Importance of Numbers
What do researchers need to constantly stick to so they can get closer to the desired result?
What do people who want to lose weight need to have in mind every day?
How can you increase your financial performance?
The answer is the same: by knowing the numbers.
I don’t want to lose you before getting deeper into the facts, which is why I want to tell you that before reaching a desired outcome, you need to know where you are right now. It’s all about measuring.
For example, I want to start a diet and become more muscular. My diet should be rationally considered. For better results, I should also lifts weights.
Let’s say that one month has passed since I started dieting and going to the gym and I cannot see any improvements when looking into the mirror. I may be tempted to quit and follow my normal eating and exercising routines. I’d make the biggest mistake ever.
Now, even though the mirror may not show improvements, changes have certainly occurred. I may not see the differences like a person who didn’t see me for a month does.
I’m talking about the concept of body recomposition: you want to lose fat tissue and gain muscles at the same time (discussed by Tim Ferriss in the 4-Hour Body – see the reference at the end). You may end up adding some weight eventually because the muscle is heavier than fat. So, do not be fooled by only measuring yourself using the scale.
In this situation and in similar situations you should get all your important sizes (arms, legs, waist, chest, etc) every few days. Here is where you will see the differences as you go along. You can also measure your body fat percentage to reflect the changes.
As you see how the numbers change, you know what part of your diet or exercise should you keep following or what part of it you should stop engaging in. You can play with the variables and see the results. Once again, it’s all about measuring!
A Lifetime of Measurements
This applies to all parts of life, not only dieting. Peter Drucker, the management guru, said that “What gets measured, gets done!”
Facts are facts and what you put on paper stays there. Whenever you engage into following an objective and the objective is measurable, if you don’t measure the performance through multiple points on the timeline of the objective, you will not see the differences as they occur and your motivation will decrease (if this is harder for you to grasp, you will understand by looking at the graphic below).
Sticking to losing weight, if you go from 100 kg to 80 kg in 5 months you may see the difference because you know the big points in the timeline: the 100kg point from the beginning of the diet and the 80 kg point at the end. However, if you do not log what you eat, how you exercise, how you sleep, and other variables as well, you may not be able to lose the next 10 kg, which is what you are left to reach the desired weight.
The same goes for daily activities. Successful people make plans (daily plans, monthly plans, yearly plans, etc). Every night before going to sleep they make a list of the things to be accomplished the next day. The items on the list are prioritized based on their importance.
Try it for a week. You will see the tremendous changes in your productivity and efficiency. Making daily plans and adding items on your “to do” list does not have to do a lot with numbers, but it’s more about data.
Having the data at the end of the next day will help you a lot when evaluating how much from your list you had accomplished. You will be able to reflect on it, interpret it and make conclusions.
You will be a better self the next day. You will know what to do and what not to do because you saw how your activities from yesterday impacted your performance.
What about personal finances?
If you are one of those types who log everything they purchase in a month, then you know the importance of doing so. Based on your logs, at the end of the month you will be able to see the categories on which you spent the most. You will be able to draw conclusions and become better in spending and saving money in the future.
Nowadays it is simple to log everything you do. For example, for personal accounting purposes there is an application on Android powered phones called EasyMoney (there are plenty similar apps). It has a free and a paid version.
I personally go with the free version and it has helped me a lot with managing my finances so far. I’ve been using it for a year and I’ve been noticing, for example, that I spend just about the same amount of money on food each month regardless of planning for it to be that way. Quite interesting!
Analyzing my expenses, I was able to reduce costs in areas of my life that are less important. I also found out I spend a lot of money on coffee. The app is simple and very easy to use (the printscreen of the app is not mine – even though I wish I’d have $11,000 in the bank :).
With EasyMoney you can backup the data on a computer and further analyze it in Excel and you can visualize your expenses based on different categories. I’m sure that similar apps can be found on the iPhone or on other mobile devices.
What I’m trying to point out here is about the power of raw data and numbers. They are all over the place. You need to know and log the data and the numbers in your life, in all areas. Just open your eyes and use them in your benefit, or they will use you.
Take some time to gather data and numbers, like 3-4 days up to a week. Then see how you can create a report based on the data. Use software if you can. If you can’t, just use a pen and a sheet of paper. I’m extremely positive that you will find ways to improve your life, cut costs, increase performance, and become more productive.
Do this experiment and leave me a comment in either of the sections below to let me know about your findings.
Albrecht, K. (2008). Practical Intelligence: The Art and Science of Common Sense.
Tim Ferriss – The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman (current)