Venturing Into Self Tracking

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The last few weeks I’ve started a program of self tracking – my interest was piqued by the following things:

  1. Seeing some new(ish) gadgets like the Nike Fuel Band and Fitbit
  2. Stumbling (using stumble upon) across some articles about self-hacking

The topic instantly interested me – I guess its because it really fits with my outlook, and that of more agile / lean development efforts. What really interested me was the concept that I could monitor certain things almost indefinitely and see the results of applying changes to my lifestyle. I’m always striving to get the most out of my time, and this presented a way for me to take a more objective look at what I do.

Objectives

I think its always worth starting with some objectives or questions at the start of a process like this – i.e. what am trying to understand, or get out of this. So I listed a few high level things:

  • I want to understand what the best sleep pattern is for me. Do I need 6, 7 or 8 hours sleep to function well? Can I still concentrate with less sleep?
  • What factors effect my ability to absorb information from reading, and my cognitive ability in general. I find that sometimes my concentration can jump around too much – I’d love to know what’s causing this.
  • I’d like to get a better handle on my fitness and weight – I’m not in bad shape, but I’d like to be able to see real cause and effect to drive my behaviour.
  • I’d really like to understand what effects my emotions better – I wouldn’t say that I have any need to worry in this area, but it’d certainly be good to see what factors culminate in me feeling bored, overwhelmed, happy etc
  • Do all of this with as little friction to my daily life as possible.

The Plan

I knew straight away this was going to require some real commitment to routine, and wasn’t all going to happen straight away. I also understand that there’s little point in starting this process and making changes immediately – I need to build up the data. My initial plan has been:

  • Get a fitbit tracker to help monitor my general activity in a given day, and also more importantly my sleep patterns
  • Start logging my training sessions (on the fitbit website)
  • Start logging my food and drink consumption (again on the fitbit website)
  • Monitor my weight on a 3 times daily basis (on wake up, before my evening meal, and before bed)
  • Find a way to monitor my emotional state throughout the day (I’m currently using Moodlytics for Android which fits the bill for me, but its still early days)
  • Constantly monitoring my time using a Toggl – this method really isn’t working for me at the minute. Its just too easy for me to forget to trigger and stop the timer. It also isn’t going to give me a good enough way to analyse this data – in the end, its just not fit for purpose
  • Find a way to monitor my cognitive function throughout the day – I’ve not found anything that I can fit into my schedule as of yet. I started to use quantitative mind but find that the tests take a bit too long, and are too high friction to pepper into my day. I also really like something I can do through my mobile which quantitative device doesn’t (I’m on android). Its a real shame because the tests are excellent – they’re the best thing I’ve found up until now. I’m still trying to sort this out right now!!

Where Am I Now

At this stage I’ve been tracking for a couple of weeks. My intention was not to introduce any changes for at least a month – what I found is that when you start tracking your food you can’t help but start adjusting your diet! This isn’t a problem as I’m sure the data will bed out over time.

I had one issue where I lost my fitbit tracker (literally 5 days after getting it) – the fitbit tracker is a great little device, my only criticism is that the method for attaching it to yourself isn’t very good. It looks really nice and is quite subtle, but it just isn’t secure enough. Fitbit customer services have been excellent though replacing the device within a matter of days – fantastic customer service.

Where Am I Going

I’m still looking for ways to monitor my time and cognitive function more easily, I’m not happy with the current solutions. I’m really waiting for something like tictrac to become available so I can start to pull my data together and analyse it better. I’m also considering monitoring some other things like my location, my weight training progress, general healthiness, and even the possibility of introducing photographs (I think there’s some really interesting potential here). I’m also going to start to introduce some changes – maybe health supplements, sleep routines etc – to see if they help me in any way.

Finally

I’m really enjoying this right now and hope I can stick to it – it could be tremendously useful and could provide some really insight. My biggest gripes are the lack of tools to help – there are plenty of things out there, but almost everything is iPhone centric – as an Android user is very frustrating.

Matt

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