How will you measure your day?
The question of how we, as individuals, measure our success in our life is not as straightforward as one would expect.
A few nights ago, my house and most of Northern Utah were engulfed in a massive artic wind storm sending hurricane-force winds barreling down on my poor neighborhood. Trees torn from the ground smashed powerlines, plunging whole cities into days of darkness. Schools that were already running with awkward restrictions due to COVID canceled classes. I struggled to figure out how to run my business virtually without power or the internet. All I could do was shrug my shoulders. It was just another in a long line of less than ideal events during the year 2020.
If you've been living on another planet and somehow have avoided the news, 2020 memes, and life for the last few months, 2020 didn't start all that hot has just gotten worse. Most people will place the start of 2020's misfortune being the death of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant. However, I will remember a loss that happened three days before - the end of Clayton Christensen's fight against cancer.
Professor Christensen rose to prominence amongst the business community as a Harvard business school professor known for his work, defining the now ubiquitous business term of 'disruption' in his book, The Innovators Dilemma. Widely regarded as the most influential management thinker of his time, Clayton produced numerous essential business books.
In my opinion, his most impactful work wasn't directly related to business. Instead, Clayton co-wrote a book discussing lessons he learned after his first battle with cancer entitled: How Will You Measure Your Life.
How do you measure your life?
As Professor Christensen's book's title suggests, the question of how we, as individuals, measure our success in our life is not as straightforward as one would expect.
Most individuals refer to relationships like those with our spouses, children, God, or friends when asked what matters most in life. Famously, individuals on their death beds never say they wished they would have worked more. Instead, they comment on how they would have spent more time with their families and friends. How we spend our time rarely reflects these priorities.
Professor Christensen points out that by aligning our time to reflect how we want our life to be measured, we can provide the highest likelihood of living the life we imagine.
How will you measure your day?
As I've attempted to apply this guidance in my life, I've found myself considering this same question on a more microscale. How do I measure each day to align with my broader goals?
As an entrepreneur running a young startup, my day feels like it revolves around a continually expanding to-do list. I often measure my success by assessing if I've completed everything on my list at the end of the day. Emails, tasks, and conversations continue in what feels like an endless wave of productivity, yet I'm unsure if I moved the needle despite my best efforts.
I've come up with a set of questions I can ask to help me understand how well aligned my daily activities are with my desired long-term outcomes. At any point where I might feel myself slipping into productivity for the sake of productivity, instead of investing my time in work towards what I can most about, I can use my questions to refocus on the things that matter most to me.
My Daily Questions
Over the years, the questions I ask have changed as my priorities have shifted. Below are some of the questions I (currently) ask with a brief description of how they help me achieve my long-term goals.
Did I get done what I wanted to do?
I often begin my day with strategic goals in mind. However, life intervenes quickly, and maintenance activities such as email, internal conversations, and just a fight to maintain the status quo can take up my time. By setting a goal in the morning to tackle something of more strategic and long-term value and asking at the end of the day if I accomplished it, I can make sure that the hours I'm putting into my work are pushing things forward instead of just treading water.
Did I keep my commitments?
Much of our success in life comes from how well we keep our commitments we've made. Making sure I've kept my promises to those I work with helps build my career on a foundation of trust. Of greater importance are my commitments to my wife, God, and myself. They provide the motivational power to do things that are often uncomfortable but necessary to be the man I want to be.
When faced with a questionable situation, did I do the thing I thought was right?
Surprisingly often in life, opportunities emerge to cut corners, to be deceptive, and to betray our better natures by picking what is comfortable over what we think is right. Being able to say that I made what I feel like was the right decision leaves me with a clear conscience, which helps me move forward with confidence instead of always looking over my shoulder or attempting to mend things I've broken.
Would I feel comfortable with others knowing how I used my time today?
The opportunities I have to do what I love are, in no small measure, paid for by those that I love. My wife, children, and other family members make incredible sacrifices for me to pursue my dreams. My coworkers place immense trust in me to spend my time well. Asking myself how people would feel If they saw how I spent my time helps keep me accountable.
Failing to Measure Up
I often find myself falling short when I ask myself these questions. There are days I fail all of them. I continue to ask them not because I will always answer them correctly but because these are the questions I feel like I need to ask to become the person I want to be.
The benefit of measuring what I'm doing both daily and in life is the opportunity to make course corrections. If we don't know where we are going, we will end up somewhere we do not want to be.
My questions will not be the same questions you will have because my goals are not the same as yours, although some similarities might arise. Because I grow as an individual each day, my questions will, of necessity, change because what I want in life changes.
The important thing is making sure that daily, monthly, and yearly we're moving towards the life we want instead of the life that emerges when we're not paying attention.