Warning: About to geek out here... ;-)
I had an epiphany recently. A spiritual epiphany? No. Something that will bring peace and comfort to the world? Unfortunately not. No, this was about how to measure my new CHRZ plan (calorie counting, high intensity interval training, reasonable rest, and zero in-box). A rubric!
Rubrics are a great tool to clarify what improvement and success look like. They are also a way to score behaviors. For your kids in school, often there's a four-point rubric in which a "3" is proficient. A level above is outstanding, while a level below falls a little short. A good rubric makes clear what it takes to move up in whatever it is your trying to improve.
So with CHRZ, a rubric could give me an easy way to track my daily performance, as well as quantifying what great and good enough look like in each area. Here's what I came up with:
What I do is rate myself every day on the CHRZ Rubric by identifying the descriptor that best represents what I did. I then enter the results into a notepad document on my smartphone, the date followed by the rubric score. Yesterday, for example, I recorded "0414 3341". That means on April 14, my eating was a slight calorie deficit, I did moderate exercise, I got a great night's sleep, but I didn't make any progress reducing my email in-box. It takes me about 15 seconds to capture all that information daily.
Here's a little more information about the rubric:
Calories: This is all based on finding my maintenance level of calories. There are lots of free websites that will tell you this, but I now use the My Fitness Pal app. The rule of thumb is that 500 calories per day below maintenance level produces a one pound per week loss and that a 1000 calorie per day deficit equates to a two pound weekly loss. Since I need to lose weight, I've place maintenance level calories as a "2". Since I really can't afford to gain weight, any level of excess calorie intake scores a "1".
HIIT (Exercise): This took a while to figure out, since I don't think I need to exercise every day to be healthy. In fact, that could lead to injury. The High Intensity Interval Training article I cited recently recommends HIIT 2 to 3 days per week, and even with moderate exercise mixed in, I'll need some off days for rest and/or a busy life. A "4" looks like at least 20 minutes of interval training exertion. A "3" is a 30 minute walk or equivalent activity. A "2" means that I took the day off, but got a 3 or 4 the day before. And "1" is anything less than the above.
Rest: This is the most straightforward. If I'm around 7 hours, I'm doing OK. But I feel my best with 8 hours. I can function at 6 hours, but it's best if that's not common. And below 6 hours is a coffee swilling survival test. I measure the night before (not the night after), which will allow me to study how my sleep affects my eating and exercise.
Zero In-box. This may feel like, "One of these things is not like the others," from Sesame Street back in the day. But I am convinced that the state of my in-boxes is a great proxy for my stress level. A "3" means that my main in-box is empty. For me, that's my work email, a constant mega-challenge. Likewise, I earn a "2" with progress towards emptying my biggest in-box. To earn a "4", I need all of my in-boxes to be clear. For me, that's both work (email and actual in-box) and home (family email, my blog related Gmail, my Instapaper reading account, and my DVR cue). You may recognize that zero is more or less impossible (email arrives all the time), so my rule is that one screen or less equals empty. For me, the stress comes from the accumulation of commitments and not knowing what you're missing in what you can't see in a stack, be it real or virtual. The one screen rule (without scrolling), gives me a grace period of about 25 emails, 7 Instapaper articles, and 6 TV shows.
I've tracked my daily score for two weeks now and it's helping me to stay motivated and reflective. Pretty soon, I'll have some interesting results to share as well.
However you track your progress, have a great week!