Untethering From Tireless Tracking

I’ve loved numbers and statistics for as long as I can remember, so any devices or applications that give some kind of virtual dashboard to more, I generally take on with relish.

At the start of 2018 I bought a Misfit Ray activity tracker, to see how much activity I engaged in each day.

This is part of my overall plan for staying fit and healthy that also includes daily yoga, eating well, and walking as regularly as possible – with or without a camera in my hand.

Since I haven’t had a watch since my teens (I don’t wear any kind of jewellery – which once offended an ex-girlfriend who bought me a leather bracelet on holiday, and didn’t entirely impress my wife when I said I wouldn’t be wearing a wedding ring after we married), and so didn’t want to start now.

Which led me to the Misfit Ray, a very light and almost imperceptible bracelet that I wear around one ankle so it tracks my walking and cycling better than if it was on my more static wrist, and being more visible and annoying as I write and type (another reason I don’t wear a watch).

After two years, I’ve seen a clear pattern.

Every month I complete around 300k steps, or an average of 10k per day.

I haven’t drastically changed my approach to (or amount of) walking in this time, the tracker has just shown me what my average amounts are, with the routines I already had in place.


Some days I exercise more than others.

When I do the school run (on foot, unless it’s torrential rain) and cycle to work (ditto re weather conditions), I have a more active day than the non-school run, commuting by car, wet days.

I also go for a lunch time walk at work four days a week, again unless it’s very wet, which adds a few thousand steps. And days I’m not at work I try to have a longer walk, usually with a camera.

These more active days where I might walk 15-20k steps balance out with my most inert, when it’s only walking around the house/office that adds to up to perhaps 5-7k.

The Ray has also offered an interesting sleep pattern analysis, and I can see, allegedly, how much deep sleep, light sleep, and wakeful time I have each night.

I don’t know how accurate this is – or can be with such a simple device – but there have been clear differences in the stats between nights of little sleep with a new baby, and those where I have eight or nine hours, with five to seven of these restful.

The figures and patterns have clearly correlated with what I’ve instinctively known and felt about how much sleep I’ve had – and the quality.

In all of this though, the tracker hasn’t provided any major revelations, or transformed the way I exercise, sleep, or anything else.

On the whole it’s been just one more little thing I can perhaps get too caught up in and obsessive over.

Because I now know what exercise I need to do to make up 10k steps (or 15 or 20k), there doesn’t seem much point continuing to track it.

Plus, although 10000 is a good round number, it’s certainly not the only way to measure how healthy one is (or how many photographs you’ve made) – as I said this forms part of an overall approach for living in an active and healthy way that I’ve had for most of my life.

Symbolically, as I mentioned before, I don’t like having anything jewellery-like or otherwise on me all of the time, it feels like I’m tethered or, well, being tracked!

So for 2020 I’m putting the Misfit Ray away in a drawer, to see what it feels like to be untethered from this particular statistical ritual. 

I have a feeling this might be part of a wider move towards being less obsessed with the details, rather than enjoying overall experiences.

Indeed, “untethering” feels like a good guiding word for the new year. 

Other examples that come to mind are analysing the stats for this blog, and tagging and organising photos I make by camera, lens and so on, rather than just letting any image stand on its own two feet, regardless of the equipment that created it.

How about you, what do you track in your life? Do you have any plans to change, remove, or add anything in this next year? 

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

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7 thoughts on “Untethering From Tireless Tracking”

  1. Dan I hear you. My son works for Samsung, and recently gave me a smart watch. Apart from being able to make phone calls, which I can already do with my phone, it’s main purpose seems to be to boss me around with regard to my daily activity, which varies considerably from day to day. The bossy watch has been sitting on the charger during my summer holiday, and will probably stay there….my old watch tells the time just fine!

    1. Thanks Steve, yes it’s much like mobile phones now, most of us forget they can also make phone calls!

      I don’t have a smart watch but can’t see a time when I will. The screen is too small for doing anything significant with it, and generally I just find watches get in the way. The time on the main screen of my phone works perfectly.

      Mostly I just feel like they’re another type of gadget the big brands have invented to make more money and trap you further into their ecosystem (laptop, tablet, phone, watch) when most of us only need perhaps two of these devices at most, not all four.

  2. I have a Fitbit that I use to track how many steps I take, and to monitor my resting heart rate, but I don’t obsess over it or anything. I will check how many steps I’ve done at the end of the day but I rarely look at the data in the app.

    Originally my sister bought it for me because I started an exercise routine and wanted to track how many calories I was burning, but I don’t really exercise anymore except for walking.

    Since moving to Kent, when I go into work, I easily go over 10k steps a day because I walk almost half an hour to the bus station, and then there’s quite a bit of walking on the other end when I get into London. If I visit Kew, steps for the day normally are between 15k and 20k.

    This post prompted me to look back at some of my Fitbit data, and my resting heart rate has improved (used to be average of 68 bpm, this week it’s been 59 bpm), so at least the Fitbit is helping me see that I’m doing something right!

    1. That’s very encouraging about your heart rate, you must be pleased.

      I’m not averse to using technology to track and improve health at all, I just feel I don’t need a tracker to count my daily steps anymore as I know the daily routines that I have result in a certain amount of activity each month that I’m happy with. And I just feel like untethering from a few things, like I said in the post.

      1. Yep I’m very happy. I have to walk up a huge hill on my way home from work, and noticed I had been finding it easier, but glad to have some kind of affirmation.
        100% understand what you mean 🙂 I guess I sort of feel the same way about cameras! And I was actually thinking I don’t need the Fitbit to track my steps anymore either because I know now what kind of day will typically take me to 10k or more, but it’s nice to have it for the heart rate monitoring.

  3. I use two apps, one called Sleep Cycle and the other called Life Cycle, that track my sleep and movement, respectively. Sleep Cycle just listens to me all night and gives me a reasonable report on my sleep, which has been helpful as I’m a bit of an insomniac and it helps me detect patterns that lead to sleeplessness. Life Cycle is just interesting. It tells me how much time I spend at which places. Frankly, it’s not useful. Just interesting. I’m thinking it might be time to let it go.

    1. I use the Google Maps app a fair bit as a sat nav on my phone, and have a windscreen holder thing in my car. It’s very good. So that tells me where I’ve been.

      In a way it’s handy if I want to revisit places (like ancient rural churches I’ve forgotten the location of) but on the flipside I don’t like being tracked!

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