When you are trying to make any kind of change in your life, about the most important thing you can do is to keep track of it.

If you want to remember and learn from your dreams, the first advice is to write a dream diary.  If you want to lose weight, keep a food journal.  If you want to procrastinate less, write a to-do list or use a bullet journal or daily planner.

Why is this kind of tracking so important?

Perspective

Firstly, tracking what you are currently doing gives you an overview of your current situation.  It allows you to honestly assess where you actually are to start with.

You may believe you eat healthily, and tracking can show you if that’s really true, and if not where you are slipping up.  Or you may think you are overeating, and tracking might show you that your eating isn’t as bad as you think, or highlight what or when you overeat.

Pattern Recognition

Secondly, tracking can be used to notice patterns, to become more aware of what may be influencing you to do what you do.  Recognising your patterns can help you understand what your sticking points may be, so that you know where to focus to make changes most effectively.

For example, a food diary might show that your problem area is a particular time of day (mid afternoon or late evening are the two biggest culprits).  Or it might highlight specific situations, such as when you go in the break room at work, or when you have an argument with a colleague, friend or loved one.

Reflection

As you begin to make changes, tracking can help you understand what works for you and what doesn’t.  After all, you don’t want to keep plugging away at something that isn’t working.

When you keep a log, you are like a scientist, using yourself as the field of experimentation.  You can see the changes you are making, and the effects they are having.  You can quickly pick up on successes and learn from both those and experiments which don’t work.  I won’t call them failures, as they are helpful in fine-tuning what you want your life to look like and how best to achieve that.

Celebrating

Often, you may beat yourself up about small slips and not notice all the times you have achieved something.  Keeping a true account of what is going on, and referring back to it regularly, can help you recognise and celebrate your achievements.

This is more vital than some people recognise.  Emphasising your successes, even when that might just be acknowledging what doesn’t work for you, helps keep you motivated.  And seeing the days of healthy eating stacking up is a great motivator, even if weight isn’t coming off consistently.

Summary

While the examples I’ve given focus on eating, tracking gives you a handle on these four important areas whatever you’re trying to change.

And of course, you can find the way of tracking that suits you best.  It might be pen and paper, a spreadsheet, an app, a chart with gold stars.  Whatever it is, make sure you’re gaining that all important perspective, recognising your patterns, reflecting on the changes you’re trying out, and celebrating your successes, both big and small!

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