I ended last year by reading two books. The first was Competing on Analytics, The New Science of Winning. The second was 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done. “Competing on Analytics” changed my thinking, and “18 Minutes” changed my life.

A core tenant of “Competing on Analytics” is that in order to make correct decisions, you need data.  Data requires measurement. And, as I’ve come to learn, it requires determining which data, among all of the data that one could collect, is the most important data.

A core tenant of “18 Minutes” is that getting the right things done requires that you decide, among all of the possibilities, the relatively small number goals that you want to achieve over the coming year. These are the things that you absolutely want to get done, and get done right. Another core tenant is that you need to evaluate each of your activities against those goals.  It suggests, among other things, that you start your day by evaluating what is on your calendar, not in your email InBox. Almost immediately upon rising, ask yourself,

What am I scheduled to do today?

Is my schedule consistent with progress against my goals?

If not, what changes do I need to make?

As I write this, I recognize that the above statements may sound very basic to some of you. Some of you already live your lives based upon very specific goals and measurement.  I suspect, however, that many more only think you live your lives this way, and haven’t actually taken the time to determine your personal goals, separate from everyone else’s goals. Nor have you decided what specific data will tell you whether you are making the correct choices in achieving your goals. I recently made that embarrassing admission to myself. It was especially embarrassing for me, given that I love science and studied, among other things, mathematics in college.

I won’t bore you with my own specific goals for this year, but suffice it to say that by measuring my time against my priorities, I have determined how long it takes me to complete certain tasks. I’ve learned what work is profitable and what work is less profitable than I had previously thought. I’ve learned the direct impact of diet and exercise on weight and heart rate. And I’ve learned that if I schedule things as soon as I make a verbal commitment, that I almost always keep my commitments.