The paragon of inefficiency.

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As a designer and life hacker, I strive, sometimes subconsciously, to optimize my life by whatever means necessary. I keep my keys on a hook next to the door with my sunglasses and messenger bag, my wallet has cards arranged by use frequency, and my furniture at home is arranged in such a way that minimizes walking distance between bed, my closet, the living room… you get the picture.

I’d like to stress the last one, though. I’m super obsessive about that. When I take the Caltrain (or previously, the T in Boston) I stand on the platform at the exact spot I want to be when I get off the train at my destination. It’s down to a science – I can reliably stand in the exact spot the doors will open. From there, I measure triangles and tangents in my head to walk the shortest possible route… it’s actually really obsessive now that I’m writing this down. I am an efficiency machine – or, at least, I was.

Enter the Nike FuelBand.

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Here’s a fun little wearable computer that tracks steps, calories, distance travelled, and some other activity metrics that Nike+ combines into a “Fuel point” system. The arbitrariness of the points and the sparse “friends” component make for a pretty simple but addictive competition. Aside from my veg-out day last Sunday, I’ve hit my goal of 2500 Fuel points every day since buying the device a week ago. It has forced me to be more active than usual – and that’s the point. For me, though, it promotes a different way of thinking. Instead of finding ways to optimize activity or do something more efficiently, the FuelBand forces me to do the exact opposite. The longer I’m moving around, the better I do.

It’s strange how simply measuring something like casual fitness makes you think so differently about it. In order to meet my fitness goals, I constantly find myself moving. I get up more at the office, and I pace down the train station and back. I don’t strive for efficiency anymore, because I instantly realized that exercise is all about being as inefficient as possible with physical activity. Realizing that blew my mind, and it made my goal of achieving a relatively high level of daily activity a much less daunting task. As long as I’m constantly moving throughout the day, I can easily blow past the 2500 point mark.

I know it’s tough to stay active when working long hours in a startup. Priorities quickly shift – often away from taking care of yourself. Personally, I can’t get to the gym 3-4 days a week. I could, but I know I just won’t. The FuelBand is working for me so far, and it’s helped me see when I’m most active and makes me accountable for staying active. See? That wasn’t so hard.

Sometimes people do. ⇢