Self-tracking, also known as quantified self, has become an increasingly popular way to gather data about themselves to improve their overall health, habits, and quality of life. With the right self-tracking app or tracker, you can quickly begin your self-tracking journey.

What is Self Tracking?

Self-tracking involves collecting data and metrics on yourself through digital tools and techniques. Self-trackers typically use apps, devices, journals, or calendars to monitor details like:

  • Physical health data – weight, BMI, body fat %, blood pressure
  • Fitness activity – steps taken, calories burned, workouts
  • Sleep patterns – duration, quality, sleep stages
  • Location data and mobility tracking
  • Diet and nutrition tracking
  • Time usage and productivity
  • Mood tracking
  • Physiological data – heart rate variability, blood glucose
  • And much more!

The Quantified self-movement is all about self-trackers using data to analyze their behaviors and habits to optimize, experiment, understand patterns, and make positive life changes.

Why Track Yourself? Benefits of it

So why go through the effort of monitoring and measuring yourself? Here are some of the main reasons people find value in self-tracking:

Motivation and Accountability

For many areas, like fitness, nutrition, productivity, and more, what gets measured gets managed. Having concrete data points on aspects of your life provides accountability and motivation to stick to goals and desired behaviors. Seeing objective records of how you spend time or how daily actions influence health metrics helps incentivize improvement.

Discover Patterns and Root Causes

In-depth data gathering through self-tracking allows you to uncover trends, correlations, cycles, root causes, and insights that aren’t apparent otherwise. For example, you might realize certain routines or dietary choices sabotage sleep quality without conscious awareness of the link. Finding these patterns empowers you to test interventions and truly optimize them.

Inform More Effective Experiments

Self-tracking transforms abstract goals like “eating healthier” into concrete experimentation. Having reliable data from a self-tracking app or device allows for running well-designed self-experiments where you methodically adjust single variables and track outcomes. This process helps determine optimal paths while avoiding guesswork.

Enhance Mindfulness and self-awareness

When you purposefully and consistently track aspects of yourself, you naturally raise self-awareness – even just by periodically entering data. Paying attention to metrics, reviewing insights, and acting on findings keeps you engaged and mindful of behaviors impacting well-being.

Getting Started With Self-Tracking

Would you be interested in exploring self-tracking? Here are some steps to begin:

Pick Life Aspects to Track

First, reflect on what part(s) of your life you want to optimize, understand better through data, or reach goals. Standard options include health, fitness, productivity, time use, finances, sleep, or diet. Then, dig deeper into the specific metrics for those high-level areas.

For example, general “health” tracking could involve weight, blood markers, chronic disease measures, or vital signs. In contrast, fitness tracking focuses on indicators like steps, active minutes, workout routines, strength training, etc. Get granular objectives for accurate quantification.

Select Self-Tracking Tools

The self-tracking app and device market has exploded with options for gathering personal analytics. Select tools aligned with the exact factors you chose to work on. Look for ease of entering data, as friction eventually leads people to stop tracking.

If tracking health, medical devices like blood pressure monitor sync data. Fitness trackers have become very advanced in capturing exercise biometrics. Meanwhile, time tracking seems most straightforward via time journaling apps. Use a nutrition logging app for diet tracking. There’s almost always a digital tool explicitly made for metrics you want to quantify and record.

Make Tracking a Routine Habit

Consistency remains critical to generating enough self-tracking data to extract valuable personal insights. Build set reminder habits for entering data points on apps and syncing wearable self-trackers. Attach tracking behaviors like daily weigh-ins or food journaling to existing routine cues when possible.

Over time, we fall into a steady rhythm of tracking core metrics without much active thinking required once processes automate mentally.

Review Data and Adjust Goals

Review the amassed data at set intervals along your self-tracking journey to identify trends, correlations, surprising influences, cycles, etc. Look at individual metrics and connections between factors. These insights inform more intelligent goal-setting, experiments to try, or habit adjustments needed to optimize.

Tracking alone accomplishes little without consistent analysis driving informed changes. Dedicate time to studying what the data reveals about you!

Helpful Self-Tracking Tips

Here are some additional helpful tips as you embark on quantified self-tracking:

  • Start with just 1-3 priority metrics to maintain focus without overly complicated tracking
  • Use technology assistance like automated syncing, alerts, data entry shortcuts
  • Occasionally validate the accuracy of tracking devices against actual values
  • Pair subjective perceptions with objective data for richer analysis
  • Keep your tracking tools readily accessible/visible as subtle reminders
  • Get social support and discuss insights with others doing self-tracking experiments
  • Remain patient, viewing self tracking as a long-term lifestyle and iterative process

Example Self-Tracking Apps and Devices

The apps, wearables, and tools enabling self-tracking seem nearly endless nowadays. Here is a sampling of popular self-tracking options:

Health and Medical Data

  • Apple Health App & Google Fit – sync wellness data
  • Withings Smart Scale – weight, BMI, body composition
  • WHOOP Band – continuous HRV, sleep, recovery metrics
  • Levels App – glucose levels, diabetes management
  • Apple Watch ECG App – heart rhythm data
  • MindRight App – mental health mood tracking

Fitness and Active Lifestyle

  • Fitbit Trackers – steps, heart rate, sleep stages, fitness profiles
  • Garmin Smartwatches – activity tracking galore
  • Strava App – precise run/bike movement data
  • Gymaholic App – workout logger and personal assistant
  • Rescue time App – tracks productive and distracted screen time

Nutrition and Diet Logging

  • MyFitnessPal – food database to log meals fast
  • MacroFactor – nutrient tracking, weekly adjustments
  • Lifesum App – diet dashboard, meal plans to meet nutrition targets
  • FoodNoms App – scan food item barcodes for calorie info
  • WaterMinder App – quantity and reminders for drinking water

Try mixing and matching from various self-tracking categories for a holistic view of your quantified self-data!

Is Self Tracking For You?

While self-tracking does wonders for many individuals, assessing a few factors helps determine if it fits your lifestyle and personality:

  • Highly motivated to change – The most successful trackers have explicitly defined goals and a deep commitment to investing the effort needed to analyze data for insights as part of an experimentation cycle. Casual interest tends to fade.
  • Growth mindset – Since data often reveals uncomfortable realities, having a self-improvement mindset prevents getting discouraged. Use insights for constructive change.
  • Pattern-oriented – Getting value relies on identifying trends and connections between factors, cycles, variability, and outliers in the data. Requires dialing into patterns emerging over time.
  • Enjoys experiments – The process involves regularly testing interventions on yourself and tracking outcomes. Whether trying new productivity tactics or diet changes, be comfortable iteratively experimenting.
  • Appreciates metrics – At its core self-tracking relies on numbers, so feeling engaged in looking at graphs, stats, and figures are critical. Data should motivate, not overwhelm.

Please look at where you stand on these facets before investing heavily in tracking. Temper expectations if your tendencies differ significantly or ensure you feel empowered by data, not anxious.

That said, almost anyone can benefit from tracking specific metrics more consciously, even if not diving entirely into the quantified self-movement monitoring every detail. Select what resonates with bringing more mindfulness to behaviors needing attention.

Conclusion

In closing, tracking leverages data, devices, journaling, and modern technology to record personal metrics – opening insights into health, behaviors, habits, and more that optimize your lifestyle. Tracking serves as an experiment generating information you act upon iteratively. Self-tracking fosters remarkable self-awareness and positive changes when done consistently for the long haul.

Hopefully, this beginner’s guide provided a foundation for understanding best practices to start tracking yourself. Define your objectives for change and pick suitable tracking tools aligning with your needs and preferences. Soon, you’ll gather data revealing trends and influencers for testing interventions. Before long, you become your science experiment, tinkering for aspirational outcomes – enjoying the process of self-optimization and discovery!