Tracking this Life

I come from a long line of obsessive-compulsive people. When my late grandfather first started an exercise regime, he would use the cardboard inserts the dry cleaners put in his shirts to track his runs. He would rule the brown cardboard neatly and fill out things like the date, weather, and how he did. As crazy as it sounds, it’s an impulse I found naturally occurring in myself too. My childhood diaries often charted the day’s weather, location of my writing, even the time of day that I sat to write. I remember scanning back through previous entries with a red pen in hand, correcting for grammar and clarity of course, a fastidious nine-year-old.

Unlike my grandfather, I have technology to aid in my obsession. The band on my FitBit is currently breaking and I suspect my boyfriend of foul play. He shakes his head at my need to track my miles, steps, sips of water, flights of stairs, minutes of activity, and spaces between sleep and restlessness. Luckily, I’m within warranty, so a new Charge HR is on its way, and I’ll be able to continue my tracking, despite his disapproval.

But my fitness tracker isn’t my only obsessive tendency. It doesn’t satisfy my need to put pen to paper. Last night I found myself in a pit of Bullet-Journaling articles and photos. After reading a hand full of articles and checking out the Instagram feeds dedicated to the art, I grasped the basic systems and quickly found myself intrigued by the endless possibilities for creativity and new office supplies to boot. For those unfamiliar with the complex journaling system, it involves tracking life events, diary entries, to-dos, both personal and work related, as well as goals, and pretty much anything else you could want.

I found myself spiraling again, seconds away from ordering $40 worth of pens while anxiously awaiting for my FitBit to finish charging, and thought – where do we draw the line between living and tracking? Where did this obsessive need to track come from, and is it any good for my creativity? Tracking can lead to progress, surely, but how important is filling your life with measurable to-dos? Where lies the room for play, for bulleting outside the lines and getting messy?

I decided that ultimately, bullet journaling wasn’t for me. Or rather, it wasn’t best for me to start another obsessive tracking program. Pages will get written, days will pass by, doctors appointments will get made, and birthdays will be remembered, usually, if I use a little brain power and my own half broken system. I have to believe that my work will be better if I give myself license to be messy. I have to believe that my time can be better spent creating rather than stalking each movement of my heart rate.

What are your thoughts about tracking? Do you bullet journal or use a fitness tracker? What other tracking devices/systems do you use in your daily life? Do they help you to be creative or just to achieve?

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