Consider the following: designing experiments on yourself


I grew up watching a lot of Bill Nye the Science Guy, and from that came a healthy appreciation for the scientific method. When it comes to evaluating myself, I often (still!) fall into cycles of self-criticism, guilt, and shame - everyone else is doing this with ease! Why doesn't their advice work for me? Why am I, a seemingly smart person with lots of motivation, unable to make x y or z thing happen for me? 

I've landed on the idea that my working life is a sequence of experiments that I run on myself, rather than a never ending cycle of evaluation and interventions to try and get to a "perfect state." I'm always refining what I know about myself because it is always. changing. So I always have something new to experiment with! 

Here is how I do it:

  1. Hypothesis: Working out at 6 am will give me energy all day, and leave my evenings more free to spend time with my family.

  2. Experimental design:

    1. I will attempt to work out at 6 am, 3 days a week, for 2 weeks. 

    2. I will make note of my energy at breakfast, lunch, and dinner on all days during the 2 week trial period.

    3. I will rate how relaxed I felt after dinner (relaxation/family time) on all days during the 2 week trial period.

    4. I will make note of how much sleep I get each night on all days. 

  3. Collect data using bullet journal (aka, I just write it down) 

  4. Preliminary findings

    1. I do feel more energetic on days when I wake up and work out at 6 am. 

    2. I see no discernible change in my relaxation levels at night, as I often find more and more to work on as the day goes on. 

    3. Getting enough sleep when I wake up at 5:20 am is virtually impossible.

So, the results are inconclusive! I feel better but I'm also not getting enough sleep. So I repeat the process:

NEW Hypothesis: I feel better with some exercise in the morning, so going for a walk around the neighborhood before breakfast might increase energy while not cutting into sleep as drastically. 

And then I experiment again! I imagine that this experiment will shift when it's not warm enough or light enough at 7 am to go for a walk, or if I had more regular appointments early in the morning, or if my husband started also working out in the evenings, making it a "together" activity. None of that means I'm "bad" or "wrong" or not trying hard enough, just that I need to be flexible and adjust to the changing conditions of my life. Viewing all these areas as places that I can collect data and make informed decisions, rather than "areas to improve" has helped me be more playful, and less shame filled, about the constant cycle of evaluation that we all tend to be in. 

Katy Peplinhabits, change