This is the seventh entry in a series on my Notion architecture for various life management systems. To see the full series, please visit the home page, Productivity In Notion.
Lots of people have shared how to do "Daily Tracking" on Notion. You can do a quick search of "Daily Tracking in Notion" on YouTube and get a plethora of results.
My approach isn't terribly novel if I'm being honest. The mechanics of daily tracking are pretty straight forward, so it is really about what you want to track about each day, which is going to differ wildly from person to person.
Still, I wanted to provide my setup as a way to give ideas around what to track. Specifically, my daily tracking includes three main areas:
- Basic Habit Tracker
- Mini Journaling
- A "Picture of the Day" Experiment
I'll cover each of the three of these and how they work!
Frankly, Notion cannot yet serve a metric-heavy approach to habits that I would like to have, similar to WeAchieve, because the numeric and visual components aren't there yet. That said, there are a few ways to setup something in Notion that does serve the main purposes of any habit tracker:
- Enable easy yes/no checking off of key habits
- Provide feedback on your success rate that can give neutral feedback and motivate you
My setup for doing this is a basic tagging functionality where I have ~12 habits that I'd like to do each day. To add them to a day I simply open up that day and select the subset which I've done.
As you can tell, this makes it quite easy to check off different habits. I've found it easier than the alternative: a check-box based approach where there are 12 columns, one for each habit. That is because finding the habit I need to mark is a lot easier in this view. In addition, the color-coding I've done also helps (blue = health, orange = learning, purple = organized/clean, green = reduce vices).
Now for the second piece of any habit tracker: feedback on success. This is where I would prefer different visuals and an easy way to set goals, show progress bars, etc. Without that though, I have setup a system that I alluded to in the recent piece on Monthly Metrics to calculate the total number of habits completed each month. This simplifies all the habits down to one number (which has pros and cons), but gives incentives to hit an arbitrary round number for a month (say 100), or to beat the prior month, set an all-time high, et cetera.
Tactically, this is done in Notion by using a rollup column that connects the monthly table to the daily table, and counts the total number of tags in each day and adds them together. This month, I stand at a relatively modest total of 89 with three days remaining, so I should hit 100 or 3.3 habits per day. That's not great, but it sets an achievable target to beat in October!
If I want to do analysis later on the relative rates of each, it is doable, but I plan to keep things at the total level for the time being.
The second part of daily tracking is a mini journaling piece. This has been a bit tougher to keep with, but has a few parts to it:
- A field rating my day holistically on a scale of -2 to 2 (this was inspired by author Jim Collin's own daily journaling technique).
- A "food rating" that is a self-assessed rating of how healthily I ate in a given day.
- "Three words" a tag-based selection of three words that described my day - an easy way to provide a bit more context.
- Lastly, the content of each daily entry a few prompts that I'd like to fill in each day but tend to be less frequent than that. These ask:
- What is one thing you can do to make today successful?
- What is one story you could tell about the day?
- Are there any memorable quotes from the day?
Taken together, these can provide some good information about the day. One thing that Jim Collin's mentions with his -2 to +2 system is that retrospectively doing analysis to see what correlates with those "+2" days is helpful. If you want to have more +2 days, it helps to know if specific habits or words are associated with those types of days.
Taking one picture a day for 365 days is a concept that has been around, and even has various apps and websites devoted to doing it.
While being interested in the concept, I never downloaded an app to do it because I didn't need or want another app/home on my phone to keep track of. Given that, it may seem paradoxical that I've included it in Notion, and have a streak of 37 straight days with a photo, no matter how mundane some of them are.
But one of the main reasons I can't stop praising the benefits of a Notion-based system is that it drastically simplifies the cognitive load of where to put it, what apps to open, et cetera. The photo is in one place and it's the same place where I enter some journaling thoughts and track my habits. As such, it's also intrinsically tied to those journal entries, habits, and more. That makes so much more sense than having it in a siloed app.
Here's a sampling of a few days back that avoid any cringe-worthy selfies from August:
This is the "gallery view" of my daily database. And as you can see, in addition to displaying the photos well in a nice, clean way, I also have it show the visual translation of the -2 to +2 score (⭐=1, 😐=0), as well as my "three words" for a day.
So those are my essentials of the daily tracking system. It isn't perfect, but I feel like it does these three parts reasonably well. And as always a benefit of Notion is that it is very easy for you to try new things or evolve the system to fit your needs over time. In the next few months I may add a new habit, take away some questions, deprecate some fields, or add some new ones.
While seeing this data over time is valuable, the main benefit is providing a system/structure to help make each day a bit more successful, and then to store memories (and thus data) that can be used to do retrospectives and figure out what I could improve moving forward.