I recently bought a scale, for the first time in my adult life…
Although many members of my family have carried a few extra pounds, I was a relatively skinny kid.
It might of been that I played hockey, starting in 5th grade, through high school. Or other ways I stayed relatively active. (Though I was never a sports or fitness fanatic.)
Then into college, my physical activity was dancing and walking.
Walking, because I lived at the edge of campus, or off campus throughout my college years. I’d walk miles every day just to get to classes in the heart of campus, and between classes.
And, as a lover of electronic music, I’d gotten big into break dancing and especially popping and other upper-body dance styles more common at electronic music clubs and parties. I’d go out on the weekend (or, sometimes during the week) and spend 3, 4, 5, even 6 or 8 hours dancing hard to electronic music.
It kept me pretty skinny — and even enabled some pretty reckless diet habits.
Then, I got “all growed up” and got a full-time job, sitting at a desk, answering phone calls. An 8-hour-per-day job with a lunch break that only gave me enough time to hit up the Culver’s ButterBurgers around the corner, shoveling my face full of horribly non-nutritious and calorie-dense fried foods.
Combine the bad lunch choices with my sudden sedentary lifestyle, and within a few months I’d gained 10 pounds.
I recognized the change, and dialed it back a bit. I started making better food choices. I paid more attention to my fitness. And for a long time, my weight gain was slow — a pound or two a year.
Eventually though, little bits of a bad thing add up!
Now, I’m not trying to dis anybody for their struggles with weight, or anything of the sort. But I have recognized that I was making bad food decisions, and they were leading to a result I didn’t want. I don’t need to be skinny to be happy with my weight or body, but I need to make sure I’m making intelligent, healthy decisions.
Fast-forward a few years, and the owner of the IT training company I’m working at starts a contest. We all work in pretty sedentary jobs. Most of us are making poor food choices. And quite a few of us want to lose a few pounds.
So, he starts this contest.
We all set a goal weight. Every week, we have to weigh in. Our weekly weight is tracked. Each week, if we’ve stayed the same, are getting closer to our goal weight, or are staying under our goal weight after hitting it, we get free sushi. Or, there’s a fitness challenge you can do to “earn back” the sushi if you went in the wrong direction for the week.
I took it seriously. I tracked every bit of food I ate. We had the NEW iPhone at the time, and I found an app that let me track the food and my total calorie intake.
I didn’t abstain from junk food. My wife and I liked to have pizza and a movie nights, and I wasn’t going to skip that. But it did make me more mindful about the food I was eating. It made me think about the choices I was making.
And I’m proud to say that for as long as I was a part of that contest, I was the ONLY person who NEVER had to earn back my sushi. That is, every week at weigh-in, I was at or below the previous week’s weight.
I did it slowly and steadily. It was a win if I didn’t add a pound. I never tried to lose more than a pound a week (though sometimes I did lose slightly more). And I did end up hitting my goal weight, and sticking under it by a couple pounds.
Fast forward to today, and I’m doing it again…
Like I said at the outset of this essay, I’ve just bought a scale.
And I’ve started tracking my weight every day. Or at least, every day I remember.
I don’t have the same reward. I’m not eating sushi every Tuesday. (Though that sounds great right now — if only I could get to Sushi Domo in Eugene, Oregon! Nebraska sushi just isn’t quite the same thing.)
But I’m making it a point to track my weight.
A few years working for myself now, and I’ve added a few more pounds than I really wish to admit. And while most people wouldn’t look at me and think I’m putting myself in any health danger by where I’m at right now, I am aware of the trend, and my need to reverse it.
And besides, it’s a good idea to pay attention to your food decisions — which I haven’t been doing well without the checks and balances of weighing myself to keep me on track.
So… What does this have to do with productivity, marketing, and business?
I’m such a diehard proponent of direct response marketing because we measure everything, in a desire to improve it.
When you know your cost per click, cost per conversion, revenue per sale, customer retention rate, lifetime value, and any one of a thousand different metrics, you can improve each.
And, as Jay Abraham’s “3 ways to grow a business” demonstrates, creating even small improvements in each can lead to dramatic geometric growth across the entire business.
But it all starts with tracking. Tracking first, to optimize.
The same applies to your time. How much time did you spend on Facebook today? How much time have you spent reading emails? Is that the highest and best use of your time?
I am admittedly not as good at this. But it — like my eating decisions — is a case of constantly trying to improve, and picking myself back up when I’ve fallen down.
And what about money? How do you expect to get ahead financially if you don’t know where you’re at today? How do you expect to course correct when you start going in the wrong direction?
Keeping track of your expenses and your accumulation of wealth is the only way to get ahead in the long run. And if you have some debt to pay off? As much as it hurts, you want to track that balance closely, too — so you can turn the tide in your favor and make it go away.
No matter what result you want, tracking your progress toward it is the first step toward achieving it…
What measures do you need to put in place to measure your progress? What tracking system do you need to set up to stay on top of where you are, and where you’re going?
Then, once you have the data to follow, what steps are you going to take to push yourself in the right direction?
This is deceptively simple. But it’s oh-so-powerful when you take it seriously.
In fact, it could be the biggest breakthrough you ever read from me.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
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