January 5, 2015

Measuring the Intangible: Why It’s So Important to Track Change

While I wrote about my 2014 year in review last week, and also declared my word of the year for 2015, you may have noticed that I haven’t yet blogged about my new year’s resolutions. Don’t worry, I still have them! It’s just that this year, some of my goals are pretty intangible, and I’m still trying to figure out exactly how I want to quantify them. I’m a big believer that you’ll never achieve what you can’t track… but I keep seeing a lot of commentary online that takes the opposite view.

This morning, I came across an interesting Forbes article: “If You Can’t Measure It, You Can’t Manage It”: Not True. I have to say that I kind of disagree with that – I think being able to measure your goals is critical to achieving them. Inspired, I then watched a great TED talk on the subject: Measuring What Makes Life Worthwhile. In it, hotelier Chip Conley points out that while many of the intangible things are certainly difficult to measure, they are also some of the most important to track, and that we should really make an effort to do so.

In the talk, Chip talks about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and how his business only had metrics to quantify how they were doing on the lowest tiers in the hierarchy. However, it wasn’t until the staff started focusing on how they were making guests feel that the guests started really increasing their loyalty and loving Chip’s brand. What I loved about this talk, compared to Liz Ryan’s Forbes article, was that while it captured how difficult it is to measure the intangible… it didn’t suggest that it was impossible to do so. In fact, Chip emphasizes that we should work harder to measure the intangibles, because they are frequently the most important.

I really loved Chip’s talk, as I’m a huge fan of measuring progress toward a goal. I believe that in order to see progress toward a goal, you have to measure it… especially if it’s a gradual change. When change happens gradually, you get used to the changes; sometimes, you might miss them entirely if you aren’t measuring them.

In the last 6 months, I’ve lost about 9 pounds. (Hooray for not traveling!) I see a slight difference in the way that my clothing fits, but I haven’t dropped a full size or anything big like that. And in fact, if I hadn’t been weighing myself regularly, I probably would have thought that I was just having a few less-bloated days… rather than that I was actually changing my body (and should keep doing what I’m doing).

When I look in the mirror, I’m still not 100% happy with the way my body looks. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I have a distorted body image, but I still think there are a few areas I’d like to tone up… and since all I see each day are the very gradual changes from one day to the next, it’s hard to recall the big picture of what I looked like six months ago and the change that I’ve made. So, while I know so many diet gurus tell you to “ditch the scale”, I am actually a big proponent of using it (as long as you don’t get too hung up on the numbers and remember that your weight naturally fluctuates quite a bit). I think a scale is really helpful for identifying overall trends – and I’m pretty proud of myself that my overall trend at the moment is getting more trim than I was before!

Recently, EatSmart Products was kind enough to send me their Precision MaxView Digital Bathroom Scale – and I wanted to share how much I liked it compared to my old scale. It’s really gorgeous, made of clear glass and with a large LCD display that has a pretty blue backlight, so it fits into basically any bathroom decor. It’s also much lighter than my old scale, which makes it easy to move it around as needed. Since I tend to keep my scale tucked behind the sink cabinet and then drag it out to the middle of the floor in order to weigh myself, I’m sure my downstairs neighbors appreciate the light weight! The Precision MaxView is really easy to calibrate, and unlike my old scale, you don’t need to “tap” it to activate it before stepping on – you can just jump right on and easily get a weight. It promises accurate measurement up to 400 lbs, and also comes with a two year warranty. Not bad at all for only $29.95!

Precision MaxView Digital Bathroom Scale
I’ve blurred out my weight, but trust me – it’s really clear!

While my old scale had a body fat percentage function, I never found it to be even a little bit accurate, and always just disregarded that number. The Precision MaxView doesn’t have a body fat; however, I really appreciated that instead, they include a high-quality tape measure in the box, making it easy for you to track changes in your measurements. Weight is definitely not the only measure of how your body is changing, and it’s nice to have measurements included to help holistically track progress! The tape measure has a little tab at the end of it and a hook on the other side of the device into which it fits, making it really easy to take round measurements (e.g., your wrist, your thigh, your waist) by yourself without dropping one end or lining it up improperly. Much better than having to ask someone else to help!

EatSmart Tape Measure
The brand name is also a great subtle reminder of what you should be doing all the time 🙂

Overall, I’m happy to have these tools in my arsenal to remind me that I’m doing the right thing for my body right now – and to keep it up! Now, I just need to figure out how I’m going to measure some of these intangible new year’s resolutions, and how to set a bar that will be challenging, but attainable…


7 thoughts on “Measuring the Intangible: Why It’s So Important to Track Change”

  1. let me know if you find a good solution…my most important goals are the intangible kind (marriage, spiritual, etc) and I find them so much harder to achieve than the ones you can measure (ie health related ones)! So I totally get you on this post!

    1. I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all solution; I think it’s more about working to identify a metric that would improve the intangibles. For example, if you want to work on a relationship, you could set a goal of saying at least one nice thing per day to the person; if your goal is to improve your spirituality, you could make it a goal to go to church at least once a week. Those might not work depending on what you want to improve about marriage/spirituality/etc but you could find a metric that WOULD help with it.

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