Are your attempts at self-improvement met with nothing but frustration and lack of progress? We’ve all been there. The problem with long-term goals and aspirations is that, unsurprisingly, it takes a long time to get there. It’s easy to fall prey to self-doubt and disillusionment while you make the journey.
Fortunately, using a simple technique called smart feedback, you’ll be able to tackle any and all of your long-term goals.
Before we dive into that, we recommend that you read up on smart goal setting which will help you to set goals in a way that will maximize your chances of success. In addition, you should internalize the importance of deliberate practice. Even with smart feedback, there are no shortcuts!
Smart Feedback Is…
The term “smart feedback” is based on the idea of feedback loops. A feedback loop occurs when you:
- Perform an action.
- View the results of that action.
- Use those results to improve the next action.
In other words, the output of a system is recycled back as input for the next iteration of that system.
While feedback loops are nothing new, they’ve mostly been used in contexts of project management and product evolution. But more recently, with the aid of smartphone apps and web tools, people have been applying feedback loops to self-improvement and personal development, resulting in what we call smart feedback.
One important aspect of smart feedback is the quantified self, which is just a fancy term for the process of breaking down aspects of your life into numbers. For example: weight, food consumption, hours of sleep, miles walked per day, how much money you’ve spent, etc.
When all of this is combined, you get a system of immediate feedback (e.g. lost 3 pounds this week) towards long-term goals (e.g. reach a weight of 140 pounds by June) with the help of self-tracking tools.
Smart Feedback For Health
Perhaps the most popular area for smart feedback today is in health management. Health is typically broken down into two interrelated subcategories: diet and fitness. Here are some great tools to get you started.
On Android, you can track your weight with Libra, which is a nifty tool for inputting weight goals and viewing graphs that visualize your progress. There’s also Endomondo for tracking fitness goals and My Tracks for tracking paths when walking, running, or hiking. MyFitnessPal on Android is always a strong choice as well.
There’s also a MyFitnessPal for iOS, which is a great tool if you want to track both diet and fitness gains. More recently, however, iOS 8 comes with a built-in Health app with powerful features for tracking diet and fitness progress.
If you prefer web apps over mobile apps, try these diet-tracking websites. Sites like SlimKicker and Lose It! utilize elements of gamification — e.g. progress bars and level-ups — in order to remind you that every step is real progress. As a bonus, most of these sites also provide mobile apps on the side.
Finally, you may want to consider something a little less technical: Excel spreadsheets. In our collection of health-tracking Excel templates, you’ll find useful sheets like the Daily Food Log, the Blood Sugar Log, and the Weekly Exercise Chart.
Smart Feedback For Money
Personal finance is an important skill everyone should learn. The topic may seem overwhelming at first, but there are several resources that make it easy to learn how to manage money. With a bit of effort, you’ll find yourself with more money in your pocket and a stronger sense of willpower.
But smart feedback is all about tracking your income and expenditures to see exactly how your money situation fluctuates on a day-to-day basis. This feedback is how you know whether you’re in a healthy spot or not.
The best place to start would be by using one of these money management apps. Mint is one of the most popular apps for tracking the outflow of money, plus allowing you to set budgets and goals in true gamification fashion. CashBase is another good app to try. Most of these are available for both Android and iOS.
Debt repayment is another area that benefits from smart feedback, which is where the ReadyForZero app really shines. With it, paying off debt has never been easier or more motivating. It’s available for both Android and iOS.
If you’re more interested in taking the tried-and-true path and using an Excel spreadsheet instead, that’s fine. Check out our guide to making a personal budget in Excel and you’ll be set up in no time at all.
Smart feedback isn’t limited to health and money. With a bit of ingenuity, you can apply the smart feedback principle to activities that aren’t inherently quantified — e.g. remodeling your home, logging your sleep habits, or writing a novel.
TrackThisForMe is a wonderful Android app that lets you track anything by leaving the quantification up to you. Hours slept? Cups of coffee drank? Number of words written? If you can convert it to a number, you can track it.
SmartGoals is another useful app that lets you break down one specific goal into multiple unique tasks, allowing you to view your progress in real-time.
Also worth mentioning are these habit-building apps that can help make sure that you do something productive every single day.
Lastly, if you want to take the notions of smart feedback and the quantified self to the next level, you might find interest in biohacking.
What do you think about smart feedback? It works extremely well for me but we’d love to hear about your own experiences with self-tracking feedback loops. Share with us in the comments below!