. And the link is behind a paywall.

        2. Donna Brewington White


        3. LE

          i actually think what is interesting is that measuring and tracking can lead to happiness.My feeling is the opposite. It can just as easily lead to anxiety.for friendship, what about setting a goal to catch up with one close friend a week and tracking it? what about grabbing dinner with your family 5 times a week or calling your parents twice a week?Tracking what? What are you tracking? How many times they call you instead of you calling them? If they are a “close friend” why do you need to set some schedule anyway? I am missing something here.Sounds like a school assignment. How about doing what you feel like doing at a particular point in time with no particular “goal” in mind at all? What exactly is the positive that is created out of a negative? And when do then call the “close friend” again? Does the close friend ever call you and initiate? I would imagine they would otherwise they are not a close friend, right?

          1. hetianye

            Hey LE,You make good points. And I can understand why you might say that doing some of the tracking I outlined can lead to anxiety. Setting so many goals can feel stiffling. Tracking and then not meeting them can feel demoralizing. But I don’t think they have to be.What if they are just an outline for the way we want to live? A commitment to ourselves to do the things we actually value?To me, tracking and measuring is about thinking and understanding, and not judging or evaluating. Judging and evaluating can lead to understanding.When we don’t meet a commitment we set out for, is it because of something outside of our control happened? Or is it because we had time but didn’t do it? If it’s latter, then how important is that goal really? Should the metric or goal be changed?For the past two years, I’ve done some form of this level of personal tracking for myself (related to how often i exercise, sleep, work, interact with friends). I’ve never done everything I’ve set out to do each week, I don’t expect to, but I’ve come closer and closer.Part of it is because I’ve gotten better about making trade offs and controlling time and schedule. The other part is because I’ve crossed off ‘priorities’ that I THOUGHT were important, but in reviewing my actions realized I was acting in a way that they were and I never would.I’ve only been happier overtime and not more anxious. The reason is by doing small measurable things over time, I’ve come closer to understanding what really are my goals and have made progress towards them.In product processes, there is a concept of retrospectives, and I think tracking and measuring at the personal level, can be similar to retrospectives. They are opportunities for learning.Evaluation and judging is necessary, but they shouldn’t come with negative emotion. Instead they should be thought of as opportunities to learn and improve.—P.S. your point on ‘tracking friends’ is a good one. i don’t track how often my friends are keeping in touch with me, because that’s outside of my control it’s much better to track things that is within in my control, like how often I reach out to my close friends. I set this goal, because I am naturally an introvert, and if I don’t set such a goal, I will naturally just work on my own and leaving my friendships untended.P.P.S I’ll give you a personal example that has worked well for me related to measuring and tracking. I think it’s a good goal for everyone to have actually.I recently set a goal to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily for 6 days out of 7 days a week. The first week I tracked this, I did a horrible job. I was only able to be successful 1 day out of 7.So when I saw this at the end of the week, I started thinking about what I needed to do to accomplish this goal. During lunch, when I would go to the deli and had to choose between Salad vs Sandwich, I started choosing salad over sandwich. That got me to 2-3x a week.By week 4 of measuring and tracking, I was hitting my weekly goal consistently. The reason is I realized if I eat a salad for one of my meals, then I will pretty much be guaranteed to hit my daily goal. So I started going to whole foods and making my own salad.Before setting this goal, I’d never set foot in a whole foods. This is a massive change in my personal behavior over a relatively short period of time.It happened because I viewed the goal as important. And measuring and tracking, gave me a platform to review my progress and iterate to success.

          2. Susan Rubinsky

            I seriously agree.

          3. Joe Cardillo

            Me too. And a good time to mention, Csikszentmihaly didn’t write Flow based on the number of interactions we might have. One grounding, life affirming one can make all the difference.

      3. Twain Twain

        For example, WHY users love one social media platform over another. How they feel about it.If we just look at the metrics on the balance sheets we’d think in purely technical+mathematical terms of adjusting the levers and drivers of investment => WACC => ROI.Tuning the efficiency factors of the engine.However, users don’t think and use products in ways which are like-for-like alignments with line items and how they get calculated.Users think and use based on … emotions.And only Facebook, Buzzfeed, Wikipedia, Amazon have any type of measuring and tracking of those.In the Learning sector, I had a conversation with Hadi Partovi of Code.Org about whether they’re measuring the emotion states of students which would enable them to understand WHY kids don’t complete assignments.It’s not going to be enough for the social platforms or the learning ones to track MAU and those other KPIs.FB gets it as does Apple. Everyone else needs to play catch-up because they’re not measuring what matters.

    3. fredwilson

      Note that I did not mention happiness (other than mine as a parent) in this post

      1. aseoconnor

        I’ve never had success trying to measure happiness. It usually comes as a byproduct of family time (which I don’t track or measure) or success in academia, business, or personal goals (all of which tend to be driven by trackable / quantifiable goals).

    4. Girish Mehta

      Sleep Quality – How refreshed you feel when you wake up in the morning
.Instead of what a Sleep App tells youFat Loss – What the mirror and pictures say (pictures more
 than mirror). How your clothes fit. What your friends observe.Instead of what the Scale tells you

    5. William Mougayar

      Trading ounces of prevention for pounds of cure.

    6. Donna Brewington White

      Right. We can’t quantify these but we can measure… more qualitatively. In some ways, these are products and by-products and not necessarily results. Reading Fred’s post I was immediately struck by ways in which I would experience more of the things you list if I was better at measuring how I spend my resources, namely my time and energy. It’s about being intentional, paying attention to the feedback that life gives us.If life was simpler, maybe managing it would be simpler, measurements more apparent. Mine is pretty complex. Needs to be managed. Management requires measurement.

      1. Joe Cardillo

        That’s nicely said – awareness is the building block there I think.Also I find in myself and others that there’s a lot of internal measurement (criticism?) of things I can’t actually work on (perhaps in a moment, perhaps on a larger level). It’s one of the reasons I prioritize acting on something, even if it’s a small action. Otherwise the measurement isn’t that helpful.

  8. Jim Borden

    Couldn’t agree more; as Peter Drucker stated, “What gets measured gets managed.”

  9. awaldstein

    For many things yes but the entire marketing world has fallen into a huge hole of measuring sentiment and mistaken the metrics or the meaning.It is critical to have language to think in and measurements to track ourselves.One of the sink holes for marketers is that they don’t understand that roi is not a marketing concept at all.What you measure as a guide and what you look at to claim success are often completely different.

    1. Richard

      Marketing Measurement is only as good as its likelihood of being reproducible.

      1. awaldstein

        At the end of the day the value of your brand is on your balance sheet. That is a fact.The space between the time and cost of the building it and the transactional value on the balance sheet is the aggregate ROI.When you hiring a marketing lead you put a huge amount of faith and trust in them to bridge that over time.And the very best of us have been heroes and bums both an equal amount of time.The old saying that every Hollywood executive will one day come to work and get fired is true for the marketer as well.

        1. Girish Mehta

          The basic idea that brands are built over years, and cannot be measured over quarters.And the false tradeoff between “brand” marketing and “performance / transactional” marketing.

          1. awaldstein

            Depends.You can certainly measure in quarters once you have a baseline.I agree these tradeoffs in brand and performance marketing and total BS.

          2. Donna Brewington White

            And yet “brand” does not seem to be as top of mind in hiring marketers these days. At least not in my world.I wonder if there will be fallout from this?

          3. awaldstein

            Already is in my opinion Dona.Been blogging on this lot lately. Kinda feels good to be back at it.

          4. Donna Brewington White

            Figured I’d find this on your blog.On my to-do list. Catch up on your blog posts. Been excited seeing the notices come through via email. Looking forward to this.Now to decide… do this with wine or coffee?

        2. LE

          Balance sheet measures a point in time. In business a powerful brand (Disney let’s say) extends way beyond that single point in time. Some would say that the value of an asset is what someone will pay for it and people differ on what they see as the potential future value of that asset. And the lack of buyers at any particular point doesn’t mean that there is only so much value. Another buyer might turn up in 1 day or 2 years and see value in the asset (a brand or otherwise).

          1. awaldstein

            All measurements exist at at a point in time and in trends in aggregate.That’s just life.

          1. awaldstein

            Thanks cued up to read.Interesting that I’ve built some large brands but always used community not advertising as my platform. Find myself more and more thinking about the core of great advertising as the key emotional connector that is becoming more important in how I position brands and products..Thanks

    2. Twain Twain

      “Mad Men” concerned about how their frenemies the “Maths Men” (Google, Facebook etc who can track and measure at industrial scales) were encroaching onto their territory:*…l

  10. Eric Satz

    maybe semantics but i think i’d add test to track and measure. if more than one variable in the equation, how did each contribute to the results?

  11. Girish Mehta

    The counter-idea to this is – If you really know what is going on you don’t need to know what is going on to know what is going on.About 10 years back, I was much more in the “Track and Measure” camp.But over past several years, I have found tracking and measuring can make one then take action when the best action would have been no action. In other cases, Tracking and Measuring gives one an indication of progress, while the better or true indicator of progress is subjective / not quantifiable.Sometimes – it is very useful to Track and Measure.Sometimes – If you really know what is going on you don’t need to know what is going on to know what is going on.

  12. Anne Libby

    Fred, you said, “When our best portfolio companies start building a new product or feature they scope out how much investment they are going to make in this new product or feature and they build a base case for what the results of this investment will be.”I’m hearing you say that they set goals. Did I hear correctly?(Rendered in text, I worry that my question looks snarky — it’s an earnest question…)

    1. fredwilson


      1. Anne Libby


      2. Anne Libby

        I don’t know that you ever wrote an MBA Monday post on “Goals.” If so, it would be an excellent reblog.

  13. Twain Twain

    The scientist in me LOVES measuring and tracking.We start in nursery school: “How many gold stars and A’s did you get for reading exercises and remembering to tidy away all the equipment after you’ve used them?”Later, you find yourself in finance and EVERYTHING IS A GIANT BALANCE SHEET. Meanwhile, in coding, the language is all about counting variables and verifying that it got counted correctly. You put things into different databases to make the measuring and tracking easier according to the type and volume of the data.BUT … the artist in me knows what Picasso said …And the mathematician in me LOLs at how Probability has not a hope of measuring love and other emotions.

    1. Twain Twain

      A few years ago, a well-known neuroscientist and mathematician at UCL insisted that Probability measures everything and is how our intelligence evolved. It was a way for us to risk manage whether we could hunt+catch animals and if we’d pass on our genes, went his argument.So I asked him this simple question: “Do you love your mother?”Neuroscientist: “Yes, of course.”Twain: “So… if Probability measures everything…Are you saying it can measure why and how much you love your mother? 88% this minute and 15% an hour later?Neuroscientist: “Er…no.”Exactly.I LOVE measuring and tracking things. Benchmarking’s a great thing because having goals and objectives to aim for is useful.Still … there is an ART in making products and systems.And that art isn’t readily measurable or trackable by probability and other mathematical methods.

      1. Stephen Voris

        Bit of a trick question, there, no? In the parts of society I’ve had experience with, at least, it’s presumed that the probability one loves one’s mother is 100%; “how much” is an unthought-of subdivision. Also, you presumably have access to your own emotions (behaviorist jokes aside), so whether you love your own mother is a 100%-or-0% question. Whether a random stranger loves their mother, though, that’s where you can get into nontrivial probability (though for aforementioned societal presumptions you might want to change the question to whether that random stranger is still in touch with their mother).But regardless of those points, I’d agree that reducing emotions to a single dimension squeezes out a lot of the useful information.

        1. Twain Twain

          The trick questions are always the more fun ones to ask and get the answers to.It’s like in baseball, badminton, cricket, basketball, soccer, tennis etc.The straight balls are easy to bat back and not as interesting as someone serving curves with top-spins and dips that end up being answered in a way that whacks the ball “out the park”.The more we practice throwing and hitting those trick balls, the more we learn how to do it better.

          1. Stephen Voris

            Having played a few of those (and a number of less physical games), I still have to tack on a “relatively” to your “easy”: often it’s more they become easy because we practice them, and we practice them because the trick shots are frequently variations or combinations of them.

      2. Richard

        You are Confusing Probability with Statisitics, his answer could have been that the conditional probability of me helping my mother in time of need is 1. Therefor, I love my mother.

        1. Twain Twain

          Probability: let’s suppose in our model that 0 = don’t love mother; 1 = love mother.Now, let’s survey random population of say 1,000,000 people. We get some statistics which may result in something like “65% of people surveyed love their mothers (at point of being interviewed) while 35% said they don’t love their mothers.”Now, suppose we add conditional probability to that.0 = don’t love mother; 1 = love mother; 0(C) = mother doesn’t have cancer; 1(C) = mother has cancer…Is Probability & Statistics really how we measure why we love our mothers and value them?There was that scene in ‘I, Robot’ where Will Smith’s character explained why he didn’t like robots and he explained that the robot calculated his chances of survival were higher than the little girl’s, so the robot saved him. He said, “But a human would think differently. A human would know better.”I don’t have a beef with probability & statistics being very useful and powerful tools. It’s just that we need to be careful about not over-buying into the belief that they’re the panacea tools, especially for something which is as subjective and ambiguous as love.Probability is a man-made tool created by Pascal and de Fermat for measuring and modeling the behavior of a game in which the objects (cards and dice) and their behaviors had no subjectivity but pure rationality.Meanwhile, humans are subjective and pure rationality simply doesn’t exist — except perhaps in the extreme long tail of Aspergers.

      3. LE

        You’d have to have a clear definition of love and there is no such thing.

        1. Twain Twain

          Exactly. We have mathematicians running around modeling narrow AI — eg if the machine can beat chess, Atari 2600, quickest routes to find a needle (that’s what Google search does) … even solving a 400-year problem about stacking oranges:*…Mathematics is said to be the language of us and the Universe. It’s supposed to be able to define, model and measure … EVERYTHING.It can define what the strength of a social network is according to how many follows, shares, retweets, clicks of links, buys etc.Still, mathematics cannot yet define either love, language nor what causes us to think, do and be.All the WHYs. Lol.

          1. LE

            Also can’t handle totally self driving cars. Never going to happen (unless all cars can communicate with all other objects in some fashion). To many un-measurable human and other variables. Not everything can be solved by an algorithm and machine learning. Pipe dream w/o human intervention and guidance.

          2. Twain Twain

            Toyota just invested $1 billion in AI and their approach to automated cars is different from Google’s. Their strategy is to keep human agency:*

          3. Rob Larson

            Self driving cars are already happening. Google has logged, what, a million miles or something without causing any accidents so far. Google is sort of cheating in that they rely on hyper-accurate maps rather than the machine figuring everything out on the fly… you might be referring to the latter, more general case, which hasnt been solved yet and on which Elon is reportedly making progress. But i would still happily take the less elegant Google solution if I could, so I could be productive during my commute.

  14. Bala

    Yep big on tracking and measuring. Strongly believe what gets tracked usually gets done!

    1. obarthelemy

      The issue is: what are we tracking and how. It’s easy to get stucked into tracking, then into tracking the stuff that’s easy to track, then into tracking in a bad way, then finding out we’ve lost track of what was actually important, and maybe even what’s actually happening.

  15. Andrea Canidio

    Would you mind sharing with us what outcomes do you keep truck of in your Angel investment spreadsheet? It is not completely obvious what outcomes one should keep track of – and improve upon – especially when it comes to intermediate outcomes.

  16. William Mougayar

    The trick with all this is keeping the data updated.It’s relatively easy to start a spreadsheet, but a lot harder (needs discipline) to keep it updated, especially if the updates are manual.Then we get into- are you measuring activity or outcomes? Measuring activity is easier than measuring outcomes.Would love to see what parameters you’re tracking in your angel investments spreadsheet.

    1. jason wright

      hopefully the fully formed internet of things will enable real time auto updates of every new data point in play. we ‘simply’ (ha) analyse and respond.

    2. Richard

      Yep, cost benefit analysis before measurement

    3. LE

      It’s relatively easy to start a spreadsheet, but a lot harder (needs discipline) to keep it updated, especially if the updates are manual.Exactly. Very valid point that highfalutin, above the clouds, big picture thinkers, don’t consider because they aren’t in the trenches to even see how data collection (or lack of updating) can be screwed up. Not to even mention unrecorded corner cutting (which comes up from time to time in air crash investigations where management isn’t even aware that such things can even happen with aircraft maintenance..)

  17. Val Tsanev

    If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. No matter what we do in life there are two aspects the quantitative (you can measure it) and the qualitative (you can’t measure it). Not measuring either one is a mistake.

    1. Richard

      Don’t measure anything until you understand the specificity, sensitivity and reliability

  18. Richard

    But when the value is below a threshold, notifications trumps tracking

  19. Elia Freedman

    There is an argument to be made that start ups shouldn’t measure much at all in the very early days. In those days we are working more off gut feel and intuition and customer stories. After all there isn’t enough data (small sample size) to come to quantitative conclusions.

  20. LE

    For some people tracking and measuring forces action by the way of goals. [1] However it’s reasonable to believe that there are those that don’t need to do this simply because they are always working hard and at full tilt all of the time. I am guessing that both Ben Carson and Donald Trump most likely aren’t the type that track and measure in a big way. I can also think of many “ordinary” reasonably accomplished people who act in a similar fashion. Tracking and measuring is a benefit for some but it shouldn’t become “8 glasses of water a day” and make people think that those who don’t aren’t destined to lead a decent successful life. It is not “the answer” that people are looking for.

    1. Richard

      Yep, how many of us track the tips we left in restaurants in our credit card statement ? We know we are getting taken but it’s not worth the effort.

      1. LE

        For years I was inputting data into Quicken with quite a bit of granularity. So I’d know exactly what I was spending at restaurants and even Starbucks. Or at the local Wawa. No business purpose (for these particular numbers) just curiosity. So it was almost asperger like. I really mean that. Just the need to compile lists and numbers which provides “comfort”. I suspect Fred has a touch of this actually. (My Ddx.)After some time (many years) I realized that it all really didn’t matter if I spent $2000 per year at Starbucks (just verified I spent $160 last month) or what I used in gas. It was just infotainment and served no purpose. And the amount spent on lox and bagels or lobster? Who really cares? I wasn’t going to change anything at all. And actually all it could do is provide anxiety with no clear benefit.I don’t track what time I spend on making comments at AVC. [1] If I did I am sure I would be quite dissapointed in myself and might consider it wasted time with no benefit (which I don’t think is the case but confronted with an actual number who knows?)[1] Consider why Disqus would never enable this type of feature. Track the time that a comment window is open and provide weekly, monthly and yearly reports on time spent commenting! You know they would never ever do this type of thing and why is that? It’s obvious why. Likewise Fred has a general sense that AVC blog is helpful to him personally and in business. But it is for sure not something that he clearly can or does track vs. time spent (and if the time would be better used elsewhere).

      2. Matt Zagaja

        I do but haven’t seen any errors so far. I always reconcile my credit card statements at the end of the month. Gives an opportunity to spot errors and reflect on what I did.

  21. aminTorres

    The problem with goals and constantly tracking and measuring is that – unless things are going swimmingly smooth, which they never do – they tend to highlight how far you are from the goal and not how close. This is not a dilemma for optimism vs pessimism. It is an argument to conserve the most important thing to getting anything done: willpower.Goals tend to blindside people. We are constantly told that to accomplish anything in life you need a goal. That is a losing strategy. The reality is that most often than not, we imagine something one way and the outcome is always different. We fixate too heavily on goals and end up missing things happening around us along the way that actually lead to progress.The classic example of this is, “I have a goal to lose 12 pounds” Every one of those pounds is an obstacle to your desired goal. So people use their will power to try to force themselves to got running or go to them gym. But by the time they actually can make it to the gym or go for a run, they run out of willpower from simply going about the business of life. Terrible commutes, bad day at the office, putting in long hours etc. So they don’t make it to the gym. They end up ordering bad food because they are tired and ordering delivery is more convenient.Goals aren’t really a practical way to get stuff done. Systematic improvement overtime is.So instead of goals, look out for systematic improvements that will use very little willpower and make them part of your daily life. If you don’t like running or don’t have the energy to run, don’t do it. Take the stairs today, tomorrow get off a stop before yours on your way home and walk the rest of the way. Replace the small candy bard snack in the middle of the afternoon with an apple. Overtime you will crave the apple, overtime your body will ask you to walk, run, exercise because systematically you’ve created a new normal that requires little willpower.So don’t set goals like losing x amount of pounds.Dont set goal like to acquire a fixed amount of users.Work out systematic improvements to be more fit and healthier.Work out systematic improvements to have an ever growing user base.

    1. LE

      Systematic improvement overtime is.Bingo. Very well put. Great comment.Systematic long term improvement and daily hard work.I agree totally with what you say above. It’s pretty much my way of thinking and what I have practiced.Most important thing is change with moderation and not extremes. Things that you can do not things that require an enormous and unattainable amount of will power. I had a hard time keeping up with 40 pushups at a time every day. So I reduced it to 26 pushups and have done that for years. Ditto with running. Same amount, every day so as not to injure and make a goal unattainable.

    2. Donna Brewington White

      I get what you’re saying but you are treating goals as a means. A goal is an end. Systematic improvement is a means. I won’t be motivated to systematically improve something if it doesn’t correlate to a larger goal.

      1. Anne Libby


      2. aminTorres

        I don’t, that is the whole point, don’t use goal in any way, means or end.With a system, I don’t need motivation because I am doing things I like doing / don’t require willpower.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          So, no desired outcomes?

          1. aminTorres

            No fixed outcome. Directional outcome.

          2. Donna Brewington White

            I won’t argue the semantics but one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that big goals need stepping stone goals. Systematic improvement is that stepping stone process.

          3. aminTorres

            No semantics: one thing is to say I want to lose 10 pounds. And a complexity different one is to say I want to be healthier. Both are desired outcomes, one fixed one directional.Semantics: using “stepping stones” and “systematic improvement” to describe the same thing.

    3. Matt Zagaja

      I think setting goals gives you a framework to think about these larger issues and more importantly benchmarks that allow you to judge the impact of your efforts. I think the magic trick with goals is you have to be comfortable with failure but also formulate them with evidence. It is essential to think about the whys and hows.For example if you set a goal of losing 20 lbs you should ask:- Why do I need/want to lose 20lbs? Is it for health reasons? Am I trying to attract members of the opposite sex? Am I trying to look good on the beach?That leads to two important questions:1. What is the real goal (health?) (dating?)2. are there other different goals that might be better to get me there?Then you also need to figure out a deadline and you should also figure out if other people have achieved this goal. Does history and evidence suggest that with all the tools are your disposal that your goal is realistic? Do you really want the goal or do you like the trade-offs you are making (one of the most satisfying things I do is deciding to eliminate goals that I know I’ll never achieve).For example my dentist told me to eliminate soda from my Diet. I know it’s bad for me but I also know I like soda. I tried a few times to eliminate it and just was not happy. So I ended up setting a goal to cut back on the soda and only drink it after 5 p.m., then I stopped purchasing it for my apartment so I only have it when I’m out or at events (because I know if it’s available I’ll drink it) and accept that once in a while the dentist is going to have to fix a cavity. Being able to drink soda is worth the money, time, and pain of getting a cavity fixed once every couple years to me. I also don’t feel any anxiety about not having soda when I don’t consume it for days or weeks because I know it’s not a permanent state.

  22. Donna Brewington White

    …Redoing this comment because the screen moved and accidentally posted before finished.

  23. Donna Brewington White

    Thanks Fred.Reading this challenges me. Just as a post you wrote a while back on routine challenged me. I hear similar things from almost every really successful person that I know.JLM is coaching me on running a business and he wants me to plan, write things out, graph it out, and even to set aside regular time just to plan.So hard to do when either in survival mode or with a massive workload during those times when opportunity strikes! Seems like I go back and forth from one to the other. I am convinced that these disciplines will change this pattern or at least put me on top of the situation rather than under it.Didn’t so many of us become entrepreneurs because we love challenge and making things up as we go? By nature many of us are free spirits. But there is a point when we must decide whether we are entrepreneurs as a lifestyle or because we want to build something great.For me it is now the latter. Plus continuing to raise a family and cultivate relationships. So… planning, prioritizing, setting goals, measuring, routines… In other words, maximizing resources. Among those, time and energy.

  24. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Can’t wait to poll a certain group of successful ladies next Monday about their tracking practices (or lack thereof).I’m woefully untracked and have been wondering lately if it’s time for me to see what it would do for me.

  25. Kirsten Lambertsen

    This sounds like gamification, which just sold me that I need to try it. Gamify yo’self.

  26. creative group

    FRED:We agree it is difficult to impossible to manage that which your don’t track.

  27. Matt Hardy

    Fred – can you talk a bit about your Sunday routine? I find you’re most inspiring / insightful posts come on Sundays and I doubt that’s a coincidence.

    1. Chimpwithcans

      I’m betting it involves measurement of some sort 😉

  28. JaredMermey

    Get measurable is one of the best bits of advice I know for starting anything, especially a business.

  29. jpwoodland

    Great post @fredwilson:disqus. Any chance you can make the portfolio review spreadsheet available? (without the company names or data of course, just the outline of the fields of info you capture). Looking to do something similar.

  30. Susan Rubinsky

    I have a friend who gained some wight over the last year. Part of why she gained some weight is that she wasn’t very happy (a big crazy year full of emotional stuff for her). So, she started tracking her her food intake (and stopped drinking wine), tracking her weight and tracking how many times she goes to the gym and how many times she goes cycling & etc. The result is that she gained more weight.When I was younger, I used to struggle with my weight. In my late 20’s, my scale broke so I threw it out and never bought a new one. The second I stopped tracking it, is the second I had no more real struggles with it.I cycle almost every day. Out of curiosity, I downloaded Runtastic this past Spring and started tracking my rides. The result was that I found I became obsessed with the numbers instead of just enjoying my ride. I uninstalled the app after a month and resumed happy cycling.I join a gym every winter so I can spin in the Winter. I hate the classes, I go when no one is there and spin to my own playlists in the dark (the machines are in their own room with a door which you can shut and turn off the lights). When I joined the gym last year, I got a free session with a physical trainer. They measured my body fat and weight, then showed me a computer model of what I looked like, given my height and weight. On the screen I looked like a heavyset middle aged lady. In real life I don’t look that way at all. The guy asked me what my goals were and I said, “To maintain my cycling stamina over the Winter so that when Spring hits, I’ll be able to just jump on my bike and go.” The guy told me that I needed to set some real goals if I wanted to make any progress. I looked at the guy and I looked at the fat lady on the screen and laughed.I have never found any pleasure in measuring anything, except ingredients when I am baking.

  31. laurie kalmanson

    it’s so crowded, nobody goes there, games; sure — some huge winners, some eking out a living, some sinking without a traceefficiency tools — the ups driver uses a tablet, so does the auto repairs placegreat leaps forward — data, data, data

  32. kevando

    Kinda reminds me of this super entertaining story by Demetri Martin…

  33. jpdownstex

    Would you consider sharing the angel investment spreadsheet with all important data stripped out? I’m curious about the ’10 different ways’ successful investors track their performance and what metrics are key to goal towards. Thanks in advance.

  34. Kenny Fraser

    This makes sense but a word of warning from experience. 1. Be careful what you measure – the wrong metric does more harm than good 2. Be even more careful about setting goals. Measuring against a specific target can distort actions.

  35. Ernst-Jan Pfauth

    Would be great if you could make the tracking doc for angel investments available as a template!

  36. Joerg Stimmer

    The article is absolutely correct. What isnot properly measured is not properly managed. Especially in any complexenvironment where keeping the overview and staying track is a challenge,defining a helpful set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIS) can and makingdecisions based on them can make the difference between success or failure (Italk about clever people doing informed – data driven – decisions, not anyblind activities on some data points measured).In case of properly managing software or appdevelopment (old name “application development and maintenance”) by deployingglobal teams, the SaaS company pliXos ( )is exactly providing this set of tools. In close cooperation with the TechnischeUniversität MĂźnchen they have been working on an artefact model (parameters,data structures) for distributed agile software projects: http:// with the University of Bamberg, a structured and data driven approachwas developed for rating Software Service Providers: http:// comments? Please contact me at [email protected].

  37. Joerg Stimmer

    The article is absolutely correct. What isnot properly measured is not properly managed. Especially in any complexenvironment where keeping the overview and staying track is a challenge,defining a helpful set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIS) can and makingdecisions based on them can make the difference between success or failure (Italk about clever people doing informed – data driven – decisions, not anyblind activities on some data points measured).In case of properly managing software or appdevelopment (old name “application development and maintenance”) by deployingglobal teams, the SaaS company pliXos ( exactly providing this set of tools. In close cooperation with the TechnischeUniversität MĂźnchen they have been working on an artefact model (parameters,data structures) for distributed agile software projects: with the University of Bamberg, a structured and data driven approachwas developed for rating Software Service Providers:

  38. Suraj

    This is spot on. At Inpensa we are delivering a SaaS software solution to do EXACTLY what you are proposing but for enterprise customers. Most companies are spending millions (sometimes billions) without knowing what the returns on their projects are. Inpensa has a SaaS strategic planning, business case development and benefits tracking solution that allows companies to make better project investment decisions and understand the benefits their investments are making. We have some F500 customers using our solution to solve the problem outlined above.