Lessons Learned From Tracking My Life

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Over the last year I’ve used the Coach Me app on my iPhone and iPad to track all of the aspects of my life that I want to promote or prevent.  For example I wanted to have more family meals and less high pain days, I wanted to spend more time cycling and stop eating foods containing added sugar.  In all, by the end of the year, I was tracking an amazing 75 habits, The list grew gradually over the year from about 50, it grew because I realised, for example, that I wanted to make sure I gave my wife and kids a big hug every day, or that I kept my pain killer use below 15 days a month (to prevent rebound headaches).  This isn’t all that I tracked though, because working on my behalf the Fitbit app tracked my steps and weight; the Move’s app automatically tracked how much time I spent walking, cycling, at the office, in Caffe Nero and much more; the MyFitnessPal app tracked what I was eating;  I used the Chronic Pain Tracker app to record my medical information and using the Loggr app I tracked my finances each month.

All of this fragmented information is mostly aggregated automatically into Apple’s Health app and then, also automatically, into the Loggr app. Loggr provides nice trend graphs and automatically correlates information across all it’s sources.  In addition to all of this habit logging I also aggregate a huge amount of information automatically into Evernote, for example everything I tweet, everything I read online, every blog post I write and every Instagram pic I take.

A subset of this torrent of information also ends up automatically in the wonderful Memento app that automatically creates my diary.

I’ve learned a lot over this last year, but the highlights for me have been:

  1. Tracking really focuses the mind on what’s important
  2. I was shockingly good at deceiving myself, when I looked at the tracking data the truth was revealed.  For example I thought we mostly had our evening meal together, when actually we only managed it 3 times a week, now we manage it almost every day
  3. It’s difficult to focus on too many habits, instead they need to be built into systems, for example we fixed the eating together habit by giving Debbie responsibility for the evening meal.  No one else was allowed in the Kitchen, even if we were hungry enough to make our own
  4. Once a habit has been established, it’s not necessary to keep tracking it every day
  5. Habits that are established and hence not tracked need to be rolled up into a broader habit, to keep me honest

In the spirit of gradually simplifying my life then, I’ve gone through my 75 habits and decided to whittle them down to 25, of which 12 are positive habits that I want to promote and 13 are just trackers that I use for correlation analysis and general target tracking.  The positive habits are:

  1. Write for myself (wiring is very therapeutic and I want to do it most days)
  2. Read a factual book for an hour (I really want to spend more time deeply engaged in reading, my fitness reading habit is so solid that I don’t need to track it)
  3. Move around most of the day (no long periods sitting for me)
  4. Eat mostly whole foods (obviously)
  5. Drink mostly water (I need to kick my Diet Coke habit)
  6. Do Meditation, Yoga Nidra or listen to music (obviously)
  7. Spend time with friends and family and hug (obvious, but sadly not so easy as they grow up and get busier)
  8. Be kind and do good deeds (worth the daily reminder)
  9. Stretch and do strength exercises throughout the day (sadly I still need reminding)
  10. Go to new places, learn new things (all too lacking in my life)
  11. Draw (one of my key habits to establish this year)
  12. Make a difference at work (obviously, but really making a difference is harder than it might seem)
  13. Improve the house or garden (very rewarding)

Trackers and targets

  1. Whether I take pain killers that day (target 2 days a week)
  2. My daily pain level (target low or pain free)
  3. My daily stress levels (target low)
  4. Whether I keep to my agreed working pattern (target Yes)
  5. Whether I’m working that day (target 8 days a month)
  6. My fatigue level (target low)
  7. My Brain fog level (target low)
  8. Whether I’m fasting (target 2 days a week)
  9. Cheat Day (target 1 day a week)
  10. Don’t bite my fingers (target never, biting my fingers is a sure sign of stress)
  11. Don’t buy anything for myself (target never)
  12. Sick, i.e. I have an cough/cold/flu etc (target never)
  13. Visiting Chorley (my local office, target 4 days a month)

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I wrote this post sitting in Caffe Nero on a rainy day, I nearly came in the car, but just as I was walking out the door I remembered the habit ‘Move around most of the day (no long periods sitting for me)’ and so I wrapped up warm and ran for 5 minutes through the rain. To illustrate this post I’ve chosen two of my favourite pictures, at the top, a photo of the Hadza living simply and at one with nature (this is my Lock Screen image) at the bottom is a photo of the local beach (my Wallpaper image) which reminds me of the simple pleasures in life.

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

1 Response

  1. January 30, 2015

    […] There’s still a long way to go though, I still find it difficult to read a book for more than 15 minutes at a time and I regularly reject any Instapaper article that will take more than a minute to read.  I’m still going to invest in new gadgets, but with a purpose in mind, to help me achieve my objectives in life: […]

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