For decades, I’ve been an advocate of keeping track of habits. It follows the habit of sounds and feels pissed off for a lot of people, so a lot of people avoid it. This is so bad. Habit tracking is a powerful tool that can help you make better decisions about your life.
Let me share an example.
At Reaktor, Olof Hoverfält recently published a long article about why he keeps track of every single piece of clothing he’s worn for three years.
That’s right: For more than 1,000 days, Hoverfält has documented every dress he’s ever worn. (And in fact, he continues to publicly document his wardrobe.) Using the information he collected, he is now able to make better decisions about which clothes to keep and which ones to buy. Love her!
Hoverfält says people worry about the amount of time it takes them to do something like this but they shouldn’t. Most of the time is invested in the initial setup, in that first batch of data entry. In fact, using and maintaining the system requires about one minute each day. And the rewards are much greater than the cost in time.
Hoverfält project is a file perfect An example of the power of habit tracking.
The power of habit tracking
For a long time, you heralded the importance of tracking your spending. But I think it’s smart to record anything you’re curious about or want to change: your fitness habits, your time habits, your work habits. Documentation is the first step to permanent change.
I recently achieved my goal of losing thirty pounds in six months, for example. To achieve success, I log my fitness stats every morning. (And I will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.) Kim has started her weight loss journey on her own, so she logs every calorie you burn or consume.
What about tracking your time? All this month, I’ve been using an app called ATracker to record what I’m doing at any given moment. Using the app requires little effort. The results are interesting. They provide insight into how I In fact Use my time versus the way I think I use it.
This is the real value of projects like this. Habit tracking allows us to distinguish between perception and reality. (In his article, Hoverfält covers this in the “Actual vs. Imaginary Use” section.)
I’ve learned that what people think they’re doing (or what they say they’re doing) is often very different from their actual behavior. Someone will say, “I don’t spend much on clothes,” but when they really beat the numbers, they see that their spending on clothes is way above average. Someone else will say, “I don’t overeat,” but when they log their calories, they notice that their ginger addiction adds an extra 500 calories a day to their diet.
A faithful and honest tracking of habits is the only way to truly know what you are doing with your time and life.
Here’s another (silly) example of how tracking can help you distinguish between perception and reality. A couple of years ago, Kim and I disagreed about who cleans the litter box most often. I feel like she always does. I felt like I always did. We started tracking behavior. We put a sticky note next to the litter box, and when one of us changed the litter, we made a note. It turns out we were cleaning the litter box evenly. The dispute is over! The solution to our litter box problem is to reduce the number of cats haha.
Do not combine tracking and judgment
It is important to separate decisions from tracking. When you track a habit — your spending, your alcohol consumption, your wardrobe use — you want to keep track of it actual behavior. Your job at that moment is the recorder, not the referee.
This is something I’m trying to emphasize to Kim as she starts recording her eating. I told her, “Don’t trouble yourself with any of this now.” “If you eat a cake, that’s fine. Just write it down.”
If you combine judgment and data collection, that’s a recipe for failure. You end up feeling guilty every time you make a bad decision. This makes you not want to document your behavior. want to surrender. want to hide.
Habit tracking is Just Habit tracking. Data collection is only data collection. You are like an impartial third-party observer who notices what you’re actually doing and doesn’t care whether or not those actions support your goals. In data collection mode, you are looking for information – and only information.
Once enough information is collected, Then You can act.
After Kim has documented her diet for a few weeks, she can sit back and look for patterns. Based on these patterns, she can try to adopt different habits.
You can see this in my annual financial updates. I track my spending throughout the year, but I do it just for information. Normally, I don’t try to make course corrections in June or July. But in early January, after I’ve had a chance to grasp the numbers, I then compare how my current habits have deviated from my goals. I use this information to make choices like “I want to spend less at restaurants this year” or “I want to try spending less.”
I’ve found that by keeping the documents and provisions separately, I’m more likely to make changes. Plus, I don’t beat myself up very often. When it’s time to analyze the data, I can do it more sensibly because I’m not in the heat of the moment, and I’m looking at a large set of data rather than individual options.
Well, you get the point. Tracking habits is a great way to see what you’re doing with your time, money and energy. But you have to make sure the tracking continues out of judgment. I got you. But what about the Hoverfält wardrobe project? What lessons did you learn?
If you don’t want to read the entire article (although I think you should), here are some quick points:
- “In some cases, buying cheap has been proven to be more expensive.” This is the shoe theory of social and economic injustice. More expensive items are often (but not always) of better quality. As a result, the long-term cost of owning it is lower than the cost of repeating it on the cheap. This is only true when the extra cost buys extra quality. If the extra cost is from buying a brand or style, that doesn’t necessarily translate into savings.
- “Repeatability is the primary driver of performance.” This is obvious but easily overlooked. The more you wear something, the less expensive it will be in the long run. $100 shoes that you wear twice a week for a year are more cost-effective than $50 shoes that you wear once a month.
- “A wardrobe that only contains favorite clothes looks great. It might also be the best in terms of cost performance.” Since the value of your clothing is driven by a “cost per wear”, the more you wear a particular item, the more value you get from it. This naturally means that your favorite pieces are the most cost-effective. Bottom line? Not only do you enjoy wearing your favorite pieces more than your other outfits, these favorites save you money.
Based on three years of data, Hoverfält offers some advice for others.
Find what you need And Love, then just buy it. Focus on the cost per use, not the price. Just buy favourites. (Or, using Marie Kondo’s terminology, buy only those “delightful” items.) Try to buy clothes that can only be worn in a wide variety of situations. Long term purchase. Take good care of your clothes. Know when to dispose of an item.
I think one of the reasons I love this article (and the project) so much is that it reinforces some of the conclusions I’ve already reached.
Now that I’ve lost thirty pounds, I can wear my old clothes again. And now my closet is full of gills because it has skinny clothes and plump clothes. This is a mess. I’ve been thinking about how to assess what to keep and what to get rid of, and Hoverfält’s article has helped provide some clarity.
This weekend, I’ll be going through my closets and drawers to get rid of (and/or store) things I know I won’t be wearing. And who knows? When I’m finished, I’ll probably take the time to create a wardrobe spreadsheet. This sounds fun!