The Measured Life

The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates is reported to have said that “the life which is unexamined is not worth living”. My article proposes that the unmeasured life is not worth living. What do I mean by this statement?

As we go through life we perform a lot of activities – working, earning and spending money, driving a car, exercising and maintaining a household. We set goals and want to measure our progress. In our work place we need to know where we spend our time for billing our clients or filling in timesheets .

Recently I started tracking my sleep time. I wrote down the time I went to bed and when I got up then typed the information into a spreadsheet. I made a note of how tired I was during the day – rating my sleep out on a scale of 1 to 5.

In November I got a Smart Phone and downloaded an application specifically for sleep tracking. I switched over to Tap Log on the recommendation of Sacha Chua’s  blog.  Now I can I effortlessly record my sleep times on my phone, export the data in CSV format and send to my computer by email. I wrote a program to make graphs like the one below. Click on the image to see it full size.

Because Tap Log is so easy to use I set up buttons to capture other events such as the start and end time of my piano practice. I also track the time I arrive and leave the office and home, as well as my lunch breaks. I am curious to know exactly how much time I spend at work and my commute times. Combined with the sleep times I can learn more about how I use my time each day. I will write more about TapLog in a later blog article.

Money

When I was 12 years old I bought a 3 column cash book and recorded my income and expenses. My income was pocket money (some call it an “allowance”), birthday and Christmas presents and money earnt from lawnmowing and other chores. I wrote down all of my expenses and made summaries of my monthly income and expenses. I am not sure if I was an accountant in training or more interested in data visualisation and statistics. I think it was the latter because I studied computer science and statistics at university.

Tracking expenses is an important habit and now I use the Quicken program on my computer. It makes life easy for preparing tax returns, and reconciling bank statements as well as learning where the money goes. I now use TapLog to capture expenses when I incur them, so if I bought lunch or a train ticket, I can record the expense.

Fitness and Health

Capturing data about what I eat and drink as well as my weight and exercise activity is a useful tool for tracking health. Simple habits such as tracking the number of glasses of water drunk each day (my daily goal is 8 glases) and coffee and tea (trying to drink less than 3 cups a day). You may already be using a clip on pedometer to count your walking steps each day.

Car Log Books

You probably keep a log book for your car recording your trips. When I drove to work I wrote down the odometer reading on Monday mornings and all my petrol purchased. From this data I could track how much I used the car, fuel economy and the price of petrol.

Personal Log Book

Personal data collection is like having a log book for your life. Now that smart phones allow rapid timestamped data capture, you have the means to resarch your life and make changes where required. For example:

  • How much sleep do I really need? How little sleep do I need to get by?
  • What activities do I do at work?
  • How much coffee and tea do I drink each day?
  • Am I drinking enough water?
  • How do I spent my time at work?
  • How many minutes of walking do I do each week?
  • What is my overall mood? I could capture my daily mood on a scale of 1 to 5 and observe the trends
  • How often do I check my personal email each day? Taplog could be used every time I accessed email or the web. Combined with a countdown timer this could minimise wasted time.

You can read more about this topic on the Personal Informations web site http://personalinformatics.org/

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Author: charuzu

I live in Sydney and interests include music, piano playing, technology, cooking, English language, public speaking, Toastmasters, Asian culture (especially Japan and Korea), cinema, personal development, productivity and making friends with people from around the world.

3 thoughts on “The Measured Life”

  1. I agree – Tap Log makes it easy to record whatever you feel is important to measure in your life, a reality check on whether you are putting in the effort required to transform your life – for example my ukulele playing isn’t improving because I only practice once or twice a week!

    1. Sacha – I will post an article with links to my scripts for producing this graph – in summary I load the Taplog CSV file into a SQLite database with a Python script (incremental updates for each time I import CSV) then another Python script to produce an HTML file with Canvas drawing commands.

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