You Need to Learn the Science of Tracking: Here’s How It Works

Do you track anything in your life? I’ve found that it’s the best way to really stay, well, ‘on track’ with building healthy habits and nixing ones that don’t serve me. It’s a simple way to ensure that my actions are aligned with what I want from life.

Tracking has been incredibly enlightening for me, once I realised that I could track outcomes and the things that lead to them. I was then able to establish what worked for me. For example, I’d never have known the specific weekly calorie deficit, and the method of eating, that worked for me, without tracking those things.

I have found that, over time, when I don’t track, I don’t acknowledge the change. By tracking, I see the change day by day, and am more able to be grateful for it. I believe that the more gratitude I show for growth, the more that will come my way.

The first time that you track something, it likely won’t feel good. I always feel put off by recording the baseline, however, only by doing this first step will you be able to see progress. If we are too scared to track, and we don’t see progress, we could believe we aren’t progressing and give up. On the other hand, we could think we’re doing better than we are, and not know that we need to tweak what we’re currently doing.

Without baseline measurements, we don’t know we are improving or how to improve.

Leaning into the discomfort of tracking pays off over a relatively short time. I have never regretted tracking anything, but I have regretted not starting it sooner or not doing it more frequently.

How often do you compare yourself to others? If we have a baseline of our own, we can stop looking at others, and start looking at ourselves. We will have comparative tracking ‘scores’ that show us our progress, rather than being stuck in ‘comparisonitis’!


Understanding Outcomes

For a long time, I only tracked ‘outcomes’, such as my weight. I would look at my tracking chart and the only information it gave me was my discrete weight and the gain or loss that week. I couldn’t tell you what had resulted in that outcome, until I started tracking calorie deficits and macros. With those three sets of tracking together, I was able to establish exactly what worked for me. The weight alone was worth nothing on its own – its only effect was making me sad if I’d not released pounds that week.

It’s actually incredibly reassuring to understand why an outcome is happening – and it becomes easier to get back on track.

I also love that tracking makes it easier to see the smaller milestones on the way to the ultimate goal. When I track my weight lifting, for example, the goal might be a 60kg squat, but hitting 20, 30, 40kg is just as important to acknowledge. Tracking lets me see exactly where I am in relation to my goals. It inspires me to keep going on the days that feel difficult!


Accountability

We often talk about accountability in terms of sticking to habits. Whilst I do have a coach in my life who keeps me accountable, tracking helps too. I see if there are gaps in my recording – it’s the reminder that I need to step up and take responsibility for my change. Something I’ve seen others do, and that I also intend to do for simple “done” or “not done” tasks is to have a wall planner. That way, you (and anyone else in your family!) can see at a glance if you’re keeping up with your commitment.


The Cons of Tracking

I’ve given you lots of reasons why tracking is awesome, but I want to address a few of the cons as well. It’s not always plain sailing!

One of the protests many people have is that tracking costs money. And yes, there’s some amazing tech out there (Oura rings for sleep, Muse for meditation, fitness tracking watches, and so on), but you don’t need any of it. For example, for weight loss, all you need is a spreadsheet to track what you’re eating, a bathroom scales, and an estimate of how many calories you burn. Of course it’s not as accurate to use estimated calorie burn as it is to have a fitness tracker, but it’s better than nothing!

A huge problem with tracking is if you’re tracking the wrong thing. I could, for example, decide to track my weight and my carbs. However, if calories are what is determining my weight loss, I will end up tracking something that doesn’t give me the information I need to know. My weight might be all over the place, and I wouldn’t have the data to help me tweak it to get a more consistent level of weight loss.

Another issue is one that we bring on ourselves: expectations of results. Now, of course we’re tracking towards a goal, so we want to hit that goal. I’ve been significantly more successful at this when I try to detach from the daily or weekly outcomes and focus on longer term trends. With weight loss, I realised it was a science, and I was finally able to be objective and see what worked for me.

Caught up with the expectations we can have is the fact that we can get into a mindset of not celebrating the ‘wins’. There are always milestones en route to the final goal. If we don’t acknowledge those along the way, we miss out on the rewards of tracking. It’s important to be goal-focussed, but not at the expense of the other milestones that you’ll hit.


You Can Track!

In conclusion, you can track anything – it will help you keep on top of any changes that you want to make in your life. For me, it’s been the only thing that has got me truly consistent weight loss. It doesn’t have to be about weight loss or exercise though, it can just as easily be about how often you indulge in your full skincare regime, or how often you save money. You can track more or less anything!

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