2014 – The Year of Rigorous Tracking (Part II)

Yesterday, I shared my goal with you regarding “rigorous tracking” in 2014, and I invited you to join me for the journey. In today’s post, I’ll share with you some of the tools I’m planning to use in 2014. In the comments below, please feel free to share the tools you’ve found to be useful in self-tracking.

The best tool is the one you use

Principle number one: the best tool is the one you use. If you have any internal resistance to tracking, perfectionism is a great way to keep yourself from diving in. Is it better to use computer spreadsheets? iPhone or Android apps? Paper (and pencil? or pen?)? Spiral bound or 3-ring? It doesn’t matter, and you may very well change directions mid-stream. The best system you can use is the one that works for you, period. Pick one and do it. If it’s the wrong one, you are free to change systems at any time.

With that said, I’ve got some tools that I either have used in the past or will use in 2014, and I’m happy to share them with you here. And again, I welcome anyone to share their tracking tools below in the comments.

  • Underearners Anonymous is a group that helps people track use of their time in a really effective and compassionate way. The have a website, and one may find spreadsheets there as well as principles for how to work with one’s time (http://www.underearnersanonymous.org). 
  • FlyLady.net offers a binder system (at a cost) for tracking and organizing one’s household, finances, dietary and exercise habits. 
  • I use a few different resources for journaling guidance. Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way offers a system for journaling that is lovely and in-depth; I also use Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones to prompt my writing, and Rose Offner’s Journal to the Soul. These are all great prompts to get the pen (or keyboard) moving in the right direction.
  • I also have a spiral bound art journal that I use to create graphic expressions of my emotional world. I have used Betty Edwards’ Drawing on the Artist Within to help me find tools to express emotions, and I have used the services of Alchemy Art Labs here in Boulder (CO) to teach me and provide a safe place to do this work (https://www.facebook.com/alchemyartlabs).
  • I found an app for my phone that I will use to track food, when I’m tracking that. It’s called MyFitnessPal, and it’s free. There are lots of these kinds of apps out there, so see which ones work with your technology and your needs.
  • For my own personal expense tracking, I’m using https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.expensemanager&hl=en. It’s a free google app that works on my phone. 
  • Your bank may also have a tracking system. I like ours, but I am also tracking cash expenditures (which aren’t captured on our bank system) and business expenses, so this works for on-the-fly tracking.

What are your tools? Let’s hear about them!

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2014 – The Year of Rigorous Tracking (Part I)

This blog will be part of a series in 2014, and I am starting it off with a little background before we kick off the New Year.

I’ve become a fan of “tracking” in the past year, though the actual habit of rigorous tracking frightens me. Tracking for both personal and professional habits includes writing down the things we do, the resources we use, and our experiences of them. Some folks may need very little tracking in order to stay “on-track.” Others of us need considerably more.

This is my professional coaching site, but this is a decidedly personal process. So I’m going to share the content with my readers for their own personal use and challenge, and I’m going to share the personal experience because human change is often difficult, and it’s a disservice to pretend it is not. I’m not a coach because I have everything mastered; I’m a coach because I’m walking the talk and sharing the journey with those who wish to join me on it.

A little more background: the Good Mother and the Good Father

A long time ago I realized that the parent’s job is to help the child internalize the principles that help them to self-regulate later. In other words, we learn from our parents how to parent ourselves. For some people, the gaps in that information of how to parent themselves are very small; they had good parents, and they may tweak the parenting they live out, but they essentially have it down. For others of us whose parents were mentally ill, addicted, abusive, or otherwise largely checked-out, we have more work to do to fill in the gaps.

I never understood what people meant by “working with archetypes,” until recently. I suddenly realized that I knew what the Good Mother was enough that I could embody that not only for my child but also for myself. I started dialoguing on paper with the Good Mother, and I found that I knew how to access the nurturing, playfulness, compassion, and safe space I could provide for myself. I often have done so with journaling and art journaling practices.

However, as soon as I tapped into the Good Father, all hell broke loose! The Good Father’s job is to guide the child into the real world and teach the child how to show up. The Good Father knows that if you’re late for work, you’ll get fired; if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. In essence, there are actions and consequences.

All my life, I have struggled with structure. I have rebelled against structures, even if I put them in place for myself! There is a certain undeniable insanity to rebelling against the very things we decide support our life goals, mission and purpose! Yet the feelings that come up for me around structure are so intense and shame-laden. I have decided in 2014 to take the bull by the horns and enter into The Year of Rigorous Tracking for those areas of my life where I have tried to deny reality and make it somehow work differently for me.

The Year of Rigorous Tracking

I’m going to carefully track and pay attention to two categories of life: behaviors and emotions.

In the behavioral category, I’ve got two big areas to track, and a third that I will periodically track. They are time, money and food. By no small coincidence, these are areas where I will express emotions, rather than dealing with them directly. Expressing emotions through wasting time (or being too busy), spending money (or hoarding it) or eating too much (or too little) will be destructive. However, a lot of emotion comes up around these issues, so I’m adding tracking in the emotional category to support success in these other areas.

In the emotional category, I will use two primary tools: journaling and art practice. These are the two ways I will be most likely to identify and work with feelings in a constructive way.

What’s the Point?

I’ve been a meditator for years, and the practice I follow is to observe the breath and body sensation without attempting to change them. What I have learned there is that the things we pay attention to naturally change. It’s a proven fact that the people who write down everything they put into their mouths lose weight. They don’t even have to consciously change their eating habits. I’m trusting that the same thing will happen here: by writing down where I spend my time and money, the accountability and visibility of that action will change the behaviors. By attending to the emotions directly and with compassion, I will find healthy expression of them.

Want to Join Me?

One of the most powerful tools I’ve found for any kind of change is companionship and the encouragement and accountability that go with them. If you’re interested in joining me in this Year of Rigorous Tracking,  feel free to follow me here and leave comments/questions about your own journey.

Tomorrow, I’ll share some more about how the tracking will work for me, and you may use these tools (or others) as you find them supportive.