First things first: When it comes to getting yourself organized, tools like Things, Omnifocus or Wunderlist are quite helpful task managers. Most people enjoy the satisfaction of crossing tasks off their lists. But when you’re managing regular events such as routine exercising, you’ll have different tracking needs than what basic task managing tools have to offer. For activities where you can track your progress based on location or movement– say, when comparing times over distances when running or cycling – services like Runkeeper, Nike+ or biosensors like Fitbit are handy tools to keep a good overview of your progress and are a great way to keep yourself motivated. But what about golf, gymnastics, mental training or any other goals where your progress can no longer be represented by how far you go, but by how well you’ve been achieving the goals you wanted to reach? Here’s where some special tools step into the game.
Several tracking services allow you to transfer personal data into metric scales, thus making it possible to track your efforts while visualizing your improvement over time. This not only gives you the same satisfaction of crossing an item off your list, it also offers an overview chart of the progress you’ve made so far. From my experience, tracking tools available to date all cover different aspects. Tools like Daytum allow tracking individual
items on a numeric basis, and can be used to monitor everything from the number of workouts you did to the amount of movies you have seen. Items can be grouped into categories and then be displayed with different type of graphs, as seen in the example on the left. This approach leaves you a lot of freedom to track whatever you’d like, but also challenges you to build up a tracking system that fits your needs. For all of you who want to try this service, I encourage you to keep in mind that with the free version, your charts are visible to the public on Daytum’s website. Apart from that, Daytum offers good usability, connecting a powerful web interface with the easy interaction possibilities of its smartphone app. On the other hand, there are tracking tools, which allow you to monitor things on a more qualitative level. Apps like Track & Share provide a set of icons that can be used to track your mood, your satisfaction with certain areas in your life or anything else that could be described with indicators from bad to good or from sad to happy.
Even if self-tracking may seem kind of rigid for some people, the underlying idea is to help reach personal goals. As a rule of thumb, creating new habits takes about 40 days of consistent practice before becoming routine. So, to get myself used to a daily gym workout, I found it useful to track my workout by having each exercise routine organized in a checklist. In this example tracking was a means to keep in mind what I intended to do. Looking at it from a technological point of view, there is a much bigger potential in self tracking. Analyzing your data may not only give you fancy charts, but also help you to learn more about yourself. This can be particularly helpful, say, if you would like to figure out in retrospect which routines and schedules were the best to help you achieve your own personal goals. Here’s an quick example: If your personal goal is to lose weight, but you haven’t quite figured out which dietary approach is best for you yet, tracking your weight and nourishment daily and comparing the results over time can give you the overview you need to know how best to adjust your dietary plan. Sure, this means you’ll have to try out several different dietary plans over the course of a few days each in order to get appropriate results, but in doing so, you can quantify your progress and produce “scientific” results from you own self-experiments! All in all, self tracking then becomes a huge boost both for your motivation as well as a great tool to find the smart decisions for you to make.
From what I’ve experienced so far, a completely perfect tool to these ends has yet to be designed. That’s why my team and I, along with many others from the Quantified Self movement are continuously working on expanding and improving future software for a more holistic self-management approach. Stay tuned for more information on new products and thoughts on how you can use software to improve your personal development!