To track or not to track? Tracking my obsession with self-tracking....

in health •  3 months ago

I’ve been self-tracking for years now, and I think many of us on steemit self-track. This post is just a few reflections on why I (we?) do it, and the pros and cons of doing so….

By self-tracking I mean the conscious recording of data on various aspects of my life, typically on a daily basis, and then the process of comparing that data against goals I’ve set myself in order to measure progress against those goals.

My priority self-tracks

  1. Expenditure
  2. Wealth
  3. Walking
  4. Running
  5. Meditation
  6. Sleeping
  7. Blogging

What do I use to self-track and why do I do it?

Expenditure and wealth

I use ‘good ole’ Excel for tracking these, categorizing expenditure into a few broad categories (as below): I think that more than 10 categories would make any analysis difficult.

In terms of wealth, I also use excel, but I all I really do is collate data from my various savings accounts/ investments, most of which ‘track’ my wealth accumulation (hopefully this direction) for me!


Why track expenditure and wealth?

As I see it tracking the two are inter-related: keeping an eye on my expenditure alone helps me keep spending down. It's encouraged me to spend less, and to even try and have 'spending free' days occasionally.

And of course, all other things being equal, the less I spend, the more I save!

It's relatively easy tracking expenditure - twice a week is enough to quickly update and excel sheet with expenditure (maybe even once a week, although that can be a bit of a memory test!), and as to wealth, that's done for you automatically.... all I do is collate the data once a month and click the calculate button to work out the total.

Walking/ running...

For walking I use this free step counter from LEAP fitness group, downloaded to my phone, and for running I use Map My Run...

The former is great for just keeping running in the background and displaying cumulative steps and averages per day/ week/ month, as well as giving you a rough calorie and distance count.

The later should be more accurate given that it works of GPS and maps out your route as you go. It also shows you pace and split times per KM, and bleats out your progress as you go (if you ask it to).

Screenshot_20180901144237 2.jpg

Why track walking/ running...?

TBH I'm not totally convinced that tracking my runs is a good idea.... I think I might actually run more efficiently without the tracking... running for myself rather than the data? Maybe>?

As to walking, this is really about keep calories burning ATM (I am currently eating A LOT!) - so I've set myself a goal of 18K steps/ day for September to keep my weight gain in check.

Meditation/ sleep tracking

I use Insight Timer to record my daily 20-40 mins of meditation, and I recently had a play around with sleep cycle which monitors 'quality of sleep' (deep/light/ REM)

Why track meditation/ sleep..?

For me, this all about 'getting the basics right'.... meditation is crucial to starting the day calmly and in a focused manner. Although the meditation app is basically just a timer, and doesn't record quality of meditation, recording the sessions makes it much more likely that I will at least 'sit'.

As far as sleep is concerned, I'm not convinced that the app is giving me a valid indication of the quality of my sleep, but what it has done is made me more aware of the importance of giving myself a 'good nine hour' sleep window......

Closing thoughts... to track or not to track?

Or rather, what to track and what not to track? (Given that I'm not likely to stop!)

I'm just gonnna go all-out and say that tracking expenditure and wealth is the most life-transformative type of self-tracking I've done in the last five years... together they have helped me quit my job....

The running and walking are the second most useful... they keep me thin, and I don't wanna be fat.

The meditation and sleep apps, I think they've done the least to improve my quality of life.

So I guess I'm ending on a ironic not (good, I like irony).... the MOST TRANSFORMATIVE tracking practices have been those associated with the MOST MUNDANE aspects of life (MONEY); the LEAST TRANSFORMATIVE tracking practices have been those associated with those things regarded as 'more spiritual'.....

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I guess tracking or monitoring anything puts you in a better position to make changes (if you want to) or be reassured that you're on the right track anyway and don't really need to think about it.
I tracked food and drink intake for a while and noticed some interesting patterns that I hadn't been aware of. When I'm working I can get very involved in what I'm doing and either forget to eat or eat any rubbish that comes to hand without really noticing. I had the strange experience of filling the fridge at the weekend "not seeing" the food during the week and then being surprised by all the stuff that was there the following weekend. I try and have proper mealtimes now, preferably sitting down at a table, and I only buy food for a few days at a time apart from staples.
It was also quite interesting tracking a small number of accounts that posted in #needleworkmonday as part of the #minnowuprising - watching patterns that emerged (all pretty predictable) but also finding out things about my own account (like I was actually quite good at curation) and making changes.
So, I would agree: tracking what you are tracking from time to time is a good idea :)


Food intake is something I'm deliberately not tracking atm - I had my lunch @11.30 today and then an ice cream sundae for actual lunch... I know it's a ting though.

Yr right that blogging is a form of tracking!

I find the whole thing fascinating... so fascinating that I think I'm just gonna make this 'my thang' on steemit.

Tracking yr self tracking habitz... Although I'm not sure if this is a healthy circle!

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This just made me laugh! Have you been eating blue Smarties?


No - just on a MASSIVE sugar high

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I am for tracking, the data is very powerful in terms of what you can apply it to enhance your life (i.e health and money) and keep you more accountable.


It fascinates me... it has to be a growth area going forwards too!

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Tracking can definitely be beneficial and give you a clearer picture on your life. Currently I track money and exercise.


I think it works as a life enhancer, as a general rule!

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I am also keen on tracking and recording. Particularly finances.

Spreadsheets can be so useful to get a real picture of what is going on - and to modify behaviours accordingly.

Host of Here Comes The News on MSP Waves Radio.

Host of The Alternative Lifestyle Show on MSP Waves Radio.

Founder of the A Dollar A Day charitable giving project.


I couldn't agree more... expenditure tracking has changed my life... I need to get back to my 'no spend days' challenge at some point soon!

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Ah, yes. I'm a tracker too. For me, it's been money and studying that has been the most transforming.
I used to have a fitbit and while it was fun to see how much I had walked (often 30k+ when my little one was a baby) it didn't encourage me to do more or less.
I've found that if I try to track 'spiritual' things as you call them, then that makes them less worth although not entirely worthless. Mainly because I start doing them for the tracking and not for the activity itself.


I've heard other people say that about steps and young kids.

As to the spirituality thing, I think it does have that tendency, yes!

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