Manifesto 43: Improving My Quantified Self

When it comes to quantified self, one question I frequently hear is “how can this data really help me”? It is a good question, especially since there are huge volumes of data about ourselves available, and it may not be obvious how to put it to use. I have used quantified self data to improve my writing, and help get more exercise, but it seems to me there is more I can be doing to use this data to improve.

I had been thinking about this a lot leading up to my birthday last week. As I approached my birthday, I began to think about the general areas of my life that I would like to improve, and see if there was a way that I could take advantage of data to help me make the improvements. So I put together a simple document in which I began to list the following:

  • The areas I wanted to improve
  • A simple statement or instruction to frame the improvement
  • An initial notion for how I might measure the improvement.

I called the document my “Manifesto:43.” I thought it might be interesting to others, so below are the major areas, along with the “instruction” I gave myself to keep in mind.

I have more detailed thoughts and actions in each of these areas, and I’ll tackle them in separate posts over the next few weeks, but for now, here are the major areas I’m looking to improve.

Play

Play with the kids whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Walk

Prefer walking over other modes of transportation where practical.

Write

Write every day, even if only for a few minutes.

Eat

Make healthy choices.

Disconnect

Make efficient use of online resources. Avoid unnecessary activity.

Simplify

Use the best tool for the job, but avoid overlapping tools.

Save

Look for opportunities to save more.

Relax

Don’t sweat the small stuff.

There are some overarching themes here. These things can be grouped in different ways to reflect overall priorities. For instance, grouping together “Play”, “Disconnect”, “Simplify” and “Relax”, you have what I think of as “family time.” Improving in those four areas helps improve family time. Grouping “Walk”, “Eat”, and “Relax” are all health-related.

For each of these areas, I produced simple examples of actions that I can take to make the improvements I am looking to make. I’ll drill down into those in a separate post. I have also attempted to identify quantifiable ways of measuring the improvements. In some instances (e.g. “play”) it is pretty hard. In others (“walk”, “write”, “save”) it is pretty easy. Some of the actions are one-time and others are ongoing. I’ve already taken some actions and although it is too early to say how well these changes are working, I am pretty happy with my overall framework for thinking about these things.

Stay-tuned for more.

4 thoughts on “Manifesto 43: Improving My Quantified Self

  1. Couldn’t you use your Fitbit to monitor “play” time with the kids as an activity?

  2. Carol, by “Play” what I really mean is doing a better job of not saying, “I can’t right now because I have work to do,” when my kids ask me to play with them. I’m not sure the FitBit data would work well, anyway, because often times “play” means building Legos or coloring, or reading with them, things that. But when it comes down to it, I would really like to prioritize those requests above everything else. When they say, “Daddy, want to play Legos?” I want to say “Yes” every time, if I can. 🙂

  3. The only thing I would add to this list is “Work Efficiently.” You mentioned simplify, but I don’t know that that’s my problem. I’ve been fairly successfully employed for years. But for some reason I’m finding myself less and less efficient lately in my work. And that’s making the other areas on your manifesto harder for myself.

    I completely get the “play” thing with the kids. My six year old bought a deck of Uno cards a couple of weeks ago with his allowance (his first allowance purchase ever. It was a big deal). Its amazing how much Uno we’ve played the last two weeks. I can’t tell him no when he asks. The other thing I have to remind myself is that stuff like little league is NOT a substitution for that time.

    We do manage to get in a lot of walking. I live and work in places that are awesome for walking. And I have a dog who loves to walk. It’s hard for us to not prioritize walking.

  4. Richard, I really like “Work Efficiently” because it encapsulates a lot of what goes into “simplify” and is also more specific. Great suggestion!

    My kids discovered Uno recently as well, and it’s a blast. I always liked that game.

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