[ Question ]

Approaches for collecting and analyzing data about yourself?

by DivineMango1 min read29th Feb 20204 comments



As step one in actually improving my life, I am embarking on a massive expedition for data, both about myself (e.g. triggers for moods, when I feel the most focused) and about the effects of certain interventions (e.g. meditation, taking short naps). However, I'm not quite sure what the best way is to go about this.

I've been using the iPhone apps iMoodJournal and Track Your Happiness for about a week for hourly check-ins, and they've worked fine, but they don't quite have the flexibility and breadth of functionality I'm looking for.

Ideally, I'd have something that would let me add check-in entries about my mood, focus/productivity, state of physical discomfort, or anything else I'd want to measure on a numbered scale. I'd also like to be able to enter in these check-ins things that I'd done in the previous hour and then see an analysis of how these activities/interventions affect me (e.g. how my state is different when I do X vs not-X not just at that moment, but in the hours after as well).

People who have done something like this: what was your approach? Is this much precision necessary? Does something like I describe exist?

My general question is this: what are some ideas for ways to systematically notice and track your internal state to find correlations between events/actions and your state?

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The only app you will ever need is "Google Sheets".

  • Its UI is easy to use on a phone and syncs instantly, so you can use a computer as well.
  • It is completely customizable. You enter any sort of info you want and analyze it later over time.

I started using it ~3 years ago as a time-sheet to track my work, activities, sleep, mood etc. I tried to do what you did - see how X impacts my mood and look for trends. Here's some of my findings over the past three years in that regard:

  • The most helpful thing has been a daily "end of day" entry for:
    • What went well?
    • Where did I come up short?
    • What one easy step could I take to improve where I came up short?
    • What is something I am grateful for?
    • What is my plan for tomorrow morning? (Food, Work, Routine, etc.?)
  • What improves my overall mood the most?
    • Gratitude journal entries 2x/day (morning & evening)
  • What influences my energy throughout the day?
    • Carb-heavy lunches. Obvious in hindsight.
  • 30-mins of relaxation (e.g. web-surfing) are as fulfilling/energizing as 2-4 hours. Use Pomodoro (or the time-sheet) to shame you into getting back on task.
  • Weekly reflections on your time sheet and what went well/bad are very helpful and make you remember much more of your life that you would otherwise forget without realizing it.
  • "Chaining" tracking how many days in a row you've maintained a new habit can be very helpful to keep the new habit going.
  • Tracking too many things can derail you so keep it small. (e.g. Ben Franklin style "virtue journal" was not much of a value-add for me and takes too much time to be worth it).

This post might be useful for you . See the last paragraph where I linked to my daily trackers. I have some comments in them.

Let me know if you have any questions!