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Why Your Fitness Wristband Isn't Working for You

Show me the man with a fitness tracking wristband and I'll show you a man with too much information on his hands (Ba-da-bing!).

I asked for an UP fitness bracelet for Christmas last year. I got one and started wearing it. "This will be so helpful," I mused. "Tracking calories, counting steps, setting fitness goals - I'll look like [insert sexy, trim, chiseled model of the moment here] by spring!"

After a few months of taking pictures of barcodes and typing in workouts with my thumbs, I gave up. Now I'm the proud owner of the best wrist-sized alarm clock around. Each morning, it gently vibrates to rouse me from slumber, counted steps be damned.

Photo from  arstechnica

Photo from arstechnica

It's not that the act of entering everything one eats is tedious (it is) or that counting my daily steps isn't useful (it is), it's that I did nothing with the information provided. Information without action is just noise.

Oh, it's 8 PM and I still should walk 2,000 steps today to hit my goal? I understand, but it's dark and I'd rather read a book to my kid on the couch. 

I've gone over 250 calories for the day it's not yet dinner? Too bad, because the work crew is going out for a cocktail or two. No way I'm sipping water at the local hotspot. 

And on it went. I slowly realized that all the info this handy gadget provided resulted in no behavior change. 

That's entirely on me. For some, fitness wristbands are a lifesaver. The data provided does shape decisions and people are exercising more or eating better. Lovely! They're using the information provided. These facts and figures aren't clutter; they're tools.

When data comes rushing at us as it does these days, we've got to know when to get out of the way and let the tide roll in and when to grab our board and go for a surf. If you think that all information available is information worth your attention, I'm afraid you'll drown in data's sneaky undertow. 

So, rather than track fitness for fitness' sake, website traffic for traffic's sake, or weather for weather's sake, take a moment to analyze what information you actually act on. When does new data change your decision making process? What information or education determines your next move? Keep paying attention to those high water marks and look past the rest.

And, to wrap up, here are a few things you may be paying attention to that you can stop. Enjoy your newfound time and and attention:

  • People on Twitter or Facebook (not all of them; just the ones whose information and updates really don't matter to you)
  • Every recipe on Pinterest (if you really feel like chicken piccata tomorrow night, I bet you can find a recipe somewhere fairly easily)
  • Exact rain percentage chances for every five-minute block of the day
  • To-the-minute driving times when you're not running late
  • A $7 fare difference on the airline to which you have no loyalty
  • The new fall TV lineup (seriously - there is no more worthless information in the world)
  • Advice dished out on blogs (especially this one)

Again: information without action is just noise. And we could all use quieter days.

Sam Davidson1 Comment