Things I’m learning from tracking

Library: I’ve been tracking the list prices of the library books I read, and it’s mind-boggling to think that I can go through 1,075 CAD and 10,671 pages’ worth of books from the library just in November. The library is so worth my tax dollars and donations, considering all the other months in the year.

Food: By golly, does the CSA program ever give us a whole lot of vegetables – 39.7 kilos over the 6 weeks I’ve been tracking, or roughly 6.6 kilos per week. The cost per week is $25, giving us a cost of $3.78 per kilogram or $1.72 per pound for organic produce. Granted, quite a lot of that has been in the form of squash (6.2kg so far). I should check out the prices at our neighbourhood organic food store so that I can see what the difference is.

Stuff: I started tracking stuff – actual, physical stuff – as my focus in November. My goal was to have a place for everything and everything in its place, which turned out to be easier when I accepted that the “place” for things might be different based on the context (going to work, home from work, going to bed, and so on).

I got some value out of tracking, but there was a little friction preventing me from making the most of it. Tracking through my web app was fast when I’m returning things, but it took a few more clicks when I’m taking things out of their regular places unless a context is involved. Maybe if I build a native Android app, things will be faster.

My stuff use has settled a bit. I generally don’t need to add new locations for things, and even if I stopped updating, my logs would still tell me where things are likely to be. If I don’t need up-to-the-minute tracking and I don’t need accurate statistics, then my web interface will do.

I did change a few things. I changed the home location of my work laptop to work, which is great because I don’t have to carry it back and forth all the time. I changed the home location of my belt bag from the dresser to the front shelf. I like using the web app to track the location of the Kindle, as that sometimes moves between my backpack to my bedside table, but not so often that it’s habitual.

Clothes: I’m more adventurous when it comes to pairing colours thanks to tracking and paying attention to these things. I’ll wear a yellow shirt with a violet scarf, for example. It might not be an exact match of colours, but it tickles my fancy.

I’ve worn almost everything in my closet, with the exception of two pants that I need to hem and a black velvet top that I haven’t had the occasion to wear.

Time: Time use has swung a bit. An upcoming launch has skewed my time towards work, but I think we’re at the point now where I can ease back into a 40-hour week for more sustainable progress and lower risk of bugs or burnout.

I recently switched to a different way of tracking time, on the suggestion of Andrew Louis. Instead of using Time Recording (which gave me instant reports, although it was useful only for time), I started using Tap Log. This lets me take timestamped structured notes, which also means I can capture more information such as conversations or feelings. On the downside, I have to write my own analysis program to figure out the time spans and totals. Another alternative would be to use Time Recording for time tracking and Tap Log for everything else, but the duplication of effort was getting in my way, so I’ll probably build a tool for summarizing time use from these timestamps in time for my weekly review.

Next steps: adding memories to the system, working with the new timestamp-based system for tracking my time…

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  • http://charuzu.wordpress.com Charles

    Thanks for the recommendation on Tap Log. I installed the demo version on my HTC Salsa. I love the elegant simplicity of the interface! The screen allows 10 buttons with an additional 2 layers of butttons so that means 10 x 10 x 10 buttons!

    I can track my walking with a Start Walk and End Walk button,.
    I can track my piano practice with a Piano Start and Piano End (with text annotation)
    I can track my fluid intake with buttons for Water, Coffee, Tea, Wine, Beer!
    I can track my sleep with Sleep Time and Wake up time buttons.

    Maybe you could write an entire blog post on Tap Log?

    Thanks again for the recommendation!

    Charles

  • http://sachachua.com Sacha Chua

    Charles: Instead of having separate end walk / piano end / wake up buttons, try having one button like “Stop tracking” or “Untracked”, and other buttons like “Walk”, “Piano”, or “Sleep”. That way, you can add lots of other activities easily, and you don’t have to worry about forgetting to check out of piano when you go to sleep.

  • http://charuzu.wordpress.com Charles

    Sacha,

    Thanks for the suggestion – I was wondering how you tracked the end of an event. In my “Piano End” button I prompted for text to note what pieces I played and a ranking of how much I enjoyed the practice.

    I will implement your suggestion on other aspects of my tracking.

    Thanks to your blog post I have got interested in personal informatics to track data about my life, analyse, reflect and make improvements to my life.

    Charles

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