Since As It Changes has been on the topic of measuring success and progress lately, author and internet strategist Austin Yoder is sharing one of the ways he uses to measure his progress on a daily basis. Steal his idea if it works for you – the more people that measure their personal projects, the better. This post was originally published here on Austin’s blog and is reprinted here with permission of the author.
Self Tracking: Setting Up Your Own Daily Tracker
– Shikara oarsman at Dal Lake in Srinagar, Kashmir
One of my closest friends in the world recently asked me if I had any thoughts about how best to keep track of his progress on personal projects, as separated from his work life. He has a demanding job, works bizarre hours, and is occasionally saddled with unexpected responsibilities. I wanted to write up a quick post in answer to his question and share it here in case it’s helpful to anyone else interested in self tracking.
Self tracking is one of my favorite hobbies. I’ve written about it before here and here. Self tracking is a simple way to help you take stock of how you’re spending your time, boost your productivity, and hone your focus. Self tracking helps maintain a mental connection to your macro level goals and projects on a daily basis.
For anyone who wants to get started self tracking, I echo what Sebastian says here: start off with something relatively small and manageable.
Which brings us to the topic of the day: a daily tracker. A single question you answer every single day to help yourself stay accountable to yourself through automated email systems.
The Daily Tracker: Track Incremental Progress Every Day With Automated Email Systems
What question would you ask yourself every day to encourage yourself to action in a meaningful way?
- What was the biggest thing you did to move your business forward today?
- What was the biggest thing you did today to help your friends?
- What did you do to meet interesting new people today? Name, contact information, conversation.
- What was the biggest thing you did today to push your life forward?
I have this question emailed to me at 6pm every single day. That way, if I haven’t done anything seriously meaningful during the day, I still have time to do something meaningful at night. Even if I have to stay up late to do it.My question may be subjective, but I’m the only person answering it. There’s no single perfect question out there to prompt yourself to action, but whatever question you wind up choosing – I think it should resonate with you somehow.
I figur that if I’m doing at least one thing every day to move in the directions I want to move in, I’m in good shape. Sometimes I can answer this question with four or five big points, and sometimes only one. As long as I can answer with one meaningful point, I feel good about that day. You, of course, can choose to require however many “big points” you want, or ask a different question entirely.
Here’s what my daily tracker looks like when it’s emailed to me every day at 6pm.
How to Set Up and Automate Your Own Daily Tracker
It’s a really simple process, and takes advantage of two excellent services: Google Docs and Nudgemail. Feel free to poke around at each of those sites if you haven’t used them much in the past. These sites are your friends, and will aid you as you work towards your goals, your aspirations, or project deadlines.
Step One: The Form
Create a new “form” in Google Docs. It will look like this. I like for the question in my own daily tracker to be “Paragraph text” so that I can type out as much or little as I want to.
Step Two: Automation
After you get your question set up how you want it set up, click on “Email This Form” and email it to “email@example.com”. Be sure that the “Include Form in this Email” box is ticked. Nudgemail is a great service for lots of things; it helps you manage your email through reminders, and is entirely free. We are taking advantage of Nudgemail’s “Daily Reminder” function with our daily trackers. There are other email management services out there – Nudgemail is just the one I use.
After you click “send,” Nudgemail will automatically email your daily tracking question to you at a set time every single day. Like I said before, I have my time set to 6pm so that I can do something meaningful at night if I haven’t during the day.
Step Three: Watch Your Progress, and Grow
All of your answers get automatically recorded in a spreadsheet in Google Docs. You can refer to this spreadsheet at any time from anywhere you can access the internet. Check in on it as often as you want, and be sure to give yourself an honest assessment. If you’re doing great for a week, celebrate. If you fall off the wagon, don’t beat yourself up too much. The value of a daily tracker is in making many incremental steps towards your objective. A day or two here and there won’t hurt too bad, but if you see that you’ve let a week or two pass without making much progress, you might want to change things up.
Good Rule of Thumb
If you can’t give a meaningful answer on your daily tracker for two days in a row, recognize that you need to make an important change to how you spend your time during the day. Then do something about it.
I have a daily tracker set up for a few specific projects I’m working on right now that don’t fall into my overall tracking regimen. In theory, you can have as many daily trackers set up as you want to for separate discrete tasks. Like one for a daily run, one for something you want to monitor business-wise, one to make sure you’re getting out in the world to live an interesting life.
I don’t know at what point the law of diminishing marginal returns kicks in with self tracking and daily tracking. Get started today and play around to see what feels right for you.
Question of the Day
What would you track in your life on a daily basis? If you decide to track something and are comfortable sharing, I’d love to hear about it in the comments section.