Self-Awareness Through Measurement

Ryan Bright
Jul 7, 2011 · 3 min read

Over the past few days, I’ve developed an addiction with the self-tracking movement and have begun brainstorming various metrics that I’d like to start monitoring at a more granular level. These brainstorm sessions have generated an exceptionally long list, so I’m limiting myself for now until I’m able to optimize my methods.

Since analysis is only as effective as the tools that are used to perform it, I’ve spent some time researching some good ones for the job(s) at hand. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  • DailyBurn provides a great set of tools for planning and tracking your workouts, meals, and overall health. I’ve added all of my favorite exercises to reflect my typical workout routines so that I can easily log my progress after I leave the gym each day. I’ve also been logging every serving of food that I eat to help me conquer the dreadful eating habits that I picked up during college. As an added bonus, DailyBurn sends me periodic emails to let me know which nutrients are lacking in my diet along with a long list of foods I can eat to supplement those nutrients. I highly recommend this one for anyone that wants to get into shape.
  • Sleep Cycle is an innovative alarm clock that uses the iPhone’s accelerometer to determine what phase of sleep you’re in throughout the night and wake you up when you’re going to be least groggy. I’ve been able to crudely estimate the number of hours I’m in bed each night (not many), but this tool allows me to measure the quality of sleep that I’m getting so that I fully understand the reasoning behind my morning coffee rush. This one’s probably going to be difficult unless you’re sleeping solo or in a King-sized bed, so it may not be for everyone.
  • Wakoopa provides insights into how you spend your time on your computer. It runs silently in the background of Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows and tracks the amount of time you actively use the various applications on your machine. At the end of each day, the website generates a usage report that allows you to visualize which categories you spend the most time on throughout the day. While I’ve become quite aware of my habits since I started using Wakoopa in 2007, it’s always helpful to know that I could spend a little less time using Adium. :)
  • Using pen and paper allows me to make quick notes about my workflow (and lack thereof) when I’m at the office. Each time I get distracted by wonderful web goodies, I note the times that I lost and regained focus. Each time someone wanders into my cubicle to ask me a question, I note their times of arrival and departure. Hour long meetings? Noted. At the end of each day, I enter all of these times into Google Calendar so I can visualize my work day and better estimate my level of productivity. Today, I was only shooting 51.08% and really fell off the wagon after lunch. I’m hoping that continued analysis can help me determine my prime productivity hours throughout the day and also allow me to accurately measure and increase my capacity for SCRUM planning.

These tools work great on their own, but I’m currently working on a more centralized solution that will leverage the APIs of each service to display the information that I’m most interested in. Additionally, I plan to build a few simple tools to assist me in recording and displaying various metrics that are more difficult to automate.

Next up on my self-tracking list:

  • How strong is the correlation between my mood, diet, exercise, and sleep quality?
  • How do my blood pressure and heart rate change as my diet changes?
  • How does listening to music affect my overall productivity at work?

Originally published at on July 7, 2011.

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