Photo: Andrew Neel
What is the one habit that can transform your world forever?
The habit of tracking.
No, I don’t mean stripping down to a loincloth and sniffing animal tracks.
I mean tracking and monitoring yourself.
Peter F. Drucker the famous business consultant and entrepreneur has a famous saying that:
What gets measured gets managed.
And to put it bluntly, 99% of the population goes through life without ever measuring their performance or happiness.
Let me give you an example to illustrate how valuable this habit can be.
One of my employees has a girlfriend who used to suffer from depression and anxiety.
She would go through dark depressive episodes seemingly out of nowhere.
Being an analytical thinker, the employee in question purchased a small notebook and started keeping it in his back pocket.
Anytime his girlfriend had a depressive episode or anxiety attack, he made a note of the circumstances surrounding it.
After about 3 weeks, he noticed 3 trends.
- The episodes happened after consuming processed or fried foods, particularly dairy, red meat, and gluten.
- The episodes happened after nights of sleep deprivation
- The episodes happened after long work shifts with negative co workers.
After he noticed these patterns, he decided to help his girlfriend make a change.
- They began eating an 80% vegetarian diet with little to no processed foods
- They invested in an incredible mattress and high quality sleep gear
- His girlfriend quit her job and took a short sabbatical before finding more meaningful work.
Her depression and anxiety have completely gone.
He told me that, even when she gets upset, her response is simply, “I ate something that put me in a bad mood, just give me 15 minutes to do some yoga and get over it”.
That’s a HUGE change.
And it happened because he purchased a $0.96 notebook and paid attention to patterns.
How can you apply this to your own life?
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Track your productivity vs. various habits
Our success, whether we like it or not, will largely be determined by our ability to get massive amounts of work done in the fastest and most effective way possible.
The only problem is that most people are completely unaware of how their habits affect their productivity.
For example, I found in my own life that when I sleep 8–9 hours a night I’m about 30% more productive than I am on nights where I only sleep 6–7 hours.
One of the best ways that you can improve your life is to track your productivity against different variables.
- Spend 2 weeks sleeping 8 hours a night and 2 weeks sleeping only 6 and compare your output for those weeks.
- Experiment with different morning routines to find the most effective way to prime your day.
- Try using the Pomodoro method (work 50 minutes take 15 minute breaks) for 2 weeks and compare your productivity to the previous weeks
- Try out different planning methods and see which one helps you be the most effective.
The more you can isolate and compare the affect of different habits in your life, the better your life will be.
If you are willing to track and refine your habits against your goals, I promise your success will skyrocket.
2. Track your spending
This is a hard one.
Most people are broke.
And they aren’t doing anything about it.
The first of the month rolls around and they wonder to themselves, “Where did all of my money go?”
Before you ever try to create a budget, you should track your spending so that you know exactly where your money is going and why.
From here, you have the power to say “Wow! I spent $140 on lattes this month? I’m going to invest in a milk frother and make them from home and put the $110 I save into my savings account”.
What gets measured gets managed.
If you want to manage your finances, start by measuring them.
3. Track your eating and exercise patterns vs. your health goals
Here’s the thing about health and fitness… It’s incredibly personal.
I know some people who (literally) eat only meat and they feel AMAZING.
I know other people who will have terrible stomach pains and indigestion from only a few bites of chicken.
Health isn’t a one size fits all game.
You need to figure out what works for You and the only way to do that is, you guessed it, TRACKING.
I recommend that you track 4 things.
- Your exercise/activity habits
- Your diet
- Your subjective energy levels each day
- Your weight/body fat
If you will track these things every day for 30 days and then run experiments to determine which foods make you feel great and which ones make you feel like crap, you’ll be able to intelligently alter your diet for optimal performance.
The same thing applies to your workouts.
Some people get energized by hard workouts and some people become so exhausted that they can’t get anything done for a week!
By tracking your workouts vs. energy levels you can identify which activities help improve your energy and body composition and which ones exhaust you and lead to fatigue.
4. Track your relationship satisfaction vs. your romantic habits
Another way you can implement tracking into your life is to track your “Romance Habits” against your relationship satisfaction.
I know this might sound excessive (and honestly, it is) but it works.
If your relationship sucks, it can be hard to properly identify what’s causing problems and leading to conflict.
By tracking your romance habits (e.g. how many dates you went on, how much time you spend together and what you do, how often you say “I love you” or praise your partner, and how often you have sex) you’ll be able to identify the things you need to do to make your relationship work.
I know this might seem overly analytical and sociopathic, but I promise it will work.
5. Track your happiness vs. major variables
At the end of the day, we all want to be happy.
It’s one of the major goals of the human existence.
But the problem is that very few people KNOW what makes them happy.
They think they know … But they don’t.
Years ago, I thought more money, more sex, and more status were the keys to happiness.
Despite earning multiple six figures, dating and sleeping with dozens of beautiful women, and becoming well known in my industry, I was depressed and anxious all the time.
I realized, with time, that what actually makes me happy is spending time with friends that I love, getting out into nature, having authentic connection with a woman I love, and doing work that matters.
I didn’t know what I didn’t know and I was depressed because of it.
In your own life, track the different variables you believe influence your happiness.
Work your ass off for a month and make lots of money, see how happy you feel.
Take it easy and spend lots of time in the woods for a month, see how happy you feel.
Test, test, test, until you find YOUR happiness formula.
And then go and live it everyday.
I hope this provided some value to you today.
This post first appeared on Quora.