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Your Health – On a Tiny Screen

smartphone-swimming-poolI’ve said it hundreds of times— no, thousands— to my clients: self-observation is a tool which can help increase our vitality and energy. How, you might ask, can observing the seemingly mundane details of our daily lives energize us? Well, as leaders and decision makers, we know data is power. And yet every day too many of us make decisions (say, about what to eat or how much to exercise) with hardly any data at all.

There have long been tools and resources for tracking and journaling the various details of our health, but until recently these were the domain of experts like personal trainers and coaches. Welcome to the era of the iPhone and other hi-tech, affordable ways to manage your vitality. Here are four ways that iPhone apps can monitor and analyze key factors for your daily energy:

  1. Track your heart rate
  2. Catch your breath
  3. Record your workout details
  4. Monitor your diet and calories

To deepen your appreciation of such technology, take a break and try observing things immediately around you. Right now, wherever you are, do a 360-degree scan of your environment. As if you were seeing things for the first time, drink in everything you can with your eyes. Here’s the trick: try to withhold judgment.

I’m sitting in the airport. I notice that out of 15 people in my vicinity, 10 are talking on their cell phones (or fiddling with them). 12 are carrying computers, iPads, Kindles, or other such devices. Over half are overweight or obese. A quarter are wearing suits. A few people are smiling.

I’ve got some fairly obvious filters here (yes, I’ve spent a few decades focused on leaders’ health and wellness). No doubt I’m jumping to some judgments about what I see. It’s tough to shut that off completely, even more so when turning our focus inward. When we can’t shut off that inner judge, our inner observations might sound like this:

I’m feeling sad and it stinks.
My energy level is in the toilet right now. Why can’t I get it together?
My concentration is so bad that I’m sure I look like a dope in this meeting.

See how snap judgments catapult us past simple observation and into the realm of presumption? This little observation break was supposed to be just data collection, simply taking it all in. But so often as leaders, before we’ve taken it all in, we’re readying ourselves for action (or vapor-locking in frustration). I’ve discovered that you’ll find your self-observation is more energizing if you can take these two steps: 1) truly pause and 2) avoid judgment. Start with questions like:

What is my energy level right now?
What is my mental state?
My mood?
Where am I holding stress or tension in my body?

To answer honestly and without judgment takes practice— or the mind of a robot. Which is the idea behind those iPhone apps: they are systematic about gathering data, thus providing us objective tools for making better decisions. And when those decisions affect how we manage, expend, and cultivate our energy, they start to feel pretty important, right?

Of course you don’t need an iPhone for this sort of data collection—it’s just an easy alternative to paper journals, personal trainers, and the like. Whatever your technique of observation and tracking, there is one big reward toward your wellbeing. Over time you’ll see a pattern emerge: your unique daily energy signature.

When you can see where your energy rises and crashes, the question is unavoidable: Is this pattern producing the results I want? If you answer “no,” then it’s time to explore options for creating better energy balance, such as eating for energy, taking a break every 90 minutes in your workday, or doing something creative and fun. Try it: fit your life into a little iPhone screen and see if that gives you a little more room to breathe.

Photo by JD Hancock