Recently, I’ve heard a lot of people credit their success partly to tracking mundane activities that we do throughout the day. Myself, I’ve never been a fan as I’ve considered it to take up too much of my time and get me too focused on irrelevant details. You know, the 20% that don’t matter. Instead, I’ve built a philosophy around the idea of simple rules, where I’ll know that by applying some general principles the outcomes will be according to what I want.
However, having listened to the case for tracking behaviours being made, I see that I may have overlooked some benefits that it can have for self-improvement. Reasons that make me want to give it a try to see the results.
The two circumstances that I’m thinking of are:
- To analyse the status quo, or do an “as is analysis” with the purpose of getting a clear picture of the behaviours, many of which I may not even be aware of, that I am doing and how much of my time they are really taking up.
- To see whether the process of tracking activities itself can assist in establishing new desirable habits by helping keep myself accountable for the actions that I make and their contributions to making the change that I have promised myself to make.
Why tracking works
We can't improve what we're not aware of.
It is, therefore, problematic that most of us have built up habits and behavioural patterns that we're no longer aware of. We spend more money than we think. Consume more crap food than we think. Spend more hours on the phone than we think. Get less quality sleep than we think. Etc. So if the goal is to improve on those things, we must begin by understanding what it is that we’re actually doing. Likely, it will be different to what we think we are doing or should be doing. One solution, therefore, can be to track our current behaviours.
Needless to say, tracking everything at all times can be tedious unless easily automated (like having a step counter on our phone or an app that tracks time spent on the phone and in different apps). For other things that are not as easily tracked autonomously, doing it periodically to perform an "As is" analysis can be beneficial.
But the real hack, however, is that beginning to track such behaviours is likely to become an input variable affecting our behaviours and thus the results. That's because we are now aware of what we are doing. Adding this reinforcement to ensure that we do what we want to do for at least 30 days can help install new and lasting habits.
What I’m going to start tracking
To see whether tracking can be beneficial to me, I’ve decided to give it a try for one month with the goal of tracking two activities. Seeing as it can work for both positive and negative habits, I’ll be tracking one habit that I would like to do more of (establishing a new habit) and another thing that I would like to do less of (removing a bad habit).
As my main goal right now is to optimize my day around having more energy and less fatigue, I will make the goal to add more cardio to my week and also spend less time on my phone receiving distractions and unnecessary stimuli.
Thus, the two things I will track are:
- Number of cardio activities per week (goal 2-3).
- Number of times that I check the prices of cryptos per day (goal 1).
Although I go to the gym and do strength training 5-6 times per week, that’s no excuse for not getting 15 minutes of running in during the early morning. I would benefit a lot from both! But having a too vague goal of “running more”, or just thinking “I should probably do more running”. I will now insist on alternating running 2 and 3 times per week (2.5 on average).
To ensure that I do that, I will time-block this into my mornings those days where it fits best with the rest of my schedule. Then, I’ll keep a simple log where I can cross out if I did follow my plan that day or not.
Checking crypto prices
I will also write down each time I look at my phone to check the prices of cryptos. I find this addiction to be really destructive. First, it’s a waste of time, as I’m not going to do anything differently anyway. Second, it triggers unnecessary stress. Third, it may often result in me spending additional time on the phone than I intended to, or additional time fantasizing about “what if I had instead sold my tokens at that price and then bought at this or that”. You all know what I’m talking about.
With the goal of making point 2. Even more likely to positively contribute, I’ll keep a small notebook with me at all times where I’ll write down the date and time every time I check crypto prices on my phone. I hope that this will be so tedious that it will deter me from the behaviour simply by making the thought of having to take out the notebook and writing something down seem unattractive enough to keep me from checking the prices. I hope this can take me from probably checking prices 10 times+ per day down to 1 time.
Expectations and follow-up
My hope is that the mere attention to the tracking will help me significantly reduce the number of times I turn to my phone throughout the day and the amount of time that I spend on it in total. It is easy to think that checking it only takes a few seconds, but that fails to account for the extra time spent once you’ve taken it out of your pocket and unlocked the pin. The few seconds intended for checking a price suddenly turn into a few minutes reading news or looking at social media, which again triggers thought and daydreaming that is mentally draining and distracting. As for cardio, I know that I’m stubborn enough to insist on doing what I set my mind on. Thus, I do believe that I will be able to accomplish the goal.
What I am more curious to see is if I’ll find the tracking process itself tedious or not. Perhaps I will get used to it after a few days and not really mind. If so, then once my new habits are fully established, I can move on to track something else. Perhaps this will be a new technique that can help me find room for improvements here and there and implement lasting positive change? I sure hope so!
Years ago I real a lot about life-logging where people were tracking all sorts of aspects of their lives. I eventually decided I didn't need that much data. When it comes to physical activities a lot of people use apps like Strava and the social aspect can inspire you to keep going. When it comes to cutting down on things then it really is about breaking habits. Maybe I should not have Coingecko open all the time in my browser. The same goes for some other sites that I check too often. I am old enough to have lived most of my life off-line and then had years where you had to use dial-up to get on the internet (or BBS). We take instant access to information for granted now and it can be addictive.
I hope you can achieve your goals.
I have no desire for that data either, unless its for the time limited purpose of establishing a desire change in behaviour.
No idea if I'll add it as a new method to occasionally "check in" on what I am really doing, or when in the process of building a new habit.
And for sure adding the social aspect is very powerful!
The Peter Drucker quote of 'that which can be measured can be managed' is possibly the most important statement in modern business management practise.
It's just choosing carefully what to measure as you appear to have successfully decided.
Very nice writing .
Yeah I've had that quote in the back of my head, and seen it referenced in some of the literature that I've been reading and which inspired me to do this.
But I think it can be thought of even better the other way around, to define what needs to be manage and then ensure that it gets property measured. In this day and age, there's more than enough data. So the important task is to define the right question. Then finding the answer becomes relatively easy
I thrive best when I do this. I have to admit though, that I don't track many things anymore as I find the tracking of my working hours enough for now. BUT reading this I will probably have this voice inside of my head bugging me for a few days to start doing that again as I'm currently really on a mission to achieve things and the clock is ticking. So why not try to be as efficient as possible?
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Looking forward to hearing if it works out well for you:). Good luck!
I used to do this when I was deep into writing fiction. The main metric being a daily wordcount, with other patterns captured as well. Here's a screenshot of it that I did for another blog, way back in the ancient times of 2018 😉
I found the process quite illuminating and motivating! The habit fell off as my writing evolved towards non-fiction and freelancing things—the discipline wasn't as necessary (or perhaps I just got burnt out on tracking).
Habit tracking is a nice thing to do. As you've highlighted, it can help us see room for improvements. Additionally, it can serve as a motivation when one intends to form new habits as seeing how well or how bad you're doing can create a need within ones self.
It's however a tedious task I must say. If you can automate them, better. You can use Digital Wellbeing systems baked into your smartphone to help automate monitoring your crypto price check impulse, by just seeing how often you open the app.
With sufficient motivation and dedication, I think you'll be successful!
Automated tools are great, but needs to be combined with a productive mindset. Otherwise you risk checking them too often, and then return to what you were trying to avoid, while also judging yourself negatively for failing to live up to your expectations.
That's true! Couldn't agree any further!
This is a good habit, I shall think of doing this myself as well. We can't change what we are not aware of for sure
This was great. I track things until they are just part of my routine and I can do them without thinking.
That's what I want to try as well!
This is useful! I'm trying to also keep more track of time spent on all of the "little things" because sometimes it seems that time just disappears, and I know that it is probably just an accumulation of all of these "little things" that are slowly tapping away at my time available. One of my plans is to follow a more rigid schedule and only do those items within the schedule.
Time management seems to be very difficult these days, and I think it's just a sign of the times where every minute is valuable, because there's just so much to learn, experience, and do!
Checking crypto prices <= this is the one which eats time & eats brain.
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Habit changes are always complicated, we just have to have the will to be able to move forward and work to achieve the goals we set ourselves to improve in our lives
very nice post
Used to but my business is more reliant on others also doing what they are supposed to be doing and would only highlight how they aren't tracking lol.
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Check price again,
Go back to bed.
I Love keeping journals but I tend to be inconsistent about them.
A piece of advice that I can add to this is that, if you sometimes feel like traking your habits makes you feel a little overwhelmed, you can add little goals which are easier to accomplish.
For instance, maybe you're super tired today and you can't handle a 30 minute cardio workout. Put the bar at 5. Like that, you'll still have done something and you'll continue to be motivated next day.
I have the same sentiments! I feel like I need to change (and remove) some of my habits. Tracking down your activities can be a challenge though. It's like a new habit on its own 😅
I hope tracking down your habits works for you! Looking forward to your progress! And awesome content btw 👌
Before I go to bed I usually write down my goals for the next day, This has helped me immensely in accomplishing my tasks and I feel great checking off the list. This is an informative post and seeing other ways of keeping track of what needs to be done is incredibly helpful to me. Thank you for sharing!
This is the second publication of your account that I read, and I feel so identified with what you write, I think it is because they are things that I am trying to work on and change. One of the things that I have managed to improve is to avoid spending so much time on my phone, sometimes I would go in to review something and end up watching and doing something else. You want to stop seeing the price of cryptocurrencies, I want to monitor it and take a trading course, it is something that I have postponed for a long time. Just like you, I want to feel more energetic, I didn't know that doing cardio is beneficial.
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I totally agree...
Tracking helps to keep one in check.
It isn't as irrelevant as people might think. Personally, it helps me stay focused on the things I've set out to achieve.
Excellent idea. In my case, I use Google calendar to record all my activities. Well, it's actually a somewhat more complex method. The result is blocks of time where I add a lot of detail. When I need to check a habit, I just check the time blocks.