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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.

“I used tracking to become my own coach,” says Cheng, a San Francisco entrepreneur. (You can check out the video of her progress on YouTube, if you're not one of the 3.5 million who have already seen it.)

She used the web site to track her practice and relied heavily on self-recording. “Each day, I used video to record my performance, and I watched it to find what I was doing that worked and what was tripping me up,” Cheng says.

She recommends focusing on your work in progress, not on your final performance. Focus on just one change or improvement until you master it, then move on to the next. You may need to tweak your goal, too.

Cheng also benefited from some quantified data during her training period. Based on data tracked by the SleepCycle app, she changed her sleeping habits. As a result, she was more alert, which improved her ability to learn those new moves!

Tip No. 4: Turn Data Into Motivation

Fun makes a difference, too. “We all like to feel like we’re winning or succeeding. So look for apps or trackers with a gamification angle,” says Alex Ince-Cushman, who tracks everything from sleep to exercise to time on his computer.

“For example, I set my tracker’s target goal to 3,000 points a day. [Points are how the Nike FuelBand keeps track of activity.] There have definitely been days when I was close but not quite there, and I ended up squeezing in a short run to get over my self-imposed arbitrary line,” Cushman says.

Many people work harder when they have a number to push against. Quantification --counting and measuring -- can urge you to spend more and more time working toward your goals.

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