The Superpower for Masses
(It Involves Habits!)
The easiest way to become aware about the performance of anything is to track it.
To progress in any given area, simply begin to track the essential metrics. You don’t have to decide that you’ll be mindful about it. Once you start tracking, you’ll put your attention into it, and it will happen automatically. Focus and results are just natural aftereffects.
It Works Like Magic
Towards the end of my weight loss quest, I decided to keep a food journal. I was just six pounds away from my dream weight, but I hadn’t progressed an ounce during the previous month.
Once I started to note down every scrap of food and every gulp of drink that contained calories, I got an immediate awareness of my calorie intake.
Mind you, I didn’t intend to track calories, I just wanted to track my consumption. Nonetheless, the decision to do it freshened my focus.
I didn’t consciously change my diet. I didn’t change my exercise routine. Yet eight weeks later, I reached my target of 138 lbs.
An additional advantage of tracking is the realization you get when you see accurate data. All too often, we create an incorrect reality in our minds and take action on it; this doesn’t lead to the results we want.
However, the act of gathering and analyzing real‑life data blows away our illusions. As the Bible says: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”
In September 2013, I started to track my writing. I was convinced that I write much faster in Polish than in English. A couple of months into this activity, I checked my average word count for writing in both languages. To my amazement the difference was tiny, less than one word per minute. Thanks to this feedback, I overcame another obstacle in my career as an author.
Works Like Meditation… Only Faster
I consider tracking an effective tool in sharpening my awareness. It’s not as effective as, let’s say, half an hour of meditation, but it provides results that I can use to make meaningful changes.
Today’s society loves instant gratification and regards all kinds of intangible practices as suspicious. Tracking is as down-to-earth as you can get. You measure, write down, and analyze.
1. Pick anything you want to progress at.
Anything. Time management, weight loss, a professional skill needed at your job, social relationships, spirituality, fitness performance …
It really doesn’t matter what you choose.
There is a useful metric in any activity. Even in a mystical area like spirituality there is bound to be something you can track. I’m a Christian and I decided to better my spiritual life. I set myself a goal of a ten-minute-long Bible study every day. It’s a very simple and tangible metric. It’s done or it’s not done. I don’t try to count angels on a pinhead or estimate how often I think evil thoughts.
2. The next step is to make tracking as easy as possible.
Your goals shouldn’t be overly ambitious in the first place. Don’t try to exercise in the gym for three hours every day if all you’ve done up to now is a walk to the bus stop, and you don’t really have three hours to allocate without drastically cutting your attention from other things.
And the tracking of a discipline must be easier than the discipline itself. It’s pointless to start hard and fast just to recognize after a month that you abandoned tracking your small discipline because it overly burdened your schedule or mind. My suggestion is to start slowly and gradually. Expand your tracking activities in both scope and detail according to your progress.
3. Fit tracking into your lifestyle.
Don’t try some elaborate process to track your new habit. If tracking habits is to seamlessly fit into your day, the actions have to come naturally to you.
For example, if you are a tech geek and your mobile is an integral part of you, find some appropriate app for this purpose. If you are old‑school, use pen and paper. With just a small sheet of paper, you can track anything.
I can’t imagine a recording system simpler than pen and paper. With the pen in my hand, I used to track my food intake, how I spent my day, and my ten-minute habits.
You do something and immediately write it down. You can also use tools that track your activities in the background, such as Fitbit, which registers in the cloud the number of steps you took or the length and quality of your sleep. Of course, to track like that, you do have to keep the gadget with you all the time. It certainly beats counting your steps in your head.
I spend half my life in front of my computer, so I track many activities using computer files. I love the convenience and how easy it is to analyze the data. But the other half of my life I’m away from my computer, so I use a pocket notepad to jot down the metrics I track (like expenses) and I enter them into a digital file later.
By using both digital recording and paper recording, I could track activities wherever I was, without needing 24/7 digital access.
Tracking is a Silver Bullet
At least for habits development.
It’s impossible to track your habits consistently and not make progress.
A few random results I achieved thanks to tracking:
-I beat over 170 personal fitness records (like 159 consecutive pushups),
-I lost those last stubborn 6 pounds,
- I developed more than two dozen daily habits, from studying the Bible for 10 minutes to writing 1,000 words a day; I approach 1,000 consecutive days (streaks) with a couple of them.
Originally published at Quora.com