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Tracking is king

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Over the years of developing a healthy lifestyle, and implementing habits, I found one of the best ways to change something in my life is to track it.

Sleep, eating, exercise, weight, meditation, whichever thing I focused on, if I kept track of the daily results, it was quite straightforward to go in the right direction, investigate the issues, and intervene when I wanted.

Without tracking, it was a bit shooting in the dark.

The other learning from tracking over the years is the more automated it is, the more consistent it will be. So I am always checking what can I make more effortless.

At the moment, I track the following things:

AUTOMATED - no effort:
1. Sleep - tracking number of hours/cycles a day and per week on my Garmin watch

I also track this with my Garmin watch, and it seems to be quite accurate. I wish it would calculate automatically the number of sleep cycles per day and per week, so I wouldn't need to do it manually. But the start and stop of sleep is quite accurate, and automatic.

2. Daily stress - tracking heart rate variability on Garmin watch

This is an index that shows if I had enough rest a day, and how stressed I was. I often glance at it during the day, and if it shows high stress, I take a walk outside, or do a mini meditation.
I didn't think this would be so useful, but it is. I just focus better, and have less stress in my life this way.

3. Steps - 5000 on cycling days, 10000 on walking days

I used to have a pedometer, and then manually enter the data. Finally this got also integrated into smart watches, and my Garmin does a very good job at this.

SEMI-AUTOMATED - little effort, but sometimes I forget to do it
1. Weight - every morning I start by weighing in Withings

I use a Wifi scale, so it is quite effortless. I built it into a habit of my morning routine, so it happens all the time. Then I follow the evolution in TrendWeight, which calculates a moving average. In general I use tracking weight to see if I go in the right direction or not.

2. Commuting by bicycle - I monitor the number of trips, time, and km cycled, per week/month/year

For this I use the app BikeCitizen, which has a nice graphic feature to show my rides. I wish it was more automated. For now, I have to start and stop the tracking on my phone manually at the stat and end of each ride, which is a hassle. I tried the automated feature in the app that is supposed to recognise when I ride automatically, but it was not very accurate.

Here's a pic when I realised that I forgot to start recording on the way to home. So I took a picture 'street photography style', as the phone was in my hands anyway.

3. Exercise - running, swimming, cycling

For this I just use my Garmin watch, I start and stop the recording on my watch. This is accurate, unless I forget to start or stop it. Rarely happens, but does happen.

MANUAL - this is quite some effort, and if I am tired, it has a risk of not being done.

I discovered I only want to track one thing manually, or maximum two.

1. Food - items eaten and calories - I record the items eaten in Fitbit

I wish there would be a more automated way doing it, but so far this is the best I found. I taking notes on paper, I tried different apps, the Fitbit app still feels the easiest. I also simplified that I only track the calories now. Before, I used to record also macro and micro nutrients, but in the end I never used that data, and it was a lot of effort.
This has the most impact on my healthy lifestyle, eating healthy and the right amount, so this is my priority for manual tracking.

2. Morning meditation - tracking done/not done in a habit tracking app

It is not much effort to make a few clicks in an app every day, but still, I wish it would happen somehow automatically.
I am experimenting with a couple of apps, to see which one is easier to use.
At the moment I test Habitica, which uses a bit of gamification to keep motivation up. However, I find it a bit too complex for first time use, but over time it is fun.


3. I used to track also Drinking water - 8 cups a day. Now I just count the glasses myself. The downside is that it does happen I forget to drink in the afternoon. I tried counting it on my watch with a counter, or in an app, but it is just too much hassle to record it so many times during the day. Maybe, if I want to make it a stronger habit, I will do it again.

There were lots of other habits I tried to track manually, but it didn't work.

Now, somehow, I gravitate that I improve things that I can track automatically, vs. the other way around (that I decide to change something, and track it). It is a funny, new way of development.
For example, I never thought to track stress manually.

For habit tracking apps, see also one of my previous posts:

Do you track something?

How you do it?
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