There is a gap between perception and reality. People consistently overestimate the time they spend on dreaded tasks and underestimate the time they spend on the good stuff, they eat more than they think they do, they move less than they would expect.
It is the gap that makes accurate feedback valuable.
I’ve kept a time diary in the past, and I’ve logged my gym workouts for ages. But until now, I’ve never had a way to track my daily activity level. I think I’m a pretty active person–I love to walk, I choose the steps over the elevator–but I’ve wondered if my perception matches reality.
I decided to find out.
Choosing a tracking gizmo
I’ve been using it for three weeks now. I bought it as an assessment device, really–I wanted to know how many steps I take each day. But I’m finding I can’t track this data without acting on it.
When you measure something, improvement happens almost automatically. As one of my deliberate practice books put it, “You get what you count.” Since I’m counting steps, I’m getting steps.
I set my daily goal at the recommended 10,000 steps per day. I use the Jawbone Up’s phone app to track my progress. Here’s what the app looks like:
Left: I missed my daily goal by 67 steps. NEVER AGAIN. Right: I hit my goal and earned a pretty swirly graphic. The blue bar tracks percentage of sleep goal. The green bar tracks food, but I’m still playing around with that feature. I promise I eat more than 842 calories each day.
Minding the Gap
Since I’ve had the Jawbone Up, I’ve been able to assess just how wide the gap can be between my perception and reality. When I hit Target with 4 kids at lunchtime, I estimated we took 1200 steps. (Reality: 499.) When my daughter and I wandered around the park climbing trees, I estimated 2000 steps. (Reality: 2800.)
The feedback is not immediate. There’s no counter on the device itself and it doesn’t sync wirelessly; I need to manually sync it by plugging it into my phone to view my data. This does put friction between having the data and acting on it. Jawbone recommends syncing twice a day, but I do it a lot more because I want closer-to-instant feedback.)
I started this experiment out of curiosity, but now I am determined to hit my goal each day. I’ve been going on more walks, I’ve made a few extra trips to the library (on foot), and I immediately became one of those people who park at the back of the parking lot.
I even went for a run this week. I don’t even know who I am anymore.
But I’m loving it.
Do you have any experience with a fitness-tracking gizmo? Post thoughts to comments.