How to Measure the Unmeasurable: Just a Feeling
This past summer, I probably annoyed my manager by repeatedly asking, “Yes, I can feel I’ve improved, but in what concrete ways?” It took me a while to realize that progress isn’t always measurable, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t occur.
School: Measurable, but an Incomplete Picture
In school, you can sort-of track growth in the same way. How long does an assignment take? What grade did you get? How much time did you spend studying? However, grades are not a perfect measure: sometimes you learn a lot but your grade does not reflect it (here’s looking at you, computer graphics last year.)
This year, I’ve been trying to measure my progress in a variety of areas to figure out how to improve in each. One concrete measurement I like is weight training. Many sports teams on campus have training sessions with our Strength and Conditioning coach, Courtney Morris ’99. There, we do exercises to train agility and strength, whether it be working our quick feet on the ladders, jumping rope, or lifting weights and training our upper body.
It’s easy to see after a week or so that you can jump rope faster and longer, do more repetitions with more weight, and increase the number of pull-ups, push-ups, and more that you do.
I like running and yoga for the same reason: you can always go further (running a longer distance, running faster, holding a pose for longer, etc.) than you thought you could. It doesn’t get easier; you just get better. Yoga also provides a nice mental break, and is good for stretching, toning, and relaxing. I love ending my week with a yoga class in Bryn Mawr’s gym.
There are so many mental hurdles when you run or lift, but by pushing through them and persisting, you grow both in the gym and off of it. If you discipline yourself there, you can definitely focus longer on school work and push yourself to understand a difficult concept that you previously struggled with.
An amazing app I now use to measure different aspects of my life is Gyroscope. I love the visualizations which really show what you’re doing. The productivity one also shows how you’re spending most of your time (which websites or apps) and you can set goals to use apps less.
Next year, you bet I’ll be stronger and faster, and I’ll have the statistics to prove it. Will I be a better programmer and writer? You may have to take my word for it.