Measure What Matters to Achieve What You Want

April 20, 2021, 4:26 p.m.

There’s a popular saying amongst entrepreneurs that goes something like “You are what you measure.” The meaning behind this quote is that the metrics that a business chooses to focus on will ultimately determine its fate over the long run. If a business focuses on profitability as its primary metric, then its business decisions will reflect that -- maybe via cost cutting or headcount reduction in order to turn a profit as quickly as possible. On the other hand, if a business were trying to optimize for long term growth, this might lead it to emphasize reinvesting profits over a long period of time instead of the aforementioned cost-cutting strategy.

This business-related example applies to our own lives as well. Just as businesses have goals of launching products, hitting revenue milestones, or going public, we as individuals have goals of losing weight, learning a new language, or finally getting that promotion at work. However, far too many of us set goals with such enthusiasm at the beginning only to see time pass and have no progress to show for it.

The Currency of Our Lives

If money is the unit of measurement for businesses to evaluate their progress towards goals, what’s the unit of measurement for a person’s life? Time. A person’s life really is just a collection of hours and minutes spent doing various activities.

These micro-choices that we make over the course of our lives on how we spend our time is ultimately what forms our identity and ultimately our legacy when we leave this Earth.

Imagine we could visualize a person’s entire life as a pie chart. Now take a look at this hypothetical person:


What could we say about Person A? Some words we could use are athletic, active, multi-talented, social, extroverted, healthy.

Notice that there’s a slice of the pie chart labeled “consumption.” By consumption we mean activities that are purely for pleasure and don’t give you any sort of long-term progress towards the goals and self-identity that you want. Things like binging Netflix, browsing the Internet, or playing video games are examples of consumption activities.

While everyone participates in consumption activities from time-to-time and they are great for recharging your batteries, being mindful of time spent in this category is extremely important for getting more out of each day, especially in the modern world which is filled with distraction. The larger the consumption slice is in the pie chart of your life, the less space you have for the meaningful activities that will shape your life over the long-run.

Work Backwards from your End State

Now that we have this mental model for being deliberate with our time, how do we apply this to our lives? The first step is to have a goal of the person you want to be -- for example, if you want to be an in-shape, well-read entrepreneur, then work backwards from that vision of yourself to structure each of your days towards hitting that goal.

Too many of us set ambitious future goals and then get caught up in a daily routine of work, drinking, and consumption activities. If you’ve had a goal recently that you ultimately missed the mark on, how did you prepare for that goal? What would your hypothetical pie-chart have looked like?