Google Forms is a flexible tool tucked away on Google Drive. However, its simplicity betrays its versatility. This one tool, used from your browser and your mobile, can help you track and improve important areas of your life.
There are many areas of your life that can benefit from a Google Forms driven system like this. Use it to track your progress with important health goals. Use it to make sure you’re following your financial plan. You can even use it to track how you’re feeling at any given time, and identify seasons or other reasons for your low performance or poor mood.
There are plenty of mobile apps out there that’ll help you make and track goals, especially fitness goals. There are also desktop PC apps you can use, or you can formulate your own using tools like Excel.
But why not use a resource like Google Forms that’s not only simple, but gives you access from both your PC and your mobile to make and track all your goals?
The Simplicity of Google Forms
Creating a new Google Form is simple if you have a Google Drive account. The quickest way is, once you’re logged into your Google account, go to http://forms.google.com. This will automatically create a new form.
Or, from inside Google Drive, just click “New” and find Google Forms in the menu.
That’s all there is to it. Now you’re ready to create your own personal life-tracking form.
Health Tracking with Google Forms
Building a form is sort of like putting one block on top of another. Just work your way down the page and keep adding elements to your list. In this example, we’re going to build a “fitness tracker” that actually tracks your daily activities, caloric intake and your moods, all in one form that you can fill out at the end of the day as a sort of daily “journal” entry.
Ideally, this entry will work through the course of your day, asking you questions like what you weighed when you stepped on the scale in the morning.
Use the “multiple choice” element for any questions where you know there are only a few answers. For example, I have a very limited taste when I eat breakfast, so in this case I use multiple choice to log my morning meal.
I prefer to use this rather than text, because the data analysis afterwards provide muchs more helpful information.
You can use the one form to log both diet and exercise. The “Grid” element is excellent for tracking a lot of information in a small space. For example, I want to keep track of how many minutes I do cardio, as well as specific weight training exercises.
To accomplish this, just use a grid, and list the exercises for the row labels.
Then fill in the column labels with times. Or in your case you may want to only track your weight training, so you may instead list “reps” for columns.
Whichever you choose, the grid gives you this wonderful, convenient grid layout you can use at the gym, from your phone, while you’re working out (or right after). It’s faster and easier than most fitness tracking apps around.
If you carry around a pedometer or a Fitbit (or use a pedometer app on your phone), you can add a “steps” element to your log as well.
Finally, at the end of the day when you’re filling out this log, don’t forget to include a section at the end for logging the time that you’ve gone to bed. Sleep has an enormous impact on your health, so it’s a very important factor to log so you can see how it affects your life.
The key here is that you want to log as much information as possible. The more data the better, because when it comes to discovering what makes you more productive, more energetic and happier, all of these factors will come into play. So, make sure you catch the entire picture.
Tracking Your “Feedback”
Once you’ve finished with the “data collection” part of the form, you’ll want to add another section of what I call “feedback”. In this case it’s basically bio-feedback. It’s you telling your system how you’re feeling and how the day is going in general.
Since most people go through their day, making choices and then forgetting about them, these questions give you a chance at the end of the day to really gauge how your day went. Later on, this will help you understand how the choices you’ve made affect your day (and your health).
To keep things organized, it’s a good idea to create a new section header for this area.
Then, create several questions to rate things like your mood, how happy you felt, and how productive you were throughout the day.
As you can see, in the form this is just a very quick area where you can tap the scale from 1 to 5 (or 1 to whatever you like) for each item.
That’s really all there is to it. Save your form, and you’re done! If you click “View Live Form” at the top, you can see what your actual form now looks like. If you click “View Responses”, you can see the spreadsheet where all your information is stored.
The spreadsheet receives the same name as the form.
Using Your Form and Analyzing Your Data
Now that your form is finished, you can use it from your phone. All you need to do is install the Google Drive app for either Android or iPhone, and you’re ready to start using the app no matter where you are.
Or you can use it via your browser — the form looks almost identical to how it looks on your phone.
Pretty cool, right?
It’s fast and simple. And when you get back home, you can log into Google Drive on your computer and review the history from all of your journal entries.
Here’s where things get really fun.
When you’re viewing the data in the spreadsheet, just click on “Form” and choose Show summary of responses.
This presents you with a really cool graphical view of all of your past journal entries. For example, I can see here that Protein Drink is my most common breakfast, and that I’ve been pretty good at getting in at least 30 minutes of cardio on most days.
The most interesting area though, is the feedback. You can see general trends in your mood and productivity. If you’re swaying to the low end most of the time with your mood, energy or productivity, it might be worthwhile to look for ways to fix that.
One of the ways to see what could be affecting any of those things is by using the filter tool back in the spreadsheet view.
By filtering out either days when you were in a really good mood, or filtering out days when you were in a terrible mood, you can see what foods and behaviors could have affected that.
For example, by filtering out the days when my energy was really low, I can see that on the days my energy was high, I had a Protein Drink for breakfast.
I also found out that when I go to bed the earliest (10PM), I have the most energy and the most productivity the following day. Okay…sometimes it isn’t rocket science, but some of us do need a swift kick to realize just how badly our poor habits are affecting us!
Could this be an answer to improve overall energy? Maybe, but the idea is to find patterns like this and then test them out to see if they really help. Continue to use your health journaling form and find out.
Other Google Form Life Trackers
This was only one example of how you can use Google Form to track important areas of your life. Just think about all of the possibilities.
What about a book reading log?
You could track things like how happy or sad the book made you and how you liked the ending. Over time, you could potentially uncover authors or even publishers that produce books that almost always make you happy after reading them.
How about a dream journal?
With a dream journal form, you could learn how your dreams correlate to your daily mood, how your day went, or even just how well you slept on certain days of the week. Maybe there’s something going on near your home that makes you wake up at 3am every Wednesday night?
Logging your dreams can also give you some wonderful creative inspiration in other areas of your life as well.
If you struggle to control your spending, how about a spending log?
By using a spending log from your phone, you can make yourself always accountable for your financial choices. You’ll force yourself to gauge how much you want or need the item, and how you’re planning to pay for it.
If you use the form, and if you’re honest with yourself, you could identify a long-running behavioral issue that could lead to serious financial troubles down the road, if you don’t nip it in the bud today.
Pro tip: If you want to have some of those cool layouts for your own forms, you can change the theme by clicking on the change theme button at the top of the form design page.
Pro tip #2: If you want to make sure you actually use the forms you create, it will be a good idea to set up automatic daily notifications, so you get a daily reminder to fill out your daily entry.
To do this, from the spreadsheet view, just click Tools and then Notification rules…
Then enable the “daily digest” feature, which will send you an email every day — a perfect reminder to fill out the form with a new entry for the day.
It really is amazing what you can learn about yourself when you take the time to pay attention to your daily habits and behaviors. Sometimes, you may not even realize or remember the choices you’ve made throughout the day that affect your day, and your life, in more ways than you can imagine.
Religious leader Dallin Oaks once said:
“Desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions.
I say your desire-driven choices lead to actions. You should always measure those actions, and determine whether they are helping or hurting your life, and then alter your priorities so that your new choices create a better life.
Do you use any tools to track any aspect of your life? Would you consider giving Google Forms a try? Share your own thoughts in the comments section below!
Image Credit: Danielle Balderas via Shutterstock