Tracking Me

I just finished a really fantastic book called Atomic Habits by James Clear.

There were so many useful bits about productivity and behaviors and getting stuff done and creating better goals – too many to list, really – and I’m super excited about implementing many of the ideas he talked about in various places throughout my life, but right now I want to talk about tracking and statistics.

I’ve always been kind of fascinated with numbers. My personal word count for writing is something that’s very important to me, and yet aside from staring at the numbers and hoping they’ll go up (or down, in the case of weight loss), I’ve never really had a great approach for actually influencing those huge numbers in a consistently positive way.

If I look at my word count, for example, it’s clear to me that this massive number was built over time, but I wish I could say that I had a better system in place to ensure that it continued to grow on a regular basis. Case in point – with each post averaging barely 300 words, that’s really a minuscule amount of blogging each day. I could knock that out in 15 minutes a day. Yet in the twenty months since I hit that 1 million word milestone, I’ve only added another 34,000 words to my total.

Even if I only blogged 5 days a week, one post a day, at my given average I could’ve added another 120,000 words in the last year and a half!

So I’ve decided to do a little experiment to combine my love of stat tracking with my newfound I’m 40 and It’s Time to Improve My Life-mentality by taking the next four months to track a handful of “key stats” that I’ve identified for myself across three areas:

  • Creative Output – Number of Things Published
  • Health – Amount of Sleep Per Night
  • Health – Number of Days with Exercise
  • Family – Number of Family Photos Shared

1. Creative Output – Number of Things Published
I know I talked about word count above, but for this iteration I want to take a step back and basically just count any time that I hit a Publish button – be it for a blog post, a humor column, an ebook or some other written thing. Tracking should be pretty easy between WordPress stats and the other platforms that I regularly publish stuff through. My goal here is really just to improve my overall output – we’ll talk about bigger goals influenced by this task at a later date!

2. Health – Amount of Sleep Per Night
This has really been a horrible one for me, not just in the last week although school starting and having me up at 7:30am certainly ain’t helping! I know that good sleep is linked to so many other aspects of health, and I actually think I might like the routine that I started developing for my mornings this week, so I really want to try to use this stat to drive going to bed earlier and getting a more consistent amount of sleep. Tracking will be through my Fitbit, where I’m hoping to see some scores that are a little better than “poor”…

3. Health – Number of Days with Exercise
There were a few different parts of Atomic Habits that talked about making progress in tiny increments, whether it was improving a process merely by 1% or creating better habits by starting with just a minute or two at a time … Do two minutes of yoga/meditation/exercise/whatever per day, and as you build into your mind the drive to hit that simple task of only two minutes, naturally you’ll likely try to push yourself to do more because you’ve already started. Earlier this summer, I lugged our elliptical back into my office from the garage in hopes of actually starting to use it again, so I want to try employing this technique to start building it into a daily routine.

Tracking, again, will be via my Fitbit … which might I add I think that it’s really cool that this thing somehow is able to identify not only when I do exercise but also say, “Nice job with that 10 minutes on the elliptical!” without me ever telling it what I was doing?!

4. Family – Number of Family Photos Shared
Admittedly this is kind of a silly one – I wanted something around family to be my last stat, but it’s not like I can track days at an amusement park with COVID and all. Still, I thought this could be kind of fun because a couple years ago I started working on a family photo album website and I stopped due to some technical reasons, but we take so many great photos that I don’t always want to flood Instagram and Facebook with that I’d still really like to revisit the whole effort.

Plus, now that we’ve got several DAKboards displaying photos around the house, it’d be neat to tie them in somehow to pull photos from a more current source than just whenever I add a few to the OneDrive folder that DAKboard uses.

So the idea is pretty simple – revisit that idea, refresh it, and start adding in newer photos. I don’t expect to finish the whole thing in four months … I think that’s probably another thing that derailed the project in the past because I just got too far behind with pictures that it was just a ridiculous task to try and get caught up! But if I can spend an hour or two on it once a month, I can probably get to where at least 2020 will be represented, and that would be a nice start! Tracking here will also be via WordPress stats.

Anyways, I’m sure I’ll write more about this later, but the idea here is really to hone in on something very specific, but also very manageable that I can focus on day after day to collectively lead to bigger results. More creative output -> more pageviews, subscriptions, sales; more sleep and exercise -> more energy and lower weight; more family photos -> a more meaningful record of our growth together as a family.

Not sure if I’ll share results along the way or wait until January, but I definitely want to write about some more points from Atomic Habits that I fell in love with, so stay tuned for that! 🙂

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