Measuring progress

Reading time ~2 minutes

If you can measure it, you can manage it.

That was something I heard a former Wal-Mart CEO, Mike Duke, say at the WSJ ECO:nomics 2014 conference; “If you can measure it, you can manage it.” I think it’s best to measure everything we can, and ideally our progress in different aspects of our life.

So how do you measure progress?

Once I accidentally typed that phrase, ‘So how do you measure progress?’, into my phone, while trying to type something completely different and unrelated. Maybe some super advanced entity, be it an alien or god (who may be one in the same), injected that text into what I was writing on my phone. It did spur my thinking though, so if you hear me, aliens/god/alien god, firstly, I respect you, secondly, thanks for the tip.

It made me reflect on how I measure progress in my own life–day to day, hour by hour, how much do I get done? How do I know I’m making progress? How do you measure progress? Probably the best way is by tracking how you spend your time, and tracking results–but this proves difficult. For one, I rapidly switch tasks all the time, being a bit ADD. Secondly, my tasks are spread out over computers, phones, and the physical world. Thirdly, it’s a pain to log all of that manually. Obviously, it should be automatic so I don’t even have to think about it.

Monitoring progress of physical excercise would probably be the easiest–I could have a beacon on my exercise equipment, or some sort of device that measures heart rate or something like that. It would track the time exercised, and use my phone to get distance/altitude travelled to see if my speed is increasing with more exercise. For computer/phone work, there are numerous apps out there to track your progress. For programming, github, bitbucket, etc can be used and analyzed. For reading, I’ve wanted to build an app that tracks how fast I read, but haven’t started. If you’re trying to lose weight, you can use an IoT scale. For money, there’s Mint, or other, open-source alternatives (which don’t fund lobbying to further complicate the US tax code for the benefit of tax-preparers, like Intuit (owner of Mint)). For projects and building things, theres scrumy, asana, etc to track how much and how fast you’ve done it.

The other reason I want to measure progress is for profit-sharing of open-source hardware and software. I want to be able to track the progress I and others make on the open-source creations, so the profit from them can properly be doled out.

I’ll finish with a nice quote by Lord Kelvin regarding quantification: “When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.”

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