Best Laid Plans

BLP Ep #88: Tracking Things: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

April 4, 2022


1- A listener writes in asking about DIY/low waste planning methods. Ideas: gently used planners on eBay or your local Buy Nothing (someone else’s planner fail can be your win!), printable layouts for scrap paper (example of a brand with lots of printable options: Get to Work Book), digital planning

2- Ways to communicate with your childcare provider. We use a whiteboard + paper monthly calendar. This particular whiteboard system has been out of stock for over a year at EC — hope they eventually return! Example of a prior whiteboard (last week):

Key info: who is driving, any additional activities, and dinner!

3- Ideas for creating a 25th anniversary scrapbook from a new Hobonichi/Japanese stationery lover. Consider putting together a Traveler’s Notebook (jetpens link) filled with photos, memorabilia, and journal entries. Super fun project that you could add to over time!

Tracking Things: Good / Bad / Ugly

A list of potential things to track:

  • workouts
  • screen time
  • books read (or time spent reading)
  • sleep (quality or quantity)
  • food (basic or detailed)
  • gratitude (3 things/day)
  • weather!
  • new recipes to try or weekly meal plans
  • travel
  • habits like meditation, walking, or language app
  • words written

How might you do it?

  • daily or weekly with no further accounting
  • fill out a longer term sheet (monthly – like in Powersheets) or the yearly pages of Hobonich
  • keep various collections in a bullet journal or planner
  • track in specific apps only (strava, nutrition apps, GoodReads)


  • can be motivating!  and fun.
  • can look for patterns over time
  • can compete with others or just compare yourself to yourself


  • might get discouraged having too many blank spaces and want to throw in the towel 
  • some things you don’t have direct control over – your weight for example or podcast downloads. Those things can be especially frustrating to track!


  • some might become obsessive (eating disorders being one example)
  • might make you feel bad or lower self-efficacy because you are not living up to a very arbitrary standard

REMEMBER – no one said you had to fill every box!!!

Happy Monday everyone! And thank you for the feedback last week about a potential venue for sharing all things BLP. I have Mighty Networks under investigation and I never would have known about it without you all!


  • Reply Chelsea April 4, 2022 at 6:41 am

    I feel like tracking is one of those things that makes me sure that I’m a questioner and not an upholder. I struggle with tracking things unless I have a plan to go back and make use of what I’ve tracked in an actionable way. So… I keep a 5-year journal because I know I will read the previous years’ entries when I update it for that day, keep an Excel spreadsheet of what I’ve read that I use as a reference at my bookclub, use VDot/Garmin Express to track workouts and that’s shared with my running coach, and I use YNAB to track our expenses because I’ll make spending/saving decisions based on that information. But that’s it.

    Every time I’ve tried to track time, food (other than when I was working with a sports nutritionist), meals. etc. it’s felt like a waste of time because I’m already doing what I’m doing for a reason. And streaks totally stress me out. When I lost a > 1year streak on Headspace when i forgot to do it because I was really sick… it was both infuriating and relieving at the same time.

  • Reply Coree April 4, 2022 at 8:24 am

    I’ve been using the very simple Counter app for my tracking this year, which helps with the “miss a day and give up” element. I track things that are important to me or I’d like to do more of: books read with my son (140 thus far!), outside hours (as this makes the biggest difference in my mental health, quality time with my husband, bike miles, meditation sessions.

    I use Garmin to track my exercise and generally aim for 300 minutes a month, but don’t do much beyond that (I walk, hike, and cycle, so nothing where training is important). And Storygraph for my reading, but less a book goal (I’ve always read well over a book a week, but for remembering titles).

  • Reply Margaret April 4, 2022 at 10:06 am

    I love your ideas for gently used planners as a more environmentally friendly way to try out new products! I’ve had a Levenger Circa punch for probably 15 years and use it to punch scrap paper for list and daily pages in a disc bound notebook. A traditional 3 hole punch and binder would work the same way but is more bulky. I also like to use bullet journal stencils for blank pages, not just dot grid. I have some brass stencils from Jaydens Apple on Etsy that are very sturdy and should hold up to years of use. They are shipped from Hong Kong so are not as environmentally friendly as buying local but I feel like they will outlast the thin plastic I see in stores. It feels really satisfying me to use the blank sides of scrap paper!

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns April 4, 2022 at 2:18 pm

    I’ve been using the Gantt (sp?) charts in my W222 since November. I’m experimenting with what to track, though. I was tracking when I started and finished books but I didn’t do anything with that data so I am going to stop doing that. So I track workouts (with a check mark – no detail on what I did), whether I hit 10k steps, whether I’ve purged videos for that day (my goal for 2022 is to go through videos saved on google photo – I have so many videos and many are repeats since it can take multiple attempts to get a toddler to do something, so I delete what doesn’t need to be kept. It’s been really fun to watch videos from past years!), and whether I read that day’s segment of Count of Monte Cristo (I’m using the serial reader ap to read it).

    Each month, I total my # of workouts and # of days I walked at least 10k steps and then I add the totals to a graph of steps/workouts to get a feel for trends. I was surprised to find that I did a few more workouts in March than Feb even though I went back to the office 3 days/week starting in March. Granted, Feb is a short month but still. It was encouraging to see I still tracked a decent # of workouts (it’s much harder for me to workout on days I go into the office since I have to be in the shower at 5:45 so the 4 of us can be out the door by 6:50ish).

  • Reply Tina April 4, 2022 at 7:53 pm

    I use the Amplify print outs. They are Just under $13 per three months (quarter of a year). I bought a Martha Stewart disc planner cover at Staples for $25. I also have a Levenger cover I use for a notebook. The hole punchers for disc planners are a bit expensive, but I really like the control it gives me over my planner. I print out the Amplify pages at 115 percent, which gives me an 8 1/2 X 11 sheet. I put three months worth of daily pages into my planner at a time. For example, we just finished March, I pulled all the march pages (I had March, April, May in my planner) and added in June’s daily pages. I also have my whole year’s worth of monthly calendar pages. I use my iPad to scan the pages I take out into Apple notes (which has a scan feature built into it) and then shredded/recycled the old pages. That way I can look back on them if I want to digitally, but I don’t have to store them.

  • Reply Erica April 4, 2022 at 8:46 pm

    I use the lines at the bottom of my EC vertical weekly spread for habit tracking. I track minutes spent on strength training and yoga, servings of fruits and veggies, and time spent on certain personal projects. The lines don’t have the same at-a-glance intuitiveness as a conventional habit tracker, but I can fit numbers instead of just a check, and I often keep a weekly running total because my informal goals are weekly rather than daily.

    I was going to say that otherwise I’m not really much for tracking, because I can’t make it through a time-tracking challenge. But… my devices are doing this tracking for me, aren’t they? Between my Fitbit and the iPhone’s GPS and photos, my whereabouts and actions are being extensively logged. This would be alarming, except they are pretty boring; if Big Brother is watching me, he has gotten very tired of trips to the drugstore for milk and magic markers.

  • Reply Grateful Kae April 6, 2022 at 6:50 am

    As I listened to this episode, it made me think of Gretchen Rubin’s new habit tracker (which I haven’t personally tried). But I remember looking at it online, and it has these “Pass” stickers you can put on a day where you miss a day in your habit streak. I loved that concept! Just a simple “pass”, like, no big deal, just passing today, pick back up tomorrow. That feels so much better to me than a FAIL or “you’ve ruined your streak!”. I’m not great at perfect streaks either, and they also cause me some stress/anxiety sometimes if I try. Especially as a working parent, there are so many days that what I do with my time isn’t fully up to me, so it’s kind of an exercise in futility sometimes. One time when I was trying to “walk everyday” on a streak, I was going to skip out on family game night to fit my walk in. And then I was like, ok, this is just dumb- what does it matter if I go for a walk today?! Play the game with the kids! 🙂

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