How reading a Google study helped me lose body fat

I read about a study at Google showing that office snacks in a shared work area saw a 40% decrease in the amount taken when jars had lids on them. That means that the extra “work” of taking the lid off a jar made those M&Ms 40% less desirable.

We can laugh at the ridiculousness of these psychological and cognitive tendencies, and we can put that knowledge to good use. When I learned this, I immediately made the rule that no junk food is allowed in my house. That doesn’t mean I never eat it, it just means I have to want it that much more because the “lid on the jar” involves the hassle of going somewhere to get my fix. This happens far less.

Interesting facts like this might make you a hit playing Trivial Pursuit. But I prefer to make them actionable by asking: how can I use this?

Track the things you care about

Each software tool comes with reports that summarize or detail my use. How much time did I spend today on each specific app? How many LinkedIn messages did I send last week?

If any of this is worth knowing, it’s only because I will take some action as a result. Most metrics are merely distractions that encourage you to take actions that benefit them (the makers of the software) not you.

If my toolbox started sending me weekly reports on my hammer usage it would be a ridiculous waste. I’ll use that tool when I need to. Just because something is easy to measure doesn’t mean it’s worth paying attention to.

Getting past overwhelm

Stress increases in proportion to how out of control we feel. How much influence does it seem we have in changing our circumstances, environment, and a general feeling of satisfaction? Sometimes it’s overwhelming just to consider what steps to take to stop feeling overwhelmed.

One thought exercise is to picture your life and relationship to stress/overwhelm at some point in the future, and ask: what one thing can I change, start, or stop doing so that future me is in better control?     

You won’t have all the answers to this question, but there’s no reason not to start with just one.