I am a big proponent of self-tracking. It allows you to monitor your own behavior and be more self aware, which is key to self improvement. I wrote last year about using Google Sheets to track my time for productivity. I found it difficult to keep up with this experiment because of the micromanagement involved. However, from these experiences, I have created and fine-tuned two methods for self-tracking that are great for habits and resolutions: check offs and logging.
Check offs are basically checklists. Logging gives you more information about the topic you are tracking.
Check offs are basically checklists. To use a check off method, you identify the behaviors you want to track, and check them off as you do them. These are good for tracking and making sure you actually do these habits. In the logging method, you might track down a lot more information than if you finished the particular behavior such as how you finished it, the quality of your action, etc. This is useful for discovering trends, patterns, and correlations in your behavior.
I have found check offs to be good for keeping resolutions and habits. To set this up, first identify what habits or resolutions you want to track, then create checklists and put them into a calendar. For me, I put these checklists into an Evernote calendar template and just check them off whenever I complete these tasks. Over time you’ll be able to see how well you adhere to your resolutions and habits and any patterns that may arise.
Check offs are great because of the minimal effort needed to use it. Once you create the system, you simply check them off as you go. The schedule-like nature of check offs is particularly great for people who enjoy organization like myself. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy checking something off their To do list? A checkoff system like this is essentially a daily check off list in calendar format.
When you want to understand more about the behavior beyond whether you are doing it or not, logging can help you. To log, you track a variety of information related to the behavior which will help you spot patterns beyond whether or not you completed the habit. For example, I’ve had some sleep problems in the past, and now keep a sleep diary which I update every day with relevant data such as when I went to bed, what I did in the hours before bed, when I woke up and how I slept that night. When there is enough data, I can use it to see if there any patterns by running the data through the spreadsheet functions. For this reason, tracking via logging is best done in a spreadsheet program such as Excel or Google Sheets.
Go forth and track!
With these tools, you can easily self-track and both keep yourself accountable to your habits and resolutions as well as finding out patterns in your behavior. The key to self improvement is self awareness, and these methods will help you on your self improvement journey.
About me: I am a NYC-based UX designer and front end developer. Human behavior fascinates me. I often write about user experience design, information design & architecture, productivity systems, and personal development. Find more at my website: www.adrianlin.com, find me on LinkedIn, or follow me on Twitter.