One thing I’m thinking a lot about right now are yearly cycles.
In my religious practice, Samhain (October 31st) is the end of the old year, and nominally the beginning of the new year. But it is also the beginning of a fallow period when we rest and take stock of what’s going on in our lives. For me, this is coming out this year in figuring out my new tracking system and spreadsheet for next year (which I am actually planning on starting on Yule (December 21 this year) rather than January 1st.
Tools should work for us, not against us, so I did a lot of thinking this fall about what I wanted to pay attention to in the coming year – what kind of data I wanted to collect.
To Do Lists
In terms of my todo lists, I’m keeping to much the same model as the past year, using Todoist with projects divided by planetary influence (in practice, this means I have a lot in Sun (professional life), Moon (religious life, including my coven work), Mercury (writing), and much less in Venus (arts, pleasures, relationships – including friendships, mostly because those things show up when I have something planned and don’t linger on the list for long), and Mars (things that are actively and aggressively getting worked on. I tend to use it for lists to help me structure vacations and immediate projects.)
One thing I do is that I put astrological data into my to-do list for particular days. I’m going to come back to this part in a future post, because I’m waiting on a planner that will be part of the process.
I keep a rather obsessive and thorough spreadsheet that tracks a lot of daily items – this lets me see shifts in patterns. To pick a really easy and obvious one this year, I started using a CPAP machine at the beginning of October. Almost immediately, I realised I was walking 20-30 more minutes on the average work day than I had before, almost entirely without noticing I was doing it. That’s the kind of thing I wouldn’t spot without the spreadsheet.
Two different conversations got me interested in looking at whether some astrological information had any bearing on things (and I know from my sleep tracking app, Sleep Cycle, that my sleep tends to be worse around the new moon, and dip around the full moon too.)
So, this year’s spreadsheet is set up to help me figure out that data.
Here’s a shot of the summary spreadsheet for next year. I have some totally fake data in the first couple of lines to help me figure out some of the scoring.
From left to right, here’s what there is (you’ll note this begins on December 21st, the winter solstice):
- Day of month
- Total score for the day (based on some complex calculations)
- A score for how I perceive my focus, energy, joy, and embodiment are (roughly, ‘air things, fire things, water things, earth things’ if you want to put it that way.) This is a qualitative estimate, not based on actual data, but I want to see if there are patterns in how I feel.
- Whether I did any specific ritual acts that day (listed in detail on a separate sheet)
- The zodiac signs for the sun, phase of the moon, and sign the moon is in.
- My song of the day and Tarot card of the day.
- The mansion of the moon (see the note below.)
- How many words I wrote that day
- Task totals – these include tasks off my todo list (grouped by knut, sickle, and galleon as last year, so basically tiny, smallish, and large, where tiny is ‘I read a reminder’, smallish is ‘5 minutes to the length of writing an email that isn’t too complicated’, and large is ‘one to two hours of focused attention’.
- Activity: total amount of movement and a separate number for deliberate exercise and/or walking outside of my usual daily routine.
- Sleep time, quality, and my AHI for the CPAP machine (which is roughly ‘how many apnea incidents per hour.)
- Brief astrology notes.
- Columns to note sickness or unusual days. (Basically other things that might affect my stats.)
The top of the sheet lists how many of each kind of day based on point totals. (I think I’ve got this better calibrated for 2019: in 2018, there tended to be narrow clustering in just two maine categories, which is not as helpful. I may continue to play with the spread once I get more data in.)
What are mansions of the moon? They’re a rather old approach to astrology, and I’ve been learning about them. Specifically, this has the mansion the moon starts in, when it moves, and where it ends, since often they change mid-day. (If they change before 7am or after 10pm – otherwise known as when I am probably asleep – I don’t bother noting the time of change.
Big changes from last year:
Instead of managing each month on the main spreadsheet and then moving the previous month to a separate archive sheet, I’m keeping everything in one sheet, for easier and better statistical data over time. Instead, I split up the month and day into separate fields, so that I can filter out past months easily if I want to.
I’ve added some statistical periods. In 2018, I tracked weekly and monthly patterns (this lets me see if chronic health stuff is sneaking up on me.)
In 2019, I have a long cycle tracking sheet:
- Lunar month
- Sabbat to Sabbat cycle (about 6 weeks, but varies)
- Calendar months
I also have a shorter cycle tracking sheet. This covers moon phases, rather than weeks. 3 days of the new moon, the waxing moon (about 10-11 days), the 3 days of the full moon, then the waning moon (also 10-11 days). This is slightly more fuss to set up, but I just need to set up one set of calculations at a time. These are now based on averages rather than sums, to accommodate the varying number of days.
With all of these, I’m really curious to see if there are patterns of focus and energy that shift over these periods, or things like my writing wordcount, or other things of the kind. Plus the sleep I’ve already mentioned!
Revisions to activity and ritual sheets
This year I’ve set it up so that physical activity and writing get automatically added to the totals, rather than the somewhat erratic inclusion I managed in 2018.
For activity, I have a sheet that tracks activity, sleep, and errands (with selection of options). Last year I was tracking medical appointments in a similar way, and found it helpful to see patterns. Each of these automatically adds a large activity point, plus there’s a calculation for points based on how much physical movement and exercise I did. (One point for exercise greater than 25 minutes, half an additional point over an hour of general movement, and another half point for over 2 hours.) I get points for hitting my targets for amount and quality of sleep, too.
For tasks, I am now separately tracking things done at work vs other tasks (they each get a set of three columns). I have a column to add additional tasks for amount of writing (500 words of writing is half a large task, in terms of points. I normally do 1500-1700 words of writing in an hour of actual time spent writing. Which is not the same as “I am technically writing, but right now I am poking at a forum post or looking something up”).
The activity points from the previous paragraph get added in here. The goal is to get a reasonable total for “How much stuff of all kinds did I do today.” Editing, for the record, gets tracked separately as a task.
My writing sheet is much the same as last year: columns for the major types of projects, so I can see totals by project, plus some space to show me high and low wordcount days, how many days I broke 1000 words, etc. Points for tasks are assigned based on number of words, and that is now all auto-calculated.
For spiritual work, I track my song and Tarot card of the day, and then add points based on what kind of ritual work I did, so I can see how that balances out over time.
In this case, I assign points based on length and duration: a short ritual (like the weekly series I’m doing) is 1 point, a more involved ritual might be 2 or 3, a standard class with my witchy students is 1 point (but prepping the class notes and sending out the post-class notes are both other tasks, tracked on the task sheet. An hour working on study at home is 1 point, etc. This allows me to accommodate stuff that’s more magically or energetically involved, while having a default that’s fairly low-key.
Then I have logs for writing (what did I write, how many words on that), a reading log (what did I read when, and the genre, and format), and a ritual log (a brief note of what I did when, and any notes about it). More formal ritual notes go elsewhere, this is just so I have an easy record of timing/exertion.
The next sheets are my long and short cycle statistics (already described).
Finally, I have a page of statistics, that will tell me how many times I have pulled particular Tarot cards (both by card and by group – so I can see how many of each suit, how many aces, as well), songs, read different genres, and so forth. I use the lists there to create data validation for different fields (so typos don’t mess up my statistics.)
This all seems a little ridiculous, but I really do find the data helpful to me in managing long-term chronic health things, noticing drops in what I’m getting done before they start to be a significant problem, and in balancing out what I’m doing.
One really good question is how long it takes me to enter things.
- Sleep and exercise I track on apps, and I enter the data somewhere between daily and every four to five days. Basically when I am at a computer with web access and have five minutes I don’t want to do something else with.
- I log writing and ritual as I go, because otherwise I forget the details and they’re a pain to reconstruct later.
- I track most tasks in a to-do app (ToDoist) and add them up every couple of days. This is the one I’d like to work on better habits for, because doing a batch of four or five days gets tedious. The actual counting doesn’t take very much time at all, because it’s usually obvious to me what I’m doing. Doing this also forces me to keep better stats for what I’m doing for work (and as a librarian, having stats makes it easier to talk to my boss about my workload and capacity for other projects.)
Setting up the sheet has been done in bits and pieces over the last couple of weeks. I usually set something up, test it, and this year I’ve done a bunch of sample data to figure out how to recalibrate the point system that measures the overall nature of the day, basing my lowest range on the bare minimum points for a day, and adjusting it proportionately.
I should finish by noting the points are fairly arbitrary (they’re designed to be roughly equal chunks depending on area of life: body and activity (i.e. sleep and movement), perceived state of being, tasks, with a few extras around the edges for other things. What I mostly want to do is to be able to compare good days to not so good days, and have a general sense of how many not-so-good days I have.
(In 2017, when I started doing this, about one day in five came out as a not so good day. That is really tremendously helpful data for adjusting medical treatments, and for being able to plan ahead. Planning for one day in five to be sort of lousy means I should adjust my expectations on how much I get done.)