In the past year, I have developed a passion for tracking parts of my life. This was because I noticed that when I do track parts of my life, I’m more productive and more likely to accomplish my goals. Taking the action of documenting different aspects of your life (whether it’s keeping track in a journal or using technology to assist you) makes it way easier to notice when you slip up on your goals.
One of my favorite quotes is “What Gets Measured Gets Managed.” – Peter Drucker.
This quote is so simple but also very powerful. The simple act of paying attention can go such a long way in improving yourself and enhancing your future.
Check out some of the key areas in my life that I get value from tracking!
As mentioned in Track Your Finances Closely This Year, I wrote about how I track my spending, net worth, and debt using Fin-tech tools such as Mint.com. I use Mint for the ease of use and the insight I receive from tracking my finances. With Mint, I identified four key areas to save, and it helped nearly double my payments toward my Student Loans- something that I wouldn’t have been aware of without tracking/categorizing my transactions.
Related Post: Spending Recap 2016
Before 2015, I didn’t track my money other than occasionally viewing my bank account- by seeing my situation based on if I had money in my account or not. I never invested or saved much money at all. During this time, I never actually accomplished many goals or went on many trips.
I was simply unaware and was drifting into more debt year by year. Tracking my money forced me to buckle down and helped me make better decisions due to having awareness towards my money and was able to manage it properly.
Other Financial tracking tools worth checking out:
How many times have worked out and didn’t have a plan once you got there? You simply went from machine to machine and did three sets of 10 of a few machines and called it a day.
I did this so many times and wasted a lot of workouts.
Having an exercise plan is important, but following it and tracking your weight, # of sets, and rest time between sets is just as or more important to track. You won’t see much improvement if you keep doing the same weight and never building up. That’s why it’s important that you record and track as many details as possible at the gym.
Once you start logging and tracking your data, you won’t waste as much time in the gym and become much more efficient with your workout time.
You can track your workouts with a workout journal or notepad on your phone. There are even workout log apps such as MapMyRun, or wearable fitness tech like a Fitbit that help automate your tracking.
Fitbit also tracks your sleeping habits which can be very beneficial in discovering trends related to your productivity.
The other (most important part) of being healthy is what you eat. Many fitness experts say that your nutrition is the most important factor in reaching your fitness goals. Whatever your fitness goals are it’s essential to track what you put into your body. The easiest way I know is to use the MyFitnessPal app on your phone and start tracking what you eat.
MyFitnessPal is a calorie counter and diet/fitness journal all in one. You can enter in some information about yourself and your goals. The app will then make individual macronutrient recommendations for you to reach your nutrition goals.
In the app, you can insert the particular type of food consumed, as well as the portion size. MyFitnessPal has all the nutrition facts for the particular type of food you ate and automatically fills out the information. Once you enter in all the food and drink you consumed for the day you can see the number of calories, protein, carbs, and fats you consumed throughout the day. This information is critical for you to reach your fitness goals.
Have you ever tried meditation? Most people probably haven’t tried and might think it’s a little silly. For me ever since I started to meditate I have become more productive and less stressed. As part of my morning routine, I meditate for 5-7min 5x a week first thing in the morning.
I use a brain-sensing headband called Muse. With Muse, I can tell how I’m doing during my meditation sessions. The sounds get louder when my mind starts to drift and when I am focused I hear peaceful sound and birds chirping in my headphones. It’s a cool tool that helps motivate me to keep up with meditation.
I just completed 7 mins of #MuseMeditation with 1 recoveries and 46 birds. @ChooseMuse https://t.co/0SXM7zB4Oq
— Gary (@DebtFreeClimb) January 25, 2017
You don’t have to use Muse to meditate, but by using it, I am easily able to keep track of my results and make adjustments session to session or mid-session based on the trackable results from the app.
If you haven’t tried meditation, I recommend giving it a shot for 30 days and see how you feel. There are free apps and resources like Calm or Headspace. They can help you get started too.
Do you know how much time you spend in the car each week? Do you know how much you spend on car-related expenses (gas, maintenance, etc.)?
All of these questions are super important for 1) your safety and 2) to avoid a costly car issue.
Personally, I use Mint to track all my car related expenses. Tracking my driving expenses gives me a pretty good idea of how much I drive my car and spend on gas each month. With this information, I can make more conscientious decisions on when and where I drive.
Tracking you cars maintenance schedule is also important to keep your vehicle running smoothly throughout the years.
One awesome app that I found is called “Automatic.” Automatic plugs in your vehicle and connects to your phone via Bluetooth or 3G. The Automatic helps turn your car into a smart car and can help you become a better (more aware) driver. It gives you detailed diagnostics about your vehicle. Tracks were you go, and provides you tips on how to improve your driving. With the information presented with Automatic, you can enhance your driving, save money, and avoid costly car issues.
Tracking How Much TV You Watch
To be aware of how much time you spend watching TV shows, check out tiii.me. This free tool shows how many hours you spend watching each season of your favorite show. Add up all the time you spent watching to get an idea of how much time you spent watching TV. I watch Netflix and movies from time to time to relax, but I cut out cable in early 2015 to avoid spending a lot of time watching TV. We have 24hrs in a day, and I am striving to spend more of my time on more valuable things.
Tracking How Much Time You Spend Being “Connected”
We are all on our computers or smartphones the majority of the day. It’s important to be aware of how much time you spend being productive and how much time you are unproductive. Our society today is so heavily involved on social media and always being connected. Spending time on social media can be a valuable thing for some people and can become a complete waste of time for others. It depends on how you use it.
I use Rescue Time to track the amount of time I spend on various websites on my laptop. I like rescue time because (like Mint does with money) it categorizes websites I visit and can get trending data on how much time I spend on entertainment, social, business, or shopping sites for example.
There are quite of few apps that track how much time you spend on your phone (and the apps you use the most). One free trick I like to use (for iPhone users) is to go to your iPhone settings then battery, and it will show the battery use per app for the last 24 hrs and last seven days (tap on the particular app to show the time spent). I use this information and write down my time in an excel doc to track on a weekly basis.
Some apps you will use the “On Screen” time to track (such as social media apps or email) and others you will use the background time like podcasts, music, or audiobooks.
Tracking everything can make you more aware of your good and bad habits. It helps prevent drifting and keeps you on track to meet your goals. Using the tools I mentioned above can contribute to automating your life, and some of the tools will take a little bit of manual work to track. However, putting that manual work now can lead to some pretty great things: more money, improved health, improved safety, and overall better quality of life.
Don’t overwhelm yourself and track everything all at once. To get started, I recommend trying to incorporate one or two of the tracking techniques I listed above. Then when you get more comfortable add more.
An additional automation resource: Check out IFTTT to track different areas of your life. This program helps connect with multiple apps at once. Check it out!
What tools to you use to track your life?
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David Chen says
I used to go to the gym 6 days a week but progress was slow and I couldn’t figure out why. Then I researched some fitness plans and exercises to do each day and it ended up changing my whole life! Tracking progress is so important -great article.
Totally agree with you, David! The simple task of writing down your results and following a plan can make a huge difference!
Thanks for the comment!
I totally agree that tracking can be a HUGE eye opening experience.
The first time I tracked my monthly spending was 6 years ago. I was shocked at what I was spending my money on! I’ve tracked my spending almost every single month since and it’s allowed me to make huge progress.
I tracked what I ate once for just a few days and it too was eye opening!! (Mostly it was embarrassing!) I need to do that again so I can face the facts that I don’t eat as healthy as I could and should.
Tracking allows you to see what’s really going on. It’s almost impossible to just remember what you ate this week or remember what you spent your money on this month without writing it down.
For Sure! There is definitely a power to tracking. Now with technology improving it will get easier and easier to track in the future.