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Quantified self and self-improvement have been on my radar for a few years now, and with a new year starting I finally decided to give it a serious try and see what outcomes I get from it.

For anyone not familiar with the concept, quantified self is a movement to incorporate data acquisition technologies on aspects of a person's daily life; for example mood over time, food consumed, weight, heart rate, etc.

You Can't Improve What You Don't Measure

Quantified-self focus on tracking three principal categories:

  • Inputs: Food consumed, water intake, etc
  • States: Mood, heart rate, blood oxygen levels, stress levels
  • Performance: Mental and physical

Self-monitoring is already more common than what people realized, just take a look at their wrists chances are you or someone you know uses a fitness tracker already.

Fitness trackers like the Fitbit or Up are what I would call entry level self-monitoring devices; since they are often limited to simple fitness tracking like steps walked, calories burned and in some case basic heart rate.

However, in term of quantified self, data is king and the more of it we have, the better, right? Well, that is true to some degree —we can always drown in meaningless data— when thinking about what kind of data we should collect we need first to consider the outcomes. That is to say what information can I get from the data collected? Will it give me actionable items?

More often than not, a single metric won't give you the full picture when you look at it in isolation, but when look in correlation with another data is where we might start learning interesting things about ourselves, for example, a correlation between poor sleep and the number of coffee consumed on a given day, or water consumption vs. daily mood.

This is to me the fascinating part of self-monitoring; it's not enough to have healthy habits if we don't understand how those habits affect the big picture and our overall enjoyment of life.

In that sense I'm starting 2016 with self-monitoring as one of my top priorities; trying to track as much as possible but making it as easy and low effort as possible; automating where I can and reducing friction where possible.

I'll go into more detail on the tools and software that I'm planning to use in a future post; as I'm still playing and tweaking my setup.

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Allan MacGregor


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