Confessions of a Perpetual Data Tracker

by Amy Graham

April 2018


Hi, my name is Amy and I am a perpetual data tracker.

On any given day I track the number of steps I take, the number of minutes I am active, how many miles I run in a week, and how long it took me to run those miles.  I track how much water I drink, how much coffee I consume, how many squats I do, and how many miles I ride on a stationary bike, even how many miles I have put on my current pair of running shoes.  If I am physically doing it, I am tracking it, with either my phone, my watch or an app.  Then I enter it manually into my various planners…yes, that means I use multiple planners too.

I track most of my data in my Hobonichi Cousin Avec and my Hobonichi Weeks.  Whatever isn’t entered there, I enter into my Leuchtturm1917 Official Bullet Journal.  Aside from those, I also have a personal sized Travelers Notebook (TN) and finally a pocket size TN as well.  This list goes in order of use, from most to least, and obviously shows a bit of what I call my “OCD-edness” when it comes to my life.

On April 12, 2006, I had a Roux-en-Y Gastric bypass.  At that time, I weighed well over 450 pounds.  How much over, I am not quite sure, as I was unable to find a scale that would take more weight than that.  I estimate I was roughly 470, give or take a few pounds most likely. I didn’t track my stats back then, because frankly, I didn’t want to know them then.

Fast-forward 12 years.

I am an extreme athlete. I sword fight for the USA Women’s Team, I am 51 years old and I now weigh 225 pounds. Still not small by any means, but a much healthier woman than I was 12 years ago.  I have always been a list maker and a planner, but once we as a society managed to “plug in” to every stat tracker known to man, my world changed.

Not only was I able to see the weight going down physically, I could literally track it via a simple electronic device with no real effort at all.  I could look at my weight, my heart rate, my caloric intake, my resting heart rate, my metabolism, pretty much whatever I wanted, via an app on my smart phone.  It was glorious.  But then, just keeping it in my phone wasn’t enough for this planner girl.

No, I needed to write it down.  I needed to feel those numbers being written out, as if they weren’t real until the ink flowed from the tip of my extra fine nib on my favorite fountain pen, bleeding into precisely written characters on to the world’s most perfect Tomoe River paper.  Once I had them written out, then I could truly judge for myself whether I was a success that day or not.

At first tracking my data didn’t seem like a big deal, not when it gave me the perfect reasons to use 5 different travelers notebooks to write everything in!  It was serendipity! Yet, it was also pushing me further and further into chronic fatigue, as I constantly tried to push past my biggest numbers, all the while I was also trying to compete with fighters half my age, juggle work, a home life and a new found success as an athlete, and motivational speaker.

Throughout my life, planning was never a big deal for me.  I made lists, I used everything from a Filofax, to Franklin Covey and I could always take it or leave it.  It never really bothered me leaving multiple days blank at a time and I could always just pick up where I had left off, no big deal.  However, when I started simply writing down my steps for the day in my planner, little did I know it would snowball into making me feel worse about myself instead of better.

Whenever I got sick and could not run, fight, train, or workout, my steps and active minutes would be much lower for the day. Then I would try to overcompensate the next day or week and try to beat my time or add the missing steps I ‘lost’ to the next day instead of simply focusing on getting better and not letting the numbers get me down.  It was a constant cycle of never being able to catch up and never being quite good enough and it got worse before it got better.

I came to a point where there wasn’t enough time in the day to train, to plan, to write or have any kind of social life whatsoever.  I was so wrapped up into trying to keep up with these self-imposed “goals” that I thought would make my life better, that I forgot the most important thing of all…to actually live my life and use my stats to enhance my goals, not center my entire world around them.

Finally, I’d had enough.  I simply couldn’t keep up with everything anymore.

I decided to go back to basics.  I reset my stats counters, back to the normal presets. I no longer put a BIG RED X on the days that I ‘failed’ to reach my desired stats, and I quit writing them in every single one of my planners/journals.  Now, the only stats I include in both my Hobonichi Cousin Avec and my Hobonichi Weeks are my steps, which are set at 10k/day and my Active Minutes, which are set at 120 minutes/day.  Other than that, I track how many miles I run and how many miles I bike, but only in my triathlon training log and that is it.  I don’t write anything else down because my phone keeps track of my specifics.

I do try to manage my water intake but it’s not every single day, I do it by the week and it’s simply whether I met my goal or not.  As for calories, I don’t track them specifically any longer, I write down what I have at each meal at the end of each day if I remember, but mostly that’s to help figure out any allergy triggers I might have in case of an asthma attack.

I changed what I tracked in my Hobonichi Weeks and it became my Self Care journal.  It’s the one place I will write out the different things I do to make myself feel good or when I have a spa day or get my nails done.  I try to only write the positives down and I try very hard not to unload any negativity there.

I journal in my Cousin Avec on the daily pages and it works perfectly for me, whether I have a lot to say or I only write about the bare necessities of my day.  I no longer worry about how much space gets used, or doesn’t get used, as long as it’s serving the purpose I want it to.

When I fell down this rabbit hole of planning & tracking, I felt like I HAD to do certain things, to make sure my life was awesome. But in doing that, my brain started to think that if I didn’t do those specific list of things, my life couldn’t be awesome, because all the little boxes weren’t checked.

Too much of a good thing is not always a good thing.  Even in planning.

Once I figured that out, and realized my world was not going to come to a crashing halt if I didn’t run 3.2 miles every single time I went for a run, my life got much easier.  I learned that only using my ‘books’ the way I wanted to use them, when I wanted to use them, was the right thing for me.  The ‘planner police’ weren’t hiding in the bushes ready to arrest me for not using sticker kits and page toppers, so why on earth would it matter if I didn’t write my stats down in ALL THE THINGS.  Nor did it matter if I missed a day occasionally, although even as I type that out, deep down, I still feel like a Heretic.  Old habits die-hard.

I am a planner and a list maker.  I accept that.  I started this journey (and it IS a journey) as a minimalist planner but even that feels too limiting as to what type of planner I am.

All I can be is myself, Amy Graham and do what makes me happy.  Goals or no goals, my life will continue, as it should.  However, with a little planning and a whole lot of effort, I can make sure I am the best version of me I can be, data trackers notwithstanding lol.

I will never claim to find the ever elusive ‘planner peace’.  Those words mean too many things to too many people.  But I can say with a positive heart that I am happy with the balance I have finally found and while I still have to fight my “OCD-edness” almost daily, NOT writing something down has had a much more positive effect on my wellbeing.

Be well my friends, and Plan accordingly 🙂

Amy Graham

The Badass Valkyrie


Apr-2018-A-Graham-Bio-Pic

 

 

You can find Amy Graham, The Badass Valkyrie, on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, her blog, and her Facebook athlete page.

 

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