Framework for self experimentation

Ethan Steininger
Feb 1, 2018 · 4 min read

Key performance indicators (KPIs), metrics, and performance analytics. These are all data points tracked and monitored in a product lifecycle. Whether you run a product, a company or a service it’s critical that you identify some sort of success criteria/goal and strive for that by tracking these data points. The only way to get there is to run scientific experiments where the KPIs are what’s measured. We essentially are to perform A/B tests in order to determine the best strategies for success and happiness.

Does anybody apply this same approach for their personal life? How do you define success? How do you measure it? Success criteria is a tricky subject when it comes to something as subjective as your life. I’ve personally found that my health, productivity, and finances are key performance indicators of personal success and satisfaction. This concept was inspired by one of Tim Ferriss’ blog posts: https://tim.blog/2010/12/18/the-value-of-self-experimentation-plus-extreme-videos-do-not-try-this-at-home/

So I’ll assume you share this same success criteria as me, you have your data points to measure, now what? Let’s treat our lives just like we would our business, let’s perform tests and measure them.

Hypothesis

A scientific experiment always starts with a hypothesis. What assumptions are you willing to commit 2–3 weeks to prove/disprove? I’ve slowly amassed a list of things to try. Some examples that I’ve experimented with and/or are on my “to try” list include different hobbies, diets, philosophies, working styles, sleep schedules and workout regimes.

So let’s take a stab at one “to try” experiment for examples sake. Let’s immerse ourselves in the philosophy of stoicism for 2 weeks. I’m talking podcasts, books, conversations, writing anything you can think of, become obsessed starting on day one.

Measuring

Remember we talked about our success criteria? Now is the time to start monitoring and tracking them. You have a couple approaches. One is the good ole fashioned Excel spreadsheet, but you have to record it and be consistent. There are quite a few personal/quantitive dashboards out there. Meports.com is a dashboard that requires Facebook sign in solely as a means of logging in, it doesn’t touch any social/personal data. So we’re immersing ourselves in Stoicism for 2 weeks, how do we track our 3 KPIs?

Meports: Quantitative Life Dashboard

Logo
Home dashboard

Meports collects and facilitates tracking of the following KPIs and sub-metrics (feel free to use any in your own experiments):

Health

Mood (manual input)

Daily reflection (manual input)

Hydration (Hydrate API)

Workout (manual input)

Sleep (Sleepy time Calculation)

Health home
Reflection dashboard
Reflection history

Productivity

All my lists are connected via Wunderlist API. Among these lists include:

daily

weekly

ongoing projects

ideas

goals

to read

try out

Finance

speed tests and ping speed of websites I own (API)

Latest database backup (API)

Stocks and crypto I own (API)

investments, checking and saving account status (Mint web scraper)

budget tracker (Mint web scraper)

projected earnings /w spending (Mint with some calculations)

You don’t need to see my accounts ;)

Trends and Results

Once the two week experiment is finished, simply review each KPI. I built a trend line that takes one “sub-metric” (selected based on the hypothesis) from each of the 3 categories and layers them together.

Correlations between one selected KPI in each category over time

Are you noticing any trends? Did one experiment increase productivity and health for 2 weeks? Time to add it to our routine.

Its probably obvious by now but slight disclaimer: I built this, so feedback would be amazing.

Here’s a brief video of what of the experience (if you’re too hesitant to sign up for free): https://vimeo.com/241999476

If you’re curious, the web app was built using a little bit of Angular, mostly Vanilla JS/Jquery on the front end, Flask/Python backend and MongoDB database all sitting on an Amazon EC2 instance.

So what data points contribute most towards your success?

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