They say “you can’t improve what you can’t measure.” March is the month I dive into a two-pronged Blitzkrieg assault to put metrics in place for tracking and improving health and wealth. I’ve spent the past couple days working on two projects, namely:
Body For Life Program
This is a 12-week program I did about a decade ago and I can attest that it definitely works if you stick to it. I re-read the book last weekend and printed out copies of the planner today – my roommate and I start the routine tomorrow. My publicly-stated goal here is to return to single-digit body fat by my birthday (May 7th) and to double my strength between now and then.
The program consists of a nutrition and exercise component. You work out six days per week alternating between cardio and weight training. You change your eating habits by increasing the frequency of meals (6x per day) while decreasing the portion sizes and ensuring the meal composition fits a certain profile of nutrients, carbs, fats, protein, etc. You get one day off each week to go nuts, pig out / veg out and you track everything you do down to the individual meal and weight rep (sounds super OCD I know but once you get into it, it becomes habit).
Mint for finances
I had signed up for Mint.com over a year ago and had integrated my bank account and credit card at the time so it’s been quietly tracking my account activity this whole time. I spent the day yesterday learning their system and categorizing a year’s-worth of transactions. For better or worse I now have a crystal-clear view of my negative net worth (woohoo!) and the absurd amount I’ve been spending on eating out at restaurants and going out with friends on weekends. I’m not yet using their “ways to save” recommendations so there’s nothing immediately that saves me money but it’s providing accountability and a big, fat, undeniable motivator for me to make some necessary expense reductions.
This may be a “commander of the obvious” insight but the phrase “you can’t improve what you can’t measure” is simply not true. It is possible to improve in the absence of metrics. To illustrate this take the following example: I could stand in my backyard and curl progressively-larger cinder blocks of unknown weight. My strength would improve over time but I would have no idea by how much. Conversely, I could wire myself up to all kinds of fancy machines that measured muscle density, bicep size, force exerted, body fat, etc. and know everything about my physiology but if I never lifted a weight my strength would go unchanged. The same principle applies to any situation you’re trying to improve: making effective modifications to a web site, reducing wasteful spending, optimizing how you use your time. The metrics are useful insofar as they help you to alter your behavior but ultimately results are the product of one thing alone: action.
On another note, I’ve had writer’s block lately being completely uninspired to write here. For whatever reason I’ve felt I don’t have unique perspective to add to the noisy chatter that is social media. Hopefully the exercise of going through both of these focused efforts will yield some interesting results and tactics that will become fodder for writing. There’s nothing of significance to share today on these fronts but this post serves as a formal declaration of war on sloppy financial and health habits. I promise to post a screencast here of how to get going with Mint.com and the few unintuitive aspects (they’ve got an insanely good UI with only a couple quirks). I’ll also commit to distilling and sharing whatever results and lessons I gain from going through the BFL program again.
Here’s to improving whatever is important to you over the coming months.