Checking Your Personal Performance


Personal Performance

“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” – Epictetus

Are you on track?

That depends on what you want to accomplish, what experiences you want to create, and what you’re optimizing for.

The trick is to figure out a set of questions that help you check your performance in a way that woks for you.

A proven practice is to use questions that help you reflect on where you are vs. where you want to be.  Questions are effective because they direct your attention and they help you add clarity and focus.

To get you started, I pulled together a set of examples you can use to check your performance.  Some of these may work better for you than others.

Checking Whether You’re On Track at Work

Here is a set of questions one of my mentees uses to check whether they’re on track at work:

  1. Do I have autonomy?
  2. Do I have interesting challenges?
  3. Do I see a clear relationship between my effort and reward?
  4. Do I work with people I like?

Life Frame for Checking Whether You’re on Track

Rate each of these on a scale of 1-10:

  1. Mind
  2. Body
  3. Career
  4. Emotions
  5. Relationships
  6. Financial
  7. Fun

For more information on this approach, see the Life Frame.

Improvement Frame for Checking Whether You’re on Track

By asking questions in the following buckets, you can find areas that need work or find sticking points:

  1. Thinking / Feeling
  2. Situation
  3. Time / Task Management
  4. Domain Knowledge
  5. Strategies / Approaches
  6. Relationships

For example questions, see the Improvement Frame.

Steve Pavlina on Checking Whether You’re On Track

Rate each of these on a scale of 1-10:

  1. Work
  2. Financial
  3. Relationship
  4. Home & Family
  5. Physical Health
  6. Mental
  7. Social
  8. Emotional
  9. Spiritual
  10. Character
  11. Contribution
  12. Fun & Adventure

For more on this approach, see Work from Your Strengths.  Train Up Your Weaknesses (Steve

Michael Watkins on Checking Whether You’re On Track

In his book, The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels, Michael Watkins suggests diagnosing yourself against the following core challenges when you start a new job:

  1. Promote Yourself – Are you adopting the right mind-set for your new job and letting go of the past?
  2. Accelerate your learning – Are you figuring out what you need to learn, from whom to learn it, and how to speed up the learning process?
  3. Match strategy to situation – Are you diagnosing the type of transition you are facing and the implications for what to do and what not to do?
  4. Secure early wins – Are you focusing on the vital priorities that advance long-term goals and build short-term momentum?
  5. Negotiate success – Are you building you relationships with your new boss, managing expectations, and marshaling the resources you need?
  6. Achieve alignment – Are you identifying and fixing frustrating misalignments of strategy, structure, systems, and skills?
  7. Build your team – Are you assessing, restructuring, and aligning your team to leverage what you are trying to accomplish?
  8. Create coalitions – Are you building a base of internal and external support for your initiatives so you are not pushing rocks uphill?

Michael Watkins on Checking Your Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy is your belief about your ability to influence events that affect your life. Your self-efficacy beliefs determine how you think, feel, motivate yourself, and behave. In The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels, Michael Watkins shares ways to build your foundation for self-efficacy.

Pillar 1: Adopting Success Strategies

  1. Promote yourself.
  2. Accelerate your learning.
  3. Match strategy to situation.
  4. Secure early wins.
  5. Negotiate success.
  6. Achieve alignment.
  7. Build your team.
  8. Create coalitions.

Pillar 2: Enforcing Personal Disciplines

  1. Plan to plan.
  2. Judiciously defer commitment.
  3. Set aside time for the hard work.
  4. Go to the balcony.
  5. Focus on influence process design.
  6. Check in with yourself.
  7. Recognize when to quit.

Pillar 3: Building Your Support System

  1. Assert control locally.
  2. Stabilize the home front.
  3. Build your advice and counsel network.

You Might Also Like

Life Frame

Improvement Frame

Three Pillars for Self-Efficacy

Checking Whether You’re On Track

Photo by Scarleth White.


  1. I loved the “Checking Whether You’re On Track at Work”
    Helped me perfectly to identify the cause why I am not…
    Thank you

  2. Hmmm….I have been thinking that I need to track more of my performance, which I have not been doing. For a while, I avoided doing this because I did not want to get overly attached to results. However, I can now see the benefits of having some kind of measurement. Thank you for sharing the needed resource and steps!

  3. @ Alik — I’m always surprised how the right questions can make us so resourceful.

    @ Evelyn — I find it especially useful as a scoreboard for growth. Sometimes it can be hard to see the progress, but asking the right questions can help bring subtle distinctions to the surface.

  4. “Time / Task Management” is very important for my life including other things that helpmed me a lot to improve my business models.

  5. Hi J.D.,
    Thank you for this clear cut framework. Sometimes it can be difficult to formulate these necessary questions with clarity. You did it for me. 🙂

  6. Hi JD
    Couldn’t be clearer.

    Love the order that you bring using the numbered lists.
    Something that more of us should use.

    Also like your use of alternative lists.
    Something for us all.

  7. J.D. I love this. What a great resource. It is also interesting to hear the perspectives of so many great people. Thanks for sharing.

  8. JD, I like the idea of asking continual questions of ourselves to keep our lives on track with where we ultimately want to be. And the comparison of where we are v. where we want to be isn’t shallow-minded or selfish either. Rather, it exists to keep us balanced and sure of our priorities! Thanks, man!

  9. @ Chandana — The irony of task management as that it’s often the letting go that frees you up to flow more value.

    @ Marlee — Perfect. I’m an avid collector of questions. I’m a big believer that if you want better results, ask better questions.

    @ Keith — Thank you. I find that the art of reflection is about getting clarity from multiple perspectives.

    @ Sibyl — Thank you. There are so many shoulders of giants to stand on. I’m a fan of getting the network on our side.

    @ Bryan — You hit the nail on the head. It’s about balancing and seeing priorities with more clarity, sometimes through the principle of contrast. Contrast makes distinctions pop.

  10. These are powerful JD. Taking inventory of our lives in the secrecy of our own minds leads to tremendous breakthroughs when we ask sincerely.

  11. J.D.

    This was a pretty cool article. I ask my self questions all the time, but never put thought into the types of questions I asked myself for measuring certain areas of my life.

    Thank you for sharing J.D.

  12. @ Rob — You teased out a key to the formula … sincerity in the ask.

    @ Jk — I use them to make sure I don’t become the frog in the boiling pot scenario. They have served me well and I like how they help reveal a North Star.

  13. Hi JD .. back again! There can’t be any other hiccups – I hope .. I’ve had my share (I thought) for a while .. now I really must move forward .. so this post is really helpful .. and I actually can start feeling I have a little time for thinking .. that will make a big difference. Time out to adjust, to start and to develop/move forward with my plans.

    Thanks – Hilary

  14. @ Hilary — Moving forward is one of the best recipes for success in life.

    A long time ago I heard the advice that we’re climbing forward or sliding backward and I find it to be true. Whether it’s keeping your job, having your health, etc. you have to keep moving forward. My key take away from the movie Any Given Sunday was … “Fight for the inches.”

  15. This could be useful for specific areas such as career. But when it comes to life in general, I’m more into asking “Am I happy?” then decide on specific goals. Might be good, might be not so good, I don’t know.

  16. @ Vered — Asking if you’re happy is a good cutting question to get to the bottom line.

    It turns out, there are two flavors of the happiness question:
    1. How happy are you? (the here and now)
    2. How happy or satisfied are you when they think about your life?

    For finding a path of happiness, a friend of mine uses the following as gauges:
    1. Freedom to spend more time in your values.
    2. Freedom to spend more time in your priorities.
    3. You know what you want.

    So it’s an unfolding and evolving process of figuring out what you want, while finding ways to spend more time in your values, and spending more time in your priorities. It sounds like a simple recipe, but it really is a North Star.

    As a twist on happiness, I think Tony Robbins said everything we do is to “feel good” in our own ways.

  17. Hi JD,
    I like that you provided many models for us to choose from. This exercise was good for me to notice that I haven’t been using any parameter to check whether I’m on track. Actually, I have no clue whether I’m on track or not. I tend to go with the flow which is great for being in the moment and working on tasks at hand. I could probably use some of the tools you provided.
    Thanks for making it so easy to track how we’re doing. Loving blessings

  18. I am so off track these days that it makes me feel rather sick to my stomach.
    Career wise I am job hunting, my main motivation is to keep us going on a daily basis….when income is so low, sometimes just getting food sorted and on the table is all that can be accomplished, because there are not shortcuts – It is only fun sometimes because of all the creativity that goes into the process.

    Job hunting and rewriting my resume is not working…so I am taking a Grant Writing class – and it is apparent that I need a partner to help me get the ideas linear and truly workable….my old partner is retired and in love….so I am scouting around for a new partner…time

    I start another class tomorrow on how to built a business, which is only 4 weeks and should help…

    I have to drive 2 hours to big city for required meetings with hundreds of people 2 days in a row and my goal is to find a new colleague as my friend died of cancer last year….because of the gas costs, I can not afford to eat at this gathering and they will not let me eat my own food in the dining area (caterers rules)
    This relationship has been a 38 year loss for me, but I do not know how to change it I have been active in this battle for years and I am tired of it…exhausted. 9 of my friends are retiring this year – I can not even get started within this arena.

    Happiness is reading a good book and inspiring people to be their best….payment for that seems to be nil….today I would rate myself on all these scales and questions – in the tomb.

  19. @ Andrea — You have a good attitude and it sounds like you’ve been lucky on the river of life. I use the checks as a map to help me pick the paths on the river to go.

    @ Patricia — “Fortune favors the prepared mind” … Good job taking training and improving your skills. The best we can do in life is make the most of what we’ve got.

  20. While I certainly support the general idea of reflection as a powerful force, I didn’t see anywhere the one item that has been shown to be most important to success anywhere.

    In our work with positive deviants and from Dan Pink (DRIVE) and David Rock (Your Brain at Work), what emerges is that the single most important factor in determining if you are “on track” is your sense of purpose. If you are clearly and explicitly focused on accomplishing a greater social good (i.e. something beyond just your personal gain), you are on track and everything else tends to naturally fall into place.

    So the first question about assessing if you are “on track” should be “Do you have a clear, explicit social good that you are trying to create?” The second question is: “Do your attitudes and actions consistently align with achieving the social good?” If your answer is “no” to either of these, you are not on track. If your answer is a strong “yes,” you are on track and nothing else will matter.

  21. @ William

    > “Do you have a clear, explicit social good that you are trying to create?”
    I like that. A lot. And it rings true.

    I think the key is to know “why” having a purpose for the greater good work better than a purpose focused on yourself. They beauty is there are many reasons why this strategy is more effective:
    – It frees you up to operate at a higher-level
    – When you break away from self-focus, you create more freedom to find meaning in bigger things, or to put it another way, you stop looking for meaning where there is none
    – When you give up a focus on acceptance, personal comfort, pleasure, position, etc. the setbacks in life, no longer set you back
    – Rather than compete with others, you collaborate, and there is strength in numbers
    – You amplify your compassion and connection, which is empowering, while the opposite is disabling
    – Together we’re strong, divided we fall
    – Allows you to step back from the problem — when you’re too close you can’t see things with the right perspective
    – It takes your ego out of the equation and allows you to act dispassionately
    – It gets you over fear because the focus is no longer on you
    – A deeper, more significant meaning amplifies your inspiration and motivation

    The two caveats that temper this are:
    1. When you’re low on the maturity stack in Maslow’s hiearchy of needs and you need to take care of the basics
    2. When you’re in an environment or context where this strategy puts you in jeopardy

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