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« How to Clear An Email Backlog | Main | Evernote for Windows Version 5 (Beta) »
Wednesday
Aug142013

Counting down with Kindle

In my article Countdown I described how it is more motivating to count down than to count up when tracking your progress numerically. For example if you goal was to lose 10 lbs in weight, then it’s more motivating to say “I’m 5 lbs away from my weight goal” than to say “I’ve lost 5 lbs towards my weight goal”. The first concentrates your mind on the end result and encourages you to reach zero. The second takes your mind away from the end result.

I have just had a very good illustration of this principle in the Kindle for Android app. Up to now the Kindle app has only told you how far you have got through a book, e.g. 80% completed. But they have just introduced a new version which also measures your reading speed and tells you how long it will take to finish the current chapter and the whole book. I’ve found its estimates to be pretty accurate.

I’m reading a fairly long and detailed non-fiction history book at the moment (Frederik Logeval’s Embers of War) - just the sort of book I usually get distracted from quite quickly - and Kindle is giving me the following feed-back about how far I currently have progressed:

7% of book completed

26 hours 4 mins left in book

25 minutes left in chapter

You can only see one of these at a time. Which would you monitor in order to motivate yourself to keep going with the book?

I’m finding minutes left in the chapter to be the most motivating by far. One chapter is an achievable chunk, and so I get the satisfying feeling of achieving zero quite regularly.

It’s not very difficult to see how the same method - counting down using small chunks - could be applied to other goals. Weight, exercise and money goals immediately spring to mind as they are easily measured. But even with less measurable tasks we can switch from saying “This is three quarters done” to “Only a quarter left to go!”

Related article:

Countdown Scoring

Reader Comments (4)

I'd choose 25 minutes left in chapter.

I suppose 7% counts up and in the back of my head I know theres 93% left and 26 hours 4 mins left in book feels like a long time (relatively) because I know, I'm not going to spend 26 hours 4 minutes straight. Whereas, 25 minutes is an end goal, realistic and achievable.

Interesting, if they broke it down further, say time/page, I probably wouldn't value that data as much and would still choose 25 minutes per chapter. I suppose the goal of reading a chapter is more rewarding since there's more closure, than say reading a page where there's no closure.
August 14, 2013 at 17:38 | Unregistered CommenterGMBW
GMBW:

<< 26 hours 4 mins left in book feels like a long time (relatively) because I know, I'm not going to spend 26 hours 4 minutes straight. >>

I don't entirely write off the 26 hours 4 minutes because one's mind seems to make a sub-goal of getting to the next hour. Also the rate at which one is reading makes a lot of difference at that sort of time scale, so by speeding up and resisting distractions one can rapidly make a considerable difference in the estimate.

<< if they broke it down further, say time/page, I probably wouldn't value that data as much and would still choose 25 minutes per chapter. I suppose the goal of reading a chapter is more rewarding since there's more closure, than say reading a page where there's no closure. >>

I agree. And since there's no standard page size in Kindle (it varies according to the size of type, margins, etc, that you select), it's unlikely they'll introduce it.
August 14, 2013 at 21:04 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
For me it depends on the book and why I'm reading it. If I'm enjoying it I find being reminded how little time I have left in the current chapter to be distracting, and in fact prefer nothing so I can just enjoy the content as it's served.

In general I find the 7% statistic to be the most motivating, especially with a few items on the go at once. This is because 7% is a statement of fact and lets me calculate immediately in my head approximately how long it's going to take, how long it has taken, how my average is looking or any other stat I want to consider. With other items on the go I can then see what I have time for today / this week / this month. I spend a lot of every day doing instant calculations like that so perhaps I'm tuned into that way of thinking.

As with tasks and long-distance walking I prefer to tackle easily demotivating books by knuckling down and reading them until the end has arrived without being sidetracked by how far away the end is.

It might be interesting to take a look at http://www.myfitnesspal.com/, a free website for tracking weight loss. Users can add a graphic in their signature which shows how well they've done so far. This can be set to show weight lost so far or how much weight there is left to lose. Might be interesting to see if there's an apparent preference.
August 15, 2013 at 13:57 | Unregistered CommenterChris
Chris:

Fortunately there is a fourth option on Kindle for Android, which is not to have any statistics showing.
August 15, 2013 at 21:07 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

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