Nivedit Majumdar Nivedit Majumdar

2016 New Year’s Resolutions, through your Quantified Self

It’s that time of the year again. The first week of every year goes into building up huge plans for self improvement as a part of the new year’s resolutions, and invariably most of them are forgotten by the end of January. Overcrowded gyms during the first two weeks of the year are emptied out as the calendar pages turn towards February, and once again its time for the “Maybe I’ll do it next year” routine. New Year’s resolutions are hard to keep, we get it. The first phase is all about being psyched out for bringing about a change, but carrying this phase forward is difficult, unless you’re really motivated to do so. And let’s admit it, not many of us are that motivated to stick to a resolution, at least this author isn’t!

So, this year we’ll take some inspiration from the Quantified Self movement. This article isn’t meant to be an instruction manual on how to uphold your resolutions, but merely a guide to help out those who genuinely want to bring about a positive change through their New Year’s resolution.

QS 101: MAINTAINING RECORDS!

Alright, so before we begin, let’s go over the very first fundamental of the Quantified Self movement: Thou shalt keep track. For every resolution of self improvement to work out, you need a suitable action plan and a method of getting there. And a parallel activity to be followed is to of course maintain records of it.

Instead of relying on a more-or-less fragile intuition regarding the goal and how to achieve it, let data take the wheel. Make the resolution achievable through data driven decisions. Maintain logs, and see the improvement on a daily basis.

And before you know it, the data maintained will play a crucial role in improving thyself!

HOW TO GET THERE?

It’s not easy coming up with an action plan. New Year’s resolutions are forgotten within the first month primarily because the action plan followed is tedious, and the body gets tired of the fast paced routine and sudden change in dynamics.

So, here’s a step-by-step guideline on how to make sure that the goal that’s part of the New Year’s resolution is achieved in the most effective and efficient manner as possible.

ANNOUNCE YOUR RESOLUTION

Sometimes, resolutions fail because most of the time it’s just you piloting your life. There isn’t an external pressure being built up on you. Perhaps you need a guide, but in your aim to being resolute you deny a guide and decide to move ahead with the resolution, only to let it invariable die out.

So, let’s try something different. Let’s tell a few people about the resolution. Close friends, family, your gym trainer or even your entire workplace – let people know that you’re aiming to bring about a change. Some people will scoff, some people will ignore, but there is the possibility that some people will egg you on and enable you to push yourself harder to achieve that goal.

START EASY, IMPROVE STEP BY STEP

The key fundamental is to bring about the change over the course of some time, not within the first week itself. As far as fitness related resolutions are concerned, most people begin working for it within the first week, and put as much strain as they should be putting in during the final week of the program. Doesn’t make sense.

So, set a baseline for yourself. Raise that baseline at the end of every successful session. If you’ve run half a mile one day, run a mile the next week. Grow in a steady, yet continuous manner, and you’ll never be bored out of achieving your resolution.

KEEP TRACK

This is QS 101 all over again. While you’re bringing about the improvement, keep track of all the parameters being measured and mull over the data. See on which days the data output was good, and try and correlate which factors might have contributed to the data being so good.

For example, a good night’s sleep would enable the body to wake up feeling energised and ready for the workout. For the good night’s sleep, look at the sleep tracker data and try and find out on which nights you sleep the best. Perhaps you sleep best when you go to sleep at 11 after drinking a cup of warm milk? Make sure that trait is incorporated into the daily routine in order to let the body exercise better.

At the same time, watch out for patterns and anomalies. If some days your output isn’t up to the mark, try and piece together what might have gone wrong. If you’ve found an anomalous constant in the equation, try and rule it out altogether from your life.

The more the data collected, and the more the correlation done, better are the chances of bringing about self improvement.

BE SPECIFIC

New Year’s resolutions are somewhat related to the goals that are set by the Quantified Self movement. Broader perspectives such as ‘get healthy’, ‘get thin’, ‘build muscles’ and ‘sleep more’ should be done away with.

Instead, set specific, realisable goals for every week. ‘Get healthy’ can be converted into ‘Eat vegetables and cut down on meat for this week’. ‘Get thin’ can be converted into ‘Run an extra mile this week’. You get the picture.

There should be no room for vague interpretations of the goal. Data driven decisions do not rely on unclear, broad perspectives; they rely on clearly defined, specific numbers.

APPLICATIONS TO USE

Some applications which I’ve found especially useful when it comes to keeping track are the following:

LIFT

Set your goals, and let the world know. People in the application’s database can prop you on to provide encouragement. There’s also a coaching system which enables the user to get one-to-one advice from an expert.

SWORKIT

Choose from a wide range of workout sessions, and let the application keep track. There’s a graphical interface too, which shows how much you’ve worked out.

TODOIST

It’s a handy app to make notes of your goals, and there’s also a graph included to keep track of how well you’ve stuck to your routine.

INSTANT

Smartphone addiction actually renders you unable to perform any task, and for this there’s Instant. Keeping track of smartphone usage, time spent at places & fitness has never been easier, and you can see graphs of usage too.

TO CONCLUDE

The onus of achieving a New Year’s Resolution is to set realisable goals, work in a consistent manner to achieve the goals and make sure that the routines are followed to the T’s. To make sure that the goals achieved are done so in as much of a quantifiable manner as possible, make sure that data driven decisions and science become embedded within the whole process of achieving a goal.

It’s a long distance marathon, not a short sprint. The slope of the graph to self betterment might be less steep, but the chances of achieving the peak are greatly increased if you let Quantified Self be in charge!

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