Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

Analytics versus Reflection

We keep coming up with new things to measure (like processor speed, heat output, column inches) but it’s pretty rare that those measurements are actually a proxy for the impact or quality we care about. It takes a lot of guts to stop measuring things that are measurable, and even more guts to create things that don’t measure well by conventional means.

Seth Godin

As you’ve probably guessed, I’m not into the quantified self or personal analytics. I don’t feel the need to meticulously record everything I’ve done and how long it took. I don’t feel the need wade through data to trim a few seconds off of a task, to come up with a clever hack, or to try to save time.

Why? I seriously doubt that collecting all of that personal data, and analyzing it, will have any effect on the quality of my work or of my life. Instead, it might degenerate into the act of collecting data for the sake of collecting data. And the time spent combing through that data trying to figure out ways to work and act more efficiently will be better spent actually doing things.

Instead of analyzing, I prefer to reflect. I look at what went right as much as what went wrong. I look at where I stumbled and why. I ponder how to do things better (though not always faster) in future. I look for opportunities to tweak, not hack.

By reflecting, I can keep my mind engaged while being open. I can let my mind wander over what I want to focus on. It’s less concentrated an approach, but one which lets me mentally watch the tectonic plates of a solution slowly come together.

What I get out of that can improve the quality of my work and of my life. The changes might not be huge, but do they really need to be?

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