Tracking personal data to meet goals and success criteria is easy with our devices and apps—but is that really helping us achieve things?
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Issue #39

Personal Data Tracking

Over the last few weeks I started (as we all do after the new year) implementing goal tracking systems and lists to keep me motivated and focused in 2018. I put together a time blocked schedule and I've been wearing my FitBit every day. I know better than to dive all-in immediately, but one thing I hadn't considered is how this self-tracked data feeds into the always-on nature of my life. After reading a bit more i, I've started to think more meaningfully about my approach.

Overdoing tracking self data

This New Yorker article lightly makes fun of the motivation and goals-driven culture we've curated. While that's not inherently a bad thing, the article dives deeper into the proliferation of self-help data and technological innovation available to us. It's interesting—and a little startling—to realize just how strongly we surround ourselves with messages of personal optimization. That feeds into the devices and tools we use daily. There are some obvious takeaways here (too much data often isn't helpful at all), but also some really great reminders to pull back and think about what we're attempting to improve or track for ourselves and why that is.


Changing behavior (or not) with apps and devices

As I mentioned, I've been wearing my FitBit daily. Many of us have smart watches, health apps, or other fitness bands. Usually these health and habit trackers operate by setting a goal and rewarding you (via points or statuses) every time you hit that goal. However, these devices can't determine the difference between a missed goal or an 'off day' (such as being sick, changing your routine, etc)—which gets in the way of actually successfully changing our behavior. As this article reminds us, our devices act as behavioral intervention devices, but were created without actual behaviorist input—which can cause issue in how we respond to the changes we try to implement.

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