What We Measure, We Improve – James Clear
- When we start measuring things, we create vital awareness for things that matter to us
- What we measure, we improve
- A proxy is sufficient; a perfect measure not required
- Find a simple metric that is strongly linked to the relevant area of life you want to improve
- Focus on consistency: It’s much more about the process than the results
- Start with no more than 3 metrics to measure
Do you exercise regularly?
When I go to the gym and look around me, I rarely find people who track their performance. Only a minority counts its reps or weight, and even fewer people track their resting time or time under tension.
You can still build muscles, and you can still achieve a great physique. Yet, not tracking anything makes it very difficult to progress further once you reached an advanced level.
You might not work out or exercise regularly, so, why should you care? Or maybe you’re satisfied with the level you achieved. Fine. But here’s the thing: There’re plenty of other areas in your life that are important to you, but you don’t measure them. Consequently, you won’t progress and stagnate.
If you’re one of these people who are totally happy with their life, this article might not be a good fit for you. Otherwise, I invite you to read this short article in which I share my thoughts on measuring what matters in life to make the most out of it and give you practical advice on how you can measure and progress more easily.
It’s not about the result, it’s about awareness
When we start measuring things – for instance, how much money we spend on online shopping each month – we are often astonished about the difference between the felt/estimated and the real/objectively measured expenses. For example, I always felt/thought that I spend approx. 800 Euros a month. The actual figure, though, is 20% higher.
Generally, the actual result of measuring something doesn’t really matter. In fact, what’s crucial: The realization that there’s a substantial gap between what one think/feel is real and what the actual reality is.
Since I tracked my monthly spending, I have been significantly more aware of my expenditures and spend less on things that I don’t need.
What we measure, we improve
Keeping track of something works like a reminder. And often, that’s all we need:
- Pushing myself to do one more rep each workout was enough to progress substantially
- Reading 10 pages a day has changed my youth and made me the happy person I am today
- Reflecting daily for 5 minutes has a huge positive impact on my well-being
- Keeping track of being kind to at least one person a day gives me so much in return
- Contemplating each month whether I’m still consistent with my core values aligns me with my vision and purpose of life, providing me with an essential boost of motivation
I’m greatly convinced that consistency is the key to a happy and successful life. Keeping track of something that matters to you will help you to stay consistent.
There plenty of things you might think aren’t measurable. For instance, love, maturing, integrity, happiness, health, innovation, etc. How can one measure these things?
As I’ve stated, it’s much more about awareness than the result. Consequently, you just need a proxy that allows becoming aware of the things that are important to you.
Let’s take love as an example:
Marian Keyes wrote: “Some think love can be measured by the amount of butterflies in their tummy. Others think love can be measured in bunches of flowers. But love can only truly be measured by actions. It can be a small thing, such as peeling an orange for a person you love because you know they don’t like doing it. Or it can be something bigger, where you stand up for someone and risk ridicule yourself.”
Regarding this excerpt, a good proxy to love is the number of deeds that are meaningful to another person and one does for him/her. Measuring these actions to create more awareness can be pretty simple: How often do you surprise your partner with something meaningful? How often do you really listen to him/her? How often do you tell your partner that you love xyz about him/her? How often do you do something kind? Set yourself goals (for instance, write a cute good morning message 5 times a week), execute, and measure. Once you hold yourself accountable and create transparency for the things that matter to you, you will progress.
How to measure your life
When I started measuring more and more areas of my life, I tried several things and made plenty of mistakes (or at least did a lot of things that didn’t create enough awareness). In the following, I will point out the success factors you should consider and illustrate simple techniques that will have a meaningful impact on your life when implemented.
First and foremost, it’s vital to find a simple metric that is strongly linked to the relevant area of life you want to improve. Measuring how many seconds one listened to her/his partner per week is definitely strongly linked to the quality of the relationship. Nevertheless, it’s virtually impracticable to implement. Rather, each day before going to bed, one could note down whether one was able to listen to his/her partner without interruption (i. e. until one was asked a question) at least once.
→ Much easier to implement and still creates huge awareness for this issue).
Second, consistency is key. It’s much more about the process than the results. Focus on staying consistent, a) track your performance as consistent as possible and b) each and every progress is better than no progress at all. Thus, start small. You don’t need to bench 5kg more each work out to become big. Doing one more rep each week is totally enough. Later, 1 more rep each month might be sufficient. Consistency is key.
Third, start with no more than 3 metrics to measure. Don’t waste your motivation by measuring everything you can and being overwhelmed by the amount of effort that it will take. I measure about 20 metrics (routines, running + lifting, spending, nutrition, sleep, YouTube, Instagram, etc) regularly. Measuring those has become an integral part of my life and many of them are automatically tracked, such as my sleep, running performance, or my personal branding metrics. It doesn’t take me much to do that, however, I started with very few, such as tracking the resting time between my workout sets, and accumulated more and more metrics.
Finally, I want to give you some suggestions regarding what you can begin to measure:
- Every day, write down 3 things what you are grateful for (regarding your own life, your partner, and/or your friends/family)
- Keep a sleep diary: The average person has to take 8 hours for sleep each day so as not to suffer from lack of sleep
- Track how many portions of vegetables and fruits you eat per day
The bulk of decisions are like shirts. You try one and if you don’t like it, swap it. The stakes are low, so optimize for