How do you know if it’s working?

In response to my scale checking email on Monday, a fellow list member and firm owner (who chose to remain anonymous) provided this insightful reply:

“This message, however, doesn’t help you know at what point your diet plan is or isn’t working.

It’s possible to ‘check the scale’ daily for months or years and not see weight change even if you’re doing the same thing over and over as you set out to from the beginning. Commitment isn’t always the issue. If we are to carry the analogy through.

The helpful info is understanding at what point there’s some meaningful traction you can measure or when to pivot, esp leading signals that aren’t necessarily ‘sales.’”

To which I say:

Touche’ my friend.

I wholeheartedly agree.

Not checking the scale, of course, doesn’t mean that you throw caution to the wind and hand over your blind commitment to the marketing gods.

What it means instead…

Is that you should be checking plenty of things… at the right time, in the right context.

To continue with our weight loss analogy, “Don’t check the scale” really means:

“Use something other than the scale as a short-term feedback mechanism…

…and then check in with the scale after a requisite amount of time has passed in order to discern whether you’re actually losing weight or whether those corn dogs you ate during a weak moment at the county fair had you retaining water that you’ve now rid yourself of and subsequently tricked yourself into thinking you cracked the weight loss code only to be disappointed next week when your weight hasn’t budged.”

This short-term feedback mechanism I’m referring to comes from the general principles and framework you’ve established and then applied to your strategy of choice.

This is necessary because the noise and lag associated with the direct indicator (what shows up on the scale) make it an insufficient feedback mechanism for daily decision-making.

We need to instead lean on the framework and focus on immediate measures that tell us whether or not we’re executing in accordance with the principles, not necessarily whether or not the end result has yet come to fruition.

(Side Note: This is yet another reason why even high-volume A/B testing is mostly misguided.)

That might look something like this.

how its working weight feedback

On a daily basis you’re maintaining a checklist with your weight loss Leading Indicators:

  • Did I get a full 8 hours of sleep last night? yes/no
  • Did I exercise for 30 minutes this morning? yes/no
  • Did I eat 6 servings of veggies? yes/no
  • Did I track my calories today? yes/no

We have a fairly well-established level of confidence that these actions contribute to success.

This is based on previous experience and scientific research that has demonstrated that all else being equal, these input variables generally produce scale-moving results.

The scale is still guiding us, yes, but aggregated over a massive data set and generalized for our convenient use.

And we know that even though these may not be all of the inputs required to hit the goal, they’re important enough that if we map our performance to them on a regular basis it’s likely we’ll either (a) achieve the desired result, or (b) be able to troubleshoot more effectively knowing we have our bases covered.

So hypothetically let’s say we wanted to lose 0.5 lbs per week as our objective.

And during our expected bi-weekly check-ins we’d expect to see something like this:

Week 2: -1.0 lbs
Week 4: -2.0 lbs
Week 6: -3.0 lbs

This target, of course, with some +/- 1.0 lb error bars thrown in (meaning if your Week 4 weight is -1.0 lbs you may actually be right on track).

But the point is, if this is what you’re shooting for based on the framework you’ve chosen, and your actual weight shows up as -0.5 lbs in Week 6, you know something is off and you need to make an adjustment.

Step 1: Let’s go back to the Leading Indicators.

Did we check all of the boxes each day?

No?

Okay, let’s do that.

Still not losing weight?

Step 2: Okay, now let’s re-evaluate our framework based on what we learned and troubleshoot where to go from here.

This is the same type of feedback loop we can use to evaluate the performance of any new marketing channel test, email or otherwise.

And tomorrow I’ll extend the analogy to show exactly that.

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