I think paper is still the killer app in self-tracking. Automation suffers from the drawback of “out of sight, out of mind.” If you don’t give any attention to collection, you may not integrate the data into your consciousness in a meaningful way. It takes longer to write things down, which is the point. Manual collection, while more laborious, also provides opportunities for increased self-awareness.
The point of taking the time to look at your credit card statement and enter the expenditures into a budget manually is to force you to come to terms with how you are spending your money. Since Mint.com does all the heavy lifting all of the automated charts it creates have little effect on curbing spending.
Self-tracking tools also suffer from the double-edged sword of measurement–just because itâ€™s easy to measure doesnâ€™t make it important. The kinds of things that really need our attention to improve our lives are things that canâ€™t be automatically tracked: time spent with loved ones, helping others and being a good person. But thanks to the difficulty of tracking these most important things, weâ€™re forced to use paper — and therefore reap the benefits of conscious, manual collection.