Every great entrepreneur I know has at least two things in common: First, they are obsessed with data. That’s because business owners know that information, applied correctly, is power. The second commonality is a competitive nature: they all like to win. It doesn’t matter what the contest is...entrepreneurs simply thrive on winning, both in business and in life.
Perhaps part of my affinity for my Fitbit, which I’ve worn almost 24 hours a day for more than two years, is that it feeds both of these desires: it gives me real-time data about my own performance while fueling my competitive spirit.
I ordered the device after reading Tom Rath’s book Eat, Move, Sleep in late 2013. It’s a compelling, well-researched guide which asserts, among other things, that good health centers around nailing three things: eating right, moving enough, and sleeping enough. Rath says 10,000 steps per day has been repeatedly shown to be about the amount of daily steps an adult needs to dramatically improve his or her longterm health. So, I got a Fitbit and vowed to walk 10,000 steps each day. (I soon upped my daily goal to 10,100 after reading this must-read article by James Clear about the power of improving everything in your life by 1%.)
In the years since I began tracking my daily activity - including steps, exercise, sleep, water intake, and sometimes meals - I’ve become a major Fitbit advocate. I’ve purchased the wearable trackers for about a dozen friends and family members. Despite my enthusiastic endorsements, many became part of the estimated 50% of people who stopped wearing them within a year. However, almost all of my entrepreneur friends have remained part of the Fitbit Faithful. I firmly believe that wearing a Fitbit makes me a better business owner...and it can do the same for you. Here are five reasons why.
- It Shines A Spotlight On My Health.
Any business owner will tell you being sick is one of the worst things that can happen to your business. Yet, as entrepreneurs, many of us tend to run ourselves into the ground. Constant stress, overworking, and under-prioritizing physical activity can leads to illnesses, which can bring an entrepreneur to a screeching halt.
Wearing a Fitbit makes it much easier to keep up with important health metrics: specifically, it automatically tracks two of the three elements Rath outlines in his book: Moving and Sleeping. Fitbits automatically track every step you take throughout the day and every minute of sleep you get at night.
The mobile app breaks down this data into helpful graphs that show things like your active minutes, times awake or restless during the night, and how these patterns change over time. This is important because it helps identify patterns. For example, I know that when I haven’t had enough sleep I make poor food choices. So, if my app tells me I only had five hours of “restful sleep,” I’ll make a stronger effort to resist snacks and prioritize getting more rest the following night.
- I Use Silent Alarms As Reminders And Calls-To-Action.
Like most business owners, I have lots of meetings every day. I set alarms in my app to make my bracelet silently vibrate at set times - usually 5 minutes before meetings must end. That way, I can always wrap up on time without having to make potentially rude-seeming glances at my iPhone or watch.
Silent alarms also make great personal reminders. An entrepreneur friend of mine admitted she had trouble remembering to drink water for hours at a time during the day, which often led to severe dehydration and migraines. Now, she sets a silent alarm for every two hours to remind her to go refill her water bottle.
- It’s A Source of Competition And Social Connection.
The social aspect of Fitbit’s app helps fuel the competition entrepreneurs love so much. I can “challenge” my friends throughout the week, and use the app’s messaging function to booth cheer and taunt them. Studies have shown repeatedly that exercise goals are more often met when friends offer accountability, so the ability to track friends’ step progress and send message adds another layer of enjoyment.
- It’s An Accountability Tool.
As the great American poet Jay Z raps in “Reminder”: men lie, women lie, numbers don’t. Wearing a Fitbit is the easiest way to get objective feedback about your days. You can’t hide from numbers: you either hit your goals or you don’t. As an entrepreneur, this real-time feedback gives me motivation to do better when I underperform, and helps me enjoy celebrating small victories when I hit my goals. Fitbit awards badges and trophies for achievements, like hitting daily and lifetime step goals. (My top badge for steps in a day is 25,000, and earned a lifetime badge for walking more than the length of India.)
- It’s A Perfect Personal Dashboard.
To return to my original assertion, every good entrepreneur loves extrapolating data to look for trends in business. Since nothing is more critical to your businesses success than you, why wouldn’t you want a dashboard with all of your personal metrics and data? I love being able to look back in time at my performance over the past two years - whether that’s daily steps, weekly sleep averages, or minutes of exercise each month - and look for correlations between my personal performance and my company’s performance.
Plus, it’s simple to track things like meals, exercise/days at the gym, and weight. It’s informative and, most of all, it’s fun. Knowing I would be able to look back and see how many days I went to the gym and how many I skipped it certainly helped me jump on cardio machines more days than I might have otherwise. Plus, I just think it’s really damn cool to know I’ve walked more than 5.5 million steps - or 2,500 miles - in the past two years.
Fitbit announced two new models last month: the Blaze, which is a combination fitness tracker and smartwatch, and the Alta, which is a slimmer model that adds more functionality (and style) to the similarly-sized Flex, which is the model I’ve worn for more than two years. I pre-ordered the Alta and am waiting impatiently for it to arrive and kick off the next step in my ongoing quest toward better health...and better data. If only my Fitbit app had a clock to countdown the hours until it arrives.
Brittany Hodak is the co-founder of ZinePak, a marketing agency that creates custom content projects for superfans, and Per Diems Against Poverty, a 501(c)(3) that makes it simple for pro athletes and entertainers to reallocate their contractual per diems to the 1 in 7 Americans struggling with hunger. She is a regular entertainment contributor to Forbes. Read her column here or follow her @brittanyhodak.