Tools for Improving Self-Awareness
If you're serious about getting better at something, then one of the first steps is to know—in black-and-white terms—where you stand. You need self-awareness before you can achieve self-improvement.
Here are some tools I use to make myself more self-aware:
Workout Journal – For the past 5 years or so, I have used my workout journal to record each workout I do. While it can be interesting to leaf back through old workouts and see the progress I've made, I have found this method to be most useful on a weekly basis. When I go to the gym next week, I will look at the weights I lifted the week before and try to make a small increase. It's so simple, but the workout journal helps me avoid wasting time in the gym, wandering around, and just “doing some stuff.” With this basic tracking, I can make focused improvements each week.
My Annual Rewards and Integrity Reports – At the end of each year, I conduct my Annual Review where I summarize the progress I've made in business, health, travel, and other areas. I also take time each spring to do an Integrity Report where I challenge myself to provide proof of how I am living by my core values. These two practices give me a chance to track and measure the “softer” areas of my life. It can be difficult to know for certain if you're doing a better job of living by your values, but these reports at least force me to track these issues on a consistent basis.
Rescue time – I use RescueTime to track how I spend my working hours each week. For a long time, I just assumed that I was fairly productive. When I actually tracked my output, however, I've uncovered some interesting insights. For example, I currently spend about 60 percent of my time each week on productive tasks. This past month, I spent 9 percent of my working time on social media sites. If you would have asked me to estimate those two numbers before using RescueTime, I'm certain I would have been way off. Now, I actually have a clear idea of how I spend my time and because I know where I truly stand, I can start to make calculated and measured improvements.
A Call for Self-Awareness If you aren't aware of what you're actually doing, then it is very hard to change your life with any degree of consistency. Trying to build better habits without self-awareness is like firing arrows into the night. You can't expect to hit the bullseye if you're not sure where the target is located. Furthermore, I have discovered very few people who naturally do the right thing without ever measuring their behavior. For example, I know a handful of people who maintain six-pack abs without worrying too much about what they eat. However, every single one of them weighed and measured their food at some point. After months of counting calories and measuring their meals, they developed the ability to judge their meals appropriately. In other words, measurement brought their levels of self-awareness in line with reality. You can wing it after you measure it. Once you're aware of what's actually going on, you can make accurate decisions based on “gut-feel” because your gut is based on something accurate.