What do you track?

In this app-happy age, it’s possible track all kinds of personal metrics. I like time-tracking, of course, and step-counting. I’ve tried food journaling, which is effective, but not very enjoyable (I prefer happy ignorance). I used to track miles run. My Fitbit sort of does that for me now, but I don’t record runs as something separate from general steps. Some people swear by tracking sleep. I’ve tracked quantity as part of tracking my time, but not quality. Some devices track sleep cycles and all that. You can track productivity metrics too, like email checks per day, screen time, etc.

I’m working on a piece on which metrics give you the most useful insight. So if you track something regularly, what is that? And why? What changes have you made in your life as a result?

In other news: Two Fast Company pieces this week. One on How To Figure Out Your Optimal Work Load, and another on how performance reviews can work in your personal life. Would you ever ask your loved ones for one?

17 thoughts on “What do you track?

  1. I track exercising. It’s handy to have a visual reminder of what/when I last worked out. Isn’t tracking productivity a bit unproductive, if you are taking time to track this daily?

    1. @oilandgarlic – I think it depends! If you recognize that you’re visiting a non-work site too often, it might help to see an exact number. This is probably something you’d want automated, rather than writing it down every time…

  2. I track my runs (mapmyrun) and spending (ynab). I loosely track food choices but not quantities or anything like that. I want to be better about tracking books read and movies, just for fun! And I find it very helpful to track time once in a while 🙂

      1. no. not longstanding. just started a couple of months ago. we both enter purchases with our phones and we use the YNAB (You Need A Budget) system. entering purchases has become a habit and definitely helps me to be more conscious about financial choices. we have good incomes but a lot of expenses given where we live (pricey). so this is helping us start working on some savings goals AND has the nice benefit of helping me feel more comfortable about spending when we’ve budgeted for it.

  3. I track the books I’ve read, steps taken, and money spent. I’ve found that I’m willing if a) there is a good app available and b) I want to refer to the information again later. Tricks for productivity bursts (like the Pomodoro technique) are less interesting because–at least for me–they seem only relevant in the moment. I don’t get the same satisfaction reflecting on my progress later.

  4. I love tracking metrics about myself! The step counter and sleep tracker in my Jawbone Up are invaluable to me, especially because I’m battling a sleeping disorder so the quality of my sleep (shallow or deep) and number of interruptions are just as important to know as number of hours. And tracking steps makes me move a lot more each day! My period tracker app is also really helpful. And finally, I’m starting to track spending now, which I should have been doing all along but only recently realized how important it is to track spending to avoid mindless purchases and progress toward my financial goals.

  5. When our daughter was little I used to run a stopwatch sometimes, just to make sure I was getting at least four hours of concentrated time with her every day. Being in the same room together doing different things — kindergarten teachers call it parallel play — didn’t count, though most of the rest of the day was filled with it. No, these four hours had to be one-hundred percent focus on her. She didn’t have to be focused on me, mind you. To the contrary. I’d do nothing but watch her, for example, as she tore around the playground or made sand castles with a friend at the beach.

    Running that stopwatch kept me honest. It kept me from bringing work to the playground or a book to the beach.

    I wasn’t doing it as much for her as me. That’s one way I’ve emulated my own mother, who gave birth to eight children in nine years. I once asked her why she didn’t get out of the house more to give herself a little break. And she said, “I don’t want to miss anything.” Miss what? The crying? The screaming? The constant, unrelenting chaos of that many little people jockeying for position?

    It must really be a privilege, I decided, to watch someone grow up.

    Had I not kept myself accountable, I might have squandered that privilege. That’s just how it goes. It was amazing how quickly I lost those supposedly stubborn twenty extra pounds once I started recording what I ate as religiously as I kept track of my workouts. And money? Same thing. I recently stumbled on this little gem — written on a coffee cup: “A donut is the best way to extinguish the flames of your sadness for ten seconds.” Ever given any thought to how much those ten seconds cost you, over and over and over, in not only calories but cash? What better way to reignite those flames of sadness?

  6. I track my exercise using a year-at-a-glance calendar. I fill in each square using different colors for each type of physical activity: cardio, weight training, yoga, etc. It helps me keep from going more than a day or two without some form of organized physical activity.

    I also track the books I read each year, partly for my own enjoyment, and partly because I occasionally blog about what I read.

  7. I so look forward to these results!!!
    I don’t track much of anything but want to/need to, and look to see what can add value!

  8. I’ve been tracking the books I’ve read with a very basic rating system so that I can go back to look for authors I’ve liked as well as to check if I’ve read something before.

    In the past I’ve kept food and exercise diaries but I’m still looking for one I like whether it is electronic or paper.

  9. I tracked calories for about 2 year. I was able to lose 50 lbs. and maintain. I haven’t tracked for about a year now, but know much better how to eat. I have gained about 10 lbs. back, but there are some other situational things that contribute to that. But monitoring what you eat, or even writing it down has proven to be a deterrent to eat extra. Even if it’s laziness. “If I eat this cookie I have to go find my food diary and write it down. I don’t want to do that right now.” And then you’ve kept yourself from the extra work, and the cookie!
    I fail at tracking budget and spending. Every time I try, I lose track pretty quickly. Haven’t been able to create a habit out of it.
    I track my sleep using SleepTime on my phone, and have gotten obsessed with that. Merely for entertainment, as it doesn’t really produce data that I use. I like that it wakes you up during optimal timing.
    Tracking is beneficial when you use the data to change behavior, and I will keep trying on the spending. This is something I really want to affect!

  10. The books I read. The books I want to read, if you count putting them all in my Amazon cart. 🙂 Money we spend. Events and happenings in our family by saving our monthly family calendar pages (makes it easier to write our Christmas newsletter).

  11. Ooh lots of things, none of which are fitness related:
    Net worth, stock portfolio history (dividends, purchases, fees), spending (a bit more relaxed about it now though), salary/total earnings history, cost comparisons for frequently bought items, random earnings unrelated to jobs (sales, rewards programs), points programs for travel….
    I like money: managing it and making sure we keep enough of it 🙂

    Occasionally we talk about keeping a list of the movies we’d like to see because we inevitably forget, get a redbox code and have no idea what to rent.
    I have a favorite restaurant and orders list, now, in preparation for post-birth brain fog.

    Lots of work metrics involving time needed to complete tasks/projects, etc., for training and staffing purposes.

    1. @Revanche – my husband is into tracking stock portfolio history quite religiously. I track my income and my business expenses, but one kind of has to do that for taxes. But I love the idea of keeping a list of movies/books consumed and those one would like to consume. I think in general tracking things one would like to do more of is a great idea. So much of tracking is slightly punitive in nature — here’s how much I indulged, spent, etc. — whereas tracking leisure you’d like to do more of is far more fun.

  12. Hi Laura,

    I like to track my goals, break down into smaller mile-stones, and I also track my to do list, where I use the 80/20 rule to eat my ugliest frogs in the start of the day 🙂

    Tor Refsland

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