The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be brokenWarren Buffett
Daily habit tracking is something I’ve wanted to do for years but I could never find a method that worked for me.
Journals lay forgotten under my bed. Apps on my phone started off well enough but eventually I’d miss a few days and find inputting the data extremely cumbersome. Excel spreadsheets saved on a mac were not compatible with my windows machine or had different versions, etc.
But in 2018 I cracked the code. I’ve finally found a service that syncs across all my devices that’s easy to use, and best of all it’s free!
The answer, you may already have guessed, is Google Sheets.
It’s not perfect. It’s not fancy, it’s not pretty but it’s easy to use and it’s everywhere I need it to be all of the time.
Here’s a quick Pros and Cons rundown:
- It’s available on all my devices
- It’s easy to use
- It’s easy to play catch-up on
- I can easily manipulate the data
- I can change what I track from month to month (this has been very important)
- It’s not beautiful
- Doesn’t come with pre-packaged visualization tools
- Doesn’t come with pre-packaged analytics tools
- Can take a few seconds to load when you have multiple tabs
- You have to create a new sheet each month
- Doesn’t have any notification features
- You have to know how to use a spreadsheet
Bottom line, it works for me and I think it will work for you, if you give it a chance.
The Evolution of My Tracking Format
Here’s a little context on how my use has evolved.
In early 2018, I started using Google sheets to track outgoing sales activities for work. Then I realized I could use the same template to track my health habits on a daily basis, as well.
Then, in April, Kevin Rose released copy of his health tracking sheet. His formatting was way better, so I switched over to using his. This is the original sheet he shared:
Download it here
Over the course of the year, I’ve made some adjustments and additions to Kevin’s sheet based on what worked for me. This is my sheet for January 2019:
Kevin’s sheet and mine differ in ways that may not be apparent at first glance.
Tracking Inputs Vs. Outputs
Superficially, Kevin’s is more complicated because it tracks so many different things.
But more importantly, Kevin’s sheet tracks both inputs and outputs. For example, he tracks things like weight, and blood glucose. Which is fine. Kevin’s sheet is supposed to be a health-dashboard, not just a habit tracking sheet.
My health sheet is simpler in that it tracks fewer variables. This is a choice that I’ve come to through trial and error. More data is nice, but it can also create noise that obscures signal. It also takes more mental energy and time to catalouge.
Most important though, is that from my perspective, the variables I choose to track are what I’d call critical and influenceable input variables.
In other words, I track what I think are the three most powerful levers I can pull to influence my health and energy levels. (Someday I’ll write a post on that goes deeper into why I’ve chosen these.)
How I Use It
The best thing about Google Sheets is that it’s everywhere I need it and always updated.
It’s on my cell phone as the Google Sheets App.
And it’s on my web browser as either as shortcut on on the bookmarks bar or just a click away from my Gmail account.
This makes me feel like there’s no excuse not to do it and I have been!
That’s it. If you try it, let me know what you think.