in Growth

Personal Growth Hacking

If you’re a marketer and a self-improvement junkie, this one’s for you.

In my past role at Book in a Box, I got the bright idea to treat marketing at the company the same way that software companies approach growth. Interesting idea, turned out not to work too well due to us being a high-end luxury services company and not a high-scalability software company.

But, that experiment got me acquainted with the growth framework that startups use, and made me consider how else that framework might be used.

It occurred to me that the framework would be a cool way to organize personal growth. In the past, anything I did for self-improvement was much messier and less structured — applying a growth hacking framework has removed those obstacles and thus sped up my personal growth.

Personal Growth Hacking: A High Level Overview

First off, credit to the following people:

  1. Brian Balfour of Reforge for the overall framework
  2. Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares of Traction
  3. Taylor Pearson for the power law weighting

There are three core elements of my personal growth hacking framework:

  1. A list of personal growth experiments that you want to test
  2. A pipeline of experiments that are currently in progress
  3. A journal documenting the hypotheses and results of each experiment

*I do all of this in Google Drive, and you can find a link to a template of my setup at the bottom of this post.

Part One: The Experiment List

The experiment list is just what it sounds like — a list of all of the different things you could possibly do to better yourself as a person.

One of the biggest problems I run into in personal growth is deciding what I want to work on and how I want to work on it. The experiment list solves that.

For example, I have “Take an introductory improv comedy class” as one of my personal growth experiments. How do I know if that’s more important than “Intermittent fasting + caloric deficit for 30 days”?

I answer that question by categorizing and ranking my experiment list.Every experiment in the list has these pieces of information attached:

  • Idea – A short summary of the personal growth idea
  • Area of Life – Health, Relationships, Finance, etc.
  • Excitement – How excited am I to tackle this experiment, from 1-5? Excitement is a good proxy for how likely I am to stick with the experiment
  • 90 Day ROI – How much payoff do I expect in 90 days?
  • 5 Year ROI – How much payoff do I expect in five years?

After I fill these out, the spreadsheet automatically weights them based on my input:

All I do is pick the ones with the highest weighting, and move on to the next step.

Step Two: The Pipeline

The pipeline is simple: it’s a log of experiments that I am currently running. I set a start and end / check in date, as well as potential outcomes:

  • Success (one-off)
  • Success (constant low-level iterations)
  • Failure (iterate on experiment)
  • Failure (scrap completely)
  • Holding Pattern

But before we get into determining the results of a personal growth experiment, let’s talk about the most important piece of the puzzle: the experiment journal.

Part 3: The Experiment Journal

Here’s the opening line from my experiment journal:

In order to know exactly how our growth experiments are working, we need to hypothesize and test. This document is where you capture the results of each experiment, learning what you can from both the failures and successes.

Before I start each experiment, I outline why I’m running the experiment, what I hope to get out of it, and how I will approach it by filling out the following:

  • Objective
  • Hypothesis
  • Key Metric – Before
  • Key Metric – After
  • Experiment Design
  • Results and Experience

Then, as I’m running the experiment, I use the journal to write down my findings. Ways to improve, things to avoid, etc. — whatever will help me execute better.

I’ll be the first to admit this is a ridiculous and overly-analytical way to look at personal growth, but it’s been useful as hell for me.

Here’s an example of what the setup of an experiment looks like in my journal:

The setup of my sleep improvement experiment, which drastically improved the quality of my sleep in ~30 days


  1. Write down a bunch of experiments you can run to improve yourself
  2. Rank and prioritize those experiments
  3. Choose the highest priority experiment
  4. Write out why you’re doing it, what you hope to gain, and how you’re approaching it
  5. Write down notes as you run the experiment
  6. At the end, figure out if it was a success or failure

Here’s the link to the Personal Growth Hacking spreadsheet.