You get what you measure. What my treadmill taught me about metrics.

Everyone knows that you get what you measure. But what my treadmill taught me is, you get what you measure whether you have goals or not!

I decided to start running again and I set three guidelines or goals for myself:

  1. Run everyday.
  2. Run 3 miles a day.
  3. Run on the treadmill.

I decided it had to be on the treadmill because when I run outside I have a tendency to start walking if I start thinking about anything interesting. (Hey, my brain needs that oxygen!)

But running on the treadmill turned out to be really good for another reason: I track those numbers, I measure those numbers, I compete with those numbers. Because my treadmill tracks time elapsed, speed, heart rate and average speed, I do my best to make those numbers better. Not because I have a goal set for them but just because they are there. If I'm going to look at those numbers, I'm going to make those good numbers.

So because those numbers are staring at me, I've created my goals for speed, heart rate and average speed. And every time I run, I work really hard to make those numbers better than the last time.

So if you want to make sure things get done, make sure you are measuring the numbers that you want to improve. If you want lots of Friends of GNOME, don't just say you want to raise $20,000 in 2009. Publish how many people have signed up, how much you have raised and update those numbers frequently in a prominent place. (And think about whether you want lots of people or lots of money or both because whichever one you measure, you'll get.)

P.S. And I should point out that since my goal was 3 miles/day, I only run 3 miles. Never 4. Another thing to think about when setting goals.

Photo by buzz.bishop.