Two years ago, I stumbled across the Quantified Self movement, a group of people focused on finding ways to better understand themselves by tracking personal data points. I started attending their London meetups and even went to the European Conference last year in Amsterdam: which inspired me to take my own personal tracking to a whole new level.
Last week, I had the opportunity to share my experience and ‘my personal habit tracking system’ at the QS London Meetup and I wanted to share some of the key points I covered with you.
Why I track
I remember telling my cousin about my habit system and he looked puzzled and wondered why I was doing it. At the time, I struggled to articulate the benefits, but 18 months later, my habit system has helped gain much greater self-awareness, understand where my time is going, feel more organised and in control, and ultimately more creative, more productive and a lot less stressed!
What I track
- I started tracking simple things like the time I woke-up and when I went to bed, I then expanded that to include the quality of my sleep and the mood I was in when I went to bed and work-up.
- I then added data around my body weight, body fat percentage, acidity via the PH number as daily data points, with other numbers measured quarterly via WellnessFX.
- I then started adding more qualitative measures such as mood on waking, the mood on going to bed and stress levels when I woke-up. Stress was a topic that I was particularly interested in as I was researching for my book, and I wanted a quantified way of measuring my stress levels over time, so jumped at the chance to road test Optima Life’s First Beat Monitor. You can read about my experience on this blog post.
- I then started tracking physical activities like steps and calories consumed (using a Fitbit band). I also tracked running by time spent, situps, press-ups, weights lifted.
- I also wanted to track what I actually ate and drank, so incorporated a kind of food diary based on memory, with some specific foods singled out like good things like green juice daily, to less good things that I wanted to cut back on.
My Personal Habit Tracking System today
As time passed and I gathered a bigger data set, I started to see patterns and also recognised that this system was helping me introduce new habits into my life like a commitment to meditate for 10 minutes daily, or stretching my legs following advice of the physio, to even getting into a ritual of making my bed, writing my journal, being present, showing gratitude and compassion.
I’ve also broadened it recently to keep track of how much time I spent on different projects, including any creative work, as well as tracking financial spend every day.
Tools & resources required
- I began in a very low tech way using a notebook, just a couple of minutes each morning. As the number of data points being tracked expanded, so did the technology and I advanced to using Google docs which I use today.
- I have a Withings scale for body weight and some other key metrics.
- I use a Fitbit for steps and calories consumed.
- I use my memory for the food diary currently, although I did use Myfitness Pal, an iPhone app for a period.
- I now spend ten minutes each morning capturing data from the previous day and this also helps me
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