You can't manage what you don't measure

As you may have read my previous posts on healthy working, I have been endeavouring to better manage some of my day-to-day lifestyle habits.

When it came to general activity levels, it was the data from my Fitbit which made me realise just how little activity my normal routine required. On the weekends, we love cycling and canoeing and with two young children have no choice than to be pretty active. However during the week, as someone who spends s lot of time sitting at a desk, or sitting on trains or driving, it was quite concerning to see just how sedentary my working habits caused me to be.

Without saying what the specific habit was, but last year I decided to track another habit relating to my diet that I thought might warrant attention. So I used a google spreadsheet, with colour coding to represent if the day was all good (green) marginal (amber) or anything above marginal (red). Again, tracking these over the course of the year was quite an eye opener, and which spurred the decision to try to change that habit this year.

At the start of the month I put a ‘Days to go’ tally on my white-board:

2015 04 22 11 21 10

However, I found that counting-down gave me a focus on the end, which meant I was focusing on the thing I was trying to avoid, rather than on the achievement to date. So I switched it around, to being a ‘Days achieved’ tally:

2015 04 22 11 22 13

While they both effectively measure the same data, they give opposite perspective. The former runs the risk of missing my goal, and mentally penalising myself, the latter allowed me to feel better about myself, each day that I achieved.

This is a snapshot of my google spreadsheet for the first 7 weeks of the year (rotated to fit the post better) – as such the bottom row was this year, the upper row 2014:

Screenshot 2015 04 22 11 16 00 rotate


I didn’t quite manage my goal, which was to completely abstain for the month, but in viewing it from a positive habit forming perspective, I found it really positive to make the comparison, and to see the improvement.

This actually encouraged me to continue trying to adjust the habit.

This is my google spreadsheet for the year to date (2015 at the bottom, 2014 above):

Screenshot 2015 04 22 11 16 56 rotate


There are various pieces of research which suggest that it takes 66 days to form new habits. As today is day 112 of the year, then I’ve hopefully got this new habit well established…. but part of what also helps me to remain mindful, is looking forward to seeing how the rest of this chart looks by the end of the year:

Screenshot 2015 04 22 11 17 24 rotate