johnny tisdale
moving the needle forward

Better living through self-tracking.

March 28, 2021

This morning I read Part II of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. I discovered that in his quest for self-improvement Franklin employed a method of self-tracking similar to one that I use.

Franklin’s goal was to live in accordance with the following virtues:

  1. Temperance
  2. Silence
  3. Order
  4. Resolution
  5. Frugality
  6. Industry
  7. Sincerity
  8. Justice
  9. Moderation
  10. Cleanliness
  11. Tranquility
  12. Chastity
  13. Humility

He kept track of his progress using a table with seven columns (one for each day of the week) and thirteen rows (one for each virtue).

Several years ago, I began experimenting with a similar method of self-tracking. Like Franklin’s, my table has one column for each day of the week. However, in my table the rows represent not virtues but goals. One goal might be to write one page per day. If I fail to write one page on Monday, then I put a red X in that cell. If I succeed, then I put a green checkmark.

This method is simple yet powerful. By writing down your goals, you hold yourself accountable. By keeping a written record of your behavior over time, you become aware of larger-scale patterns that would otherwise elude you. Having a more accurate picture of yourself, you are better positioned to improve yourself.