The Afternoon Check-in

On January 5, I started using Exist.io to rate each day from 1–5 and jot down a few notes about the day. The scale is pretty simple:

  • 1: Terrible
  • 2: Bad
  • 3: Okay
  • 4: Good
  • 5: Perfect

At the end of the month I looked back at the data I collected and I was a little bummed to see that there were so many 2 (brownish) and 3 (yellowish android green) days.

My Exist.io mood dashboard for January 2017. Brown is 2, yellowish green is 3, light green is 4, darker green is 5.

I’ve always heard that your mood depends a lot on how you choose to interpret and react to situations. This means that we have a profound influence over moods, so I decided to take action and see how I can improve my mood ratings.

Starting February 1, I took a moment to pause each afternoon and ask myself two questions:

1. What is today’s mood rating so far?
2. What can I do to increase or maintain that rating?

Any time I found myself saying that today would be a 2 or a 3, I resolved to do whatever I could for the rest of the day to increase that rating to a 3 or a 4. If I thought today was a 4 or a 5, I resolved to spend the rest of the day doing things that would maintain that rating.

Data scientists typically don’t like it when active viewers influence the outcome of their collected data, but this isn’t science. The goal here is to be happier, so intentionally influencing your mood data for the better is a good thing.

The Results

Over the next two and a half months, these two questions have eliminated the #2 (bad) days, decreased the #3 (okay) days, and increased the #4 (good) and #5 (perfect) days.

Mood data from Exist.io. Yellowish green is 3, light green is 4, darker green is 5.

Yes, there are still 3s on this chart. February in particular was a frustrating month. But every single one of those 3s were brought up from a would-be 2 that I intercepted with my mid-afternoon check-ins. This made February so much better than it would have been.

How you can implement an Afternoon Check-in

  1. Subscribe to Exist.io or use your current favorite journaling/tracking system to rate you mood from 1–5 every day. You can even use a calendar for this. Something with the ability to see the overall trend is helpful.
  2. Set a reminder on your phone or a calendar alert for 3:30pm every day. When it goes off, as yourself these questions: What is today’s mood rating so far? and What can I do to increase or maintain that rating?
  3. When you encounter anything lower than a 4, write down three things you can do to improve that rating by the time you go to bed. When you encounter a 4 or 5, write down three things you can do to maintain that rating by the time you go to bed. The goal is to make a bad day better or to continue having a good day.
  4. Right before you go to bed, write down the final rating for the day and write down a few notes about the day.
  5. Review your ratings once every two weeks. If you aren’t seeing an overall mood improvement, it might be time to reassess and take a look at the underlying causes of stress, anxiety, and frustration in your life. Then make removing those things the focus of your afternoon check-in.
Remember that you are in the driver’s seat of your own mood, not the passenger’s seat. Take the wheel.