Telling about his “Fitbit Life,” comedy award winning writer David Sedaris says a friend first explained the Fitbit as, “…a pedometer…But updated, and better. The goal is to take ten thousand steps per day, and, once you do…” your rubber bracelet vibrates.
During the first day he wore a Fitbit, Sedaris decided to pace at the airport rather than sit. Feeling a tingle from his bracelet at 10,000, he added another three thousand steps. (13,000 steps are close to 5.2 miles for someone who is 5’5″.) Feeling compelled by his Fitbit, Sedaris tells us he was at 15,000, then 25,000. “I look back on the days I averaged only thirty thousand steps, and think, Honestly, how lazy can you get? When I hit thirty-five thousand steps a day, Fitbit sent me an e-badge, and then one for forty thousand, and forty-five thousand.” Ultimately, Sedaris tells how he wound up doing nothing in his life but walking.
Where are we going? To how targets make us more productive.
In one study, Harvard researchers offered Indian data entry workers the opportunity to select an output target for their workday. If they reached or exceeded their target, as always, they would earn 2 rupees for every 100 fields of data they accurately entered. Missing the target, though, halved earnings to one rupee per 100 fields of data.
I was surprised that many workers requested the daily target until I learned that they produced more and earned more than the group that had none. Trying to figure out why workers boosted output when they had a target, the Harvard economists said it was all about better self-control.
Our Bottom Line: Targets and Self-Control
At home and at work, targets can raise our productivity because they increase self-control. Sadly though, targets can also create unintended consequences….like spending your entire day walking.