I used to just fly by the seat of my pants on everything. If I felt OK about something, then all good. If it felt bad, then time to look into it. I bet you have done the same thing many times.
You manage a ton of things in your life …
Yourself, your family, your finances, your business, your pets, your projects at work, etc.
Face it, there’s a lot going on.
How do you know how well you’re doing in each one of these areas?
Like most people you probably follow you “gut feeling”.
- How do you feel about X?
- How do you feel about Y?
- Are you doing good?
- How’s your gut feel?
- Does your intuition tell you everything is Ok?
Do you have a feeling inside of you knowing that you could do better?
I know I have.
I suspect that the latter half is where you fall – you could do better at X, Y, or Z.
But really… deep down … you know that you’re doing “Ok”, but you’re not really sure how well you’re doing and you know that you could probably do a lot better.
This is where the phrase …
What gets measured, gets managed.
… comes into play.
In other words, when we keep track of something with measurable statistics we can then manage how well we’re doing with that one thing.
What types of things could be measured?
In business, this might be your MRR (monthly recurring revenue) or your Customer Churn (how many people are leaving) or it could simply be your site visitors or session length on your site.
If you’re like me, and you write, you may want to increase the speed in which you type. In that case, you may decide to keep track of how many words you type per minute or hour. So you might keep that in a spreadsheet so you can calculate how fast you move.
One of the two most popular things in the world that get measured is body weight and money.
You wake up and drag your feet to the bathroom. Look in the mirror and pat your stomach. You then wonder how much you weigh while thinking:
“Hmm, this doesn’t look right. I wonder how much I weigh?”
You hop on the scale.
You’re now ‘measuring’.
You look at your bank account or a budgeting app and ask “How much money do I have”?
You’re ‘measuring’ again.
What happens to these things when you constantly measure them?
You manage them.
If you measure your weight, and you realize that you’re weighing more than normal, you’re going to start managing it. You will probably change what you eat, exercise more, etc.
That might lead you to measure other things, like caloric intake. Before you know it you’re on the AppStore looking up a calorie tracker and installing it on our phone so you can start “measuring” the food that you eat.
Why? So you can manage it.
Why? So you can manage your weight.
As you can see …
What gets measured, gets managed.
The same principle applies to finances.
You look at your bank account and think:
“Where did all the money go?” … or something similar.
It’s at that point when you start tracking your spending. You’re measuring again.
You’re now “managing” your finances.
What gets measured, gets managed.
When you don’t measure something, you’ll find it much harder to manage it.
For example, do you manage how many miles/km’s per gallon/liter your vehicle gets?
You probably don’t.
Some people do. Some people really want to know their fuel mileage.
Me though? I don’t care. Maybe you don’t either, who knows.
However, if for some reason you noticed that you were filling up your car with fuel more often you’d probably ask yourself “Why?” You’d then try to measure what’s going on.
Are you driving more? Are you harder on the gas?
If nothing has changed, you’ll then want to start measuring to figure out what’s going on.
You’ll then start to measure, so you can manage.
Measure What you Want to Manage
Anytime anything in your life feels completely out of control or even marginally out of control … well …
This is a good time to start measuring some things.
It’s also a good time to measure things if you just want to get a better handle on them too.
Things I measure so I can manage them …
I measure the following things in my personal life:
- Daily Sleep Time and Patterns (using this app)
- Every Single Workout (including walks)
- Water intake (I drink a minimum of a gallon a day)
- Moods (using a mood tracker)
- Finances (using YNAB)
- Blood Levels (blood panels twice a year starting this year)
- The time I meditate per day and aggregate (using a timer app)
- Words I write per timed session (as I’m writing this doing this using Scrivener)
- Kids School Assignments (using Google Classroom)
- My kids’ device screen time (via ScreenTime on iOS and Family Management on PS4)
In my business life, I keep track of other things like:
- Number of tickets completed (Jira)
- Things to be done (Jira)
- MRR/Churn/Active users/MAU/etc (using Baremetrics)
- Hours worked (using Harvest)
All of these things are measured and due to that all of them are getting managed in one way or another.
I also have periodic management tools that are used on occasion.
For example, during the coronavirus pandemic, many doctors have started treating patients over “telemedicine” (video chat). I have a digital thermometer as well as a pulse oximeter. I can now give the doctors the measurements that they need to help them make more informed decisions to manage my children’s health.
What gets measured, gets managed.
When we don’t measure, we don’t manage.
How to measure creative endeavors
Measuring is simple for things like caloric intake and finances. It’s very simple. The inputs are easy to follow, the outputs are easy to see and you can adjust.
With creative endeavors, it’s much different. You have to track things differently and each creative endeavor requires a different method.
I’ll cover two examples here:
- Measuring Writing
- Measuring Coding/Side Hustle
For example, with writing, I realized over time that the biggest challenge is just getting the initial draft done. After that it’s editing, and cleaning it up. I find that editing takes more time because I’m reorganizing my thoughts, but at least the thoughts are down. I can then just tweak and edit the things that area already there.
However, that was a dilemma.
How can I measure this so I can improve it (manage it)?
Just introspecting itself is a form of measuring. Upon doing so I determined that my problem was that I was editing the same time I was typing. Fixing spelling mistakes is ok, but I’d re-write the same paragraph 5-10 times before I moved not o the next one.
That was a problem. My solution was to just write and edit later.
I still needed something to focus on, so I decided to focus on how many “Words Per Hour” I was writing.
A higher Words Per Hour (WPH) rate does not indicate that what I’m writing will be good, but it does provide me a metric that I can manage. I picked this up from this book — “How to Write 5,000 Words Per Hour”
For example, if I start editing while I’m writing my WPH will plummet. Why? I’m rewriting the same thing over and over and over and not creating new content.
When I don’t edit when I write my WPH skyrockets. At this time of writing, I’m averaging about 3,500 – 4,000 words per hour. Meaning that if I write for an hour at this pace I’ll put down 3,500 to 4,000 words per hour. My goal is to get to 5,000 WPH.
Again, this doesn’t mean that this content will be good. However, my goal is to get the content on paper (to be honest, a digital document of some sort – I use Scrivener or Google Docs) and then edit later.
Since measuring this on a day to day basis I’ve written nearly 25,000 words in the last couple of weeks. I’m averaging about 1500-2500 words a day. An average business book ranges anywhere from 40,000 – 60,000 words.
Yes, I know, not all of the words will be used for the book (in fact, many will be cut out during editing), but this goes to show, that measuring something does help you manage it. Prior to trying to improve my WPH, I was barely getting out a blog post every few months and I’d be lucky if that had 1000 words in it.
Writing is one thing … but say you want to measure something like coding for a new side project you’re doing. How do you measure that?
How to Measure Side Hustles … even if you’re bad at it
Many times we want to develop something or be creative. This could be a side project that requires a software engineer to do some coding. It could require a creative person who is an artist to create more art or write.
The first thing you have to identify is what you want to improve. With writing, I wanted to improve the aspect of getting my first draft done. That means getting the words onto a document. That boiled down to WPH.
For a creative project such as art, you might want to be able to finish a painting faster. So you need a way to measure how much of the painting is complete.
This could be getting the base layer down first, then the outline.
Maybe that takes you a long time.
You measure it and want to improve the speed at which you do it.
Perhaps you want to increase the number of sketches you get done in an hour because that’s how you generate ideas for the final pairing that you want to do. You don’t care how long the painting takes, but you do want to improve the idea generation phase.
You have to find what you want to improve first. If you don’t know, then you’ll need to dig in and ask yourself some higher-level questions like:
- Why do I want to improve this?
- What does this mean to me?
- Why is this important?
Keep asking Why.
You can follow the “5 Why’s” method.
Keep asking yourself “Why”, 5 times until you get to the root why which usually happens around the 5^th^ time you ask the “Why” question.
Let me give you an example:
If I want to improve the idea generation portion of my art projects, in other words, I want to be able to generate ideas faster so I can then decide what to paint more efficiently, then I would ask myself this …
- Why does creating ideas faster matter?
- Why does deciding what to paint sooner matter?
- Why does focusing on canvas matter more than sketches?
- Why do art shows matter?
- Why does it matter to get your name out there in the public as an artist?
This is a completely made up, hypothetical example of the five why’s, and you could go even deeper by asking “more why’s”, but now you get the point.
It drives home the point of why you are doing something. It gets to the root cause, the underlying reason you’re doing what you’re doing.
The root cause doesn’t have to be financial reward, fame, or anything like that. It can simply be a personal goal. The goal is to simply identify the root cause so you can see if it’s worth measuring.
One last tip…
If you want to start managing your goals with a common framework, you can use the S.M.A.R.T. goal framework.
A S.M.A.R.T. goal is …
- Specific (can’t be general, has to
- Measurable (has to be a way to measure it)
- Achievable (something you can actually do in the given time frame)
- Relevant (to your mission in life/big goals)
- Time-bound (has to have a period when it ends)
If a goal fits within the S.M.A.R.T. framework and you manage it (track it in regard to your time but achievable goal) there is a good chance you’ll get it done.
The Final Word
The next time you find yourself at a crossroads or wondering how or why something is or is not happening — ask yourself if there is something you can measure.
If so, start measuring it.
It will be a pain at first, but after a while, it becomes a habit and the data you get out of it will help you make more informed decisions so that you can improve you life in any number of ways.
If you can measure it, you’ll manage it.