The Easiest Way to Improve Your Fitness (and Your Marriage)

Have you ever heard of the Hawthorne Effect?

In the early 20th century, the Hawthorne Works factory commissioned an experiment to determine if employees were more productive when the lighting was increased or decreased.

Much to their surprise it was discovered that workers worked harder no matter which way the light’s brightness was changed.

Apparently the workers realized that they were being observed with each change and therefore worked harder.

Over the following decades further research and experiments were conducted that confirmed the original findings. In the simplest terms, the Hawthorn Effects says that:

measurement = motivation

Merely by measuring something, your motivation to improve it will increase. By taking simple measurements on a regular basis, you will end up automatically meeting your goal.

What can you measure?

This simple principle has recently helped me establish a few habits in my life that I had been struggling with: drinking more water than other liquids, flossing daily, and being more active. It also helped me remember to write my wife a short love note every day. All I needed to reach these goals was a piece of paper and a pen, and about 3 minutes a day.

The paper was folded down to pocket-sized so that I could always have it with me. I wrote down the items that I wanted to track in the first column, and then added the days of the week in the remaining columns. Then, I took a few minutes each afternoon to note what I had accomplished and what was left to complete.

It took me less than a week to become aware of these activities without the list. I began to almost feel guilty about not flossing each morning, because I knew that I was “supposed” to (after nearly 3 decades of being told the same thing by dentists). Every cup of coffee or juice was consciously followed by a glass of water. The elevator didn’t look as appealing as the stairs. My morning routine included writing a quick love note for my wife.

All because I started tracking whether or not I did something.

I feel that it is important to realize just how simple this system can be. I didn’t make extensive notes of how much water and how much coffee/juice/not-water I drank. I simply paid attention to what I was drinking and decided if it was more water than other stuff. Likewise, I have no idea what kind of activity I did each day, or how long I was active for. There is simply a note if I was active. A check mark or a dash. I decided what the minimum unit was and tracked that.

You can change your life

Maybe you don’t want to make a lot of changes in your life. Perhaps you just want to do one thing, like lose some weight, be able to run a mile without feeling winded, or show your spouse that you love them each day. Each of these can be reached almost automatically with the Hawthorn Effect.

1. Determine what the minimum unit is to reach your goal

What is the smallest thing that you can do each day to move you toward your goal?

If you want to lose a few pounds that means you have to eat a little less every day, so skip dessert or the morning latte. Running a mile without feeling winded involves walking around the block every day. And showing your spouse that you love them might be as simple as remembering to tell them that you do.

2. Complete your daily goal

These small, daily steps will only work if you continually do them.

Skipping dessert or the morning latte once or twice doesn’t do any good, but choosing not to have them every day will quickly show results. Walking around the block every day will help you move toward your running goal. Your spouse will appreciate you taking the time to be present and tell them that you love them.

3. Build on your daily goal

Your daily goal is the bare minimum. It may get you to your goal but it works best as a stepping stone.

As you become more conscious of what you eat the decision to have seconds might not sound as appealing. By walking every day, you will soon be able to walk around the block twice in the same amount of time it first took you to do circle it once. Then you will be able to jog around it once. Remembering that you haven’t told your spouse that you love them yet today while you are at the store might prompt you to buy them a card or flowers.

4. Track whether you complete that goal every day.

You don’t need anything fancier than a piece of paper where you can check off each day.

If you already have a calendar or planner then you can just put a checkmark on every day that you complete your minimum task. Use a bright color and make big marks, though, so it’s immediately obvious if you have been successful or not.

Fortunately, you don’t have to do as much when you aren’t having a great day. Maybe you just don’t feel like getting out and running today. You don’t have to, but you can take the few minutes to get out and take a quick walk around the block. The goal for the day has still been met.

The Hawthorne Effect can help you make great changes in your life fairly easily. What kind of change do you want to make and what will you track to do so?

This post was written by Fit Marriage contributor Matthew.  Be sure to follow his adventures as a motorcycle riding minimalist who loves his life at and on Twitter.  Matthew is also part of the team over at the all-new Fit Nation.


  1. This is a great idea! About three weeks ago I started something like this where I put 3 habits that I wanted to develop across the top of a piece of paper. I put the date each day down the left side. I put this on my refrigerator. At the end of each day I checked off whether or not I did each item. Some things I was very consistent about and others, not so much. Without this paper staring me in the face every day, I wouldn’t be able to remember how consistent I was or wasn’t. They say that it takes 21 days to make a habit so I’m tracking my results by month.

    • Paige,

      This is fantastic! Thanks so much for sharing your new venture into tracking.

      I was actually motivated by Matthew’s post as well, and I now carry a Moleskine notebook with me and track several activities that I want to work on. After a week, I can say it’s been very effective.

      Keep it up!



  1. […] check out The Easiest Way to Improve Your Fitness (and Your Marriage) to get the details and get started with this cool […]

  2. […] by Dustin – 0 Comments Categories: Motivation I recently wrote about how daily tracking can help you make the changes you want in your […]

  3. […] from Fit Marriage, recently discussued how he implemented drinking more water, flossing, and being more active into […]

  4. […] Well, I’m really happy to share a fantastic resource with you from my friend Matthew from Adventure-Some.  You may know Matthew from some of his great guest posts on marriage and self-improvement. […]

  5. […] Well, I’m really happy to share a fantastic resource with you from my friend Matthew from Adventure-Some.  You may know Matthew from some of his great guest posts on marriage and self-improvement. […]

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