As I said in my last post, I need to come up with a plan for any new stab at Personal Informatics/Quantified Self. So I looked over what I had done and that gave me an idea of why I failed at the first stab, and how I might succeed this time.
One part of what I did before was hardcore tracking of everything I did at work. I already do how much time I spend on each project, because I need that to fill out my time card. But I started timing everything: when I ate, when I went to the bathroom, when and how I goofed off, when I did random administrative tasks. So if I’m doing that at work, why not do it on my computer at home, where I have the same project tracking software? And if I’m doing that whenever I’m the computer, why not do it all the time, since I have a phone app that can handle it?
The answer to both questions is “because it’s too much.” Even if I eased into it, I wouldn’t want to track every gorram thing I did. As evidenced with my issues with working on my chess game too much, even if I eased into it, it would be too much effort. So the key moving forward is to limit what I am tracking, and to watch for it to become too much.
So I looked over what I have tracked in the past. The project work at work is obviously still something I am going to keep tracking, because I have to. And I think continuing to track at home is worthwhile too. It’s even part of the Simple Method of habit formation to track your effort for each habit. I just need to limit it to long term projects. Don’t track everything, and don’t track stuff that I’m only doing in the short term.
And this brings up a key point: I don’t just want to track the time I’ve spent on Chess tactics problems, I want to track how I am doing on those problems. So any time there is data inherent in what I am tracking, I need to store that data. I also need to keep an eye out for data that is automatically tracked: email, web browsing, phone logs. Try to figure out how to collect that towards a coherent database. Which is of course another issue. If I want to analyze this data and look for correlations between different parts of it, I need a database design that can handle it. And I’ll need programs to translate from other sources into that database.
The next habit before I even get into personal informatics habits is exercise. I can easily use my phone app to track the time and quantity of exercise I do, so I will do that as part of the habit. I am also going to start tracking things like my weight when I start exercising. Tracking my blood pressure seems like something else healthy to track, but buying a sphygmomanometer seems like a bit much.
Mood is something I definitely want to track. That is the thing I most want to analyze for correlations. I was thinking it should be last, so I would be tracking the information I want to correlate it with. Now that I think about it I think it should be first. Not only could I correlate it with the data I track later, but I could compare it before and after the adoption of new habits. Of course, tracking mood is tricky. Should I just track emotions, or also mental process that feed the emotions and events that trigger them?
Food is related to exercise, but I figured since I am planning on trying to change my eating habits so that I can quit drinking soda, I can track it then. I don’t think I will get into hard core calorie counting. On the other hand, my consistent, so it might not be that hard to do in retrospect.
Movement is the thing that always comes to mind when tracking data. Originally I wanted it to get a better idea of when I needed to leave the house to have a decent chance of catching the bus. Now it is of interest because I want to know how much I am driving, because minimizing that is an ethical priority for me. The need for movement tracking is a bit iffy, but it’s as useful if not more useful than anything else I’ve ever thought of tracking. But something about it seems fun, so I will go with it if I’m not feeling stressed by recording everything else. I think as part of this I will get a step counter to track steps.
So I thought I’d need room for four or five personal informatics hobbies, but I only need two. That puts the series of upcoming habits as:
- Mood Tracking.
- Breakfast/Quit Soda.
- Movement Tracking.
If all goes well, I’ll be doing max data tracking by July.