A PdM’s approach to New Year’s Resolutions (Lagging vs. Leading indicators)

No one sets out to fail at their resolutions, just like no one sets out to fail with a product.

Steedan Crowe
4 min readJan 9, 2024

New Year’s resolutions can be an excellent tool for improving your life, but according to some estimates, 23% of people quit their New Year’s resolutions by the end of the first week, and 43% cave by the end of January. In total, 80% failed by February. Only ~8% of people stick with them for the entire year. That’s a 92% failure rate; other estimates put that at 94%. But why such a high failure rate?

Abstract illustration depicting the integration of New Year’s resolutions and product management concepts, featuring symbols like a calendar, checklist, gym equipment, piggy bank, graphs, and roadmaps in a modern, colorful style.

This post was originally published in my Substack Newsletter, Roadmap Weekly.

Let’s look at some of these goals, and maybe we can better understand why. Forbes cites the top 5 voted goals for this year as:

  • Improved fitness (48%)
  • Improved finances (38%)
  • Improved mental health (36%)
  • Lose weight (34%)
  • Improved diet (32%)

Another poll by YouGov in 2022 showed that only 37% of Americans said they had a goal or resolution. I was surprised and would have thought more people make New Year’s resolutions. If I were to guess, looking at these and our previous stats, this is a lagging result of the high failure rates of resolutions. It’s the same reason I stopped making New Year’s resolutions; they rarely worked.

We don’t have the whole picture here, but those goals are generic and unmeasurable; that’s why taking the steps needed to make these goals measurable and attainable is important. Of course, we all know by now to set SMART goals, but you can still fall into the trap of using lagging indicators, and that’s where a product mindset can help you with your New Year’s resolutions.

No one sets out to fail at their resolutions, just like no one sets out to fail with a product.

If we failed this much in Product, we’d have a huge problem. New products, which are huge, seemingly unattainable goals, fail 40–50% of the time. That’s a much better chance for success, but let’s look deeper at something even more manageable. A product itself is a goal, but in Product, we set even smaller goals: new feature adoption, deadlines, reducing churn, revenue targets, etc. We don’t always succeed at these either, and often, it’s because we fall prey to the same thing plaguing our New Year’s resolutions.

Lagging vs. Leading indicators

The more significant issue contributing to any failed goal is focusing on lagging indicators. If you’re new to the concept, lagging indicators result from what’s happened in the past while leading indicators try to look ahead, are proactive, and predict what will happen. The goal is to find what behaviours you can influence directly and detect frequently.

Let’s take improved finances, for example. What does ‘improved’ even mean? Instead, we can be more specific and target metrics like reduced spending, increased income, and diversified investments. We can track these leading indicators and targets as OKRs.

Objective: Improve my finances
Key Result 1: Reduce spending by 10% by Q3
Key Result 2: Increase income by 5% by Q4
Key Result 3: Diversify investment portfolio → Only 50% in stocks by Q3

So now we have OKRs for our goal using leading indicators! That’s a vast improvement. Another critical aspect of OKRs is setting targets and avoiding key results tied to activities. Doing this gives you flexibility in achieving those goals, allowing you to pivot and change your tactics.

Initially, I said I don’t set New Year’s resolutions. And this is true; I don’t in the general sense. Instead, I set targets for leading indicators in my life. Sometimes, I don’t even know the final result I’m going for, but I focus on consistent activities and habits I know will lead to better outcomes.

This year, My primary goal (although there are many) is to drive business growth by improving my online presence. My leading indicators for the first half of this year are:

  • Secure one new consulting client in Q1.
  • Achieve an average impression rate of 1k per post on LinkedIn by Q2
  • Maintain eight coaching clients while increasing coaching earnings by 50% by Q2

Here’s a bit of a recap and some other things Product Management can teach us about New Year’s resolutions:

  • Use leading indicators: What metrics can you track that will let you know when to correct course before it’s too late?
  • Review your goals: Frequent reviews help you track progress, make necessary adjustments, and stay on track toward achieving them.
  • Dial in your metrics: Set measurable and time-bound objectives to track progress and achieve goals efficiently. Be sure to use leading indicators that you will track and review often.
  • Identify the activities: What specific actions are necessary to achieve your goals? Consistency can help when developing good habits. By focusing on recurring activities and sticking to them, you can train your brain to make these habits automatic, making them easier to maintain in the long term.
  • Re-evaluate and pivot: Stuck on a goal? Experiment with alternative approaches to find a solution. Be persistent and patient, as finding the right path to success may take time.

What are your New Year’s objectives and leading indicators? Share in the comments or a reply, and if nothing else, be sure to write them down and review them often.

This post was originally published in my Substack Newsletter, Roadmap Weekly.



Steedan Crowe

I’m Steedan, writer of RoadmapWeekly.com, a newsletter for people doing Product Management