What Gets Measured Gets Changed(Improved)

I’ve seen the same story across different categories many times recently. Hell, I even catch it happening to myself. It’s frustrating, it’s…

I’ve seen the same story across different categories many times recently. Hell, I even catch it happening to myself. It’s frustrating, it’s demotivating, it can completely kill your project or your goal. It’s… a LACK OF PROGRESS. It can happen to the best of us. The solution is simple; measurement. If you find that you aren’t systematically moving closer to your objective, you need to make sure that you are measuring (aka tracking) the right things. As I’ve mentioned before, for me, health and fitness is a great metaphor for lots of other categories in life. For the following, I’ll be referencing fitness, but the same concepts can be, and most likely should be, applied to business or other aspects of life.

Let’s say for example that your current objective is to lose 10 pounds of fat (Notice the specificity of that goal? It’s a much better objective than just “lose 10 pounds”). When you start this process, the first thing you need to know is how much fat you are starting with. If you don’t have a VERY GOOD APPROXIMATION of the amount of fat in your body, how can you know how much you’ve lost? This needs to me measured. For this specific example, your options could include comparing images of your body to body fat % images you find online. It could be using calipers to take measurements. Or best, going to use a machine that can be consistent in measuring your body composition (DEXA, BodPod, Etc). By doing this, you’ve now established a baseline for which you can now MEASURE AND TRACK your goals.

Now that the baseline is established, what does systematic measurement actually look like and how “OCD” do you need to be about it? Well that depends on a few factors. If you have had a hard time losing fat in the past or tend to yo-yo, I’d say you need to be pretty darn OCD about it. Over time, you’ll get a feel for things and such rigorous measurement is not necessary. Here’s how I’d measure my progress. I’d weigh myself every morning right when I wake up and I’d note that weight down in one of a bajillion fitness apps available or at the least use a spreadsheet. After that, every month or so I’d re-measure my body composition. In the middle of December, I weighed about 167 lbs. For my current training regiment, I’d like to be a bit lighter. Around 158 is my target. Here is what that journey looks like as of a couple days ago.

Holiday Eating!

As you can see from the trend, no single data point here is that important. Your weight can fluctuate based on all sorts of factors. What’s important is the moving average. If had not been weighing myself as frequently, I could have stepped on the scale on January 14th and thought that I had barely made any progress! A huge benefit of consistent measurement is that it can help you identify and rectify a lack of progress. If in 1 month from today, I see that my 7 day average has not moved significantly, I know that I’m simply just eating too much and can make an adjustment.

Controlling my body weight has become second nature for me and I don’t need to be this diligent in measurement. I actually tracked this so meticulously in order to show how daily fluctuations in weight aren’t that important. An area where I’M NOT COMFORTABLE AT ALL is endurance training. Before December, it could have easily been 10 years since the last time I ran 3 miles. I’ve slowly been building up a foundation of aerobic capacity and endurance using the same principles I used for strength training. Because I’m not familiar with the way my body will react to all of this, I have been using my Garmin watch and Heart Rate Monitor to track as much as I possibly can. Below are screenshots of 2 six-mile runs I did about two weeks apart.

9:07 pace @ 165 bpm

8:43 pace @ 165 bpm

If I had not been tracking these stats, I may not know exactly what was happening. If I didn't know how long it took me to run that distance, I couldn’t be sure I was going any faster. If I knew the time, but had no indication of my heart beat, I wouldn’t know if the effort level was approximately the same. In order to improve fitness over time for a given distance, your BPM should lower for the same pace OR your BPM should remain constant and your pace should quicken. There are a LOT of other variables in fitness besides these, but for the scope of this conversation, those are the most relevant. In a nutshell, I feel very confident that my fitness is in fact improving. I’m excited to start extending my distances a bit to see if I can’t keep close to the same pace and BPM.

The examples above are acute and are specifically fitness related. I like to use fitness because it’s tangible and for the most part, easy to conceptualize. Measurement is not just for health and fitness though. Are you running a business? How do you know if you are improving? Revenue is the easiest thing to track but what else needs to be monitored to make sure you are moving in the right direction? I’m going to leave the array of business metrics that need to be measured for another post, but suffice it to say, you have a TON of options there. Picking the RIGHT metrics to measure is as important as consistently noting and reviewing them.

Have you found that measurement helps you succeed? What are your favorite things to measure? I love to have conversations about this stuff so leave a comment if you’d like to discuss!

  • MF

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