Small intentional steps can add up to big changes. But, in my experience, we don’t always realise how far we have come, because we can’t always remember where we started. Seeing progress, for me, is a great motivator. It’s especially satisfying to realise that we have formed a new (positive) habit – something that we don’t even have to think about anymore – like bringing a keep cup, saying no to sugary sodas, avoiding impulse shopping or automatically looking for products with less packaging at the shops.
To see progress, we need to collect information. I appreciate that spreadsheets, apps and fitness trackers are not everyone’s cup of tea, and that not everyone needs a very high level of detail in their lives. Also, every situation is different. I would like to walk on average 10,000 steps a day. It’s very hard to know if I have made progress towards this intention without a step tracker. I would also like to bring any soft plastics that sneak into my house back to the shops to be recycled, but I don’t really need to track this specifically to know if I’m managing with this intention.
Over the last two years I have used some tools to help me track my progress towards various intentions I have set for myself. For example, when I first changed my diet to gluten, dairy and sugar free, for health reasons, I tracked everything I ate and how I was feeling in an app. I was still learning about what I could and could not eat, not having paid a great deal of attention to the nutritional value of food before, and keeping track really helped me to see patterns and to keep me accountable to follow my new diet. I also started my Instagram account, and started taking photos of meals to keep me motivated, and to inspire others.
As I changed my diet, I got more interested in other aspects that influence health, like toxins. I started experimenting with low tox cleaning products and beauty products. I was researching, reading and listening to podcasts. I started to build a library of information and articles online, which beyond being a great thing to refer back to, reminds me of everything I’ve been learning and the progress I have made.
My research on ways to effect my physical health led me to interesting topics related to the mind. I read about mindfulness and began practicing meditation, and I started to think more actively about how much I use my phone and how often I look at screens. Now I use an app to track how many minutes I use my phone everyday. It’s still way too much, but I’ve made some reductions and the little reminders from the tracking app are a good nudge to do something else. Reducing screen time especially at night is an intention that I have not yet managed to make into a habit, but I am working on it.
An intention that’s much closer to being achieved is walking 10,000 steps a day on average. I recently got a Fitbit, and I really like the reminders and statistics this offers me about steps, exercise and sleep. A great thing about it is that I can go for a walk without my phone, which I used to track my steps previously, to help with the intention of less screen time. And no, my Fitbit does not link up to my phone nor my messages!
My final example of tracking my small changes is another app that allows me to ‘tick things off’ that I have done for the day. For example, if I have taken my supplements, meditated or been sugar free. It reminds me of what I have done and what I still need to do, and tracks how many days I have done in a row. I use this app until something becomes a habit, that is when I do it automatically without a prompt and think ‘why is this even on my list?’.
Try it: What (small) goal or change do you want to achieve? Find a way to track your progress towards the goal over 30 days and see if it helps keep you on track!