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This year, I've been posting various updates centered around my fitness activities, mostly centered on running.  It's not that finance has become less important or more boring, it's just that running is something that's relatively new to me, but the posts also offer accountability.

I actually started my running last year, first at my old gym and then moving over to Planet Fitness.  But, for the calendar year of 2014, I didn't track anything and my results were marginal at best.

Going into 2015, I added a tab to one of the daily tracking sheets that I use for things like finance, weather tracking (yes, I do track the weather temps too), for the purposes of mb-lightbulb201308tracking my running activity.

The main things I started tracking are how often I go, how far I go when I get there, and how long it takes me.  There are some additional things that I enter, and some calculations that also happen as a result, but that's pretty much it.  Adding a run entry takes fifteen seconds per run, if that, but it gives me a lot.  It gives me the data but it also gives me accountability.

Just how has tracking improved my accountability?

Tracking Accountability

  • I exercise more often. As I mentioned previously, I never tracked any of my activity.  As a result, I really had no idea on how often I would go to the gym.  I had a rough idea that I would maybe have gone 3-4 times a week some weeks, 1-2 times on other weeks, but it was just a guess. Now, I can look back and tell you exactly how many times I've gone.  Having that information at my disposal motivates me to keep going.
  • I improve my results . I ran for a year, but because I never really tracked it, I had no incentive to push myself.  As such, I never got better at it.  When I started tracking it, I began tracking how far I go and my pace.  Those are things that I can now try to improve upon, and I have.  I've shaved nearly a minute per mile off my pace, and my average distance has nudged up as well.
  • I build a plan. Because I have numbers behind me, I've started getting into more consistent routines.  A year ago a treadmill run would have me run for awhile until I got tired, then walk again until I felt like starting again.  Not really the best approach, especially when I couldn't really tell you how long I was doing either one.  Now, I've refined it where I run for 3-4 minutes at a time, then walk for 30 seconds.  My consistency has improved considerably.
  • I have proof of results. A year ago, my biggest proof of a good workout was walking out with a sweaty shirt.  Now, I still have the sweaty shirt as I walk out the door, but I have numbers behind that I can track.  I can see how many times I've run.  Plus, I can see a rough approximation of how many calories I've burned.  Finally, I know how many miles I've run.  A year ago, as soon as that sweaty shirt was run through the wash, my proof the results was gone.  Now, with my spreadsheet tab, the results live on, pushing me further.

Overall, staying accountable to myself is a great method for me to keep moving forward.  And, I know that this applies in many areas.  This is mainly a personal finance blog, and it of course applies in that aspect.

Accountability and my Budget

I am a huge advocate of everybody having a budget, but my main reason is not so much to restrict your spending, though that is certainly one reason for which many people us it and a perfectly acceptable one, at that.  But, my main reason for having and using a budget is to bring accountability to our finances.  We can look back at what we've spent and make changes if we need to.  We can see where income has come in and strive for higher numbers.

It's the same principle, and I think it's just as important in personal finance as it is in exercising, and there are many other areas as well.

Readers, do numbers make you hold yourself more accountable? Does this lead to better results in whatever it is your tracking, whether it be a budget, a workout log, or anything else that allows for tracking and decision making?  I'd love to hear your stories and ideas in the comments below.