I was in agony as I opened up the fridge…
I had just begun a new “time-restricted eating” habit where I could only eat between the hours of 10 AM and 6 PM.
I change up my diet plan about once per quarter so I'm continuously learning and experimenting to see what works best for me.
This time-restricted eating was the hardest yet.
I'm used to having a big breakfast and now I needed to wait until 10 AM to eat.
On this particular day, I thought there was no way I was going to make it. Then I checked out the app I use to track my progress— Zero.
Seeing my fasting streak, my fasting average, and all the other metrics surrounding my progress, I got a renewed sense of faith that I could cross the finish line without eating.
There was no motivational speech that I needed to watch, no guilt I needed to instill in myself for wanting to eat, no other trick that I needed in order to succeed.
I just needed to see the data.
Two months later, not only have I fully embraced this habit of time restricted eating, I have actually narrowed the time that I eat from 10 AM to 6 PM down to 10 AM to 2 PM.
All because I started tracking the data until it became a habit.
Self-awareness is the first step to self-improvement. And the same principle that helped me make a habit of time restricted eating has also helped me:
- Improve my mental health
- Improve my physical health
- Strengthen my relationships
- Make the most of my time
Here are the 10 metrics I use to track success in each of these areas:
Category: Mental Health
Success Metric: Meditate for 1 hour/day
App Used: Headspace
The most important value in my life is mental health.
Everything good, bad, happy, sad, it is all a matter of how your mind interprets your world.
Your mind can make a hell of heaven — or a heaven of hell.
That's why the most important metric that I track is whether or not I got at least one hour of meditation every day.
In total, I'm up to over 1,000 hours of meditation at this point, but I would have never got there if I didn't make sure that every single day for the last several years I've got in at least one hour of meditation.
I'm not perfect, of course, but thanks to keeping track of this metric, I’m close.
I know that one hour of meditation probably sounds like a lot – and it is. But I didn't start with one hour a day. I started with 10 minutes a day, then 20 minutes a day, then built up from there.
I highly recommend that you adopt a meditation practice in your own life. To help you start, I recommend the Headspace meditation app – which helps you track your progress and create a daily practice.
If it doesn't seem like you have time to meditate, I recommend waking up 30 minutes earlier than you normally would and meditating during that time (I wake up every day at 5 AM and meditate until 6 AM).
The science on whether or not meditation can replace sleep is mixed. But I personally start the day more refreshed after an hour of meditation than if I were to sleep that hour.
That is not to say, however, that sleep is not important.
Category: Mental Health
Success Metric: 14-day Sleep Score
App Used: Under Armour Record
Between April and October 2017 was probably the hardest six months of my life.
I was barely scraping by with Willpowered and really fighting to get a new product called Educo Community off the ground.
Before that time, I thought that the right thing to do as an entrepreneur is to cut back on as much sleep as possible and dedicate yourself 100% to work work work.
However, that philosophy led to frustration, poor decision-making, and missed deadlines.
So in April 2017, I started going to bed and waking up at the same time every single day no matter what. It was then that I realized how much more clear-minded, focused, and disciplined I was when I had a good night's sleep.
If I hadn't changed my sleep habits, I doubt Willpowered would still be around today.
In order to get the most accurate effective metric, I shoot to get an "80" sleep score on the Under Armor Record app. This takes into account the last two weeks of your sleep, how consistent you were, how many hours you got, etc.
A perfect score is 85, so shooting for 80 ensures that I'm getting quality sleep on a consistent basis – leaving me refreshed, alert, and ready to face any challenges that are ahead in the day.
Since adopting the practice of trying to be as consistent as possible, I have found that I am never sleepy throughout the day. Tired yes, exhausted yes, but never sleepy. And that is crucial when trying to perform at your best.
Category: Mental Health
Success Metric: Journal Entries/Week
App Used: Drafts
The final mental health metric that I track is journaling on a daily basis.
I try to shoot for six journal entries per week – as usually there is one day where it is difficult to get the time to have a full journal entry.
I have written about the benefits of journaling before.It allows you to gain a new perspective on the things that happened during the day, which allows you to see things in a new way, thus improving your creativity.
As my practice of journaling has matured, however, I have grown to find even more benefits from it.
Using the Drafts app, I can dictate all of my journal entries (which is why you can see some spelling errors in the image above.)
The process of speaking all the things that happened throughout the day out loud helps me to make sense of what they mean.
This is extremely therapeutic. It helps me more than writing everything down on a computer because then you can't hear how your problems sound out loud.
Having said that, if it is not an option for you to dictate your journal, it is still a beneficial process to get all of the ideas that you had throughout the day on paper and out of your head.
When ideas are in your head, you repeat them over and over and over again.
When you get those ideas down on paper, however, you can gain a new perspective on those ideas and dig deeper to find the lessons hidden in your problems.
The act of trying to make sense of all of your thoughts, feelings, and emotions helps you by allowing you to find meaning in the adversity, work, challenges, and problems you face.
It is this ability to make sense of my problems that led me to believe that journaling is almost as vital to my mental health as meditation or sleep.
Category: Physical Health
Success Metric: Workout plans completed/week
App Used: Strong
Moving on to the thing I value most in life after mental health – physical health.
Being both mentally and physically healthy is what allows you to be your best self for your family, friends, and coworkers.
It doesn’t matter how important you are, how much money you have, or how much free time you have if you are sick. So it is vitally important to track your physical health.
Trying to track the success of my workouts on a consistent basis has been one of the most difficult things for me. What should the metric of success?
Number of miles run?
Amount of weight lifted in the gym?
Especially as I have grown older and stopped competing in the Spartan Race, I have learned that your results aren’t a valuable metric to track your success.
When coming up with a metric for tracking your progress, you want to choose something that you have complete control over.
The best metric that I have found that allows for this is completing your workout plan for the day – whatever that may be.
My goal right now is to put on muscle. So I am currently lifting weights five days per week and resting two days. I plan out all of my workouts ahead of time, usually building on the progress I made the week before.
Then I just need to follow the plan – even if that plan is simply to rest for the day.
Success with your workouts is simple, but difficult. You likely will not fail because you chose the wrong plan, you will likely fail because you didn’t follow it.
If you can track your success rate in following whatever plan works best for your goals, you will be much more likely to reach those goals.
To plan and track my workouts, I use an app called "Strong" for iOS. I highly recommend checking it out – especially if you have an Apple Watch. It is constantly improving and worth every penny.
Category: Physical Health
Success Metric: Successful Fasts/Week
App Used: Zero
As mentioned in my introduction, I am currently following a time restricted eating habit.
To see the full list of benefits of time restricted feeding, I highly recommend you check out these resources.
But, to sum it up, the main benefits of time restricted eating result from taking it easy on your digestive system.
With time restricted eating, your digestive system only needs to work for a few hours per day. So it can use the rest of the time to clear out old, dead cells and replace them with healthy new ones.
According to Dr. Rhonda Patrick, in order to get all of the benefits of this diet, you only need to do it five days a week. Which gives you some flexibility to eat whenever you would like on the weekends or at important social gatherings.
If you are to try this yourself, know that it is going to be extremely difficult at first. But eventually, your body will get used to it – and you will begin to love it.
Success Metric: Promises kept
App Used: Trello
Moving on from physical health, the next most important value to me are my relationships with others.
This could be family, this could be friends, this could be coworkers, it could be anybody in your life who is important to you.
One of the best ways to show another person how much you care about them is to make and follow through on your promises.
So, whenever I make a promise to someone, I write down that promise, write down what I need to do to accomplish that promise, and what date I must follow through.
Then I track how many promises I have outstanding and how many I have completed.
By tracking how many promises I have outstanding, I never leave another person hanging simply because I forgot what I promised to do for them.
Since beginning this practice, I have become much more reliable, much more dependable, and much more trustworthy to my friends, my family, and my coworkers.
To track all of my promises, I use "Trello" – a project management app.
Whatever you currently do to track your tasks should work perfectly well for this. The most important thing is to just keep track of what you promised, when the promise is due, and what you need to do to follow through for that other person.
Success Metric: Average Leadership Score
App Used: Leadership Checklist
I believe everybody who wants to become a leader needs a leadership philosophy that they stick to no matter what.
My leadership philosophy follows the acronym, “PREACH.“
This is getting a little bit more detailed, but at the end of every day, I ask myself six questions to ensure that I was the kind of leader that I wanted to be that day.
Preparation – Were you prepared for all meetings, calls, and crises?
Reliability – Were you reliable to all team members, clients, and customers?
Expertise – Did you ask the right questions and provide the right answers when needed?
Accountability – Were you accountable for all tasks and promises you made to others?
Calm – Were you calm and levelheaded in the face of adversity today?
Honesty – Did you tell the truth or, at least, not lie?
For my leadership metrics, I want to say “yes” to those answers at least 90% of the time. Thus, I have continually updated percentage of times I said “yes.”
8. Eat my Frog
Success Metric: Days of eating my frog
App Used: Trello
Moving onto the fourth most important value to me – time.
Time is a far more valuable resource than money.
Time is a resource that doesn't go up and down. Once it is gone, it's gone forever. No matter how rich Bill Gates gets, he will never be able to buy back the last year of his life.
We don't get second chances – so we better spend our time wisely.
The most important practice I do on a daily basis in order to maximize my time is to "eat my frog" first thing every day.
By this, I obviously don't mean that I actually eat a frog. I'm referring instead to this quote by Mark Twain.
“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” – Mark Twain
Twain was advocating that if you do the hardest thing on your to do list first thing in the morning, the rest of the day doesn't seem so bad.
Not only does doing the hardest thing first thing in the morning put your mind at ease, because at least you accomplish the hardest thing on your list, but it also sets the tone for the rest of the day.
It sends the message going to confront your challenges head-on today.
On the days that I don't eat my frog first, not only is it a greater agony because I didn't get the hardest thing on my to-do list done right away, it is also harder to take on the other tasks.
Because I didn't start the day by embracing challenge. I started by running away from it.
To accomplish my frog first thing in the morning every single day, I break down my hardest task the night before into three or four manageable chunks.
That way, when I start my day at 7 AM, all I need to do is take each of those manageable steps one at a time in order to get the job done.
9. Deep Work
Success Metric: Hours of deep work/Week
App Used: Leadership Checklist
Many of us are more worried about "looking busy" than getting the job done.
I am very lucky to be able to do my work remotely, so it's more important that I get results than look busy getting those results.
Deep work is a concept articulated by Cal Newport – a professor at Georgetown University and one of the top minds on how to turn down the volume on our noisy world so we can work on the things that matter.
Deep work is when you completely shut down all potential distractions to accomplish work that is more difficult and more meaningful to you.
I cannot write this article and watch a movie in the background. I cannot edit this article and answer texts at the same time. And every time my mind gets distracted, it takes a significant amount of time to get back to the same level of focus and productivity.
Things like writing, developing products, and other complex tasks that are not easily replicable are the type of work that really stands out in the world.
The more time you can spend doing deep work, the better you will be at complex tasks, and the better you will be able to compete in the marketplace of the future.
I try to spend at least 20 hours a week on deep work – whether that is personal or professional work.
To keep track of this, I just take note of the time that I shut down all notifications on my phone and computer and tally up my time at the end of the week.
I highly recommend you check out Cal Newport‘s book, Deep Work , and put this practice to work in your own life.
Success Metric: Plans Outstanding
App Used: Trello
"A goal without a plan is just a wish." - Antoine de Saint Exupery
When we think about willpower, we typically think about playing defense. We think about seeing the temptation in front of us and summoning the willpower to resist it.
We do not plan on how we are going to resist temptation ahead of time. We do not think to identify the situations where we will be tempted to veer away from our goals and set ourselves up to resist that temptation.
Rather than using our willpower to work on a project a little bit each day, we procrastinate until the last minute and depend on it for a rush of productivity at the end.
To get the most out of our limited willpower, this is the opposite of what we should be doing.
That is why for every metric listed above, I have a plan for achieving it.
By tracking the plans that I have for each of these metrics, I am able to ensure that I am always playing offense.
By playing offense, I can assess which plans work, which plans don’t, and how to change the strategy to improve each metric.
Planning is the glue that holds all of these metrics together. It ensures that the time that I spend working on each of the above is spent wisely.
Self awareness is the first step toward self improvement.
No matter what your goal, you will have a much better chance of achieving it if you start by coming up with a success metric, assessing where you are currently with that metric, and setting a goal to improve it.
I didn't want to share my “scorecard“ with you because I think these are the most important metrics for everybody.
I wanted to share it because tracking these metrics helps me move toward success in the things that matter most to me – my mental health, my physical health, my relationships, and my time.
What you value most in life will likely be different than what I value most.
But whatever you value most in life, I am sure that those things will improve if you find a metric, find a behavior, and find a way to improve.
I wish you all the best with your own personal and professional “scorecard.“