How Living By the Numbers Has Paved the Way for Self-Improvement

Photo courtesy of Koen Vereeken

How far would you go to monitor different aspects of your life? We all have certain faults we’d like to improve upon, but a relatively new group of people (an eclectic mix of hackers, patients, geeks and fitness freaks) is taking self-tracking to the extreme, as they use technology to monitor practically every aspect of their daily lives in geeky detail.

The Quantified Self is a community of “lifeloggers” – people who use their computers, mobile phones, and various other biometric sensors to keep track of the numbers that break down their daily lives. Things like heart rate, blood pressure, food and drink intake, exercise and sleep patterns are all monitored throughout a typical day of one of these devotees. The stats are then often shared with a community of likeminded people through social networking sites. As I mentioned in my earlier article about measuring mood, I think it’s a neat idea, and I’m very tempted to give it a try, if only to see how healthy I really am.

Thanks to improvements in data storage, processing power, and the advent of smartphones, we can now do so much more to track our daily stats while we go about our lives. Smartphones are provided with all kinds of built-in sensors, from cameras and GPS to accelerometers and gyroscopes, and taking quantitative measurements has never been easier. Perhaps more importantly, this practice has only become affordable in recent years. It is now possible to calculate the number of steps you take or your sleep cycles for very little cost, and app developers for devices like the iPhone are having a field day.

We’re only really scratching the surface of the possibilities with self-tracking technology, but the question then becomes “why should we keep track?” On top of advancing research for public health, I believe that following the Quantified Self way of life is an effective way to learn more about who you really are. By looking more closely at the numbers that work together to make us us, we can start to understand ourselves a lot better, and then make lasting self-improvements.

To find out more about lifelogging and the Quantified Self, check out this presentation by Gary Wolf.

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    • measured me

      And this is just the beginning. While the first wave of QS movement is focusing on health and fitness, the next targets are productivity, personal branding, habits modification, career, financial proficiency, etc.

      Can you express your everyday life in numbers? Can you improve your life by turning it into a game? Follow my personal self-quantification and self-gamification experiment to find out: