Tracking What I Do Versus What I Say I'll Do
mood & emotion | productivity | stress
For years, Eli Ricker has tracked her self-created "Life Satisfaction" score and whether or not she did what she said she would. She’ll describe what this practice taught her about effective goal setting, true productivity, and deeper satisfaction.
So, I had just come out of starting a company with some friends right after MIT, and we threw our hearts and souls into it. I also just threw a lot of boxes everywhere apparently, and my life was just kind of in a disaster state.
So, I had been telling myself for a long time that I was going to clean it up, I didn’t. That series of lies that I had been telling to myself was starting to erode my soul, so I realized that something needed to be done. And I had no more excuses because the startup was done.
So, eventually I was able to clean it up. It’s kind of a before and after picture. Admittedly, my interior decoration skills are not tremendously amazing, so the after is still not impressive, but it was at least functional.
So, what I learned in this process is that I could go from basically dysfunctional to functional and also from lying to myself continually to actually following through in what I said I would do. So I thought, hey, maybe I should apply this to the rest of my life. There are probably other areas in my life where I’m systematically not doing exactly what I would say I’m going to do, and this would probably improve my sense of self-trust.
So, what happened at that point was, and this was around 2010, and I was trying to develop a system so that I could apply this to every part of my life. So, there is a lot of text on there, and I’ll get into that in a second. The details of that don’t specifically matter. I’m just going to tell you about the system.
So, I realized that I wanted to do something that would have a few different parts. So, there is first dream, then say what you’re going to do. Then do it. Most likely screw up, analyze what happened and then repeat the process.
So, I managed to pull some friends into the process and this has been going on basically from 2010, 2011, so every year, sadly I’ve gone through many accountability partners because not everyone is as excited in quantifying their lives as I am. I’m sure all of you have experienced that at certain points, where people look at you and they’re like, really, you’re quantifying that? That’s interesting.
So, it was actually a straight forward system. We ended up relying for the most part on Google Docs and Google Spreadsheets. I tried to convince my accountability buddies to use lots of other apps, including some of the ones that are exhibited here, which I personally love. But they wouldn’t buy into it, so back to Google Docs we went.
So it was straightforward. Once a year we would dream just really, really big like that very excited lady on the zip line. Dream big, then say exactly what we were planning to do that year, then break it down into a quarterly basis. So, the first meeting was annual, the second meeting was that quarter, and then every single week we would have a check-in.
So, in both professional and in personal, I had accountability promises and I was attempting to have the percentage of things of that I said that I was going to do actually be high relative to what I did.
So okay, how do you actually pull that off? How do you go from saying that you’re going to do a bunch of things to actually doing them?
So for me, sadly I experimented with lots of different things. Apparently, I respond to punishment. I was just hoping that I was more intrinsically motivated. It turns out that punishment worked out decently well.
So, what you see is the first quarter there, there are just lots of punishment and I was failing a lot at and nice way to do ratios. And just to clarify what those numbers mean, within professional I had broken that down into activities that were revenue generating, which I call cash. And then other activities which I call credit which have to do with R&D. And then there’s time, which is the amount of time that I allocated.
So anyway, there is a formula that I’ve created that you can break out for both the personal and the professional. But, the threshold for success that I set was at 80%. So, whenever I fell below 80%, cold shower, being forced to cook dinner when I don’t particularly love cooking. Also being zapped by that bracelet.
Have you guys ever heard of Pavlock? It’s an electric zapping bracelet, so you literally get shocked with electricity when you don’t follow through in what you said that you would do. Pretty effective.
So, that was the first quarter. I went on vacation as you can see kind of with my tail between my legs. And then I did some thinking and I came back, and the next quarter I didn’t fall below 80%. So no more punishment.
So, that’s kind of how I rolled. There was a lot of that. A lot of messing up and then reflecting and then coming back.
Okay, so how did this actually scale out over time? So, starting off from 2011 all the way up to the present, and 2018 is not included yet. Early news is relatively good news. It’s been an okay year from say to do to perspective.
But basically, the way it started off was I was very afraid after my disaster personal room experience that I would not be able to do what I said I would do. So, I set my goals relatively low and I hit them 100% on the professional goals, and then 75% on my personal.
But then you can see there’s a really big dip as I hit 2013, 2014 area. And what was going on there was that I had switched from working for someone else where they are a sort of exterior accountability system to an internal accountability system, where I was working on a book and trying to do a start-up, and consulting. And my ability to make plans and then fall through on them for myself was apparently not as good as an external accountability system, which was proven out when I went back to grad school. And again, there’s an external accountability system and I did much better.
But, in the last round when I came back to my book and start-up and all of that, I’ve improved a little bit in my say to do, so this is definitely an iterative process.
Okay, so accomplishing what you say you are going to accomplish is all well and good, but how do you actually feel that in. Do you feel satisfied with what you’ve accomplished?
So, for me that was a big question because I wanted those things to be aligned. So, my background is actually in neuroscience, and I worked in a lot of research labs, and so my first instinct I should go and look at the literature. I actually couldn’t find scales that I liked, and I was looking for biological measures. Couldn’t really find them.
I happened upon a life coaching workshop that had one exercise on one of the days that blew my mind, and I kind of modified it and probably distorted it from what they actually had intended. And then Frankensteined that into a very simple Google Form. So, that’s essentially been the tracking that I’ve used.
So, there’s professional breakouts and personal breakouts, all sorts of subcategories, and then it dumps into a Google Spreadsheet.
So, what the scaling is, is for every category of your life, that includes your relationships, your career, your money, you know finances, all of it. You look at what your ideal state would be, essentially heaven in that category would look like, and then what hell would look like. So, you are just super, super failing in that category that would be your one. So, most of life falls in the middle.
Okay, so how did that actually work out? So, in terms of my satisfaction levels of how good I felt about how I was doing on my personal and professional life, it definitely had some ups and downs. And as you can imagine, as I was going through different life stages, in grad school, which also included a long-distance relationship. My fiancé is over there, and he managed to bear through it with me. He’s like don’t draw attention to me, okay. Noted.
But there were definitely ups and downs, but essentially what I found was that I was a little less – I was a little more impervious to the ups and downs that I thought I would be, so I guess that was good news.
Okay, so now the big, big question that I had from the get-go. How does my say to do score actually relate to my satisfaction levels? And this is where the insights really start to kick in.
So basically, the say to do, there is sort of three categories. There’s say-fails, do-fails, and shit happens-fails. The say-fails are basically between when I said that I would do something and then what I actually did I was unsatisfied with. So that was the first category. I just aimed too low and I wasn’t satisfied with it.
The shit happens-fails is when I was getting myself into a far more challenging environment that I realized, which was doing my own thing, working on a book and doing a start-up. And that was sort of epitomized by the 2013 period.
And then the say-fail was since grad school I’ve been back on my own, and this is the second time through this, so I should know better. So, I should really be setting my goals a little lower, so I consider that a say-fail also. 2014, I was just being lazy, so that’s why it was a do-fail.
Personal say to do, this was basically I was prioritizing professional, and I was claiming I was going to do things in my say to do, but I was not leading them.
All right, correlations, so what correlates with what? So, if I say that I’m going to do something in my professional life versus satisfaction with my professional life, how do those two things correlate with each other over time?
So, as you can see things always correlate with themselves 100%, so say to do professional correlates perfectly with say to do professional. The other ones are more weakly correlated. So, these are on order of like .22 to .36. They are ranging from weak to strong correlations, but where the correlations actually start to get really interesting is in the pulling out personal categories.
So, one of the things that I found actually the strongest, and it’s a .77 correlation was my personal space with my professional say to do. So, just pause on that one.
Essentially, what this is telling me is that the state of my room is very related to how well I’m going to do professionally. So, if you remember back to that horror show of a room, maybe I should clean my room.
All right, so this is me and I would love to hear questions. This is a topic I’m very passionate about. Please, let me know if you want to talk about these projects and my start-up is neuro educate. It’s a mix of neuroscience other hacking, but this is a big part of it, so just reach out.