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6 Tips From Fitness Device Super Users

Not long ago, tracking your health data meant writing down your exercises in a log or -- for the truly advanced -- using a pedometer. But in a few short years, a flurry of new devices have changed everything. You can now track personal data through activity monitors, smartphone apps, smartwatches, clothing with sensors, and even smart eyewear. Power users of these devices have revolutionized the way we transform behaviors and wellness goals by using the data in whole new ways.

What's in a Name?

A mass of data doesn't do you any good unless you know how to interpret it. That's where power users of activity tracker devices come in.

These self-made data-interpreters make up the Quantified Self movement. Power users are quantified selfers or QSers.

QSers don’t just collect data. They use it to improve their lives by testing assumptions and changing their behaviors.  Here’s how you can, too.

Tip No. 1: Track to Test Your Assumptions

Before you start, you need to find out where you stand now.

"This is the equivalent of weighing yourself before hiring a trainer so you have data about the beginning of your journey," says John Havens, author of Hacking Happiness: Why Your Personal Data Counts and How Tracking It Can Change the World.

It’s very common to think you exercise or sleep more than you do. And many people think they eat less than they do.

When you wear a tracker or log data in an app, you see the facts. With that info, you can set a specific and personal goal. 

Tip No. 2: Track Only One Thing to Start

It can be tempting to have a long list of stats you want to track. But tracking veterans have learned (often the hard way) that long lists can actually be counterproductive.

“To get started, focus on one thing to track,” says Peter Alperin, MD, a San Francisco tech entrepreneur who does research on QS.

By starting narrow, you’re giving yourself time to figure out how to make the device work for you.

The goal is for you to make tracking part of your daily routine, not feel like you're a slave to your tracker.

Tip No. 3: Track With a Goal in Mind

Across the board, most QSers stress the importance of having a specific goal or objective. First you need to know what you want to learn or change. Then you track the right data to give you the answers.  

QSers are known for using quantified data -- numbers, like calories eaten. You can also use qualified data like comparing how you feel from one time to the next.

During the year that she taught herself to dance, much of Karen X. Cheng's data were qualified data. Instead of numbers, she compared her performance with daily videos.

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