How to Self Monitor Your Behaviors
It is not uncommon for people to want to alter certain behaviors. The most difficult part of this may be determining how often you exhibit the behavior, and what triggers it. Self monitoring techniques help you identify and track behaviors and triggers. Once you develop a strategy for monitoring yourself, you just record your behaviors over a period of time. In some cases, you can even use technology to passively record your behaviors.
Developing a Self Monitoring Strategy
Identify target behaviors.It is best to monitor one behavior at a time. This can be anything you choose, from dietary choices to how often you get distracted. Choose the most important/interesting behavior and monitor that first.
Observe quality and quantity of target behaviors.When you observe behavior quality, you reflect on your own experience of a particular behavior, including how that behavior makes you feel. However, it’s important that you take behavior quantity into account, too. In other words, you should measure how often a behavior occurs, and for how long.
- Observing behavior quantity is key for making behavioral changes. Say you want to reduce your smoking. You may think you only smoke a couple of cigarettes a day, but after counting the behavior occurrences, realize you are smoking an entire pack over the course of the day!
- When thinking about behavior quality, you might reflect on your response to cigarette cravings. Do you give in easily, or are you able to practice self-control?
Build in rewards.You can reinforce behaviors that you want to exhibit by building rewards into your plan. Each time you observe yourself behaving the way that you prefer, you reward yourself. Make the reward proportional to the behavior you want to exhibit.
- For example, an appropriate reward for spending an hour studying could be taking a walk. A weekend out of town would be a more appropriate reward for having made straight A’s.
Enlist a trusted person to help.Ask a friend, family member, or other trusted person to help you identify potential target behaviors, and develop a strategy for recording and addressing the behaviors you want to change. This person can provide motivation while holding you accountable.
- For example, if you are trying to work out each day, have a friend call you every night to make sure you’ve completed your daily exercise.
- Consider choosing a friend who is trying to implement a similar behavior change.
Recording Target Behaviors
Use prompts to initiate recording.It is not always possible to record every move in real time. In this case, designate certain times or situations in which you will record your behavior. Again, working with others can be really helpful. Have them remind you to record your behavior at specific times.
- For example, if you are trying to eat less junk food, enlist a lunch buddy to remind you to record your junk food intake at lunch each day.
- If you can’t find someone to help, set a reminder such as an alarm.
Create charts to track behaviors.Having a chart with appropriate columns (e.g. one each for behavior, time, and frequency) can make recording much easier. You can hand draw a chart or print one off from a computer. If you are having trouble designing the chart, look for a chart template.
Tape yourself.In some situations, the behavior measured is impossible to keep count of alone. For example, if you want to know how many times you looked down while delivering a speech, you cannot count during the speech. Instead of trying to count them as you go, record yourself with a video/audio recorder. After the event, go back and count the times you exhibited the behavior in question.
Decide when or how additional technology will benefit monitoring.The behavior being monitored will determine when/how technology will be helpful. Physical activity is a commonly monitored behavior. Technology is very well suited to help you measure anything from heart rate to steps taken in a day.
- Many technological devices do the work of graphing your behaviors, too.
Utilize your smartphone.If you have a smartphone, you may not need to buy any new equipment. Smartphones can use apps to tell you how far you’ve walked, what pace you held, and how many calories you burned. They can be used to keep track of dietary habits, sleep patterns, and a host of other daily behaviors. If your phone does not come with an app for monitoring these behaviors, you can go to your app provider and download one.
Graph your results.Once you have tallied up the number of times you showed a certain behavior, you can put the information into a graph. This allows you to show the frequency of your behavior compared to another variable, such as time. This can be a great tool for monitoring your progress when working on different behaviors.
Making Use of Results
Study the graph.The graph of your results will not only show you the frequency of a given behavior, but also your trends over time. You can use the graph to compare different variables and analyze where your problem behaviors, or desired behaviors, show up most often. This can help you adjust your rewards and prompts to maximize results.
- For example, if you are trying to exercise more frequently, you can study a graph of how often you take an evening walk. If you notice that you consistently miss walks on Tuesdays, you can analyze your Tuesday routine to identify the problem and fix it.
- If you are using something like a smartphone, it will often generate graphs for you automatically.
Fade prompts and rewards slowly.As you start seeing more of your favorable behaviors, you should start using your recording prompts and rewards less often. Taper off by using only half as many prompts for a while, then half of that, and then no prompts at all. You can do the same with rewards.
Use your results to model future efforts.Once you have created a successful routine to monitor and change one behavior, you can apply that routine to other aspects of your life. Each behavior you alter may need slight adjustments, but overall the same method should work for groups of similar behaviors. This will allow you to monitor and tweak any behaviors that you would like.
Video: Behavior Self-Monitoring
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