Lately I’ve been reflecting on my relationship to tracking, in the sense of “keeping track” of details of my daily activities. This reflection is due in large part to the inspiration of an eloquently written and thought-provoking blog called The Unquantified Self. You should read it.
I’m not a big numbers person myself, which helps explain why the unexpected opportunity to swap long division for a drawing lesson stuck in my memory for more than 4 decades. Consequently, I’m not very motivated to keep track of anything that requires a lot of counting.
As a manager, I drive my financial officers crazy. One made it his practice to stop by my office regularly, sit down across from me with a notepad, and smile sweetly as he asked, “What have we spent this week that you haven’t told me about?”
I had a pedometer but I gave it away. Last week I was inspired by Automattic’s Worldwide WP 5k 2013 to venture onto one of those sites that enables you to record your walking route. I wanted to figure out how far I was actually walking a bit more precisely than “I think I was gone for about forty minutes.” It was an interesting exercise, albeit a frustrating one–at least until I figured out that it would indeed allow me to record that I cut through the parking lot and across the field. But it was just an exercise. I can’t imagine actually sitting down and recording the statistical details of my walks on a regular basis.
I can’t remember the last time I owned a bathroom scale. I had to fill out a form earlier today that asked for my current weight. I guessed. I haven’t a clue, really, but I know my jeans fit looser since I started walking every day.
My favourite recipes are the ones that are so simple I don’t even need to refer to the recipe any more— and I can eyeball most of the quantities.
I’m supposed to do 30 reps of each of my hip therapy exercises. It’s apt to turn into 30ish, because my mind so easily gets distracted by other thoughts and then I suddenly realize I’ve lost count.
All my favourite numbers end with “ish.”
My aversion to tracking isn’t just about numbers, because I’m equally undisciplined when it comes to tracking things in words. I have kept a journal at various points in my life, but it’s not something I can sustain on a daily basis for any great length of time. When I embarked on this blog, I promised myself that I would not attempt the folly of committing to posting according to any sort of schedule. You might hear from me daily for a while. And you might hear from me 2 or 3 times in a month when life is particularly crazy. And that’s just how it is.
I am more interested in experiencing life than I am compelled to record every passing detail. I’d rather make tracks than keep track. I sometimes wish I was better at keeping track of details. I do have a great deal of respect for people who have the self-discipline to track their activities consistently, but that will never be me. I also know that for some there is a dark side to tracking, where the tracking takes over and becomes the activity.
But as I thought through what I wanted to say about tracking, it came to me that there are a couple of things I do track pretty meticulously. I am fanatical about writing things on calendars. (This comes, I suppose, from having double booked myself on more than one occasion. The worst example was the time that I made arrangements to personally host both a work-related event and a bridal shower on the same night.) I am also pretty obsessive about tracking my personal finances (although much of the time it feels like I am just doing this in order to wave goodbye to the dollars as they fly out of my account!) I have one of those accounting programs where you enter all your income and expenditures. And I do enter them. And categorize them. But my favourite part is that I can actually enter the regular items in advance, so I use it not just to determine how much I have, but to project what, in theory, I ought to have after, say, the next three paydays.
It strikes me that, in both cases, I am recording not the past but the future. I don’t know if it’s correct to even call it “tracking” when it hasn’t happened yet, but I see it as keeping track of my resources of time and money. Because those resources make it possible to do the things I want to do.
And I have no trouble keeping track of what I want to do.