Sunday, December 14, 2014

On Cost-Benefit Analysis

My husband and I disagree about a critical aspect of Richmond life: leaf raking. When I rake, I don’t worry about getting every last leaf. I go in and quickly rake up as many leaves as possible, which means targeting very leafy areas and raking until the leaves thin out such that they take more effort to rake. Tim prefers to meticulously tackle the leaves one zone at a time until that zone is completely free of leaves. The root of this disagreement lies in a difference in opinion over the costs and benefits of leaf raking strategies. I feel the benefit of quick and efficient raking outweighs the cost of a few straggler leaves. Tim, who I’m sure is thrilled (not) to be in this blog post, feels like the benefit of an aesthetically pleasing yard free of leaves outweighs the cost of the additional time demanded by his strategy.  
30% of the bags of leaves I've raked
Whether you consciously recognize it or not, cost-benefit analysis is a routine part of our lives because we’re constantly making decisions, however mundane. In order to make those decisions, we – implicitly or explicitly – must weigh the costs and benefits of each alternative. I love cost-benefit analyses. Different forms of these analyses are critical parts of my academic field – pharmacoeconomics – and I believe they have the capacity to help improve healthcare in the light of limited healthcare resources.

But this is a triathlon blog, so how does cost-benefit analysis relate to triathlons?

Most triathletes juggle work/school, triathlon, and family life. A simple fact of life is that dedicating more time to any one of these things takes away time from the others.  We all have to find our own balance between these legs of a stool (throwback to elementary school government, anyone?).

I think one of the keys to success in balancing these aspects of my life is continued cost-benefit evaluation. There are a few things in my training and lifestyle where the benefits clearly outweigh the costs, e.g. a number of quality workouts each week with a substantial fitness impact and getting at least eight hours of sleep. There are others where the benefits pretty consistently outweigh the costs, e.g. eating chicken, rice, and veggies for dinner on a disproportionately high number of weeknights (benefit: quick and budget-friendly, cost: food boredom) and getting nine hours of sleep (benefit: whoa, I can think straight? cost: my social life). Then there are the tougher decisions I face, e.g. the relative costs and benefits of training with differing degrees of illness or when facing a particularly busy time at school and whether or not to dry my hair after swim practice (cost: being that girl who always shows up to school with wet hair, benefit: 4-5 extra minutes in the pool). I think the important thing here is that I am always looking for ways to improve my efficiency, or my “bang-for-the-buck”, by focusing my time on the most cost-effective (in time, money, and/or energy) ways to make progress in my training and in my professional life. I’m fortunate to have a coach who understands and works well within the context of the limited time of working and family-oriented triathletes.

If you recall my Augusta 70.3 saga, you know that I learned an important lesson about nutrition in a 70.3 – PACK IT ON YOUR BIKE. This year, I plan to be more prepared to tackle the half distance. I suspect that the benefits I’ll reap from proper race-day nutrition will far outweigh the costs of the time it will take to educate myself on proper race-day nutrition. My professional team, Maverick Multisport, is partnered with InfinitNutrition, so I have an incredible opportunity to focus on improving my training, racing, and recovery with nutrition. As we head into the new year, I challenge you to look at your time and resources and evaluate what aspects of your training and gear are most (or least!) efficient. Then, work towards efficiently improving your training and gear to make gains without harming the balancing act otherwise known as life.

Finally, shameless plug to follow my new twitter account @JPattersonTri and “like” my new Facebook page I will attempt to keep discussion of my research on C. difficile to a minimum. Speaking of which, to the family members who make up approximately 50% of my blog readership, if I’m going to spend another semester researching C. diff, I’m going to need to add it to my collection of “giant microbes”. <cough, Christmas gift, cough>.

Ebola and Malaria need more friends!

No comments:

Post a Comment