Tonic – Motivation, Tracking and Mindfulness

Posted on January 7, 2012 by


Two months ago I wrote a review on the Tonic tracking app. I have continued to use Tonic daily ever since and I have found it to be a very effective tool for motivation, tracking and increasing mindfulness. Before I get into my experience let me show you what items I am tracking and how I customized the tonics to prompt me for information.

– Weight “I weigh _____ lbs”
– Sleep “I slept for _____ hours and I feel _____ (1=poor 5=well)”
– Fish Oil and Multivitamin Reminder
– 750words “I wrote _____ words”
– Exercise & Play “I went _____ for _____ minutes”
– Practice Guitar “I practiced for _____ minutes”
– Eat Moderately “I had _____ extra snacks”
– Emotional Intelligience “Today I had _____ outburst(s)”

I have found that checking your weight daily is a powerful technique for maintaining awareness of your weight. Seems kind of obvious and it is. Doesn’t mean people won’t try to make it more complicated than that. All you need is a simple scale. Doesn’t have to be that accurate but it does need to be consistent. Get on it every day at the same time, after you go to the bathroom, nude. Recording the values in Tonic is easy. About as easy as recording it in a notepad with a pen, which was what I was doing before. Since I was going to be tracking all this other stuff I thought I might as well track my weight data too.

I have never tracked my sleep duration or quality. I have been thinking about getting a Zeo and before I spent $150 I thought I would try using more simple techniques. I go to bed at roughly the same time every night and when I wake up in the morning I do the math to calculate hours slept. I also note how I feel and if the night was unique in some way I will write a note in the text field. What have I figured out so far? I was surprised to find that my optimum sleep length is ~7-8 hrs, Not 6-7hrs as I would have guessed. Not surprisingly, less sleep and being woken in the middle of the night makes me feel cranky, tired and disgruntled in the morning.

Fish Oil and Multivitamin Reminder
It seems like medication reminders is one of the key markets that the Tonic team is trying to reach. I don’t know much about taking meds on a regular basis, but I know I have struggled to develop a daily habit of taking my supplements and having this reminder has kept me on track for 2 months straight. There is something about that unchecked box next to a Tonic that just calls out to me.

750Words, Exercise & Play, Practice Guitar
These are hobbies and activities that I am trying to make a regular part of my life. I have set simple goals for myself and I have created Committment contracts for 750words and Practice Guitar on Beeminder. When I open Tonic in the morning to enter my Weight and Sleep data, I see these goals starting right at me. Am I going to find 20 minutes to write 750 words today? Am I going to squeeze in a 10 min Crossfit WOD or do a 90min kitesurfing downwinder? Will I practice strumming chords or playing scales?

Eat Moderately
I have had mixed results with this tonic so far. I originally started with a 1-5 scale where a “1” day was ~+1500 calories over my plan, a “2” was +1000 over plan, and it continued like this with a “5” being -500 to plan which is what I believe I should average if I want to lose weight. It is hard to calculate how many surplus calories I am consuming because I am not tracking calories right now. But I do have a pretty good understanding of calorie counting and I usually know what I should eat every day and what extra snacks I grab along the way. I have adjusted this Tonic to ask how many “extra snacks” I eat in a day which will hopefully give me better feedback.

Emotional Intelligence
This is another Tonic that I have recently tweaked. Originally I was tracking Morning and Evening mood on a 1-5 scale with 1 being Sad or Low and 5 being happy or high. I found it very difficult to use that system. I am going to try to track, # of negative outbursts. Basically moments when you lose your cool. In my tracking of mood over the last few months I have noticed a correlation between a “low” day and an emotional outburst related to a fight, argument, stress, etc.

Tonic – More than just Motivation and Tracking
When I bought Tonic and set it up I was looking forward to a moment in the future when I would have enough data to analyze. Now I have two months worth of data and you would think that I would be racing to export the data and begin graphing and analyzing it. The truth is that while I have graphed certain Tonics like Weight, Guitar and Writing I have avoided graphing the Diet, Exercise and Emotion Tonics. Maybe it is because I am still tweaking the data entry and rating system for those Tonics. Maybe it is because I can’t imagine there being a clear trend to follow.

I think it is actually something much more important than that. Every night right before I climb into bed I review my Tonics for the day. Did I follow a moderate diet today? Did I get some exercise? Was I in control of my emotions? During that moment of reflection I feel very much in the present moment. I feel how the cumulative effect of all my choices and experiences have aggregated into how I feel physically, mentally and emotionally right now. The last thing I want to do it see how today ranks against all previous days. I simply want to enjoy this narrow moment of mindfulness before I fall asleep and start the cycle again.


If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy:

App Review – Tonic

Beeminder – Holding Me Accountable

Self-Tracking / Quantified Self

No Fun Tracking, If You Aren’t Improving


Posted in: Self-Tracking