How can I get started quantifying and tracking my time and goals?
July 21, 2014 1:30 PM   Subscribe

I want to take control of my time, writing output, attention and procrastination, bedtime, exercise, and diet. What tools should I use to track what I eat, how I spend my time, what I spend money on, when I exercise, when I go to sleep and wake up, and how many words I write per day.

I want to take control of my time, writing output, attention and procrastination, bedtime, exercise, and diet.

I have a few specific goals in mind:

- write 1000 words every day
- do creative work, with Internet disabled, for 5 hours every day
- no sugar
- lights out by 2am every weeknight
- watch no more than 10 hours on Netflix per week

I want to track what I eat, how I spend my time, what I spend money on, when I exercise, when I go to sleep and wake up, and how many words I write per day.

The number of existing apps and websites out there is dizzying. Can anyone point me in the right direction given my goals?

I don't care about devices like pedometers and body weight scales; I'm fine entering everything myself.

I also don't want to download a separate Android app or Mac OSX app for each of these categories. It seems to me I should probably track everything in one place.

I could always just track everything in a spreadsheet, but that might be swinging too far in the manual direction; maybe there are existing tools that would be easier than tracking everything manually, or at least pre-designed spreadsheets that could provide a structure for me.

I'm also comfortable using command line tools, though I'm not a programmer and I don't know how to design them myself.

How should I get started quantifying and tracking all this stuff?
posted by incandescentman to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Clarification: I am open to using apps or sites if they're helpful—e.g. someone suggested and I'm open to that. I just meant I don't necessarily need one dedicated app for every separate thing.
posted by incandescentman at 1:50 PM on July 21, 2014

Chains might help.
posted by bink at 1:52 PM on July 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

RescueTime is great for tracking computer activity (it can gather data offline and sync later).

You could also set up a account, even if you don't have a fitbit device. They do some tracking with an iphone app and includes food intake tracking, sleep tracking, exercise tracking. If you did have a fitbit device the combo of rescuetime + fitbit would I think meet all of your goals listed.
posted by TwoWordReview at 2:26 PM on July 21, 2014

Just put it all in a spreadsheet, a text/Evernote document or even a paper journal.

Spreadsheets are nice because you can list all the things you're tracking on the left or on top and keep adding rows for each day. If you're into visualizations, you can do a quick conditional comment to highlight certain achievements or failures with a special color.

As a bonus, you can easily add, edit and remove rows as you learn what you really want to track and maybe what ends up not being so important. Or, if you do end up using a specialized automated app like Mint or Moves or Sleep Cycle or Draft, you can just take it off the spreadsheet and keep updating the other numbers.
posted by michaelh at 2:44 PM on July 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Seems like Joe's Goals would do this.
posted by unknowncommand at 2:50 PM on July 21, 2014

I use Way of Life for this kind of goal tracking, but only at the 'did I do it or not' level. For detailed tracking (of writing, specifically), I have an insanely complex spreadsheet I wrote myself. It does words per hour, total words written, averages, the works.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:03 PM on July 21, 2014

Health Month! It gamifies a little, and if you join the Metafilter team there's a great support channel if you succeed or if you need help accomplishing your goals. It costs $5/month to have more than three rules, but it can be really helpful. (Also, MeMail me if you decide to go this route.)
posted by Night_owl at 5:05 PM on July 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

General note: I often have the most luck with new goals when I frame each as a quantifiable action to bring the desired result, rather than something forbidden. It sometimes requires some creativity, but a few examples would be:

- Make a weekly batch of low/no sugar chocolate and eat 1 bar daily.
- Write a review of every episode or movie you watch (can be short, but making this part of the experience helps keep me honest about keeping my content intake reasonable and judicious)
- Get up at 9am everyday.
posted by susanvance at 7:42 AM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thank you everyone for the responses. I do want to figure out a way not only to track my adherence to the goals I set, but a way to track all the numbers involved. Maybe I'll just go with the spreadsheet method. Wondering if it's helpful to do more than one method (e.g. Health Month plus Chains) or whether that would dilute my feeling of commitment and I should stick with one tool.

@Night_owl, thank you, Health Month looks interesting. I'll email you for further instructions.
posted by incandescentman at 11:03 AM on July 22, 2014

Hey, two apps to do this kind of thing have come up free in my AppsGoneFree list recently - Persistence and Lumens Trail (sorry, this might only be GB app store) - both look a bit more flexible (if also more complex) than Way of Life. I'm testing both.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:11 PM on July 22, 2014

750 Words would be able to help you with your writing goals.
posted by Fuego at 11:40 AM on July 24, 2014

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