A Partially Quantified Life: (Hawthorne) Effecting Myself

 

The journey of self-improvement leads me to this, a task is given then expanded, accountability beyond refutability, what I have begun to do is track, and quantify as many moments of my life as possible.

In the 20th century, with psychology in its infancy so much wanted to be learned about the world and the workforce. Factories and manual labor were at an all-time high and factory owners and managers wanted to boost the efficiency of their workers to maximize the bottom line. Thus began a series of studies to monitor and record how much time it took for workers to complete certain tasks in telephone equipment production facilities. A strange thing occurred though, as the workers were being recorded by these new researchers their productivity went up. Initially thought to be the result of changes in the lighting conditions but when the researchers left so did this new boost in productivity. By simply recording what the workers were doing they become more productive. This was phenomenon was eventually named the Hawthorne Effect.

XXX years late I found myself speaking with my mentor about productivity. The conversation started as he wanted me to start tracking how much time a week I spend working on research as a mechanism to ramp up the productivity in the lab. Now through my struggles as of late it donned on me that I could even take this a step further.  I could track my whole life and how I spend my time to see where my inefficiencies are and why it seems that I can spend hours at work but never get done as much as I would like. Where were these distractions coming from, what was keeping me from fulfilling my purpose? Was I really doing as much as I thought I was doing in the first place?

Information is my tool, my mechanism for work and play but without data, I have no place to start and nothing to learn. I think we all feel that way, we seek out patterns in ourselves and others to understand our world and figure out what makes us happy (or at least figure out what keeps us from hurting). It’s in the investigation of those patterns that we come to a certain truth of which way to live optimally.  I’ve heard about life tracking before but never took the step to actually step into the void and allow myself to see the potentially uncomfortable truth about my life. I’ve been told doing this is akin to eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, that I will become aware myself and the unsettling prospect of hours of my life I’ve been wasting. Of course, that is a bit hyperbolic but imagine the insight about these ugly moments of our lives we spend letting us by, making ourselves accountable to them. Those moments we spend scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter knowing full well that we shouldn’t be. Taking all those moments we take to watch, read, work, and play and putting them on a calendar for everyone to see.

These might be extreme measures in some regard as it requires a lot of extra effort to continue to plug away the activities in my life as they are happening but for the potential results I can put up with the extra unease and effort. My hope is that I can be both the researcher and worker in this situation, watching over myself so that I too can increase my productivity. See where I have time and where I don’t.  It will be a learning process but it’s the step I need to take to understand where I can be better. It’s another gaze into the mirror but one I hope will do me some good.