Illustration by Konani Chinn

Metrics are the numbers that businesses (and people) choose to measure their performance and health.

How Was Your Workout?

Metrics and data are everywhere these days. Sports fans track a zillion stats on their favorite teams. Weather apps provide tons of obscure numbers like wind speed, UV indexes, and humidity. Political polls predict detailed voter preferences far in advance of elections.

But how do you know which numbers matter most out of all this available data? Metrics are a way of saying, ‘these are the numbers I care most about.’

Picking the right metrics isn’t easy. Say you’re a runner and a swimmer, and you have a fitness tracker (or smart watch), plus an app on your phone to display all the data.

After a few days of running and swimming with the device you’ll have a ton of data to look at. Number of steps. Distance traveled. Elevation gain. Current and resting heart rate. ECG. Cadence and rolling pace. Estimated calories burned.

But what are the best metrics to actually judge your workouts?

Only if you’re clear on your top goals can you pick good metrics – and the most important goals can’t always be measured with numbers (despite the common business saying: ‘if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it’).

If your primary goal is increasing your stamina, lap split time, or interval intensity, those metrics can be easily generated by your fitness app.

But if your main goal is to enjoy your workout, or feel like you’re pushing yourself as hard as you can day in and day out, there may not be good metrics for those.

The same’s true in business: companies now have more data on hand than ever before. But because of all this data, designing their ‘data dashboards’ (which showcase their most important metrics) may be harder than ever.