I spend a lot of time and a fair amount of money tracking my day-to-day activity. Over time, I've consistently invested in software and hardware geared at tracking and quantifying my behavior with the aim to improve my time management, lose weight or to improve my sleep. Since this is a topic that comes up often in real life conversations, I've decided to write a post documenting my habits and what works, what doesn't and what I hope to see in the future.
The Apple Watch is at the center of my quantified-self strategy. I've been wearing an Apple Watch for a little over two years (I wear an Apple Watch Series 4 since Christmas, but for two years before that, I wore an Apple Watch Series 2). For my workouts (Cycling, weight lifting, and basketball), I wear a heart rate monitor on my right arm that connects to my Apple Watch via Bluetooth. I find the Apple Watch is excellent for sampling data throughout the data but not so good for active workouts. The integration of the Apple Watch with Healthkit enables data to be collected from my heart rate, steps, exercises, standing, among other data (including ECG!). The Apple Watch also functions as a miniature computer of sorts, but in my experience, it's much less attractive in that use case and much better at being a tracker.
I've been using Gyroscope for two years, and It's immensely important to my workflow and data collection. Gyroscope syncs with HealthKit and other data like that found in RescueTime, Location data, and some mood tracking and meditation apps. Gyroscope uses all this data to create dashboards and metrics to track how you spend your time, how your workouts are going, among other trends. Gyroscope also does an excellent job of presenting and contextualizing the data. For example, you can see how the calories you burned during a workout translates to donuts or slices of Pizza. Another great thing about Gyroscope is it focuses on privacy and data security. They make their money on a yearly subscription rather than selling your data.
With iOS 12 came the addition of Screen Time, the tracking system for iOS. It tracks how often you pick up your phone, how often you open certain apps, how many notifications you get per app and the overall number of hours you spend on your phone. Some of my friends have refused to look at this data because they are afraid they will be embarrassed by what they find. I set arbitrary limits to use Twitter less or try to keep to an overall screen time limit. The number that concerns me the most of all the data in Screen Time is pickups. I want to be more intentional about when I use my phone and not just use it because I'm walking, so tracking this metric has been vital to me. I think Screen Time is an excellent addition to iOS and you should at least check out the data it has to offer.
I use Fantastical for my calendar and Todoist for task management. I have quite a few calendars (personal, work, family, side work, sneaker releases) and Fantastical does a great job of integrating with the calendars I use and the broader ecosystem of tooling. Todoist is my task manager, and I've written about it before. They key to my Todoist usage is to write every single task I can think of and then spending a little time each day organizing and scheduling the tasks. This task grooming is such a natural part of my flow that I do it automatically now.
've been experimenting with Streaks, a habit tracking app. I've had some trouble teasing out what I should put in Streaks versus Todoist, but I've settled on things I want to become second nature for me. Stuff like writing in my journal every day, committing to my open source repositories, going on a walk, washing the dishes, etc. The interface is easy to use, and it's clear there has been a lot of attention given to the design. Streaks is one of my favorite apps and one I constantly plug.
I've been using Automatic and Automatic Pro for several years. It aggregates data on your driving and provides unhelpful tips on how you can drive better. The thing I like about Automatic is how rich the data is. I've used it to analyze my driving and spot patterns in my behavior. One of the things I find the most valuable about Automatic is understanding how much time I spend in my car. On a down week, I spend about 6 hours in my car! I only have a 6-minute commute, and this fact is astonishing to me. While I listen to podcasts, audiobooks and catch up on music recommends during this time, I would love to lower it and spend more time walking or exercising. While Automatic can't do much to help me reduce my time in the car giving me a sense of how bad the problem is.
Of all the tracking, Food Journaling is the hardest to track. I believe this is not because of lack of data (MyFitnessPal has an excellent database) but because of bad design that makes it too cumbersome to input data. I'd love to get back into this to understand the composition of food I'm eating and correlate it with when I have stomach aches or have trouble focusing for example. Maybe AR glasses will make something like this more accessible? Only time will tell, but this is an area of great interest for me.
Spaced Repetition Exercises
I'm trying to settle on one of the two, but I've been using Tinycards and Quizlet for Spaced Repetition based learning. I'll pull out my phone when I'm waiting for code to compile, if I'm walking to the bathroom or if I have a hard time sleeping. Instead of playing a game (which I try to be more deliberate about), I'll work on a deck of cards. I've used it to refresh my memory on time and space complexity, to learn some geography, to review information for a test, or learn some arbitrary fact.
I've tried to do mood tracking on and off in Gyroscope, but there is something unsatisfactory about swiping cards back and forth about my mood. I probably need to get over it because I'd love to correlate my mood with other data about sleep, what I ate and data from work.
How I Spend My Days
For planned meetings, I have a good grasp on those in my calendar, however for ad hoc meeting time, mentoring time and even my contributor work. I need some system to capture this data so that I can better account for my time and make a case for promotions at work or to have some leading indicators as to when my performance is lagging.
I know many will read this post and wonder if I'm insane to share all of these data with 3rd party apps. I think about this question a lot and try to be selective and thoughtful about the apps I'll give access to this data. I think a lot can be done in this space to make this easier and make it clear that users own data and make sharing it relies less on the cloud and gives users ways to revoke all access.