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.

6 Replies to “You get what you measure. What my treadmill taught me about metrics.”

  1. Please don’t run every single day. Your joints will suffer, especially if your not a seasoned runner (even on a treadmill). Try to mix something else in with it. And take at least 1 day off a week. Just some friendly advice.

  2. Interesting.
    I had sort of a similar experience with applying SMART at work.
    It got nowhere talking about doing it, so I decided to jump the gun and start with the M and published results. Slowly new metrics were added and the other letters started to be used 🙂
    Measuring and thinking of why you measure it is sometimes more useful than the actual metrics 🙂

  3. I was going to talk about that in another post. I’ve decided I don’t believe in the work out every other day method anymore.
    Exercise should be a part of your daily routine – our bodies are made to do stuff everyday. And running/walking is a pretty natural activity, so I think it’s ok to do everyday. (I may regret my decision later but so far so good.)

  4. I think it’s ok to do a few miles every day, your body should be able to handle it if you have no previous problems. (It’s always advisable to consult a physician when starting to exercise from “level 0”.)
    Make sure to revise your goals every few weeks, when the exercise shows effects.
    If you were practicing for some competition, like athletes do, same-every-day would not be the way to go.

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