Life Management: How to Track It

These days, you can track just about anything in your life with the right device: how you move, sleep, drive, and even how you eat. But how much data do we really need, and at what point does this information cause more harm than benefit? Here are a few tools you can use to track everything in your life. Think “Life Management”.

What seems like the right thing to do could also be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life.” ~Unknown

You can track a lot of different things nowadays, but you probably don’t need to. Before you go out and buy a gadget, think of a problem you want to fix. Larger issues work better than small annoyances. If you don’t have something concrete, tracking probably isn’t the solution. All that data will do absolutely nothing for you if you can’t apply it to making your life better. To that end, let’s look at what you can track and if you should even bother.

Sleep

For a lot of people, sleep is a very real problem. Few of us get enough of it, and even fewer get quality sleep. If you want to better rest, a tracker might help you find the root of your problem.

You can track your sleep in one of two ways: either use a cheap smartphone app or buy a more expensive wearable gadget. Both will tell you how much you moved around at night to determine the quality of your sleep, but dedicated hardware will work better than your smartphone. With that data, you can make an educated guess as to why you slept well or didn’t. (Maybe you ate a bad meal, had too much screen time, or just went to bed at the wrong hour.) The data can help you determine how your evening routine helps, hurts, or doesn’t really matter. Furthermore, most sleep trackers double as silent, vibrating alarms. This feature alone might be worth the price of admission.

Try out this app on your phone: Sleep Bot

Fitness

We’ve had pedometers for awhile now, so it shouldn’t surprise you that many tracking devices center around fitness and health. Some rest on your wrist, others clip onto your clothing, and some even hide inside of your shoe. They track everything from steps taken, stairs climbed, distance traveled, vigorous physical activity, your pulse, and a variety of other metrics—depending on the device you choose. That data can provide a picture of how much you move from day to day.

Why does this matter? Most people manage only 3,000 to 5,000 steps per day, which isn’t much. Many recommendations point to 10,000 steps as a solid movement goal, but that figure was popularized in Japan and wasn’t necessarily based on solid research. Nevertheless, we need to move to stay healthy and 5,000 steps isn’t much, so 10,000 makes for a good goal. If trackers help you move more, they’re doing their job.

Fitness trackers can prove valuable if you need a motivator on your wrist. Newer trackers offer a variety of different functions, too, so if you want to track your activity you ought to focus on one that handle more than just reporting steps to your phone. Figure out what fitness problems you want to solve in your life, and then seek out a tracker that can help you solve them.

Try out this little device(s): Fitbit Force, Flex, and the Jawbone Up.

Diet

Tracking calories can only take you so far. While burning 3,500 calories you didn’t eat can equal a pound of fat loss, that figure varies largely from person to person. Some of us may only require 2,000 while others will need as much as 5,000. Our bodies also burn more than fat when we have calorie deficits. Nevertheless, you know if you burn a good chunk of extra calories each day you’re making some degree of progress.

Tracking food intake can feel like tedious chore to some while it can provide comfort to others. If you don’t know how you’ll react to diet tracking, just try it with a software- or notebook-based spreadsheet. If you can write down everything you eat and the total calorie cost for a week without wanting to rip your hair out, tracking can help you achieve your fat loss goals.

Driving

Most tracking devices relate to our bodies, but not all of them. You can also track your driving to find out if you utilize your car’s fuel efficiently. In the long run this might help you save some money, but probably not. It will, however, encourage better driving habits that can keep you safer and keep your car in better condition.

While you could find a wealth of competition when looking for a device to track every other category mentioned in this post, we only know of one option for driving: the Automatic Link. It costs $99 and pays attention to when you accelerate too hard, brake too quickly, and drive too fast (over 70 miles per hour, which apparently isn’t fuel efficient and could be unsafe in some cases).

What You Should Get If You Want to Track Your Life

These options, by no means, cover every tracker on the market. I picked these options because they cover a lot of different metrics and come at reasonable costs for the services they provide. While their versatility should help you track what you need to track, always keep this in mind: collect only the data that will help you solve a problem. If these trackers can help you, great. If not, seek some out that will. Overall, you don’t want to buy a bunch of stuff that won’t improve your life or make it easier. If you plan to track everything, only do it for as long as you have something to gain.