by Mr. Cheap

I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.
-Lord Kelvin

One of the most important first step before making any change in your life is to figure out how to measure it. Its so easy to delude ourselves. I’ve found coming up with an objective measure, then referring to it in order to gauge progress, is the right way to move forward with most goals in life. Logging, measuring something regularly and recording it, is an excellent way to do this.

When I was first losing weight, I would weigh myself every day. Some weight-loss approaches caution against this, as your weight will fluctuate because of things like how much water is in your system, when in the day you weigh yourself or how recently you’ve eaten. In The Hacker’s Diet, John Walker acknowledges this difficulty, but instead of giving up on measurement, he proposes a useful correction, namely to use a 10 day moving average. This is a known approach for removing the jitter (small erratic movements in mostly random directions) from data and seeing what the trend is (some people use a similar technique for “predicting” if the stock market or an individual stock is moving up or down).

Calorie count does the math for you and lets you enter your weight every day. Then they’ll provide the trend line (I used it before it was bought by about.com, no idea if its still good or not).

I credit my daily weighings and being able to constantly evaluate whether I was losing weight (and how quickly I was losing it) as being key to my weight loss. I tried the same approach when I wanted to reduce my living expenses, and was able to drop them from about $2,300 / month to around $1,300 / month.

I’m currently tracking my networth, and every month I can see how I’m doing at general wealth accumulation. I also track my passive income every month, and am looking forward to the day when it matches my living expenses.

I sometimes wonder if I’d had more metrics when I was starting my company if I might have done better. If I’d committed to trying to connect with X new customers each week, or grow billable revenue by Y% each month, it might have kept me focused on the more important aspects of the business.

Any changes in your life that you can’t think of how to log (I’m happy to make suggestions)? Have you ever used logging to enact change in your life?

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