Philippe Masset

Web developer and entrepreneur.

Effortless self-tracking

August 2012

The Quantified Self movement keeps gaining traction. It's now used by people for a wide area of things, ranging from measuring the effect coffee has on oneself to tracking one's TV watching habits.

Companies are not missing out on this opportunity: there are a lot of devices (Zeo, Withings, Fitbit, Garmin), and a lot of web and mobile apps (RunKeeper, 42goals).

But what if, in a world of "there's an app for that", I just don't want to use it? What if I don't want to cope with a fancy website to track myself? Let's just say there's a solution, and it's totally painless.

How to

Introducing... Google Docs! I always loved Google, at least for their numerous web services, and it's not today I'm going to change my mind about that.

I started tracking the number of push-ups I did a couple of months ago, and I needed something better than a text file to do that. I could've used a spreadsheet, but it would've been locked into my computer, not really helpful. Unless this spreadsheet was hosted online, on say, Google Docs?

So here's what I did, and what you should do to track simple things about you:

  • Go to drive.google.com (Docs is now Drive)
  • Hit Create, then Form
  • Add one or more questions; I only added one text input titled "Number of push-ups"
  • Click on the link to the published form in the footer once you're set

You now have an hosted form tailored to your needs! And since it's a dead-simple web page, you can access it from wherever you want, might that be a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone (available on Android, iPhone, Blackberry and you-name-it).

One last step is needed to make this as simple as possible:

  • Bookmark this form on all your devices

Now, just let the magic happen! Every time you need to save your performance or whatever you're tracking, just click on that bookmark, type a few characters, submit, and it takes no more than 10 seconds!

A spreadsheet is populated each time you submit that form, and a timestamp is added next to each entry. Wondering where to find that spreadsheet? Simply go back to drive.google.com and say Hi!

Effortless Self-Tracking Spreadsheet Screenshot

Play with your data

You're collecting data for some time now, and you want to make sense out of it. Luckily, you'll only have to spare a few clicks as well:

  • Open up your spreadsheet on drive.google.com
  • Click Insert, then Chart
  • Select what data you want to see in your chart, some other options, and insert the chart in your spreadsheet

Effortless Self-Tracking Chart Screenshot

There it is! The easiest way to track and visualize simple metrics about yourself!

Of course, this isn't suitable for tracking the number of red blood cells you have, neither is it for the number of steps you take everyday (can you imagine having to count that yourself and writing it down every night before going to bed!).

But if you need to track your mood or the number of push-ups you do everyday, then that's the no-brainer you're looking for!