Life is undoubtedly getting better in many ways thanks to technology and economic development. However, what we associate with “progress” often makes us more distracted and dependent. The trend is to select the default option, go with the flow and seek more convenience, e.g. the elevator apartment, getting food delivery, the new home entertainment system – all of which takes away from our ability to move, cook, learn, communicate or entertain ourselves (or be entertaining). It is a slow, invisible process of self-disablement that not only degrades essential life skills, but also reduces opportunities of self-expression and social interaction. When convenience is the goal, distraction is the result. We all feel it: there is this nagging emptiness that we can’t quite define. Personal Analytics helped me discover and get to the bottom of this after I recorded my personal habits, mood and objectives on a daily basis over an extended period of time (see also: Quantified Self). Quantifying my well-being helped me see invisible patterns in my life, most importantly I saw what worked for me and what didn’t – and I could prove it with numbers. I found that the key to doing better is to do less, re-introduce discipline, spend time with loved ones, seek an active lifestyle and remove distractions. That’s my personal formula – yours may be different. I truly believe that if we all had the tools to find out what really works for us (and what doesn’t) we’d have more empowered lives.
This is guest post from Stefan Heeke, founder of the unchained lifestyle movement. Stefan is a data analyst that applies his analytical skills to self improvement. I am always happy to meet Stefan at one of the Quantified Self events all over the world and highly recommend visiting his blog unchainyourlifestyle.
Posted by Florian Schumacher on 17. September 2011
Let’s be honest – who has ever truly felt comfortable with having to pose and paste on a smile for a picture? I know I never really used to be. Somehow I couldn’t let go and just smile. The iPhone app Everyday was a great tool to help me really improve this. Just as the name might suggest, Everyday offers to document a portrait of you every day, and then automatically combines each picture to create a short movie which shows you how your looks change over time. Is there any better way to celebrate your own personal development than by watching how you improve yourself from day to day?
The app was actually inspired by Noah Kalina, who took a picture of himself every single day for 6 years. He has a video posted on youtube which combines all the pictures into a 6 minute movie. It is actually quite moving to watch, you can see how time flies by and how each day, he changes just a little bit from the day before.
Create a video documentation for yourself with Everyday
What I really enjoy about the Everyday app is that it allows you to set a fixed time at which it will remind you to take your picture each day. On top of this, it will automatically calibrate and combine all the pictures you have taken to a video documentation of yourself. The app does not necessarily require you to look happy for your daily portraits, but it sure is a great way to learn how to overcome camera shyness and become more aware of your facial expressions.
Get control of your facial expressions by watching yourself Every Day
Just like hearing your voice recorded sounds kind of silly at first and takes a little getting used to, really watching your facial expressions each day can get you accustomed to understanding how others might see you. When interacting, our body language – which to a large extent consists of our facial expressions – confers more of our message than the words we choose to say it. Monitoring your facial expressions thus becomes a huge way to impact the way you communicate and interact with others; learning to control it means that you can really get your message across when you need to. By seeing yourself through a camera lens you can learn to better appreciate your expressions and the impact you can make on others.
In case you do decide to smile on your Everyday documentation, remember that a real smile isn’t just about showing your teeth. A happy smile comes from the heart, and people can tell you’re being genuine when your eyes crinkle up.
First things first: When it comes to getting yourself organized, tools like Things, Omnifocus or Wunderlist are quite helpful task managers. Most people enjoy the satisfaction of crossing tasks off their lists. But when you’re managing regular events such as routine exercising, you’ll have different tracking needs than what basic task managing tools have to offer. For activities where you can track your progress based on location or movement– say, when comparing times over distances when running or cycling – services like Runkeeper, Nike+ or biosensors like Fitbit are handy tools to keep a good overview of your progress and are a great way to keep yourself motivated. But what about golf, gymnastics, mental training or any other goals where your progress can no longer be represented by how far you go, but by how well you’ve been achieving the goals you wanted to reach? Here’s where some special tools step into the game.
Several tracking services allow you to transfer personal data into metric scales, thus making it possible to track your efforts while visualizing your improvement over time. This not only gives you the same satisfaction of crossing an item off your list, it also offers an overview chart of the progress you’ve made so far. From my experience, tracking tools available to date all cover different aspects. Tools like Daytum allow tracking individual
items on a numeric basis, and can be used to monitor everything from the number of workouts you did to the amount of movies you have seen. Items can be grouped into categories and then be displayed with different type of graphs, as seen in the example on the left. This approach leaves you a lot of freedom to track whatever you’d like, but also challenges you to build up a tracking system that fits your needs. For all of you who want to try this service, I encourage you to keep in mind that with the free version, your charts are visible to the public on Daytum’s website. Apart from that, Daytum offers good usability, connecting a powerful web interface with the easy interaction possibilities of its smartphone app. On the other hand, there are tracking tools, which allow you to monitor things on a more qualitative level. Apps like Track & Share provide a set of icons that can be used to track your mood, your satisfaction with certain areas in your life or anything else that could be described with indicators from bad to good or from sad to happy.
Even if self-tracking may seem kind of rigid for some people, the underlying idea is to help reach personal goals. As a rule of thumb, creating new habits takes about 40 days of consistent practice before becoming routine. So, to get myself used to a daily gym workout, I found it useful to track my workout by having each exercise routine organized in a checklist. In this example tracking was a means to keep in mind what I intended to do. Looking at it from a technological point of view, there is a much bigger potential in self tracking. Analyzing your data may not only give you fancy charts, but also help you to learn more about yourself. This can be particularly helpful, say, if you would like to figure out in retrospect which routines and schedules were the best to help you achieve your own personal goals. Here’s an quick example: If your personal goal is to lose weight, but you haven’t quite figured out which dietary approach is best for you yet, tracking your weight and nourishment daily and comparing the results over time can give you the overview you need to know how best to adjust your dietary plan. Sure, this means you’ll have to try out several different dietary plans over the course of a few days each in order to get appropriate results, but in doing so, you can quantify your progress and produce “scientific” results from you own self-experiments! All in all, self tracking then becomes a huge boost both for your motivation as well as a great tool to find the smart decisions for you to make.
From what I’ve experienced so far, a completely perfect tool to these ends has yet to be designed. That’s why my team and I, along with many others from the Quantified Self movement are continuously working on expanding and improving future software for a more holistic self-management approach. Stay tuned for more information on new products and thoughts on how you can use software to improve your personal development!
After reading a whole lot of literature on coaching and personal development, I started forming a clearer picture of who I wanted to be and what my core values are. In order to fortify certain characteristics about myself, I began playing a little game I had learned from Sir Winston Churchill. In his younger days, the famous politician had his desired traits for his own personality written on a set of flashcards . In order to develop his character, he then drew a card every day and practiced behaving accordingly to the specific characteristic.
Using a mobile app makes behavioral training fun for tech enthusiasts
Nowadays, thanks to modern technological advances, we no longer need to carry a batch of flashcards around with us. There are several flashcard applications available directly for your smartphone, which can make this training even more delightful.
Priming is a powerful tool to get focused on whats really important in life
For quite a while now, every morning I use the iPhone app “flashcard deluxe” which randomly picks my personal behavioral goal for the day. Doing this right after waking up takes advantage of the powerful phenomenon known as “priming”: A clear mind in the morning leaves your thoughts open for information which can easily be remembered and recalled throughout the rest of the day. So, whenever you have a quiet moment for your thoughts, remembering your behavioral goal for the day can help provide guidance on how to react to certain situations. I found it helpful to make my personal development game more precise by reflecting how certain characteristics might best be expressed in specific actions, then summarizing these actions on the back of my flashcards. For example, one can practice confident behavior by focusing on an upright posture and by speaking in a loud and clear voice. Or, being more relaxed might best be expressed by making sure to smile often, breathe deeply and generally taking things slowly.
Practicing behavioral pattern leads to personal development
Practicing behavior patterns forms and strengthens personal traits and widens your scope of reaction mechanisms. This will give you the freedom to choose how best to deal with different situation in your life. Mixing this training experience with randomly picked goals from your mobile device adds more fun into the equation, and you can easily get back to your training instructions whenever you need them. In my opinion, the experience of interacting with a mobile device in order to train personal goals is a simple showcase of a whole new palette of personal development tools and products which we will soon see popping up in the future.