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What You Measure Gets Managed

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Break Down Your Goals Into Small Measurements

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

-Peter Drucker

What do I want to change?

I hopped on the scale and saw a number a bit smaller than it was before. I looked myself up and down in the mirror, and I could see some noticeable differences. As I got dressed, my clothes weren’t as snug. Since the beginning of this year, I’ve lost about 10 pounds. I’ve shed the post-wedding “I’ll be eating whatever I want today because I’m a newlywed” weight, which was definitely the goal. Now that I’m at a weight that I’m comfortable walking around at, I’ve taken the time to reflect on what got me here.

Over the course of the year, I’ve been on what you might call a “crusade of change.”

  • I’ve invested more time in reading and learning
  • I’ve made more conscious efforts in my health and fitness (hence the 10 pound drop)
  • I do my best to incorporate practices into my life that improve its quality.

Prior to this year, I was completely content on resting on my laurels of “I’m a pretty good, likable guy who does his best.” Not terrible laurels to rest on, but I had this inkling that I could improve myself and be a better man.

  • Maybe it was a natural maturation that led me to that breaking point of wanting to be and do more.
  • Maybe it was the impression that being a married man left on me; the sense of duty towards my wife to be the best I could for our new family.

I’d guess more of the latter, but I’m grateful for whatever helped me arrive at that point. Still, though, those reasons cover the why I have wanted change, but what about the how?

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find out How you want to change

What I think it comes down to is this: I found things that I could measure and put them into action.

If I would have said, “I’d like to lose some weight” or “I want to be a better man” and left it at that, I don’t think I would have made much progress.

In terms of weight, I knew I wanted to get back to my pre-wedding weight of about 185 pounds. That’s a concrete number. From that number, I could devise a plan to incrementally work towards it. This took a different meaning in each stage of the weight loss mission. It started with tracking my calorie intake and my macronutrient ratios. I diligently used MyFitnessPal to measure how much I was taking in each day.

Weight loss is about burning more calories than you consume, so by tracking my intake, I was ensuring that I knew exactly what I was taking into my body. If I wasn’t losing weight, or if I hit a plateau, I could experiment a bit and try to find a breakthrough.

Without the knowledge of the information I was measuring, I wouldn’t know what to adjust or change. The second piece that I incorporated into my attempt at losing weight was an increase in cardio. More specifically, I began training for a half-marathon (Mr. Matiash Goes Running), so I started running three times a week. Up until that point, I had relied heavily on anaerobic training with weights and sprints. Increasing the amount of aerobic training, both in time and distance, allowed my body to burn more calories. This extra burn produced more weight loss. Each time I ran I used the MapMyRun app to measure my distance, time and progress. The combination of tracking my calorie/macronutrient intake and tracking my half-marathon training have provided a perfect storm of progress reports that have kept me driven to keep moving in the direction that I am. In both cases, I can clearly see how much has changed and how much growth has occurred.

Health and fitness aren’t the only categories of life that we can measure, though. I also wanted to read more so that I could develop some weaknesses and further strengthen some things I am already good at. Again, if I addressed that goal with an ambiguous phrase like, “I’d like to read more,” I would’ve stalled out long ago. Instead, I chose to set the goal of finishing three books every month. This gave me a clear number to shoot for, and something I could measure against. Every month since then I have hit my goal, with the exception of October (I bit off more than I could chew there. I tried to read Tony Robbins’ Money: Master The Game, which is 500-600 pages, along with two other lengthy books).

Set measurable goals

The list of things that you can numerate and measure is lengthy. 

  • Do you want to make sure your wife knows that you love her? Instead of saying “I’d like to show my wife love”, say “I’m going to do (insert kind and loving act) for my wife at least once every day.” Now you have a measuring system. You can give yourself a pass/fail at the end of the day based on your results.
  • Would you like to save more money instead of spending it on things you never use? Create a budget and measure your spending habits over the next month or so to see if you’ve measured up to your new plan.
  • Would you like to watch less TV so you have more time for the important things in life? Measure how much time you watch TV now, then set a goal to decrease that amount incrementally. If you watch 3 hours a night now, shoot for 2 hours a night next week. Track your progress and see where it goes from there.

As soon as you have information and statistics regarding your progress, you can chart the best course of action to reach your goals.

What about the immeasurables?

Alright, so if I’m being honest here, there are some things that you either can’t measure or are too complex to try and measure.

  • It’s hard to measure how much confidence you have. You can certainly feel how much confidence you have, but it’s hard to put a number on it.
  • It’s equally hard to measure love, hate, gratitude or indifference.

These traits and characteristics, however, are byproducts of the action you took towards your measurable goals. By losing weight and getting healthy, chances are your confidence will rise. By showing your wife love every day through conscious and measurable action, you and your wife will likely feel a noticeable difference in the love shared between the two of you.

The things that you can’t measure are simply a result of things that you can measure. There are so many things that you can construct a measurable and actionable plan around. If you can attach these measurements to a goal, you are certain to see the progress (or lack thereof in some cases) you’ve created. Through this progress report, you can adjust, pivot, and try something else if need be.

Don’t let your goals overwhelm you. Break them down into small measurements that you can take some realistic action on. You are in control of where you want to go, but you’re going to need some checkpoints along the way. Without them, you’re a hopeless wanderer.


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