5 Crucial Performance Metrics

July 26, 2016, 1:00 PM UTC
Illustrations by Dan Matutina/TwistedFork

1. Your yes/no ratio

When you’re first starting a business venture, it pays to say yes to everything: customers (even demanding ones) ready to do business with you, employees willing to work for you, and potential partners and investors who want to team up. But once you get clear on your strategy, you should turn down more opportunities than you embrace. Aim for a 20-to-1 ratio of noes to yeses, and you’ll achieve the laser focus you need to beat the competition.

2. Number of meals with influencers

Your most important job as a leader is nurturing relationships with the people who have the most power to make or break your business. Set a weekly goal for the number of breakfasts, coffees, lunches, and dinners you’ll have with the top 250 influencers in your field, and you’ll greatly improve your ability to get big things done. Need a good reason to reach out to them? Set up search-engine alerts with their names to stay current on what they’re working on.

3. Hours in the “flow”

Stop letting your job get in the way of real work that will add value to your business, and put your calendar where your priorities are. Spend an uninterrupted 90 minutes every day on average, or one day a week, to get into the flow state and address the biggest constraint you need to hurdle to move the organization forward. You’ll dramatically improve the results you achieve. If you can get a second session in, you’ll go twice as far.

4. Total brains applied

The reason most unicorn firms get so big is they have enticed millions of people to give them input and ideas every day, whether through product reviews or posting content. The more brains you enlist inside or outside your company to help you tackle whatever big opportunity or challenge you are facing—whether by posting a question on Kaggle, crowdfunding an idea on Indiegogo, or asking for customer reviews—the greater your odds of shaking up your industry.

For more on leadership, watch this Fortune video:

5. Time spent thinking

Nothing creative will come out of your efforts if you don’t allow your best ideas to incubate. Follow the lead of Warren Buffett and allow time for quiet reading and thinking every day. I recommend devoting at least one hour daily to learning, as Ben Franklin did. Can’t find the time? While you’re commuting or en route to meetings, stay off the phone and listen to a podcast or contemplate what you’ve been reading. You’ll be surprised by what comes out of your brain if you give it a rest sometimes. 

A version of this article appears in the August 1, 2016 issue of Fortune.