Why track things like this?
I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I kept a somewhat absurd spreadsheet in 2017, and updated it for 2018. (2017 part 1 here, part 2 over here, and initial 2018 thoughts here.)
Why another post?
I had a question from someone wanting to know if I could share in more detail (so here’s a sample you can copy and save as a Google Sheets file – it has a week of data in it so you can see how it works.) Also a few improvements in layout.
I’ve made a few advances in layout since I wrote the most recent of those posts, so here’s a more complete explanation. (I am still using the same tracking apps as in the first part of the 2017 posts, so I’m not duplicating that info here.)
In addition, I had some thoughts (useful to me, and maybe others) about how to give incentive to the things I want to do more of.
What changed in 2018?
Going into 2018, I thought about what I wanted to track better, or make more of a priority.
How was my day?
In 2017, I was tracking on a 4 point scale to get a rough idea of my day. In some ways, this was very helpful – I learned that about one day in 4 or 5 is a not good day for me (I feel lousy, don’t get much done, can’t focus) which is very helpful to know in terms of long-term planning. (It also suggested that I should be more consistent about sleep in a couple of specific ways.)
But four points isn’t very nuanced. I wanted a system that gave me more nuance, and maybe more incentive for doing more of the things I wanted more of in my life. So this year’s is seven, with some variations possible.
(I should note that I expect it to be very rare to get only 1 or 2 points.)
I joined two online writing communities, with two different commitments. I was already tracking what I was writing, but one of the communities I signed up with a habit pledge (number of days writing) and the other is words.
My words goal is actually well under what I did last year, but the number of days is a significant stretch. (Last year, I wrote on about 150 days, and I’m aiming for 240. That’s a big jump.) Last year, I had a lot of days in which I didn’t write, and then would do 1500 or 2000 words at once. This year, I’m experimenting with more consistency but maybe hitting smaller totals each day.
Besides those communities, I want to track what I write to see patterns in what I’m working on (especially the fiction / non-fiction divide and how long it takes me to do things like write course materials.)
I’ve always been a big reader. My number of books has dropped off significantly since there has been a lot more content online (even through college, I was at about a book every 2 days). In 2017, I read 77 which is significantly fewer than I wanted.
I also wasn’t happy with my tracking. I was tracking in a separate wiki, and in practice I would get behind on updating (and especially the data entry part of that.) So this year, I’m trying a plain list that has author, title, genre, and then a link to more about the book.
I’ve mentioned that I was thinking a lot about this post from Shawn LeBlanc about using an 8 week cycle for projects.
I’m Pagan. And specifically, a kind of religious witch who celebrates 8 Sabbats. Four fire festivals, two solstices, two equinoxes. So, for me, it made sense to split my year into 8 (slight uneven) segments for planning over about 6-7 weeks. Each cycle, I’m going to pick 3-4 longer-term goals (which might not be complete projects) in different parts of my life.
Use it for other useful data
Since this spreadsheet is almost always open in the browser for personal stuff (email, Todoist, and then this sheet, usually), I have decided to use it for other stuff I want to keep handy.
Topics for blog posts, for example, so that whenever I think of a new one, I can stick it there and skim when I want something to write about.
Reference lists, like my cataloging terms for LibraryThing.
Knitting. (That sheet doesn’t appear here: I’m working on a project which is ‘make lots of smaller objects’ that will eventually be joined, so that tracks how many of which colour I’ve made.)
What I don’t track
I try to keep my tracking to things that I, personally, am motivated by but not obsessive about in the way that doesn’t help. I don’t track food things in general because I get into a bad place about it. If I need to do it temporarily, I use an app or use a new file. I also try not to double-track things. I’ll enter data from apps that are tracking it, but I try to only have to track it once.
Seven point system, with some possible adjustments.
- Did I get at least 30 minutes of physical activity (not exercise: this includes walking around at work, light housework, etc.)
- Did I take my meds? (or take my meds + have a health-related appointment?)
- Did I get both more than 7 hours sleep and more than 70% sleep quality?
- Did I write any words?
- Did I do more than 4 large tasks. (see below for description)
- Did I do my daily spiritual practice? (More on that on the spirit sheet)
- Did I do anything creative? (Writing isn’t counted here, because it gets counted elsewhere, but drawing, knitting, etc. all count. Going to a concert or theatre would too, but I don’t count routine TV/movie viewing or reading.)
- Extra point for more than 1000 words.
- Minus one point if I have anything in the ‘sick’ column.
- Plus one point if I declare a rest day (to encourage me to take a day easy without messing with points averages.)
Note that it’s possible to get more than 7 points (which I did January 1st.) The additional point for days I feel sick is to make sure I get a more accurate account of days when I’m not doing as well, even if I turn out to be reasonably productive.
I also hope it’s clear that I don’t expect to get all 7 points every day. Two are pretty easy for me to do (take my meds, and do the very brief spiritual practice that is what I track with ‘North Star’.) I fairly reliably don’t get the points for movement at least one day on the weekend (and sometimes that’s very deliberate, because I’ve overdone it on previous days.) I’m hoping to get the points for writing every day, but I know from experience I will have days where I don’t manage it.
I basically consider everything from 4 points and up to be a reasonable day, in terms of feeling good I did things that are priorities.
The file has a number of different sheets within it. (I’ve deleted a couple that have personal data or lists: knitting, the list of cataloging terms I use for LibraryThing, etc.)
Here’s the sheets in order, with a brief explanation. This is from the sample sheet, so I’ve removed a couple of more personal things as described above. You can click on the image to get the full size version.
Summary (image above) : Overview of entire calendar month, with rating for each day. Columns where I have gotten a point are light gray. (Sleep is a little different: it shows me where I’ve hit my goal, but I only get the point if both meet my requirement.)
The type of day columns allow me to get a count of rest days, unusual days (not my usual schedule), days with errands, and days I was sick. (R, U, E, and S). And then of course notes, so I can say things like “snow day”. I’m also noting weekends this year, to see if those are a pattern.
Body : Tracks overall activity, minutes of exercise, then category. (Human is my tracker. Other activity is usually household chore stuff.)
Doing : Tracks tasks done – I track in Todoist, and use the Potterverse money system for size of task, because a completely non-metric system works better for me than dithering over the difference in size.
In practice, knut is something that I read or reviewed quickly (like reminders), sickle is a task that takes 10-15 minutes (like a straightforward reply to an email) and a galleon task is something that takes me an hour or more or involves a significant effort. (If it’s multiple hours, I count it the appropriate number of times.) They calculate a total.
Writing : The left column is the total number of words. The columns are specific projects, broadly defined. At the right, I calculate total number of days written, and have links to the communities I’m doing challenges for this year. And the average words per day so far.
Read : What books I’ve read. I’m not tracking days, but am tracking number per month, and genre. (More on data validation in the next section.)
Spirit : These are spiritual/religious things I want to keep track of doing. My actual daily practice at the moment is listening to at least one song off a playlist I set up that has about 65 songs in it. (I hit shuffle a couple of times), and the list in my working sheet pulls the titles in when I start typing them.
Ritual is to note if I did anything that was more involved ritual. Creativity is what I did that was creating something (as described above.) The next three columns are my Tarot summary column (colour coded by suit) and then the cards for the entries. The last column gives me totals for the month.
(Note that on the sample I’ve replaced the songs with ‘yes’ when I did them, and removed the actual card names from the Tarot reading column. Some things feel like oversharing.)
Week : This is the week by week summary – I use this to see if there are any broad patterns I should be aware of (big changes in activity or exercise for a not-obvious reason).
Month : Same deal, but for months. (The calculations for this are more complicated because they involve total days in the month.)
Goals : Sheet for the mid-term planning.
Written : Tracking sheet for writing details – the samples should give you an idea. (This is helpful for seeing what specifically I was working on.)
Topics : Parking place for possible blog posts.
Archive : At the end of each month, the entire month’s summary gets pasted here (use paste special -> values!) and it will do a running count of quality of day.
Cyclical planning : My math on how many days are in each cycle. Entirely ignorable (and deletable) if not applicable to you.
Goals : Template for the mid-term goals. Year goals go at the top, as I finish cycles I’ll past them in rows below.
Finally, two sheets for calculations and validation, which I’ll describe below.
Last year, I ended up doing a lot of the calculation semi-manually (getting the totals from the individual sheets, then scribbling them on a piece of paper to transfer to the week or month.)
This year, I wanted to set it up so I could copy and paste the week and get the totals. (The month is calculated on the month summary sheet already.) This meant a bunch of careful alignment of columns.
This is why there’s a ‘days written’ column in the daily summary, when it’s not really necessary. It’s so that when I do larger totals, I have that space filled.
The books category needs to be manually entered (that’s why it’s highlighted in gray) since I need to look at the actual dates. (Writing this has made me realise I really should turn that month into a proper date. Right then!)
I’ve caught a couple of glitches in the calculations, so there may be more lurking. It’s sometimes hard to proof these without a certain amount of variable actual data.
I pull the month onto the calculations page since it’s sometimes handy for proofing and just as a comparison.
This sheet does two main things. At the top, it does the actual calculations for each day’s points for the month. (Usual for checking it’s working right.) The gray columns are the ones that actually give points.
(“Both good” counts the total for sleep time and quality, and “total” gives me the point if that number is 2. “More words” is for the extra point for more than 1000 words.)
The bottom of the sheet contains data validation columns for different things. There are two benefits to this – one that you can get a drop down menu for the things that are more complex (Tarot card names, song titles) and second that you can do counts for things like Tarot suites more easily without worrying about typos.
Obviously, much of this can be edited or adapted to your needs – if you’re doing data validation, you may need to double check that the range is correct (this is on the sheet that references it).
Questions welcome, either here or through the contact form. (I’ll likely see the form a bit faster.)