3 reasons you need to track activity
We are all busy…crazy busy. So to add another app or another thing you need to do each day to an already crushing pile might seem like a step in the wrong direction. But, here’s why you need to do it.
No matter how easy or how simple you make it, tracking activity is work. And you already have enough work, right? Well, here are 3 reasons it’s worth the effort to begin tracking key behaviors.
1. You need the truth.
The truth is that we often are not fully aware of our own behavior. We might feel like we are exerting maximum effort, have been working hard for a long time, or have a strong routine…but do we? Dr. Jim Loehr of The Human Performance Institute says in his best-selling book, The Power of Full Engagement, that we all possess “an infinite capacity for self-deception”.
Unfortunately, we have found that this simple truth rarely works in your favor. Put another way…
1. For good things: If you aren’t tracking them, you aren’ doing them.
2. For bad things: You probably do them more often than you think.
When Mark created the first spreadsheet that seven years later became irunurun, he started tracking six activities he knew he should do and thought he was already doing. Turns out he was doing them less than 40% as frequently as he thought.
Worse, we’ve found the opposite to be true with bad habits. When people have begun tracking activities that they should not do, they generally find out that they are doing them about twice as often as they think they are!
Any change effort needs to be grounded in truth. Get the truth. Track the behavior for four weeks, then take stock in reality.
2. You need the root cause.
If you want to change a behavior, you need to understand what drives it. As you begin to track an activity, your awareness increases not only for this activity, but for the motives and obstacles surrounding it. Real data combined with heightened awareness may reveal a previously unseen root cause.
For example, talking with a client about the inconsistency of his morning workout, he revealed that he was more likely to skip if he didn’t get to bed on time the night before. Logical. When we discussed his bedtime routine, we discovered that it varied based on a whole series of other events, all of which started after dinner.
He began to track how consistently he had dinner on time. He talked with his spouse about the issue and established a rule…”Dinner is over by 7pm”. She agreed that she would get home in time or catch up as soon as she got home. (Don’t get us wrong, we think eating with your spouse is tremendously important, but if that is the root cause of a sundry of other issues, address it.)
3. What gets measured gets done.
There is a reason this cliche exists. It’s true. Measuring something creates mental focus on that behavior. Daily tracking ensures that you don’t forget.
Quantifying the behavior also makes it possible to share your results with others, allowing for accountability and the beneficial impact of “the Hawthorne Effect”. (The Hawthorne Effect is the phenomenon that observed behaviors improve, even if just for the short term, simply as a result of being observed.)
So what if measurement isn’t really your thing? In Myers Briggs parlance, let’s say you are more Perceiver than Judger. We’ll address that another day, but suffice it to say that your preferred work style does not exclude you from these 3 truths. If anything, you may need measurement even more!