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The Lever #020: The Power of Observation

You won't know how far you've come unless you log your progress.

Adopt the tracking habit to create data-driven success.


But first:

If you spend a lot of time on your computer chances are you type the same thing over and over again.

I've discovered a productivity tool that helps you finally eliminate repetitive typing using keyboard shortcuts. It's called Text Blaze and it helps you automate your writing so you can get more done and save time.

Try it out at Blaze.Today


The Hawthorne Experiments

A study took place at the Hawthorne Electric Plant in 1924.

The experimenters wanted to see if a change in light levels would impact working productivity. They increased the lighting. Productivity went up.

Next, they decreased the lighting. But the results didn’t make sense.

Productivity went up again.

Various experiments of this nature were conducted. And each one had the same result.

Productivity went up.

Eventually they came to understand that it wasn’t the changing conditions that resulted in the change. It was the simple fact that the workers were being observed that drove the change.

This became known as the Hawthorne Effect.

Self Tracking

You can apply this to your own life. This doesn’t mean turning the lights up and down (though you can if you want). This means driving improvement through self-observation.

The best way to do this reliably is by using a system of tracking and review.

For any habit you are trying to build, or goal you are trying to achieve, ask yourself:

"What Data Can I Track?"

Then track it.

Here is a list of easy to access tools to get you started:

1/ Calendar

The greatest resource we have is time. And the only thing we can control in a period of time is our attention. Knowing where we spend our time therefore is incredibly valuable.

So valuable in fact that uber-rich companies base their entire business models around capturing yours. Turn the tables and capture it for yourself, using a calendar.

Choose a digital calendar that you like, and that has an app for your phone so you can quickly add or update events, and stay up to date on the go.

While you are now familiar with time blocking, you have probably never extended this outside of work hours. Be intentional with ALL your time and watch your whole life improve.

Categorize entries using the Big-5. This shows 2 things:

1/ Balance between categories

2/ Tasks completed

I've created a spreadsheet for you that exports this data weekly and drives a dashboard. Use this dashboard during your weekly review and watch your results go through the roof.

For more on setting up a powerful time blocking system, you can check out my book.

2/ Habit tracker

Jerry Seinfeld is the most successful comedian of all time. He credits this to one thing; writing jokes every day (obvious right?).

The key though was a wall calendar. Every day he wrote jokes he would mark that day with a big red 'X'. He was tracking the habit.

The habit tracker measures progress against your Big-5 goals + any supporting habits.

Set everything up for a simple Yes/No. Your habits are leading measures. Your results are lagging measures.

The data gives your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

You can use a habit tracking app or a daily journal, such as the Peaceful Productivity Planner. Then just pick habits, define success criteria, and maintain every day.

Review your results each week and reward yourself when you are winning.

3/ Fitness tracker

A smartwatch gives you access to amazing biometric data.

You probably already log workouts, or steps. Time spent running. Sets and reps. But without a fitness tracker you are leaving so much insight on the table.

Your body generates an incredible amount of data every second. All of this can be captured passively, just by putting on a watch.

A good fitness tracker will give you:

  • Heart Rate Variability

  • Sleep tracking

  • Steps and floors

  • Workout minutes and intensity

You don't even have to do anything. Just wear it around. Use this to dial in your fitness and recovery.

4/ Weight

We've all got weight-based goals. Gain more, weigh less.

When tracked accurately small wins are recognized and motivation increases.

The cost of digital scales has fallen significantly. When paired with an app they not only record weight, but a number of body composition metrics such as body fat, muscle mass, bone density, and more.

Consistent tracking builds trends and shows progress.

5/ Caloric intake

It has been proven that tracking food consumption leads to greater weight loss. Even without following a particular diet.

Consistent tracking leads to results without changing anything else.

There are many tracking apps available, including some where you just take a picture of your plate to get total calories.

You can also go old school with a paper journal.

Either way will have you eating more mindfully and being honest with yourself as to what you are consuming.

6/ Finance

Unless you got that FAANG money (and even if you do) tracking your personal finances is very important.

Managing cash flow, planning ahead for emergencies, debts, and covering all that life throws at us is a big job.

Get some help. Track your expenses.

Maybe it’s a custom spreadsheet. Maybe a budgeting app.

Just make sure it’s something. A lack of budget planning will keep you broke.

Full visibility into your finances will free you.

The Meta-Goal

Don't make the habit your goal. Make 100% tracking compliance your goal. The results will follow.

Review your tracked data regularly. Schedule these reviews. Daily. Weekly. Monthly. This simple act of self-observation will drive results, guaranteed.

It's basic human psychology.


Your next steps:

1. Subscribe to The Lever (if you haven't already)

This covers a science-based productivity concept each week, in about five minutes. Try a free chapter of my new book when you subscribe. And if you like it...

Peaceful Productivity outlines the time-management system I've created over the years as a ship's Captain and business executive. It will help you plan, prioritize, and get more of the right things done. Also available on Amazon  

This short course will teach you the fundamentals of a powerful timeblocking system to make sure you never miss an obligation and always show up prepared. Give yourself the space you need to create the life you deserve.

Smart systems to make you productive, prolific, and profitable | Find me on Twitter @SeanPHogue | Sign up here for the weekly newsletter, The Lever, and create some leverage in your life.


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