Lag measures are things that are done after the fact. For example, if you are trying to increase conversion of a shopping funnel, the connected lag measure would be the conversion percentage. There is one problem: the performance that drove these metrics is already in the past.

Lead measures are things that are done beforehand, to increase the performance or chance on success of the desired outcome. A good lead measure for this example might be the number of experiments you run in the funnel to improve the total conversion.

Focussing on the lead measure helps steering towards the behaviors you directly control. When talking about deep work, Cal mentions in his book that the relevant lead measure is easy to point out: “time spent in a state of deep work dedicated toward your wildly important goal”. Obviously there are levels in between to visualize your progress, like “number of words written”, but time spent in deep work is pretty decent.

The questions for Deep Work Week day 3:

  1. On the scale “how you do things” there are two extremes: ticking boxes and the perfectionist. I’m far more to the ticking boxes side: I like to get stuff done and move on to the next task. Which side are you on? It’s really useful to know where you stand in order to know if you should push harder on deep work. I know I really need to push it.
  2. For your biggest assignment or project right now, what would be the lag measure? And what would be an appropriate lead measure?