What Gets Measured Gets Improved

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In a previous post, I argued that the only skill you need to succeed in life is discerning truth from falsehood. There’s a long list of practices that you can do in order to improve that skill.

Those practices aren’t alternatives of each other, so, you’d rather want to be engaged in each of them. Today, I’m going to discuss one more idea which will help you discern truth from falsehood. As you can understand from the title, which is a quote from the management guru Peter Drucker, this practice is measuring.

Measuring can be seen as a part of the scientific method, but it can also be used by itself without the rest. It’s a great tool to discern the truth from falsehood. In other words, you can easily understand whether you or someone else is fooling you.

Measuring not only helps you discover the truth. It also focuses your attention on the object of measurement. As a result, your energy flows to the focus of your attention and your results improve.

“Where attention goes energy flows.” James Redfield

What to Measure

In some cases, measurement might be difficult. In the early stages of a startup, you might work very hard, but your income might still be at zero for a very, very long time. If that’s the case, you might want to shift your focus from income to other metrics.

The number of users and user engagement can be interesting metrics to track for startups, because those numbers are valuable for established businesses and investors.

If measuring the progress towards the end goal doesn’t make sense, then you might divide the goal into smaller goals and measure your progress towards the first goal in front of you. This strategy is called divide and conquer and it’s an effective strategy.

In some cases, it might not make any sense to measure the results if the progress to that goal is not linear. For example, if you’re selling a home, your results will remain at zero for a long time until you sell the home.

Strangely, a lot of real world processes are similar to selling a home. You have to endure long stretches of plateaus with no improvement and suddenly see exponential growth in your results. I have discussed this phenomenon in another post called This Is How Your Expectations Sabotage Your Success.

If it doesn’t make sense to measure the results, you’re better off measuring your input. In case of the real estate sale, this could be the amount of sales calls you make.

How to Measure, an Example

In the past, I didn’t pay much attention to my diet and fitness. As a result my weight used to vary a lot. In some periods, I’d lose a lot of weight. In other periods, I’d gain a lot of weight. None of which is either healthy or aesthetically pleasing.

My weight and fitness levels stabilized and started to improve when I decided to measure my caloric intake and fitness efforts. This is easier than it sounds. I eat similar foods in similar quantities every day, so measuring their calories is rather easy.

If I eat something other than my regular food, I make an educated guess about its calories and then adjust the rest of my food consumption that day or the next day to keep my caloric intake constant. This is really easy to do, because my breakfast consists of oatmeal. I can easily adjust the amount of oatmeal I can consume with a simple kitchen scale and the calories of oatmeal is a known variable.

Measuring My Fitness Efforts

Another variable I started to measure is my fitness exercise input. Back in the day, I’d do some push-ups and sit-ups, take a walk in the park, and call it a fitness workout. Now, I divide my fitness efforts in two categories, cardio and weight training.

I got a heartbeat monitor for cardio, which I highly recommend, because you never know how intense your cardio workout is. In some days, you might think that your training is intense, but you might not be doing much. In other days, you might think you’re taking it easy, but you’re actually having a pretty intense workout.

In order to keep the guess work out of my cardio efforts, I measure my heartbeat with a monitor and a smartphone app. I aim to get over 110 beats per minute and spend half an hour over that level. I don’t take into account the time that I spend to get over the 110 beats per minute level.

My cardio efforts are by no means an athletic achievement, but I’m satisfied with that input, because athletic achievement is not my primary goal in life.

I keep track of my weight training as well. I keep track of which exercises I do, how many sets and reps, and how much weight in each set. I use Evernote and my smartphone to do that.

Last but not least, my cardio and weight training workouts are scheduled in my weekly schedule. That way, not only are my fitness efforts constant and improving, I also take advantage of a principle called what gets scheduled gets done. Without this principle it’s really easy to find an excuse to skip a workout.

Summary

If you want to improve your business or a certain area of your life, follow the advice of Peter Drucker and start to measure it. If it doesn’t make sense to measure the results, measure your input. Don’t forget to schedule the tasks you want to get done as well. A combination of scheduling and measuring will give a boost to your results.


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