How I Use Data to Improve My Life

One approach that has helped me tremendously in the last couple of years is a data-driven approach to everything in my life.

I have been obsessed with personal growth and living an intentional life since 2019. I have been there — reading a bunch of productivity blog posts and books, binging productivity podcasts, and consuming every productivity video on YouTube.

Some of it helped, some did not. Most I forgot over time. Some come back to me every now and then, when motivated. Only a few actually stuck around and became a part of my identity.

Having a data-driven approach to everything in life is one of those things that stuck.

Why Take Data-Driven Decisions?

When you look at things through the objective lens of data and facts, things become less about feelings and emotions. You see straight. You understand better.

Most of the time there is no grey area. You won’t find it easy to rationalize where you are in life by blaming some esoteric thing.

Data lets you cut through what doesn’t matter and shows you the reality.

Where you are in life right now is a result of every decision you took in the last couple of years. Data helps you track those decisions.

Data also helps paint a good picture of your life. If I look at different charts and graphs, I can easily identify periods in my life where I was at my worst, and periods where I was at my best.

Data helped me show the effect the COVID-19 lockdown had on my mental and physical health. It also showed me when I am at my happiest, and what factors play into my happiness.

What I am trying to get at is that data makes things less blurry. It becomes easier to reason when you are looking at data.

The best part: data helps you plan your future.

With a data-driven approach, you can set more realistic goals and dreams. You can break your goals down into milestones, and then establish some habits and systems that will help you attain them.

Once you have reached your goals, data will show you a paper trail of where you started and how you came to this point in time.

Hopefully, this paints a good picture of the benefits of a data-driven approach in life. Let me now walk you through a few areas in my life that I track with different apps and systems.

Track My Net Worth

I have always found it helpful to consolidate all my different bank accounts, assets, and investments under one roof.

Then, I aggregate all of these on a weekly basis, before plotting the aggregates as bar charts or line charts.

This gives me a high-level overview of my overall financial health.

I can easily identify any dip or plateau, which can result from excessive spending and no increase in income, respectively.

Within all my stock and crypto investments, I break them down by sectors and coins, to make sure I have a well-balanced portfolio.

The point is to track my net worth over time so that, at any given time, all charts are green and pointing to the top right.

Personally, I use an Excel Spreadsheet to do this. I don’t feel safe integrating all my accounts with one master app. However, if you want to do that, you can use an app similar to Personal Capital.

Visualize Budget

The best way to increase your net worth is by budgeting smartly.

It’s very easy to lose track of daily expenses. Especially in a world where everything is a subscription model, things add up and before you know it, you will be bleeding hundreds of dollars every month.

I have a set monthly budget, divided into different categories, such as bills & utilities, dining out, groceries, auto, shopping, entertainment, etc.

I use the Mint app to do all my budgeting. Mint has very nice data visualizations. You can break down your expenses into these categories and see how close you are to exceeding them every month.

Mint also has a very good algorithm to categorize your transactions correctly.

Since I started using Mint, I could see a very clear improvement in my financial health.

Usually, shopping can be very emotional. If you don’t track the expenses, you will be bleeding dry, without knowing it. Tracking these with data will show you the obvious. After that, it’s up to you what you want to do with that information.

Use Smart Scale

I use a Renpho smart scale to measure my body weight at least 5 times every week.

You don’t have to buy the Renpho scale. Buy any that you like! Any smart scale is better than a “dumb” scale, in my opinion.

Smart scales can give you more “inferred” data, apart from your body weight. Depending on your scale, you can get information like muscle mass, fat-free weight, metabolic age, etc.

These metrics are usually not really accurate, but you can find trends and patterns. Instead of believing the actual numbers, you can tweak your lifestyle by seeing the trends.

Tracking My Runs

I started running in 2022.

It started with some treadmill runs and has evolved into outdoor running and even trail running in some cases.

I absolutely love it!

I clearly feel different on the days that I start with a run.

I have been trying to get better with every run — run longer, faster, and feel stronger. Of course, that meant tracking every single run.

To improve my running, I use a combination of the Nike Run app and the CouchTo5K app. Both are amazing! Especially if you are a beginner runner (like I am), these apps can do wonders for you.

For every run, the Nike Run app gives me my pace, distance, and calories burned. There are also some advanced features where I can compete against myself in the same route.

Another cool piece of data, if you have a Nike running shoe, is to track how many miles you are raking in each of your running shoes. It’s a great way to measure performance and figure out when to get a new pair.

Tracking my runs has made me seriously better in the past 8 months. I am still a beginner runner, but with data on my side, I can analyze and improve every week.

Intermittent Fasting

I am a huge believer in fasting, especially intermittent fasting.

On any given day, apart from Saturdays, my eating window is between 11 AM and 6 PM. Other than that, I am fasting.

I love tracking my fasts! Every week or every month, I can look back and see how many hours I have fasted.

I use Zero to track all my fasts. This is the best free app, ever for tracking your fasts.

The data visualization is incredible. You don’t even have to look at the daily metric. You can just look at a calendar view and figure out how your fasts are going.

Sleep Tracking

I have been tracking my sleep for about a month now. So, in no terms am I a pro at it.

I use a combination of my Apple Watch, Health App, and Athlytic.

It’s been really helpful so far. It has encouraged me to learn more and more about sleep and how it affects my daily life. I can clearly see a pattern between my productivity and sleep the night before.

Once again, previously, I always thought there was a correlation. However, now I can see the numbers and charts to back me up.

On the nights that I don’t sleep well, I have a bad morning workout and I struggle to focus throughout the day. The numbers back it up so well, it’s kinda scary.

That’s the magic of numbers, metrics, and visualization again. You deal with facts, not your own fiction.

Habit Tracking

I religiously track these last two pieces of data — starting with habits.

Good habits are the foundations of any good life. Good habits mean, you have good systems in your life.

And you know the saying — you don’t rise to the levels of your goals. You fall down to the levels of your systems.

The best way to develop good habits is by tracking them.

I use the app Streaks to track my habits. In the past, I used to use TickTick, but that system has evolved over time.

Streaks give me really good data visualization to keep an eye on my habits. Even better, it gives me actionable feedback, such as giving me a pat on my back when I am doing good, or suggesting I tighten the screw a little bit if I am getting too used to things.

If you are looking to start looking at your life through the lens of data, I would say, start with tracking your habits.

Project & Task Management

The last one is my bread and butter — project and task management.

I have talked at length about this and will talk about it more and more in the future.

The one app that controls my life right now is ClickUp. It can do everything. To give you a list of some of the things ClickUp does for me:

    Day-to-day task management

    Project management

    Yearly & Quarterly goals


    Book Tracker

    Revenue Tracker

    … and much more

Additionally, ClickUp also offers some seriously good data visualization. You can create dashboards with different graphs and charts to track your productivity.

I have a blog post coming up soon related to Dashboards on ClickUp. I would highly recommend checking it out if you are interested in this stuff.

There you go, folks!

That’s enough data talk for one day.

I really hope you got some value out of this. If you did, please give me a follow and subscribe to my newsletter.

Irtiza Hafiz