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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 5 Critical Mistakes To Avoid When Setting Goals 5 Critical Mistakes To Avoid When Setting Goals Goal setting is a great way to cut down on procrastination and boost productivity. If you don’t have goals, you don’t have direction. Without direction, it’s easy for you to feel lost and confused. Fortunately,... Read More 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 Want To Become An Expert At Something? Try Deliberate Practice Want To Become An Expert At Something? Try Deliberate Practice It's all too easy to feel crestfallen when you're arduously trying to improve a certain skill. Use the power of "deliberate practice" to get you over those infuriating plateaus. Read More . 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:

  1. Perform an action.
  2. View the results of that action.
  3. 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.

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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 Track Your Weight The Smart Way With Libra [Android] Track Your Weight The Smart Way With Libra [Android] Today I’d like to tell you about an Android application I have been using every day since March 16, 2011. That’s over 300 days of use, day in, day out. It’s a free application called... Read More , which is a nifty tool for inputting weight goals and viewing graphs that visualize your progress. There’s also Endomondo for tracking fitness goals Endomondo Sports Tracker Helps You Keep Track Of Your Fitness Goals [Android] Endomondo Sports Tracker Helps You Keep Track Of Your Fitness Goals [Android] In many parts of the northern hemisphere, we're just starting to see the first signs that Spring might be on its way. Even if you're not lucky enough to be seeing these signs yet, in... Read More and My Tracks for tracking paths Trace and Relive Your Hiking Paths With My Tracks on Android Trace and Relive Your Hiking Paths With My Tracks on Android Coming straight from Google itself, My Tracks is an app with a singular purpose: to track your path as you travel from point A to point B. As simple as it sounds, this path tracking... Read More when walking, running, or hiking. MyFitnessPal on Android MyFitnessPal – A Cross-Platform Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker MyFitnessPal – A Cross-Platform Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker One of the most effective ways to combat weight gain is to count the calories and keep track of your intake, as well as your exercise, in a diet diary. The only problem is that... Read More is always a strong choice as well.

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There’s also a MyFitnessPal for iOS MyFitnessPal Calorie Counter - The Best Weight Loss App On The iPhone MyFitnessPal Calorie Counter - The Best Weight Loss App On The iPhone Everyone knows that losing weight is difficult. It requires a certain level of commitment that not everyone is prepared for. However, when you meet those weight loss goals, it is one of the most satisfying... Read More , 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 iOS 8 Turns Your iPhone Into A Personal Healthcare Monitor iOS 8 Turns Your iPhone Into A Personal Healthcare Monitor Apple's new watch will turn your iPhone into a revolutionary device for managing your health and fitness – here's how it works. Read More with powerful features for tracking diet and fitness progress.

If you prefer web apps over mobile apps, try these diet-tracking websites Track Your Diet And Get Leaner With These Web Apps Track Your Diet And Get Leaner With These Web Apps The envy worthy fitness levels of athletes comes from years of rigorous fitness regimens and healthy diets. If you aren’t a sportsperson, you won’t be able to duplicate it to that extent, but you can... Read More . 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 10 Excel Templates To Track Your Health and Fitness 10 Excel Templates To Track Your Health and Fitness Read More , 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 7 Non-Geeky Skills Every Geek Should Have 7 Non-Geeky Skills Every Geek Should Have Pretty soon, skills that were once considered "geeky" will become the norm. Basic tech skills will be necessary for everyday life. However, we can't leave behind the important non-geeky skills of yesteryears. Read More . The topic may seem overwhelming at first, but there are several resources that make it easy to learn how to manage money Simply Frugal: How To Learn Personal Finance The Easy Way Simply Frugal: How To Learn Personal Finance The Easy Way Do you fret over bills and debt on a regular basis? Do you feel lost when others speak using financial lingo? Here's the good news: it's never too late to learn about money. Read More . 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.

smart-feedback-saving-money

The best place to start would be by using one of these money management apps 10 Great Apps To Manage And Save Money In 2014 10 Great Apps To Manage And Save Money In 2014 Since your smartphone is always with you, it’s a great resource for monitoring your budget, calculating interest or finding coupons. Read More . 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 Get Ready For Zero Debt With ReadyForZero Get Ready For Zero Debt With ReadyForZero What do you do if you find yourself chest deep in debt? Wouldn't it be nice to have a tool that does the debt management for you? There is such a tool called ReadyForZero. Read More 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 Make a Personal Budget on Excel in 4 Easy Steps Make a Personal Budget on Excel in 4 Easy Steps Read More and you’ll be set up in no time at all.

Final Thoughts

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 Trackthisforme: An Android App For Keeping Tabs On Your Sleep, Exercise, And Other Important Numbers Trackthisforme: An Android App For Keeping Tabs On Your Sleep, Exercise, And Other Important Numbers How many hours did you sleep last night? And the same day a week ago? Read More 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 SmartGoals for Android Helps You Set Realistic Goals, Measure and Attain Them SmartGoals for Android Helps You Set Realistic Goals, Measure and Attain Them While your smartphone can't make your dreams come true, it may be able to help. Read More 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 Resolutions, Accomplished: 9 Android Apps For Building Habits Resolutions, Accomplished: 9 Android Apps For Building Habits Resolutions can be good for you if you actually keep them, and there are plenty of Android apps available that can help you with that. Read More 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 Top Podcasts to Take Your Biohacking to the Next Level Top Podcasts to Take Your Biohacking to the Next Level Can you biohack your way to improved mental and physical performance? Read More .

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!

Image Credits: Graph Data Via Shutterstock, Diet & Fitness Via Shutterstock, Saving Money Via Shutterstock

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