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April 19, 2008 4:39 PM   Subscribe

How does one keep track of personal improvements in a variety of aspects ?

I am inspired by Franklin's virtue tracking system. I have a set of "virtues" (physical fitness, mindfulness, being productive, …) and a set of attributes that loosely define each virtue (fitness: at least one exercise everyday, 7.25 hours of sleep, …).

However, I am stumped when I try to come up with a system that will track how well I am doing. Filling a dot for each virtue (like Franklin) seems very vague and uninformative, and I can't think of any other way to track a wide variety of attributes.

Any ideas?
posted by raheel to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
My mother uses a spreadsheet to document the daily upkeep chores and the number of fruits and veggies she's eaten. That's just microsoft excel.
posted by Phalene at 5:00 PM on April 19, 2008

check out some software called "the journal" by davidrm - it's actually a really good journalling program but you can download a 'virtues' template from the site that works with it.
posted by razzman at 5:15 PM on April 19, 2008

Although it sounds like not quite what you want, I will throw out, in case anyone doesn't know, that there is something called Joe's Goals that lets you do the checkmark-tracking thing.

They do have a "logbook" option which lets you write a few words instead of just putting in a checkmark; maybe that would be somewhat closer to what you want.
posted by dixie flatline at 5:15 PM on April 19, 2008

Here's the link for The Journal. Could be interesting. I personally like my traditional journal - it's not quantitative, but I definitely get a sense of where I've been by reading old ones.
posted by ikahime at 5:21 PM on April 19, 2008

posted by unknowncommand at 5:23 PM on April 19, 2008

what I get from your comment about Franklin's system being "vague and unimformative" is that you want a non-binary solution, so you need to sit down and come up with a quantitative metric for each attribute you want to look at, and then plug it into Excel. Excel's great for this because you can just define each metric as a function and then call it (every/a) day.

with a numerical metric, then you can really visualize them over time.

Some of these may be straightforward for you (hours of sleep or vegetable servings eaten). Others may require some soul-searching to find something to quantify, or some simple math to brin in multiple factors. For example mindfulness? I'm not even really sure what it is to you, but what if mindfulness=(minutes of meditation)*(number of original ideas acted on+number of things only I observed), or something like that.

If this sounds like the path for you, do a little light reading on what metrics are and how they work, and do some testing with the ones you come up with (for example, the mindfulness one I threw out above is not so good because if you either don't meditate at home or don't have individual observations or original ideas some day, you get a 0, and that's probably not useful).
posted by whatzit at 5:32 PM on April 19, 2008

What whatzit said.

A few of my quantitative goals for this year include eating more fruit and walking a certain number of miles. I have a little simple database (it works just like the spreadsheet Phalene's mother uses) where I log the date, the goal, the quantity, and any notes:

4/18/08 walking 4.2 miles (short description of route)
4/18/08 fruit 1 orange
4/19/08 fruit 1 apple

You could probably do something like this pretty easily in Google Docs - probably even to the point of writing little formulas to give you subtotals for the walking, subtotals for the fruit, and so on.
posted by kristi at 5:57 PM on April 19, 2008

When you are tracking something, it has to be very specific to be useful. For example, "get up early every weekday" won't work, because early is could mean different things to you every morning that you wake up. So, "Get out of bed within eight hours of laying down, to sleep and no more than two snooze alarm" would be a better way to set that goal.

So after you have your goals, or I like to call these habits, defined, you need a way to track them. If this part is time consuming, you aren't going to do it. Firing up excel or some software program to use to track these things would probably be too much of a hurdle to make it easy and rewarding. So I recommend a calendar. And a big X to cross thru the days that you completed your new habit.

To start, I would suggest only forming two new habits at once - use each line of the X to indicate that you've completed the "goal" for that habit that day. With the calendar being visible in your life, it will really reinforce that you are trying to change things in your life. Once you have completed about 55 days within 60 days, it's time to change habits to reinforce. If you find a habit becoming extinct, (you aren't doing it anymore) you can do it again on the next cycle. I suggest using a notebook that spells out the habits exact success metrics at the beginning of a cycle and an thorough personal examination of how you felt about each habit through the last cycle.

If you insist on doing more than 2 life changing habits, I would suggest no more than 4 at once - and that is even really pushing it. You can still use the calender with both an X and cross (+) over each other to track 4 habits at once.
posted by bigmusic at 6:39 PM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

with a numerical metric, then you can really visualize them over time.

If you are dead set on using a number to track successes, I suggest you have a look at the Likert scale. It will make these "fuzzy" goals easier to quantify.
posted by bigmusic at 6:44 PM on April 19, 2008

I can't tell if you're looking for something deeper than this, but I use It quantifies my daily goals, which I can define however I'd like (sleep, exercise, diet, reading, studying, meditation, etc.). The goals are listed in a chart that I fill in with an easy click, and each day I get a point total (my personal point system ranges from -2 to 7). I can always see with a glance at that number whether I need to improve, and with a glance at the chart exactly where the improvements should be.
posted by iguanapolitico at 8:08 PM on April 19, 2008

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