Want to Be Happier? Become a Tracker

September 08, 2017

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling a little meh. I’ve fallen out of the habit of sketching (again), Tank’s issues have wreaked havoc with my schedule, and I’ve drifted away from my goals. I need a way to regain my enthusiasm and motivation. Just in time for September’s new beginning, last week I happened upon blog posts from two different people who in their own ways extolled the virtue of tracking. The first was Laurie Perry (of Crazy Aunt Purl—now Crazy Tourist—fame) whose cute little stickers and printable charts caught my fancy. The second was this thoughtful post from Raptitude, which is worth a read in its entirety. (Go ahead and read it, I’ll wait here.)

I believe in the power of tracking, and have used it at various times to make changes in my habits. I’ve tracked money in/money out, what I eat, my workouts, and for one week every quarter I keep a time log of what I do all day.  Tracking is great for maintaining habits or making changes. Remember the Jerry Seinfeld Method for establishing a habit? It relies on tracking. 

Why I like tracking
I like the practice of tracking because it gently helps me to become aware of what I’m doing. I often live in my head, distracted, daydreaming, decidedly not present. I’m forever thinking of what’s next rather than paying attention to what’s now. At the end of a busy day, I’m left wondering what I did—and why I didn’t do what I said was important to me.

If you want to give this a shot, too, some things you could track include:
  • What money you spend/make
  • What you eat
  • Your workouts/physical activity
  • Reading/study time
  • Time spent painting or drawing
  • Days you meditated

You can, of course, take tracking to an extreme, as I’ve done in the past. But if you keep it simple and don’t try to track too many things at once, you should be golden.

Methods of tracking
This is where you can make it as simple or as complicated as you like. Hint: simple is usually better. You could create a spreadsheet, make a chart you color in or fill with stickers, cross off the date on the calendar. If you want to track your time, this is my favorite time-tracking log.

William Butler Yeats wrote, “Happiness is neither this virtue nor pleasure, nor this thing or that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.” Tracking is one method of supporting ourselves in our efforts to grow.

So I’m dusting off my workout tracker, and I’m going to print out one of Laurie Perry’s charts to keep track of three areas that are important to me: sketching, exercise, and writing. I’ll get to other areas of importance soon, but right now this is all I feel I can handle, what with everything else going on*.

You can't get much simpler than this.

Have you tried tracking? How did it work for you? What would you like to track now? Please share in the comments!

*Speaking of tracking…we live in central Florida, which at the time of this writing is square in the path of Hurricane Irma. We’re highly likely to be affected by this storm no matter which way it goes, so I may be out of touch for a while after this weekend. 

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  1. Dear Kathy -praying you will be safe friend. Hearing now that they are asking more of Fla. to evacuate. Please take care. Thinking of Laure as well...know she lives close. Hugs!

    1. Thanks for your good wishes. Our hatches are battened down and we're waiting to see what happens.

  2. Thank you for this tip and inspiration, Kathy...I do a form of tracking in my morning diary pages, recounting the previous day. But I would like to do some more refined tracking, to better understand what's happening in my life, to help keep me accountable...Habits and rituals, they are very reassuring...

    1. Do you keep and reread your journals? I keep mine, and every so often take a peek back through the pages.

      I like keeping a time log once a quarter to give me an idea of where my time goes. Doing it on a regular basis helps me behave more normally, rather than trying to pack each little square with activity, as if someone were going to critique my behavior!