This past summer, my husband and I cut our electricity usage and ensuing electricity bill by half compared to the summer the year before.
It seems almost obvious to want to save electricity and therefore money. Plus, during the prime of the Texas summer, Houston’s electricity grid is subject to rolling blackouts. Electricity companies will tell their clients to keep the AC below a certain threshold to not overtax the system.
So what drove us to change the way we use electricity in our home? Self-awareness. We started paying close attention to our electricity usage by tracking it. The mere act of looking at our current usage and tracking it with consistency was the inflection point. This informed our behaviors by finding new ways to save energy.
Measuring, tracking, recording – all these data points for short-term feedback can be important in the long game of behavior change. They allow for visual representation of progress in a reliable and objective way. Visualizing progress can be extremely motivating.
This is what allowed my husband and I to get clear on what exactly was going on so we could put Operation Waste Less Energy, Save More Money into action.
From a health perspective, common ways that people use measurements and tracking include keeping a food journal or tracking workouts. Often it can be helpful to track your nightly sleep routine if your aim is to improve the quality and amount of sleep you’re getting. You would then use the data to inform your next step to making improvements, day by day or night by night. Ways to measure or track might include logging information in a journal, a spreadsheet, or an app or even simply marking the number of days with an X on a calendar.
It is important to remain flexible with what you are tracking or measuring and aim to use it as a tool. In example, I had a client who started tracking her steps with the hopes of reaching 10k steps a day. Through our sessions, she came to realize that it was less important to get caught up in the number of steps but to focus on the way she felt after moving her body. It also helped her lean into different types of physical activity and shift her focus to tracking the number of days a week that she engages in physical activity vs obsessing over getting the desired amount of steps daily which became particularly limiting. As author James Clear writes, “Measurement is only useful when it guides you and adds context to a larger picture, not when it consumes you. Each number is simply one piece of feedback in the overall system.”
In the end, sometimes simply examining your own behaviors can cause you to change them by forcing you to pay attention to them.
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