How to use a Personal Tracker

Today’s post is a guest post by my daughter Caitlin.  She is so wise that I often wonder that she came from me.  I am so privileged to be able to share some of her wisdom with you today.  To get the trackers that she designed, click here.

Life can be difficult to manage. We have so many obligations from day to day, week to week, month to month – it all seems endless. On top of these obligations (work, college, childcare, friends, family, health) we all have personal habits we’re trying to cultivate and goals we’re trying to meet. These come in all shapes and sizes and range from simple things like keeping the house clean or decluttering the pantry to larger goals like publishing that book, opening your own business, or meditating daily.

No matter how big or small, meeting goals (or building good habits) involve the same basic steps – organizing a plan and following through. The same is true of personal, professional, or health related goals. We need to have a plan to know exactly where we’re going and how we’re going to get there and then we need to follow through with that plan.

The best tool I have found to juggle all the balls of life and effectively follow through with my plans is a personal tracker. Having all your goals, habits, and obligations written down alleviates the stress of trying to manage them all in your head. A personal tracker differs from a planner in a few distinct ways, but I recommend using the two of them in conjunction for the best results. The planner is used to keep track of your daily plans and obligations – meal plans, soccer practice, meetings with friends or colleagues, date nights, et cetera – and the personal tracker (or habit tracker as it’s sometimes referred) is used to attain goals and build good habits (or end bad ones).

Start with the Basics

Building habits and meeting goals can seem overwhelming on top of all the tasks you’re already responsible for. The best way to start with the personal tracker is to not take on any new tasks or try to build any new habits until you get the hang of it. Start with the things you already do and habits you’ve already cultivated.

Some easy things to begin tracking are daily waking and rising times, daily water and alcohol consumption, the time you fall asleep and how easy or difficult it is, your general mood or moodiness throughout the day, if you’re a woman- the regularity of your period, and what you’re eating on any given day. These are all things that don’t require any change, just some extra attention to realize how these factors are affecting your daily life.

Once you get the hang of tracking these simple everyday items, you can begin tracking new goals or cultivating new habits.

Benefits of Personal Tracking

The benefits of personal tracking are numerous and differ slightly from person to person. A big benefit is knowing exactly where all your time is going and how much time you’re really spending on any given activity throughout the week. In an age where free time is scarcer and scarcer, tracking our time accurately can help us eliminate activities that are sucking up and wasting too much of our precious time and make more room for activities we enjoy and that bring light and happiness into our daily lives.

Another benefit along those lines is accountability. If we make a resolution to eat three square meals a day or drink eight glasses of water a day, tracking that progress helps make us accountable for it. It’s easy to fall by the wayside when we have nothing but fuzzy memories to rely on. Tracking these goals on paper encourages you to really follow through and go the extra mile to achieve them.

Tracking your daily time and activities helps you to see what’s working for you and what isn’t. What activities are propelling you toward your ideal life and which ones are hindering you or holding you back from true happiness?

What to Track

As I said earlier, it’s best to start with the basic tasks you’re already doing daily. Once you get used to tracking these items, feel free to add more to the list! Likewise, once a habit becomes automatic (like brushing your teeth) feel free to eliminate it from your list to make room for cultivating a new habit.

When adding tasks, only introduce one or two new concepts at a time. Trying to cultivate more than two new habits at once greatly impedes your chances of success.

Some useful things to track include:

  • Wake and rise times (how long do you spend lying in bed after you open your eyes)
  • How easy or difficult it is to get out of bed in the morning
  • Water and alcohol consumption
  • What you’re eating (including all those grocery store candy bars or late-night ice cream binges)
  • The cycles of the moon and how they affect you
  • Your dreams (consider keeping a separate dream journal)
  • What time you fall asleep and how easy or difficult it is
  • How many hours of sleep you get per nightexample tracker
  • Daily affirmations or intentions
  • Daily yoga, meditation, or other mind/body exercises
  • How much TV you watch per day
  • Your work schedule and how productive you are at work
  • Random money spent outside of your budget
  • Random money you’ve earned outside of your primary income
  • Money spent on a tithe (tithing is a wonderful habit to cultivate—perhaps more on this later)
  • Weight fluctuations
  • Brushing and flossing your teeth
  • Morning and/or evening routines
  • Gratitude (consider keeping a separate gratitude journal and write down 10 things daily)
  • Daily caffeine intake
  • Time spent browsing the internet or on social media
  • Negative self-talk
  • How many times you say “I’m sorry” needlessly
  • How many times you tell yourself you love yourself (hint: as many times as it takes to believe it!)
  • Protein/carb/fat intake
  • Reading for pleasure
  • Time spent with children, family, or loved ones
  • Time spent in nature
  • New habits to form
  • Old habits to break
  • Achievable goals with clear steps to meet them

Ways to Track

There are many useful tools out there for personal daily habit/life tracking. You can use premade printables, notebooks, spreadsheets, mobile apps, and more.tracker example

In my personal endeavors, I’ve found it most useful to create my own template that’s tailored to my specific needs and desires. I open my Word document and type out everything I want to track, then print them, and keep them in a three-ring binder. I keep daily, weekly, and monthly logs to double-check my progress and ensure I’m staying on track.

My daily log consists of the items, habits, and goals I want to keep track of on a daily basis. On Monday, I take all my daily logs from the previous week and total up some of my numbers. In my weekly log, I include goals for hours of sleep, glasses of water and alcohol consumed, random money spent, hours of TV watched, et cetera, as well as notes of what went right, what went wrong, and what I can change to make next week even better.

My monthly log keeps track of my theme or intention for the month, new (or recycled) projects I’m working on, and current goals or habits I’m working toward achieving. Breaking my tracking down like this helps me to stay focused and on task and greatly improves my chances of success.

No matter how you choose to go about it, keeping track of your daily routines and habits is a life-changing practice. Try it for just one month and see how astronomical its effects are. If you have any feedback or constructive criticism, I encourage you to comment below and tell me what you think and how you feel about using a personal tracker.

Best of luck to you!



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