Whatever gives you that dopamine hit first thing in the morning: Google Analytics, Adwords, Mixpanel, bank balance, overnight orders, Stripe, stock price, Salesforce …. it’s time to stop. You know you’re exhibiting compulsive behaviour, you know there’s no business reason you need to check your key metrics 20 times a day and certainly you don’t need to hit refresh to see if things changed in the last 30 seconds.
All you are doing is searching for that next high. Like a self-destructive addict, if the first metric is good you go onto the next, knowing if you keep going you will eventually find the inevitable – a metric that’s going the wrong way. If you are tracking 15 metrics it is statistically improbable that they can all be positive.
Once the negative metric has been spotted, it’s impossible not to keep looking. Logically you know that it’s not statistically significant and you can’t judge your site or product’s performance hour to hour, but you do it anyway, living the emotional rollercoaster of highs and lows dictated by the shape of the graph.
I was this soldier. I’d check 20-30 metrics across 5 different systems within 60 seconds of my eyes opening in the morning, 7 days a week. Occasionally I’d wake in the middle of the night to get my fix. Some days I’d check hundreds of times.
It wasn’t like it was even my job to stay on top of them. I had good people looking after all aspects of the business. But I felt like it was my job. I felt like I had to be on top of every aspect of the business and I boneheadedly took pride in being more up to date than anyone.
Self-realization dawned early on a Tuesday morning. I’d woken at about 5am and, as was my habit, checked revenue, site availability & traffic. Something was very clearly wrong. Even though the site was normally quiet at this time of the day, revenue was way out of line. I got out of bed. I was worried and stressed and I picked up my phone to call my CTO. It was then I realized that the best course of action was to do nothing and wait till the office opened and fresh, well rested engineers looked into the problem. My revelation was that information is valueless unless you are prepared to act on it.
I created a new rule for myself – only look at metrics when I was prepared to act on them. For example unless looking at the bank transfers that had arrived overnight would lead me to make a different decision then I wouldn’t look.
So I created a schedule for myself. Firstly, no looking at analytics in the AM unless they were needed for a specific purpose such as a meeting. This allowed me to me to be proactive in the morning without having the day blown off course.
- Everyday 1.30pm: Bank Balance
- Every Friday: 1.30pm Analytics, Revenue and Sales Pipeline (Alright I’ll admit it became daily on the last week of the month. I didn’t say I was totally cured).
- First day of the month. Adwords, Engineering tickets, site performance and everything else
Did I stick to it? Mostly. Every now and then I’d still crack but I easily cut out 95% of my habit. I was happier and able to focus on the longer term and didn’t waste time stressing over irrelevant data. This resulted in more thoughtful business decisions, better time with my family, and better time with me.
Next time you reach for your crutch of choice, ask yourself what decision you are going to make differently. If you are not sure and the answer is that you ‘just need to know’ then stop. You are not making anything better by looking and you are making life a lot worse for you and everyone around you.