“Accountability breeds response-ability.” – Stephen Covey
If you have been following this weekly blog, thank you! This week’s challenge is to determine if you have been successful at adopting some of the habits I have suggested or any other habits you have decided to adopt. The best way to become consistent is to track our consistency.
“What gets measured gets managed.” – Peter Drucker
What gets measured gets managed, simply means that examining an activity forces us to pay more attention to it. The simple act of measuring and recording forces us to make more thoughtful choices and decisions. Budget experts have found that daily logging expenses can help people cut their spending by making them more mindful of how they spend their money.
The same is true for logging our food. A 2009 weight loss study found that participants who were asked to log their food naturally began to identify patterns, which made them want to do a better job of planning their meals ahead of time; this, in turn, led to healthier food choices. The group that kept food logs lost twice as much weight as the other study participants that did not log their foods. [i]
MyFitnessPal released an astonishing statistic that 88% of people who logged their food for seven days lost weight.[ii] The more you track, the greater your likelihood of reaching your goals. Your progress must be measurable to achieve it, and the act of measuring will automatically modify your behavior.
“If you want it, measure it. If you can’t measure it, forget it.” Peter Drucker.
Activity trackers work on the same concept of what gets measured gets managed. Monitoring your daily activity will automatically cause you to modify your behavior and become more active daily. You will start taking the stairs more often and parking your car further away from building entrances. Each time you hit your daily goal, it generates another small win. Small wins will help you stay motivated.
I think a simple notepad is one of the most powerful self-improvement tools in existence when used to log activity. Logging the activity creates awareness. Awareness is the first step in changing behavior. It is the first step toward transformation. When you log an activity, you become more mindful of your decisions, big and small.
Often it is the small, seemingly insignificant decisions that are sabotaging our success. Eating that cookie in the break room, losing valuable time by allowing yourself to become distracted while working on something important, skipping a workout, or staying up late watching TV instead of getting a good night’s sleep. Anyone of these decisions by themselves isn’t devastating, but their accumulative effects are. Whatever it is you want to improve, your time management, your leadership, your relationships, your business, your eating patterns, your exercise consistency, or your spending can be tracked. Be relentless. Track everything related to the behavior you want to improve. Awareness is the first step toward transformation. Bad habits are the result of neglect. Mindfulness prevents us from mindlessly doing things that are sabotaging us.
I am a firm believer in Peter Drucker’s management principle “What gets measured gets managed.” Anyone that has ever kept a financial spending log or food log knows that they changed their spending or eating behavior when they kept a record of the activity. When we monitor an activity, we naturally become more mindful of our choices. We automatically modify our behavior and make better decisions. It is so simple to understand, I am always amazed how many people don’t use it to improve their personal or professional performance.
If you really want to change a behavior track it for at least a week, a month would be even better, two months optimal. If you want to improve your performance, you must track your performance. If you cannot track it, you will not achieve it. Everything and anything you want to improve can be measured. You might think some things can’t be measured, like building employee loyalty, but I would argue it can.
If a leader wants to build loyalty in their organization, they could decide that twice a week they are going to visit two employees whose managers say they have been doing a great job and paying them a compliment for their excellent work. She could then inquire as to how they are doing and ask if there are any resources they need, including training, to help them be even more effective. Tracking her consistency would be the lead indicators, and quarterly feedback from culture surveys would be the lag indicator. Loyalty is a two-way street. Showing employees that the leadership values their contribution, and is committed to their professional development is how you earn loyalty.
Awareness is the first step in transformation. If we are serious about improving any area of our life, we need some method of tracking the behavior. You could use habit-forming apps like Strides, Streaks, Fabulous, and Toodledo, help you track and develop new habits. The Strides app allows you to create instant habits by programming action triggers. You can program multiple reminders for each task, and the app tracks your consistency.
Maintaining a checklist is a simple, very effective method of tracking consistency. Sabina Nawaz wrote a great article on the subject for the Harvard Business Review, Break Bad Habits with a Simple Checklist.[iii] The author suggests you make a list of daily habits you need to abandon and the new ones you need to adopt to move your career forward. The list you create must be actionable. If you are overly critical, you will create a daily habit of showing appreciation; paying someone a compliment each day for their good work. Recognizing what people do well, instead of fault finding.
Many people have an irrational dislike for checklists, but their effectiveness is undeniable. The New York Times Best Seller, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, demonstrates the effectiveness of checklists. The author was inspired to write the book based on the amazing effectiveness a 5-point checklist had on reducing death rates in Intensive Care Units (ICU’s).[iv]
The checklist addressed one of the most preventable causes of death in ICUs, central-line-associated bloodstream infections. The checklist reduced infection rates by 66% and is estimated to have saved 1,500 lives in its first three months of implementation during the Michigan Keystone: ICU Project.[v]
What was on this amazingly effective checklist? The checklist included: washing of hands; cleaning the patient’s skin with chlorhexidine antiseptic; putting sterile drapes over the entire patient; wearing a sterile mask, hat, gown, and gloves; and putting a sterile dressing over the catheter site once the line is in.
Many doctors resisted the checklist. They felt it was just another form to complete, and that it would prevent them from spending more time attending to the patient. Some felt the list insulted their intelligence since the items were so rudimentary. Nurses had to be empowered to enforce the checklist because doctors were often the ones omitting a step. Even after the results were announced some still thought it was not necessary, but when asked whether they would want the checklist used if they were having an operation, 93 percent said yes!
I have developed two checklists you can use to help track your consistency. I hope you will accept this week’s challenge and measure your consistency. We become what we consistently do. To be better, we have to consistently do better.
“We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do.” – Aristotle
“We become what we want to be by consistently being what we want to become each day.” Richard G. Scott
Until next week, good luck!
We become what we CONSISTENTLY DO. Change your habits, change your life!
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[i] Lora E. Burke, PhD, MPH, FAHA, FAAN, Jing Wang, PhD, MPH, RN, Graduate Student Researcher, and Mary Ann Sevick, ScD, RN, Research Scientist, “Self-Monitoring in Weight Loss: A Systematic Review of the Literature,” J Am Diet Assoc. 2011 Jan; 111(1): 92–102. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2010.10.008.
[ii] Mike Lee, “MyFitnessPal Works if You Use It,” MyFitnessPal, November 17, 2014.
[iii] Sabina Nawaz, “Break Bad Habits with a Simple Checklist,” Harvard Business Review, February 10, 2017.
[iv] Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, Picador; Reprint edition (January 4, 2011)
[v] Sandeep Jauhar, “One Thing After Another,” The New York Times, January 22, 2010.