The fine art of self-experimentation



There’s no shortage of people telling you how to live your life. Let’s face it, I am one of them.

As you are sifting through the various recommendations that people give you for how to be healthier, happier and more productive, you need some tools and processes to help you select those habits and lifestyle changes that will be most beneficial to you.

In this post, I am going to provide you with a tool that you can use to help  you identify which habits and lifestyle changes have the greatest value for you.

It is a self-experimentation worksheet.

Self-experimentation is simply the process of treating yourself like a participant in a research study, where you introduce a lifestyle change, and measure the impacts of that lifestyle change on your mood, or energy, or productivity, or whatever area of your life you are trying to improve.

Over the coming months, as I am recommending some mental fitness techniques as part of this blog, you might find the idea and process of self-experimentation interesting, as you apply these techniques and see whether they are beneficial to you.

Why self-experiment?

There are a few reasons to develop some basic skills in self-experimentation:

  1. Often when we introduce positive changes into our life (e.g. dietary changes, increase in physical activity), we are very sloppy in how well we record whether those changes actually make a difference in terms of our happiness, health or productivity. Self-experimentation requires us to be more methodical in measuring the impact of certain lifestyle changes, and can therefore help us determine if a particular lifestyle change is actually helping us.
  2. Whilst research studies can tell us whether certain lifestyle change “on average” make people happier, healthier or more productive, we can’t ever truly know what impact those changes will have on us, unless we try it for ourselves. Self-experimentation helps you determine if recommended lifestyle changes or habits are beneficial for you.
  3. Self-experimentation requires planning and discipline, which are great skills for other areas in life (e.g. study). It also teaches us to think about cause and effect and more rigorously evaluate whether certain lifestyle changes genuinely make a measurable difference in our lives.

A few notes about the attached self-experimentation worksheet

The attached self-experimentation worksheet (click image below to download) is designed to get you thinking about what is required for you to test whether a lifestyle or habit change  is impacting positively on your life.

It gets you to consider the habit change itself, the benefits you expect to get, the need for measurement, and the need for reminders to engage in both the habit, but also measuring the impacts.

The version here is for printing out, but you could easily reproduce the key elements in a mobile app or computer file (e.g. you could reproduce it in Evernote).

Some people get hooked on self-experimentation – the quantified self movement. These people develop ever more elaborate and impressive ways to track key aspects of their life, to help them identify life changes that have a genuine positive impact on their happiness/health/productivity. I’m not proposing that you become obsessive about self-experimentation, but I am suggesting you learn a little bit about it, to better equip you to think more scientifically about the changes you make in your life.

If you’d like more posts or worksheets on self-experimentation, leave a comment, get in contact with me on Twitter or email me –


Click to download
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