Quantified Executive


Exploring how data and technologies improve professional performance.

#1 Unlocking Data to Change the Way We Work: Becoming a Quantified Executive

Moving from personal to professional, how data-driven performance measurement will create a new generation of quantified executives. Read more ...

#2 Understanding How We Use Our Time: Becoming a Quantified Executive

Time is our most precious resource. Once we use it, we can never get it back so it’s crucial we understand how we use our time. Read more ...

MAY 14, 2020

Unlocking Data to Change the Way We Work: Becoming a Quantified Executive

(Note: This is the first in a series of blue sky pieces I hope to do to explore the possibilities around the idea of a “quantified executive,” especially in light of responding and recovering from a global pandemic. While I’m not a behavioral scientist and realize there are plenty of considerations to be had, as a technologist I want to start a conversation to help ethically develop this type of technology and data streams.Additionally, I want to be clear that in this first piece I see these ideas as a diagnostic explicitly for one’s professional growth and not in terms intended for organizations which could be used to micro-manage actions and behaviors or used as a form of workplace surveillance.)


We live in a world in which we are increasingly measuring and quantifying our personal lives, from exercising and meditation to how we drive and our spending habits. We now know: how many steps we take each day; how often we speed in our cars; and how much money we spend on eating out. Data provides insights into our well-being and helps us to live a better life.

We’re gradually learning that the more inputs we have, the better we understand the outcomes of our choices. And empowered with data, we can stop bad habits and learn/improve good habits. So why do we lack similar data-driven insights into our professional lives? Is it possible for us to create a self-perpetuating system of learning that helps us bring our best selves to our work every day?

Currently, we still rely on relatively traditional inputs in our professional development efforts: time and task tracking, project outcomes (sales, revenue, etc.), performance reviews (self-assessments, 360-degree, etc.), and the interactions and feedback of our colleagues. These data sets tend to be associated with our overall performance and outcomes --not necessarily granular data points associated with a specific action or behavior.

As a result, there seems to be an opportunity to fill in the gaps with more granular and diagnostic insights into our professional lives. And now as our work environments are changing as a result of responding and recovering from a global pandemic, these traditional methods will become strained. So as more of us are working remotely and integrating digital technologies into our workflows, there are opportunities to discover new ways to use data to propel our professional development.

Just as we rely on data to assess our personal lives, we should seek data to learn more about the actions we perform to accomplish our work. Here are a few questions to start with as we consider what type of job-related data to capture:

  • How do we increase the efficiency of our time during the work day and track the contributions we make during that time (how does the data change on-site versus remotely; how do we connect project ideation to project completion/outcomes)?

  • How do we analyze the effectiveness of our communication--from emails to meetings--with others directly and in groups (how much time spent; what’s the tone and sentiment of our participation; who’s contributing the most, not enough)?

  • How do we use these performance indicators to make ourselves a better and more trusted leader, communicator, and/or colleague or mentor (how is it collected; where is it displayed; how do we measure progress/success; who has access to the data)?

Now that we’ve framed some of the larger questions we want to explore, let’s find the ways we can capture, analyze, and gain insights into data associated with our daily professional routines. Areas for us to explore: time and productivity, communications, and leadership. By doing so, we gain insight into how we spend our time throughout the work day and provide insights into patterns of how we do our work (like drafting documents or the time it takes to reply to emails). Gaining insights into this type of data enables us to know our value--both in terms of how much our time is worth and what skills/activities are most valuable to our professional efforts.

Up to this point, I’ve laid out how I plan to explore the ways in which we can find and utilize data in an individual manner. However, I wanted to take a brief moment to lay out the idea of extending the exploration into possible communal usage. For instance, is it possible to harness the power of playful competitiveness that helps drive our professional development and business process efficiencies while also helping us to virtually “win” against our colleagues at different tasks or goals? Could a platform take these various inputs and allow us to challenge colleagues in reaching inbox zero? Or having one of the lowest email reply times?

Just as the quantified self became more integrated into the collective performance with others (e.g., running apps allowing friends to compete in virtual marathons) it would be interesting to explore the possibilities as it relates to one’s professional performance. And as Grammarly does with vocabulary usage, we could see insights provided through the anonymized comparison of like group behaviors and activities. Imagine an art director being able to see how their time in daily meetings compared to other art directors around the world.

Ultimately, the ideas I’m presenting here are meant to think about how the actions we take each day could be translated into a data point that provides an input we could examine to better understand our outputs within the workplace. With each new data point, we start to build a holistic view of our performance. So as we’ve come to learn how our sleep, fasting, meditation, and exercise affects our overall health and well-being. We want to find the information that can serve us in the same way in our professional lives.

That’s not to say that seeking out and defining data parameters to more empirically measure our workplace performance should result in us becoming solely data-driven regarding our careers. Just like in other areas where access to data has given us greater control over our lives, it should be one consideration amongst many. Ultimately it’s all part of striking a balance.


Robert Michael Murray is a digital innovator, senior strategist, brand builder, and storyteller across a variety of industry sectors for major brands, agencies, and public figures. Currently, he serves as a partner at CMPFYR and Quathletics leading their digital and social innovation efforts helping creators, brands, and agencies deliver solutions that drive greater value and experiences audiences love. Contact him for an industry briefing, strategy work, or speaking opportunities.

July 14, 2020

Understanding How We Use Our Time: Becoming a Quantified Executive

(Note: This is the second in a series of blue sky pieces where I explore the possibilities around the idea of a “quantified executive,” especially in light of responding and recovering from a global pandemic. In the previous piece, I introduced the idea behind a quantified executive. These ideas are intended to help build a diagnostic explicitly for one’s professional growth and not in terms intended for organizations that could be used as a form of workplace surveillance.)


What does it take to write a book? Or to learn to play the piano? Or perhaps to track the performance of individual players on a futbol pitch? It’s all about taking complex systems or colossal tasks and breaking them down into achievable, measurable, and meaningful pieces that combine time and milestones. We see this process happening within the health and wellness space with the rise of fitness trackers and other types of wearables.

In fact, the idea of the “quantified self” has become more and more entrenched within our daily rituals. From our gains at the gym to the quality of our sleep. We are now tracking and deriving insights from everything we do and the time we spend doing it. The steps we take. Calories we burn. REM cycles per night. Yet, as I asked in my first piece, why have we not pursued similar data-driven insights into how we make our livelihood, through our professions?

So how do we go about creating a self-perpetuating system of learning that helps us to bring our best selves to our work every day? It starts with time. We must remember that time is our most precious resource. Once we use it, we cannot get it back. Yet, in our professional lives, we more often than not enable others to control how we spend our time. From letting them schedule when we meet to setting expectations on what tasks to focus our bandwidth on.

Researchers have shown how “time scarcity” and the stress associated with it can reduce one’s “well-being, happiness and increased levels of anxiety and insomnia.” In Buying Time Promotes Happiness, research shows “working adults report greater happiness after spending money on a time-saving purchase than on a material purchase.” If this is the case, why do we and the organizations we work for spend so much time thinking about return on investment rather than on time?

In order to build out this idea of a quantified executive, we need to start with a baseline understanding how we use our time. And this got me to thinking about the Steve Miller Band and a well-known verse from one of their songs:

Time Keeps on Slippin’, Slippin’, Slippin’ into the Future

When it comes to our professional lives, we’re always thinking about the next thing. Then the next. And then the next. From projects and deadlines to outcomes and promotions. It’s like we’re focused on chasing time for the things we need to do or want to accomplish (e.g., new responsibilities, salary increases, etc.) but in actuality we’re really just losing it--letting it slip away. This is especially true as we adjust to a new professional world in a post-pandemic age. Are we using our time in the same way remotely as we did when we were in the office? Most likely not, so how has it changed?

As a result of increased remote work environments and distributed co-workers/offices, it’s more critical now for us to use our time as wisely as we can. This means examining how we spend it. Here are a few ideas about how we can start to create a baseline on how we spend our time and lay a framework for us to maximize it:

Perform a time audit to understand how you use your time. Do you know how you spend your time throughout the work day? Both in terms of the time you spend working on a project or activity, and even more granular, down to your day-to-day actions and how each minute of an hour is used. The idea for a time audit is two-fold. First, the process forces you to take an intense examination of how you use your time. And second, this review lays the groundwork to understanding the value of a unit of time (e.g., 15 mins, hour, half-day, etc.).

A time audit is designed to bring the time, allocation, and value of your time into alignment. Start by tracking your activities throughout the day for three, five, or seven days, to see what consumes the bulk of your time, as well as identify opportunities for increased efficiency and impact. Toggl is a time-tracking application, and it allows you to track your time. You can break down your hours by projects, clients and tasks to see the value of how you’re spending your time, and what’s holding you back--reclaimed time could help develop new skills.

Learn how your time spent impacts your mood. What is your mood during the day? Does it change at any point? Does an email or a meeting impact it? The reality is emotions affect us every minute and every second. When you feel anxious at work, you’re more likely to make mistakes and it’s harder to come up with great ideas. When you’re frustrated for unknown reasons, you lose motivation and may procrastinate working on a project. As we track how we spend our time we should also track how that time spent impacts the way we feel.

Mood tracking helps us to learn how the work we do impacts how we feel. Daylio is a mood-tracking monitor, and it allows you to track how you’re feeling throughout the day. The mobile app has a “Statistics and Calendar” tool that lets you track your moods on a daily basis; it allows you to identify your feelings, patterns, and behaviors; you can also track your activities and add notes if you think that they could be relevant; and you can even download the data from the app/platform so you can combine with other data to find additional insights.

Create a time profile that maximizes your chronotype. Are you a morning person? Or a late-night person? I’m definitely not a morning person, I’m most creative from 3:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Whereas someone else’s creativity might manifest between 8:00 am to 12:00 pm. This is because everyone has a master biological clock. But, unlike a normal clock, not everyone’s biological clock keeps the same time or even the same pace. Over the years, our bodies have been programmed to function more effectively at certain times of the day than others.

It took me a while to learn about my pattern and how I could leverage time to perform at my best. Different people fall into four different classifications, called “Chronotypes.” The four chronotypes are lions, dolphins, wolves, and bears. These classifications will help us to figure out the best time of day to make an important decision, schedule a creative session, respond to emails, and do anything better. For instance, it’s believed that roughly half of the world’s population is a bear. This means that their body clock tracks the rise and fall of the sun.

The idea behind each of these steps isn’t solely to get you to think about how you plan your schedule but to also interrogate how effectively you use the time you have. By doing so, we learn that the lyric above wasn’t about chasing time, it was a prompt for us to see how we are actually using our time to accomplish the things that matter most. Ultimately, the work that is done here will provide us with a better understanding of how your time can be maximized.

In the next piece we’ll explore how best to track the effectiveness and value of how we spend our time--to find the right balance.


Robert Michael Murray is a digital innovator, senior strategist, brand builder, and storyteller across a variety of industry sectors for major brands, agencies, and public figures. Currently, he serves as a partner at CMPFYR and Quathletics leading their digital and social innovation efforts helping creators, brands, and agencies deliver solutions that drive greater value and experiences audiences love. Contact him for an industry briefing, strategy work, or speaking opportunities.

Quantified
Executive


What's in your technical stack? What tools or metrics are you using to track your professional performance?

Quantified Executive Tech Stack

(Note: This is the first in a series of blue sky pieces I hope to do to explore the possibilities around the idea of a “quantified executive,” especially in light of responding and recovering from a global pandemic. I’m not a behavioralist scientist and realize there is plenty of considerations in developing this type of technology and data streams. Additionally, I want to be clear that in this first piece I see these ideas as a diagnostic explicitly for one’s professional growth and not in terms intended for organizations use which could be used to micro-manage actions and behaviors or used as a form of workplace surveillance.)

AppMetricDescription
TogglTime/ProductivityToggl as your productivity tool. A simple time tracker with powerful reports and it works across all your devices.
Snow CrashNeal Stephenson0-553-08853-X
SoftwareRudy Rucker0-441-77408-3

Quantified Executive Tech Stack

This is the first in a series of blue sky pieces I hope to do to explore the possibilities around the idea of a “quantified executive."