Become 1% better every week ➔ Join the Club

Building a Water Consumption Tracker Using NFC Stickers

Adequate water consumption is vital for living a healthy life.

And I’ve had a long-standing problem with the amount of water I consume every day.

It’s way too little. To the point where I’ve experienced severe dry mouth and a general lack of energy.

Trying to fix this by building a habit of regularly drinking water throughout the day didn’t help because I didn’t see it through.

Without proper tracking, I couldn’t tell if I was living up to my commitment each day.

In this post, I’ll show you all the different approaches I tried to track my daily water consumption and how using NFC stickers finally saved the day.

Let’s start with:

Manually tracking through an app

One search for a water tracker will land you a list full of apps that can help you track your water consumption each day.

While these apps are fantastic and can show you your historical water consumption, they’re a pain to use.

Every time you drink water, you need to unlock your phone, open the app, and log the amount of water you drank.

While it can be fascinating at first, it quickly gets tedious and outright dull.

And, this is what happened to me.

I tried these apps multiple times, and I couldn’t stick to a habit of manually logging my water consumption 10–12 times every day.

It was too much of a chore.

And thus:

The habit quickly died.

However, not ready to give up on tracking, I tried to develop alternate methods that were easier to follow.

And one of the approaches was to:

Make tracking easier with a shortcut

My iPhone lets me set up shortcuts for repeatable tasks to save time and effort.

With some basic knowledge of creating shortcuts on iOS, I set up a shortcut to log my water consumption to the Apple Health app.

This is how it worked:

Tracking water consumption on the Health app using a shortcut.
Tracking water consumption on the Health app using a shortcut.

Usually:

To run a shortcut, you need to open the Shortcuts app and then select a shortcut from the list.

But, this is the same tedious process as the other water tracking apps.

To make this shortcut a little more accessible, I created a launcher on the home screen, like this:

Adding the shortcut to the home screen from the shortcut settings.
Adding the shortcut to the home screen from the shortcut settings.

Although the launcher icon saved about one second of my time, it became a chore again.

Unlocking my phone, tapping on the shortcut and then choosing the amount of water I drank was still too much of work.

Repeated ten times a day, this process becomes unbearable.

I wanted something that tracks my water consumption automatically.

And that is when I thought of:

Using a Raspberry Pi for building a smart water tracker

I’ve had a Raspberry Pi Model 3B+ lying dormant for some time.

Thinking it would be a cool project, I started laying down plans for building an automatic water consumption tracker.

The plan was this:

While this plan seemed easy in theory, it was much harder to execute.

Especially since I had zero knowledge of working with a Raspberry Pi and involved sensors.

And at the time:

Dedicating time and energy to this project wasn’t a priority for me.

So, like my other approaches, this one too hit the graveyard.

But then:

After months of putting this idea to sleep, I started searching for some other approaches again.

Poor water consumption has been affecting my health for too long, and I wasn’t ready to give up on trying.

Searching for fresh ideas landed me on:

Using NFC stickers to log my water consumption

While searching for automated ways to improve water consumption, I landed on an idea that goes like this:

The goal of this idea was to improve water consumption by continuously reminding me to drink water.

Albeit a good idea, it didn’t entirely solve my problem.

The approach involved no tracking.

Building on this novel idea, I tweaked it to my liking, like this:

And it didn’t require any fancy app to achieve this solution.

I used the Shortcuts app to set up an automation that gets triggered when my phone is near a pre-registered NFC tag:

Automation gets triggered when my phone is near the "Bottle" NFC sticker.
Automation gets triggered when my phone is near the “Bottle” NFC sticker.

And then, the automation logs water consumption data to the Health app, like this:

Log water consumption data to the Apple Health app.
Log water consumption data to the Apple Health app.

For the NFC sticker, I ordered a pack of ten stickers from Amazon for ₹199 (~$3):

A pack of ten NFC stickers.
A pack of ten NFC stickers.

Now:

Every time I drink water, I tap my phone on the NFC sticker. It automatically logs 250ml of water consumption to the Apple Health app.

The NFC sticker on my water bottle.
The NFC sticker on my water bottle.

Why 250ml?

That’s an approximate amount of water I drink in a single turn.

Although the actual amount of water I drink per turn might vary, I’m okay with the approximation.

Now:

As a reminder, I initially set up a timer to be launched every 30–45 minutes as soon as I tapped on the sticker, but it quickly became too robotic.

I didn’t want to wait 45 mins to have my next sip. I wanted to drink water whenever I felt like.

And thus:

I threw the reminder away and kept only the logging part active on my automation.

Now:

Tracking is one thing, but creating a habit is different.

To establish a good water consumption habit, I started:

Tracking my daily water consumption on Grow

Featured in issue #39 of my newsletter, Grow lets you automatically track various habits by getting data from the Apple Health app.

I set up a goal of drinking 3 litres of water every day on the Grow app. As soon as I log water consumption on the Apple Health app through my automation, Grow gets the data.

With no extra manual steps involved, Grow shows me my progress for the goal and my historical water consumption, like this:

Historical data of my water consumption goal in the Grow app.

Tracking water consumption on Grow is a paid feature that I unlocked by paying ₹1,149/year (~$15/year) for Grow Premium.

I have to say; it was worth the money.

Now, coming to the itching question:

How’s it going so far?

It’s going surprisingly good.

Tapping my phone on the NFC sticker on my water bottle is frictionless and fun.

Notification when I tap my iPhone on the water bottle.
Notification when I tap my iPhone on the water bottle.

And that is the reason I’ve been able to track my water consumption for a week without fail regularly.

As a result, I feel much more hydrated throughout the day and more energised.

Habits are easy to form when you make the cue and action more approachable for the long run.

I have nine NFC stickers left to experiment with. Looking forward to creating some more automation out of them.

Have any suggestions on what to do with the NFC stickers? Email me.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, you’ll love my weekly newsletter featuring apps, books, articles and experimentation like this one. Subscribe below:

Get the best of self-improvement, productivity & personal finance delivered to your inbox — every Friday.

.