Five Years of Life Tracking
Five years ago, I started tracking my weight and steps per day. I've also tracked things like how many calories I consumed, how much caffeine I consumed, whether I ate animal products that day and what I did that day. Some of those things I stopped tracking after a while, or didn't start until more recently.
I started doing it as part of a New Year's resolution to lose weight and be more productive. I read about the idea on Reddit, and it seemed like a good idea, so decided to give it a try. It's been pretty effective, at least for the things that are straightforward to measure.
Weight and steps are in that straightforward category. Weight is just a matter of stepping on a bathroom scale, and I have a pedometer app on my phone that detects my steps. But other things are much harder to handle. I tried a few different ways of measuring my productive activity. How many to-do list items did I check off? How many minutes did I spend doing various kinds of activity? None of them really worked for me. I think the problem is that the numbers don't capture what I mean by productivity, and I haven't been able to figure out how to define what that in terms of anything objectively measureable.
Doing the tracking is relatively easy. It only takes a few minutes a day. The hardest part is just remembering to do it, which I've done by making it part of my bedtime routine. Though gathering the data can be difficult too, depending on what you're measuring. Counting calories is a pain, but absolutely worth it if you're trying to lose weight.
I've found it to be very motivating to be able to look back and clearly see the progress I've made. And it lets you notice if you're backsliding sooner.
Something I've found is that the very act of tracking changes my behavior. I didn't have any particular goal in regard to the number of steps, but by recording that number, I pay more attention to it, and I end up walking more as a result. Simply being mindful of something can change how you act, and tracking is a regular reminder to be mindful.
It's also pretty easy to set up if you want to do something similar yourself. I use a Google docs form and spreadsheet. You can see an example form here. You can copy that and link the form to a spreadsheet so it adds the data to the spreadsheet automatically when you submit the form.