How to Drink Enough Water
Recently, I set a new goal for myself: drink 100 ounces of water per day—this works out to about 4/5 of a gallon.
(I read somewhere that half of your body weight is a good number of ounces to shoot for. Since I read it on the Internet, it must be true. Also, I guess you know how much I weigh now.)
Bottom line: I feel great. I never paid much attention to how much water I consumed, but now that I’ve started intentionally drinking “enough” water, I can definitely tell the difference.
Good news is, this is a pretty easy habit to develop and, thanks to modern technology, we can use our fancy pants pocket computers to keep track of our progress.
Let’s start with the mental part of this.
Building the hydration habit
Step zero—and this is true of any habit—is making a decision. You can want to drink more water all day long. I want lots of things I don’t have. Wanting per se doesn’t mean or do anything.
So, you must decide to do this.
Second, decide on a target amount of water you want to consume. The half-your-body-weight thing seems like a good rule of thumb, but talk to a doctor if you’re not sure.
Third, choose a primary beverage vessel. You’re going to be drinking the vast majority of your water from this one container. For me, that’s a 32oz water bottle that I keep with me pretty much all the time. It’s full to the brim when I wake up and as soon as I empty it, I log the water I drank—more on that in a second—and fill ‘er back up again.
Why am I so pigheaded about the container I use? The first of two reasons is quite dumb, but it’s true: pouring a glass of water when I was thirsty was too much of a hassle.
I know. Stupid.
The second reason is a bit more compelling: I didn’t have to decide to get up, go get a glass, fill it with water, and drink it. I got in the habit of keeping the water bottle with me and filling it up whenever I emptied it.
Having a great big bottle full of water within arm’s reach makes this habit much easier to maintain. It’s also an excellent visual cue that you’re working toward a goal. Whenever I’m sitting at my desk, the water bottle is there. When I glance over at it, I’ll pick it up and take a few swigs.
That’s a huge trick: when possible, help your habits.
Make it a Game: Track Your Progress
I started looking for iPhone apps that would let me easily track this sort of thing and, after several $3 purchases, I realized that I had the perfect solution all along…
Apple’s Health app is already capable of tracking daily water consumption, I just needed a way to both add to and read that value. My trusty steed, Workflow, came to the rescue.
I had two requirements. I wanted to be able to…
- Quickly record a quantity of water after I’d finished drinking it (with the ability to key in the number of ounces).
- Get a current “status check” of how many ounces of water I’d consumed so far each day.
And both of these needed to involve the fewest possible number of taps.
I’m pleased to report that ol’ Workflow handled both like a champ.
Two simple recipes made this possible:
To add a new quantity of just-consumed water, I use this recipe (which you can also cobble together using the above set of screenshots). When I run it, I’m presented with a list of pre-filled options. Each of these represents a typical container I use when drinking water:
- 12 ounces (the small glasses I own)
- 16 ounces (the larger glasses I own)
- 16.9 ounces (your typical to-go disposable water bottle—I keep these in the trunk of my Forgettable Japanese Sedan™)
- 32 ounces (the aforementioned big water bottle)
Additionally, we have the “Other” option. This is for those random times when I’m not using one of my own pre-defined water vessels. Selecting it will give me a numeric keypad where I can enter a custom quantity.
What makes this really slick is that, unless I choose “Other”—which I rarely do—I can run the entire recipe from the Today widget. I tap “Add Water,” it shows me the menu, and I select the relevant option. Boom. Done.
No matter which numeric value I select, Workflow tells the Health app to record that quantity of water in it’s fancy pants Health database thingie, which means I can view historical data in the app.
If I want to quickly see how much water I’ve consumed so far today, I run this little beauty. Running this simply queries the Health app for how much water I’ve had between a custom date range (between “beginning of today” and “end of today”) and shows me a notification with how many ounces I’ve put down so far. Easy peasy.
I realize I could also just read it from the Health app, but that would require far too many taps compared to the single tap needed to run Water Check.
(Regarding that “Continue Workflow in App” action: if I run Water Check from the Today widget, the widget blocks the notification I’m asking Workflow to display. Switching to the Workflow app to finish the recipe will display the notification as expected; it does require an extra tap to close the app, but I can live with that.)
Since I’ve been tracking this for the past few months, I’m way more concerned about how much water I drink than I was in the past. I suspect there’s some psychological, gamification-ish reason for this, but all I can say is that I’m regularly achieving this goal, sometimes beating it by 20% or more…
When I see the water bottle on the counter, it’s like a little reminder that I need to drink more, so I do.
And drinking this much water has paid some pretty great dividends thus far. I’m a believer.