Three Simple Steps to Use Your Journal for Tracking and Logging Things
I focus a lot of my blog posts on reflection questions for writing in your journal. But in order to turn your journal into the ultimate momentum making machine, you need to do more than just write your reflections. One of the tools I use my journal for is tracking and logging things.
Tracking and logging is a great way to benchmark a number of different elements of your life. Some of the items you may consider tracking and logging include, habits, triggers, time, focus, energy, food, workout stats and so on. The options are endless!
There are a number of benefits to tracking and logging things. First, most of us have a warped sense of recall. We tend to either overestimate or underestimate things. For example, it’s easy to think that you don’t spend much time on Facebook, until you start tracking your time and suddenly you realize that you just wasted forty five minutes…when you track and log things you start to get a more factual view of your current situation, which enables you to make more informed decisions and plans.
First, most of us have a warped sense of recall. We tend to either overestimate or underestimate things.
Secondly, tracking and logging provides you with accountability. The simple act of writing things down sparks a a stronger sense of responsibility and awareness. I’ve used habit tracking as a way of keeping me accountable to do the things I know I should but haven’t always done consistently, like taking my vitamins. When I have tracked my time, I had accountability to be more intentional with how I was spending it.
Now that I’ve hopefully sold you on experimenting in your journal with tracking and logging, you might be wondering where to start. Here are three simple steps to begin using your journal in this way.
Step 1. Decide what you want to track
As I highlighted above, there are a variety of different things you can track. If you’re like me, you might be overzealous and want to track everything at once….yeah, that doesn’t work out so well. Start small and be specific. If you’re feeling pinched for time, you may want to track your time. If you’re trying to change your day to day habits to be more healthy, try habit tracking. Stuck in a negative pattern at work? You could consider tracking your triggers so you may start to rewrite the pattern.
What would you like to track?
Step 2. Setup a tracking page in your journal
At the top of a blank page write what you’re tracking. Then create a simple table for tracking (this is when grid paper is nice). I’ve included a sample habit tracker for you below. If you’re tracking your time, you may consider printing out this paper (from Jason Womack) and keeping it with your journal. Generally the items you need to include in your table are basic, date/time, indicator, notes.
Step 3. Commit to experiment with tracking for 5 days & do it
The next step is to make a commitment and get to it. In order for your tracking efforts to reveal patterns you need to do more then just a day or two. At the same point, committing to tracking something new for a month might be unrealistic. I like Jason Womack’s advice to do 5 day experiments. After five days you should have a sense of whether or not you might need more data to see a pattern, that is if what you’re tracking is even revealing helpful information to you. Or if you need to adjust your tracking strategy.
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