management lessons from my fitbit

May 3rd, 2019 Posted by Uncategorized 0 comments on “management lessons from my fitbit”

written by alastair barlow [blog]

I’ve had a personal trainer for about 18 months now – he’s awesome. We’ve worked hard together (more so me!) to shift some of the fat I put on post ankle surgery (invasive micro-fracture surgery on my ankle where my cartilage had pretty much disintegrated). It turns out running is not that great for you after all!

Read: 5 minutes

In 2016, I was training for the Rotterdam marathon – in the end I had to watch from the side lines and struggle to walk for another 6 months until finally conceding to surgery. In the period of surgery denial, I was still doing a lot of cycling and keeping pretty fit, until the surgery that was. I was then on crutches for 6 – 8 weeks. Unfortunately though, I hadn’t changed my eating habits too much – as you can imagine I piled on the pounds with very little post op exercise (hopping for the remote control doesn’t really count). A further 6 months of post op physio and I still wasn’t as active as I normally would be. I had transformed but not for the better – I didn’t feel like myself and I didn’t look like myself either!


Importantly though, just as we were starting the training, my PT made me write down my goals and asked me to uncover the layers of why. Why was that my goal, why, why, why? This was powerful because it meant when it got tough or when I wavered, I could reflect on my real why – my vision and brought me back to it. It also enabled us to wrap hard metrics and objectives around this – ones that mattered and were aligned to my vision.


Anyway, enough of memory lane – I’ve worked hard for the past 18 months to get back to being me – overall in just over 12 months I lost about 20cms off my waist and I’m back feeling like my normal self.


However, for those that know me, I get completely obsessive and wanted to go even further. The only way to do this was to really focus on the data! So, out came the Callipers to baseline my body fat % using the Jackson/Pollock 7-site Calliper method (it’s not that fun at 6:30am on a cold December morning having your fat pinched by metal 3 times across 7 parts of the body!). But, it was the only way to get a good measure of how to track progress and move to the next level.


Equally, given the fact we were moving into much more focused areas, the data became much more important; I started measuring and weighing my food, every little bit I was consuming, and adding it to MyFitnessPal. My PT told me exactly what my intake should be and what my recommended macro nutrient split (segmentation) should be (carbs, fats and protein). And I listened to him – after all, he is my advisor and the professional. I would just be playing at it and not really get the results I wanted. My body fat % was dropping nicely – I got to 10.8%. Now, clearly you need a pretty strong mindset to maintain the carbs, fats and protein split along with the right calorie intake and consistent PT sessions, weights and cardio. Sometimes that’s a little tough when you’re growing a business and bringing up an 11 year old!


It was all going swimmingly, until I went skiing with flinder takes the piste! It turns out that ski resorts are not that conducive to maintaining a good macro nutrient split. Add to that the 250 beers or so Luke and I bought for the ‘team’ and my body fat % increased significantly! 6 weeks and a couple more ski trips later and I was seriously off course – the Calipers don’t lie (and neither does the mirror)!I needed a reset button and I needed to get back to tracking my intake. However, as most people know there are two sides to most equations. I also wanted to understand what I was burning and focus on that too so I bought a fitbit charge 3.


Now I could really focus on the energy I was expending too. By this point you’re probably thinking I’m a bit of a nutter but I love the data side of things and what it can tell you – the insight you can glean from it. An added advantage with MyFitnessPal and the fitbit app is that you can connect or integrate them to get even more out of them – blending data sources is so much more powerful!

“I never guess. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Author of Sherlock Holmes stories



So, I’m back to being obsessed about metrics and weighing my food;MyFitnessPal for tracking intake (it’s all about good, clean data in!) and my fitbit for tracking energy expended, steps taken, heart rate, hours of sleep, sleep quality and more! Adding a fitbit to the mix, I now focus more on expending energy – I have targets for number of flights of stairs climbed, steps in the day, hours of exercise etc. What this has created is a behavioural change. I no longer take the lift in the office, instead I climb the 4 sets of stairs every time I am in and out (which is a lot) and soon to be 6 sets when we move to our new office.


I go for a walk in the evening if I haven’t met my step target, the same for monitoring sleep – I try to get to bed earlier and make changes to my food intake to get better sleep. All these targets have created new behaviours for me, all focusing on my vision and objectives which I’m back to being super focused on and working towards realising them! And one of the best things is, I can be super reactive to the data because I’m getting it real-time on my wrist and on my iPhone – it’s a little real-time dashboard with only the few KPIs on it I need! Oh – and it works, it really does work! Now, how about that for a concept?!


The moral to the story; If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.Peter Drucker (the father of management thinking)A few terms you’ve probably picked up here:


  • Advisor & professional
  • Segmentation
  • Baseline
  • Understand your vision
  • Wrap around your objectives
  • Insight
  • Blending data sources
  • Integrate
  • Targets
  • Behavioural change
  • Few KPIs
  • Real-time dashboards
At flinder, we do the exact same for your finance function!