Last week I wrote about how to track your time. The premise here is that time tracking is a great way of measuring how productive you're being and identifying sources of distraction. However, you need to track your time and put this information to good use in order to make the effort of tracking worthwhile.
The same is true of life tracking.
“Life tracking” is my term for tracking the broader aspects of your life like your health, fitness, sleep, exercise, weight, finances, and habits. By tracking the different aspects of your life you can identify habits and trends that are helping or hindering your personal happiness, health, and wellbeing.
In this article, I’m going to discuss the benefits of life tracking and suggest a few tools to help you get started.
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THE BENEFITS OF LIFE TRACKING
First up, let’s briefly discuss the benefits of life tracking. What’s the point in going to all this effort of tracking your health and sleep etc?
1. Track progress towards your goals
If you have personal health and fitness goals it’s well worth tracking your progress towards these goals by logging the metrics that are important to you.
For example, if you’re trying to lose weight, it makes sense to keep a record of whether your weight is going up, down or staying the same. Or if you’re trying to build your strength, it would help to track the weight of the lifts you’re doing so you can see how much you’re improving. Or maybe you just want to have a bit more energy on a daily basis, then tracking your sleep will help to identify how your sleep routine is impacting your energy levels.
Whatever your goals are, you need to track the appropriate statistics so you can measure progress. The key here is to only track the metrics you really care about and use the information to take action and make improvements.
For example, I don’t bother tracking my diet. I’m not that fussed about tracking calories and recording how much protein I consume. So I’m not going to bother putting in the effort of tracking my diet. However, I am really interested in tracking my sleep so I can maintain a healthy sleep routine. But that’s just me.
2. Build and maintain new habits
Another reason you might choose to track different aspects of your life is to build and maintain new habits.
For example, let’s say you're trying to meditate at least 4 times a week. If this is your goal then you need a way of recording your progress on a weekly basis so you can see if you’re actually maintaining this habit as intended. Let’s say you’ve been successfully meditating for 4 days a week of the last month. Because you’ve been tracking this and can see your progress, you’re far more likely to maintain the habit because you don’t want to break the chain of progress you’ve been making.
Tracking allows you to see how consistent you’re being with your habits which drastically improves your motivation.Learn how to track your life so you can identify what's helping or hindering your personal happiness, health, and wellbeing.Click To Tweet
3. Identify trends and changes
Finally, once you’ve been tracking for a while you’ll be able to identify any changes or trends that could be causing an unusual result.
For example, let's say you’ve been tracking your sleep for a few months and you get about 7 hours a sleep per night. But then you start going to bed later (maybe you’re hooked on a new TV show or the kids are keeping you up) and as a result, you start feeling slower and groggier during the day. Sleep tracking would help you to identify this change and pinpoint the source of the issue. Otherwise, you may be trying to make changes to your diet or routine when it’s your sleep that’s the issue.
As another example, you may be able to attribute an improvement in your happiness and anxiety to an increase in meditation or journaling. Tracking helps you to identify causation.
LIFE TRACKING APPS
There are LOADS of apps you can experiment with to track the different aspects of your life. Here are some of the apps I’ve had experience with:
- Apple Health – As an iPhone user, I’ve found the Apple Health app is a great option for tracking your sleep, diet, exercise, and mindfulness in one place. Apple Health works by synchronizing data from other apps to it. While Apple Health can collect some data (like steps) it’s mostly just an aggregator that collects data from other apps like FitBit and MyFitnessPal in once place.
- Fitbit – If you wear a FitBit you can collect loads of useful data about your steps, daily activity, exercise and sleep in one app. You can view all this data in the Fitbit app, or sync to Apple Health. I use the Fitbit Aria scales which can connect to your home wifi to record my weight. This makes it really easy to track my weight without having to log any data manually (because the scales add my weight in my Fitbit account for me).
- MyFitnessPal – Using MyFitnessPal you can log the meals you eat and even scan the barcode on food products to track what you’re consuming. This allows you to track the total calories, fat, carbs, and protein you’re eating on a daily basis. This is great if you want to stick to a strict diet and only consume a certain amount of food, carbs or protein per day.
- Sleep Watch – Being an Apple Watch user, I use this app to track how much I sleep each night. The best thing about Sleep Watch is that unlike other sleep tracking apps, you don’t have to tell it that you’re going to sleep or when you wake up. The app automatically detects when you go to sleep and wake. I much prefer this hands-off approach to tracking. The app tracks how much you move, your heart rate dip and sleep consistency to give you an overall measure of the quality of your sleep.
- Sleep Cycle – One of the original sleep trackers for iOS and Android, Sleep Cycle tracks total time slept and the rhythm of your sleep. Using this data the app attempts to wake you up when you're at the top of a sleep cycle so that you wake up feeling more refreshed and energized. It’s a great app but does require you to manually set it each night.
- Fitbit – Fitbit users can wear their tracker to sleep and the band will record how much you sleep and your average heart rate while sleeping. This is a much more affordable option to the Apple Watch.
Habits & life tracking
- Today – Today has been my go-to habit tracker for the last few years. It’s specifically designed to track habits and you can set habit goals and specify how much you’d like to read/meditate/exercise (whatever) each week. You can then record your progress and track this consistency over time. Once you get a nice streak going, the Today calendar keeps you motivated so you don’t break this chain.
- Gyroscope – I’ve been using this app for the last few weeks and am quickly falling in love with it. Gyroscope can track many aspects of your life like your productivity, location, sleep and on the pro version, you can track habits. In some ways, it’s the ultimate lifestyle tracker. One of the cool things about Gyroscope is the annual report it generates and if you really want you can order a printed book that summarises your life over the last year.
- Life Cycle – Similar to Gyroscope, it tracks many aspects of your life like your time and location. You can connect Life Cycle with other apps like Apple Health giving you a more holistic view of your life. Each week/month/year it’ll then deliver a report on top places you’ve visited, how much time you’ve spent at work, home and sleeping. It’s not an essential life tracker but it’s a fun app that you can set and forget to come back to later to see what it’s recorded.
Personal finance tracking
- PocketSmith (affiliate link) – This has been my go-to personal finance tracker for the last 5 years. PocketSmith connects with your bank account so you can categorise your transactions and make budgets. It provides great insights into where your money is coming from and where it's being spent so you can make more informed decisions about how to use your money better. Read more about how I use PocketSmith to manage my finances.
- Mint – While I haven't personally used Mint I've heard it's a great personal finance tracker that's become very popular and is free to use (although it comes with ads).
So that’s a little look into life tracking. We’ve just scratched the surface and I’m sure many of you will have other cool apps and methods for tracking aspects of your life. Let me know what you’re tracking in the comments below.