Tracking is the best way to understand ourselves. We are often wrong about our true parameters and stats around our life. This is because it is not easy to keep track of so many numbers in our head without the help of trackers. To be honest, viewing this data in the plain form is quite boring and can’t really keep us glued to improving ourselves. So, what can we do? We make the data representation and usage interesting. I have been self-tracking using Instant which I will be using for reference.
We can aggregate the data that we collect as reports and store it. This can help us compare and put data in context. For example, I compare my sleep data on a weekly basis. This is a very effective method because if you ever want to refer to your data in an organized manner, it will always be available. It is also quite easy to use and navigate through a spreadsheet. This is the easiest available method if we want to correlate the data with other parameters we are tracking. I export my Instant data as a ‘csv’ file which is standard with most of the Quantified Self platforms. This helps us to use the data easily.
The Data has to look interesting too. There are a lot of methods for Data visualisation but, the most commonly used are graphs and heat maps. I discovered some beautiful data visualisations on the subreddit: DataIsBeautiful. Organising data in this manner makes it not only easier to understand, but it also gives us a clearer picture of how we have been doing over a large series of observations. There are a large variety of graphs available for this like bar graphs, line graphs, spider graphs, etc. You can even create your own graphs through spreadsheets in Excel. I generally use bar and line graphs within Instant’s weekly reports. Graphs help us stick to our target better too, because it shows the temporary ups and downs clearly.
Sharing data is also very important because it helps boost morale. Letting others know of our progress is one of the best ways to push ourselves to try harder. Also, if there are other people out there doing a similar experiment, we get new insight. We come to know of any mistakes we are making while self-tracking and it allows us to help others. Another very important aspect of sharing is that it helps us perform better due to competition. Viewing others performance always gives us a push to do better. It gets even better when we have the people close to us competing with us. I like sharing my daily and weekly reports with Instant on Instagram & Facebook. It is also interesting to see how I spent my time in comparison to my friends and family.
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