5 Reasons to Collect Data on Yourself

You might think that it’s a bit odd, treating yourself like a science experiement.  However, the best way to achieve your goals may be to do just that – be committed to collecting data on yourself.

Chalk Chart

In science, we’re always collecting data and analyzing it to find out more about the world.  However, collecting data isn’t only for people with pocket protectors (although we don’t all wear those!).  It is something that any of us can use to help us achieve any goal we set for ourselves.

Several years ago, I used to weigh a lot more than I do now.  At some point, I just decided that I wanted to get to a healthier weight.  I was concerned about my long term health staying at this higher weight, and I knew if I didn’t take this seriously, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy much of life later on.

I decided to collect data on myself so that I could see how I was doing over time.  I weighed myself every morning and recorded it in an iPhone app.  I even kept track of how many calories I ate each day. This forced me to see what every handful of snacks and bowl of ice cream was costing me toward my goal of a lower target weight.  Eventually I lost 40 pounds from my peak weight, and I’ve kept (most of) it off ever since.

Here are five reasons why you should consider collecting data on yourself to achieve your goals:

  • Looking at your data shows how you’re trending.  If you have a goal in mind, such as losing twenty pounds, you need to know how you’re doing.  This can only happen if you are committed to collecting data every day, and watching how the data changes.  If you’re getting closer to your goal, you’ll see your weight drop over time.
  • Not taking data can trick you into thinking we’re on track.  It’s far easier to convince yourself you are on track if there is nothing to counter you.  However, in science, data is king.  If you’re serious about achieving your goal, then you’ll be happy to collect data on yourself to know you’ll get there.
  • It works for anything.   Keeping track of your weight is an easy example, but it truly helps with any goal you set for yourself.  Collecting data on yourself is good for your personal development and growth.  It can also work for your business (keeping track of new customer contacts and new sales) and even for your community (funds raised for local charities or scholarships for worthy students).  It even works for gaining a general understanding of how the world works, which is the ultimate goal of science.
  • It keeps you honest.  You can’t fool the data.  If your goal is to lose twenty pounds and you haven’t lost a single pound for an entire week, you know that you haven’t made progress.  The data will tell you that something needs to change, and you can make that change to keep you moving forward.  Keeping on track requires you to be honest with yourself, and collecting data on yourself helps you do just that.
  • You learn more about yourself. As you collect your own data and take a look at how you’re doing, you’ll learn new things about yourself.  Am I focused enough on my goals?  Is it getting any easier?  What can I do to acheive my goals faster?  Can I even set a new goal, surpassing what I first thought I could achieve?
We can always do more to help ourselves keep us on track.  While the first thing we need is the goal itself, we also need to collect the information that keeps us honest about achieving that goal.  Be committed to collecting data on yourself and your achievements will start piling up before you know it.

Question:  Have you ever tried collecting data on yourself?  If so, what did you learn?  If not, do you know where to start?  You can leave a comment below.

I currently serve as Director in the Advanced Risk & Compliance Analytics (ARCA) practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). I've served as Director of Data Science & Analytics Engineering at Areté Associates and in leadership positions with Elanix, Inc. (now Agilent Technologies) and Mentor Graphics. I've served the public as Chair of the Thousand Oaks, CA Planning Commission and now work in New York City. I have been married to my wife Stephanie since 1993, and we have a wonderful daughter Monroe. Learn more about me »

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