How do you track yourself? Weight on the bathroom scale? Dollars spent on lattes? Hours of meditation per week? By how little you track, preferring to go with the flow and hoping for the best?

“What gets measured gets managed,” according (apocryphally) to Peter Drucker. And if you want to manage something, you have to measure it. Doing so feels painful at first: seeing that number on the scale that makes you wince, that meager amount left in your account, that lack of time in deep thought or reflection, all those little regrets at failing to track more until it’s too late. But only through acceptance of the current numbers can we have a hope of improving them. So break out that notebook, spreadsheet, recorder, or the like.

You don’t have to track everything at once. Better to start with one thing, such as what you eat, and track it exhaustively until doing so turns into a habit. Repeat with the next metric, over and over. Make it easy to track: Keep that spreadsheet open or that notebook handy, that recorder charged and ready, whatever it takes to remove friction and keep to that tracking habit. Keep track of your metrics and your metrics will keep track of you.

Simply tracking a metric helps you manage it. You’ll find correlations and causations, sometimes spurious, sometimes serious. You’ll discover unexpected triggers and trends. You’ll make all manner of connections thanks to seeing the numbers change over time. Just remember to form your hypotheses before you look at the data. You don’t want to fall afoul of the hindsight bias, the Texas sharpshooter fallacy, or other analytics oversights. Practice your meta-management and avoid polluting your data with unnecessary inputs. If your metrics aren’t managed, they can end up managing you.

What do you track now? What do you want to track next? What kind of results do you expect? How do you hope to be surprised? When will make that first data entry today?