A few notes on quantified self tools

I’ve been playing with a few quantified self tools over the last year (really since I went along to the Quantified Self Europe conference in November 2011). Thought I’d just scribble a few notes about what I’ve found.

  • Fitbit was good for a while — I’ve actually gone through four of them though. I lost the first one, the second one wouldn’t synch, I had one for 10 months which worked perfectly but disintegrated eventually and then one where the battery would run out within a few hours. So it’s really not really very robust and it was also a bit rubbish at measuring sleep.  I think the new ones probably are better (they synch through your phone for example). What did I learn? The main thing was that there’s a big difference between days when I’m sat at a desk and days when I have meetings. Typically I head all over town and usually walk between places.
  • I used MyFitnessPal for a couple of months and it definitely made me eat more healthily. It’s a bit of a faff filling it in each time but it gets easier as you build up your own ‘favourites’. One thing I found was that I ended up cooking more ‘standard’ meals because then I knew what was in them.
  • I actually really like the Nike+ Running app and have been using it a lot recently. You get the feeling that somebody’s actually put some thought into the psychology of it (although I’m not sure that Lance Armstrong is quite the right person’s voice to use these days). There’s a bit of a discrepancy between the distance data and Google Maps which I’m not sure about. I did have a Nike+ widget in my trainers but that seems to have been made redundant by the new app.
  • I’ve just started trying out a Zeo that we got free from a friend who got it in a conference goody bag. The first night wasn’t good as I’ve ended up with a bruise on my forehead but I think I will try it for a while.
  • For work productivity I measure a few things like words written each morning, emails sent during the day, tasks completed (from Things) and pomodoros completed. I pop all that into one tool that I have persevered with which is a little Google Spreadsheet. It’s evolved over the year but is pretty useful.

What have I learned overall? Measuring stuff is pretty useful. Once you’ve done something for a while you can often see what you need to change and then you don’t need to measure it as often because you’ve set your motivation. Some things you do need to keep measuring because the measurement in itself is the motivation. I’ve also just downloaded Lift which is based on a lot of the thinking in The Power of Habit — I’ll see how that goes.
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