image description

Posts Tagged ‘Tracking’


Friday, January 28th, 2011


(Guinness, my Siberian Husky who sure knows how to sleep)

Have you ever said the title of this post out loud or have you even thought it to yourself? Of course you haven’t. Sleep is underrated. It is easy to fail to connect the dots between the amount and quality of our sleep and the effects that it has on our productivity, choices, appetite, exercise, weight, and overall happiness. Unfortunately, we also tend not to think that one can become significantly better at sleeping. This is simply not true.

In the 2008 book “Talent is overrated: what really separates world class performers from everybody else” the authors describe some of the key components to self-improvement. For example:

“The best performers observe themselves closely. They are in effect able to step outside themselves, monitor what is happening in their own minds, and ask how it’s going…Top performers do this much more systematically than others do; it’s an established part of their routine.”

“Excellent performers judge themselves differently from the way other people do. They’re more specific, just as they are when they set goals and strategies. Average performers are content to tell themselves that they did great or poorly or okay. The best performers judge themselves against a standard that’s relevant for what they’re trying to achieve. Sometimes they compare their performance with their own personal best; sometimes they compare with the performance of competitors they’re facing or expect to face; sometimes they compare with the best known performance by anyone in the field.”

“If you were pushing yourself appropriately and have evaluated yourself rigorously, then you will have identified errors that you made. A critical part of self-evaluation is deciding what caused those errors. Average performers believe their errors were caused by factors outside their control: My opponent got lucky; the task was too hard; I just don’t have the natural ability for this. Top performers, by contrast, believe they are responsible for their errors. Note that this is not just a difference of personality or attitude. Recall that the best performers have set highly specific, technique-based goals and strategies for themselves; they have though through exactly how they intent to achieve what they want. So when something doesn’t work, they can relate the failure to specific elements of their performance that may have misfired.”

In my experience, I have found these statements to be absolutely true. For example, it is quite common if not ubiquitous among serious athletes to record videos of their performance for subsequent review. This is important because 1) the tape doesn’t lie and 2) it is easier to see what is going wrong when you are not engaged in the activity. Both of these things point to objective assessment and improvement. I experienced this first-hand in a college course in which the professor taped our presentations and reviewed them with us. It was a really useful exercise to be able to see yourself say “um” about 200 times or to realize how much your had been fidgeting and how distracting it could be.

So, back to sleep. Have you ever tried to analyze or track how you have been sleeping? If sleep is important to you, consider how you might try to become the Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, or Michael Phelps of sleeping. You might seek out information, training, or coaching on sleeping well. You might purchase some high quality sleep equipment (i.e., comfortable bedding, heavy drapes). You might keep track of how you are sleeping, what and where things are going wrong, and try to trouble-shoot those areas. I find that when I think of sleep as a sport or an activity at which I can improve, I approach sleep in a completely different way that gives it the importance that it truly deserves.

Sleep well,



Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

A few years back a friend told me a story about his grandfather who was in WWII. According to the story, his grandpa determined that he was at his best weight when he was in the army. So after the war was over and he kept his uniform neatly folded in his closet where he could easily reach it. Every morning he would put on his uniform slacks. If they were tight, he’d eat a little less. If they were loose, he’d eat a little more. If they fit as they should, he’d eat normally. He did this his whole life and, and as I was told, he spent his entire adult life at roughly the same weight.

This story represents the virtue of feedback. This WWII hero was able to make small modifications to his daily habits because he had a reliable benchmark that would guide his behavior. He didn’t put his slacks on every 3 months or once a year, he put them on daily.

Weighing yourself on a scale can serve in a similar capacity. Whether you’re trying to lose weight or sustain your current weight, having an easy-to-use scale that lets you know how you’re doing over time can be really useful.
For years, I have weighted myself almost every morning and I write it down. Every so often I’ll transfer that data into an Excel sheet so I can graph the results; it’s time consuming but I like the consistent feedback and it’s also really interesting to see how my weight changes over time, or when it stabilized for long periods of time. Because I have been doing this consistently and have taken the time to review and contemplate the data, I have developed an intuitive sense of what works in my life regarding weight management. So, this is really informative but it’s also laborious to maintain.



My actual data from a few years back


Dan’s Plan Product Philosophy

At this point, let me briefly remind you of the Dan’s Plan philosophy regarding products: You don’t need any product to be healthy. However, products can be useful as they can provide feedback, add convenience, serve to motivate, and can even make goal attainment more fun. When you find the right product for you, it can serve as a great health advocate to support your efforts! With that in mind, we explore and evaluate the world of health-related products and select novel, innovative and functional productions that we think can help.


Enter the Withings WiFi Scale


My actual data from my Withings Scale

We also really like products that collect information for you in the background so you don’t have to do a lot of work to get the useful feedback. When we tested the Withings body weight scale, we knew it solved a problem: After a quick configuration (it took less than 2 minutes), when you step on the scale, it automatically sends (wirelessly over WiFi) your weight, body fat % and your body mass index to your Withings account (which also take just a minute to set up). Then, you can view these parameters on your computer and / mobile device (i.e., iphone) just by logging in; no other input required, it’s all there for you automatically. Check out some of my screen shots above! So now, I just have to step on the scale and it does the rest of it for me: record, track, and graph.

The easier it is to track data, the more consistent you’ll be in measuring something. The more regular you are about collecting data, the more information you’ll have at your fingertips to guide future behaviors. I really like my Withings scale and I think this would make a great holiday gift for you or someone you love. Also, if you think you’ll have New Year’s resolutions related to health and weight, a product like this can really support you in your quest.

Find it here: Dan’s Plan Store

Tomorrow we’ll highlight the Zeo Sleep Monitorying device.

More Info about the Withings Scale