Eric Karjaluoto

Why You Shouldn’t Step on the Scale

We all want to see numbers that show our progress. This is made even more common, due to the Quantified Self movement (which can make you a little, “measurement-crazy”). Such behavior brings with it some notable problems.

Why even bother?

Let’s say you’re on a diet. You avoid the foods you love, and follow all the rules of this regimen. In the morning, before coffee, you weigh in to check your progress. One of two things is bound to happen.

The first, is that you witness a surprising drop in your weight (perhaps a pound, in one day). This sets up an expectation that you’ll lose the same amount within the next 24 hours. Imagine stepping on that scale, the next day. You’re full of excitement—only to find that you’re up two pounds.

This shouldn’t surprise you. Small data-sets tend to provide wonky numbers. Could be that you ate something dense. Maybe, you’re better hydrated. Perhaps one of your weigh-ins was pre/post-poop. In any event, this number shouldn’t be enough to shake your resolve—but it often does.

The second, and more probable, result is that you see hardly any change from the day prior. This is particularly frustrating. Having that unflinching number stare back at you is an insult—a mockery. The scale is telling you that skipped that glass of wine for nothing. After a couple of weeks of the same, you’ll probably give up and eat the entire bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, in one sitting.

Give us a little time

This same thing happens in business, all the time. You start a new blog, and write your best stuff—but daily visits remain the same. You redesign your brand identity, but no one seems to notice. You make a bunch of sales calls, but no one wants to buy. Again, it’s easy to quit—but if you do that, you’ll never get anywhere.

Remember: just because you decided to make a big change, doesn’t mean the universe is ready for you, yet. So, you need to keep doing the work, and give the rest of us a little time to catch up.

Part of this involves putting on your blinders. Truth is, the amount you lost/gained in the past 24 hours doesn’t matter. What does, is that you form a habit you can maintain over the long term. You can’t let initial data, undue comparisons, or a lack of faith get in your way.

Today’s numbers aren’t that important

So, I suggest you do something different from what most in business suggest. Instead of measuring everything, I say you start by measuring nothing. Now, determine what you wish to achieve and outline a sensible approach. Then create a habit that supports this strategy.

Some will read this and argue that I’m too scared to face real numbers. I say the opposite is the case. It’s easy to follow the same “measure and react” dictum that everyone else is. The brave move is to ignore what the sheep do—and instead follow your own direction. In doing so, you stand to make remarkable change.

If you want to lose some weight, start by going for a half-hour walk at lunch. Or, swap your snack-time cookie for an apple. Your change needn’t be monumental—in fact, smaller ones are often more manageable. You need to do something you can keep doing, every day.

If you want to grow your user-base, work on making one small improvement a day, to your app. If you want to increase your average sale, have more conversations with those who buy. (This will help you learn what they want and what you’re missing.) If you want to generate more web traffic for you blog, skip your favorite TV program. Take the time you’ve saved and dedicate it to writing.

Your new normal

At first, this’ll feel weird. Most changes to what you’re accustomed to, do. This sensation will pass, though. In fact, in not so long, you won’t even notice this change. Soon enough, it’ll simply be what you do.

Then do your weigh-in, check your analytics, or whatever. Odds are, you won’t need to, though, because you’ll already know. Your pants will feel looser. Customers will talk about what you do. Or, readers will share your posts.

Few actions have immediate rewards. In the rare instance that there are such gains, these are almost never lasting. Expecting something different for yourself is childish—and will only leave you disappointed.

Habits are different. They amount to little immediate return, but offer substantial results when repeated. So, avoid measuring your progress at the outset. Instead, keep practicing your habits. It might not amount to much, today. Give it a year, though, and this decision might change everything for you.

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