What gets measured gets improved. – Every Manager Ever
Cliche, but true: what gets measured does get improved. Effective measurement is essential for living an analytical life: it’s key for understanding where your problem areas are, as well as gauging your progress toward a goal over time.
Measurement is a special form of awareness that has one key attribute: consistency over time. If I weigh myself randomly once in a blue moon, that’s a good start, but I’ll be able to gain more interesting insights if I weigh myself (almost) every day after getting up in the morning. That’s why measurement is more valuable over time, and similarly, measurement is more valuable the more things you measure: you get more data points.
If I measure my sleep and my weight on a consistent basis over time, I can then do a more interesting analysis to see how my sleep and weight are correlated. If I track my diet and am able to look at sleep, diet, and weight at the same time, I can generate even better insights. Of course it’s important to not get too bogged down in the data either–just because your sleep and weight are correlated doesn’t mean that there’s an outside factor that’s impacting both (stress at work or overall happiness, for example). And of course, we’re a complicated species so sleep, weight, stress, diet, likely all have an effect on the other.
Measurement Forces Awareness
Going back to our generic manager, one of the greatest benefits of measurement–consistent tracking over time–is that it forces you to be reflective and perform tiny analyses every time you measure. Say I get on the scale and see it’s a few pounds heavier than it normally is: I can think back through the past day and see if there might be anything that explains it. If I notice that the scale is consistently heavier after I’ve had 2-3 drinks the night before, I can intuit (without tracking my drinking) that drinking likely has some negative impact on my weight, and that I should cut back. Then, I decide that it’s best that I avoid drinking during the work week in order to cut a few calories here and there–I now have a new goal, and a new thing to measure (did I avoid drinking during the work week?), and my weight and life improves according to how I meet that new goal.
One of the common pitfalls of measurement is that it becomes inconsistent because we want to avoid unpleasant truths. If I avoided stepping on the scale every morning when I felt a little bloated after a night of drinking, then I wouldn’t see the data points that would help me perform the proper analysis and make the right decision.
In conclusion, measurement is a powerful tool toward living an analytical life, its power comes from its consistency and your ability to measure different traits and habits over time. Measurement can give you the semi-rigorous data to perform better analyses, but of course it’s still up to you to execute on your findings. If you want to live a more analytical life or find that there’s a part of your life you want to improve, establishing a measurement system is a great place to start.