Wednesday, December 19, 2012

First Quantified Self Meeting

Last night I had the opportunity to attend my first Quantified Self meeting in 1871. The group has existed in Chicago for over a year, but has recently started up again by two new members and will hopefully have more regular meetings every two months in the coming year. I learned about the Quantified Self movement late last year and I've now been tracking a few different aspects of my sleep, mood and health through gadgets like the FitBit and Zeo. I also recently ordered the Basis and I'm hoping it will be shipped out early next year since it's supposed to be one of the best self-tracking devices on the market today. 

Overall, it was great to meet a few other quantified self enthusiasts here in Chicago who have been tracking their daily tasks, exercises and happiness throughout the past couple months. There were five speakers at the meeting who talked about everything from logging their activities (and analyzing it similar to to see how they spent their day) to tracking emotions and time through the Pomodoro technique.

One of the speakers was very interested in tracking his happiness and since I’ve read a lot of books about positive psychology in the past year, I referred the group to a website that I’ve used to help track happiness as well called Over the course of the past year, the speaker had been sending himself a text message at 2pm everyday (using ) to rate himself on a scale of 1-10 about how happy he was. He quickly realized that there was a bias to this self-experiment not only because it was at the same time each day, but also because after a while he started to get bored with the experiment and would just flat-line at a level 5. 

I’ve found that actually helps solve both of these issues because it sends you random emails throughout the day asking you to rate your happiness on a sliding scale on your phone and it follows up with other questions to find out where you are, how well you slept the previous night and if you’re interacting with other people. After collecting 50 samples over the course of two weeks, it will produce a Happiness Report to analyze your responses. This way you’ll be able to collect samples both during the day as well as during the night time and you don’t actually get bored with the experiment because it doesn't last longer than a month. Six months later, the experiment will begin again and collect another 50 samples from you so that you can track your happiness over a longer period of time as well. I've already gone through two iterations of the experiment and after the second time, I received a Happiness Report with a few charts displaying how happy I was throughout the week and the correlation of my happiness with how focused I was, how well I slept and who I was interacting with.

Overall, I found that I tend to be in the 80-90% happiness range very consistently and I'm generally happier when I’m more focused on a task which makes sense given all the research around how people are happiest when they are in a state of “flow.” The week this experiment took place, I was traveling a lot for work so I happened to be in a hotel/plane very frequently but did not mind it at all since I often enjoy traveling for work since it occurs less often.

The other great takeaway from the meeting for me was how to use the Pomodoro Technique. I had briefly heard of this before, but I had never really tried it before, so I was convinced to read through the free e-book online and give it a try. The Pomodoro technique is a way to keep track of time and enhance productivity during the day by focusing on one task only for 25 minutes (called a “pomodoro”) and then taking a 3-5 minute break when you’re done. I’m on my second pomodoro of the day but, unfortunately, I’ve already been disrupted during this one by two unexpected phone calls. I’m sure with more practice the Pomodoro can become a time management technique that I’m able to incorporate at least partially into my schedule at work.

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