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Tracking goals

I love this quote from Patrick McKenzie:

Every spreadsheet shared in a business is an angel announcing another SaaS app still needs to be built.

Well the inverse is true too: Many SaaS apps could be replaced by a spreadsheet that’s better suited to your needs.

I’ve tried so many apps for tracking long-term goals and none really clicked until I ended up building a spreadsheet instead.

Inspired by GitHub’s commit squares

GitHub squares.

and Simone Gertz’s Every Day Calendar

Every Day Calendar.

my goal tracking app is a Google Docs spreadsheet:

My spreadsheet.
For privacy I'm using slightly scrambled data in this post.

It has a combination of features that I haven’t found in any other app.

Simple interace

I open the spreadsheet, type anything in the relevant cell, and it turns green with a conditional formatting rule.

Non-daily tracking

Unlike streak-based apps, I can track intermittent activities. I don’t want to run everyday, and I change my running schedule few months to fit around other aspects of my life.

Run activity.

Forgiving of life’s realities

I don’t need to stress about losing a Duolingo streak when skipping an entire day flying over the international date line

Dunolingo activity.

or feel pressured to continue running while recovering from an injury.

Running activity.

Long and short term views

Square-based design makes it easy to see both long term trends as well as how I’ve done over the last few days. I can begin a new goal without committing to a certain frequency.

Meditation activity.

Gradually increasing frequency.

Quality implementation

Google Sheets is a much better app than any productivity startup could make. It’s responsive and cross-platform. It has cloud syncing, offline editing, csv exporting, two-factor authentication, and API access.

Google as a company is stable and wont run out of funding in a few weeks. Yeah Google doesn’t have a great track record with product longevity, but their record a lot better than VC funded B2C apps.


My week starts on a Monday.

Monday cell.

I like green.

Cell colour

I don’t use week numbers.

Week dates

I only want to track binary yes/no goals.

Conditional formatting setting

Streaks/chains just don’t work for me. I’ve been using this spreadsheet for over a year now, and it really has helped me achieve some long term goals.