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"The Push-up Experiment" or "How I learned that being able to see progress is motivating..."



I've found that when I'm able to visualize progress it motivates me. I'm not a productivity expert or a psychologist but this makes a lot of sense and I figured I'd share it even if you've heard it before.

Since March 28th, I've been doing push-ups and tracking the number of push-ups I achieve in a spreadsheet. Yes, I know this completely classifies me as a total nerd, but I'm OK with that; I'm writing a blog post about my push-up spreadsheet, I'm well aware of the overall nerdiness going on here. I won't get into the nirty-gritty about how I used IFTTT to send me a Google Drive survey every morning on my phone reminding me to do push-ups as well as providing a convenient place to simply enter the numbers. I won't go into the details about how that survey automatically goes into a Drive sheet and the graph (pictured below) automatically updates with each response. No, I won't go into that because I'm afraid that you will think I'm very nerdy, but if you really want me to then let me know and I'll write that up too.

In order to make sure that this data actually meant something I wanted to put a couple rules in place for myself.

  1. Push-up until I physically can't do another one.
  2. Do them at roughly the same time every day.
The first rule ensured that I wouldn't be future padding results by holding back now so that I could get a consistent improvement day-by-day. The second rule, since I picked just after waking up, prevents as much outside influence as possible. There is still the chance that a good or bad night's sleep would impact my numbers but I figured it's better to narrow it down to as few external factors as possible.


Now that I've been doing push-ups every morning for a few months here's what that information looks like in a graph form. I started at just over 10 with a couple days of exactly 10 and have grown to be able to do over 30 push-ups as of August 30th. I'm not trying to brag because honestly 30 push-ups isn't really a viable bragging right but I think it's interesting to visualize this information which brings me to my main point and title of this post, "being able to see progress is motivating."

I love looking at this chart, it makes me feel good that I'm improving. It is very simple and very clear that I'm making progress, not rapid progress but it's visual and easy to see.

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