Archive for Data Driven

Data Driven Time Management

I’m intrigued with the idea of the Quantified Self which is all about self knowledge through self tracking. I am a firm believer that inefficiencies exist in all of us that could be improved if only we could record the data and analyze it. The book Moneyball (if you haven’t read it yet you should) has a great quote about this idea:

“If gross miscalculations of a persons value could occur on a baseball field, before a live audience of thirty thousand, and a television audience of millions more, what did that say about the measurement of performance in other lines of work? If professional baseball players could be over, or under valued, who couldn’t? Bad as they may have been, the statistics used to evaluate baseball players were probably far more accurate than anything used to measure the value of people who didn’t play baseball for a living.”

One area that likewise has gross miscalculations is how we all use our time. There is a big disconnect between how we see ourselves and what we do. For several years the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics has conducted a study called the American Time Use Survey which consistently shows how we all overestimate how busy we are. These studies involve thousands of people who report what they do every few minutes over 24 hours. Despite all the widely held beliefs that we are over-worked and never have enough time in the day – In 2010 employed people still only worked on average 7.5 hours a day and the average American gets 8 hours and 23 minutes of sleep a night.
Even those who claim being over-worked are less worked than they think they are – one analysis comparing estimated workweeks with time diaries, conducted by sociologist John Robinson of the University of Maryland, found that the average person claiming to work 70, 80 or more hours per week was logging less than 60. So where does the extra time go? Mostly to TV, about 21 hours a week – the one thing most people underestimate.
There are a plethora of things one could quantify to improve themselves, but I think one of the most effective things is tracking where your time goes. Keeping track isn’t easy, using journals or time-logs, something I’m still working out myself (and planning on writing about on this blog), but its worth it.
On a final note, I think the reason most people underestimate how much time they have is summed up in this quote by George Bernard Shaw,

“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”

Believing we have less time than we really do passes the responsibility for ourselves on to someone else – time. Realizing you have more free time than you think means coming to terms with what you have done with it all.

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Data Driven New Years Resolutions

ResolutionsIt’s that time of year again for new years resolutions. The trick to accomplishing your resolutions is this:

If You Measure it, it will improve.

Having an easy to use system for recording progress on your goals is essential. Here is a post on some iPhone apps for keeping goals. And here is another post on online tools for keeping goals.

Here are some recommendations of tools I have used for measuring my goals:

  • For reading books I use Goodreads. In 2009 I read 18 books. Still shy of my goal of reading 2 a month.
  • For running I use Nike Plus. I ran 205.27 miles in 2009. If you don’t want to buy the Nike Plus and have an iPhone, RunKeeper is a pretty sweet alternative.
  • Mint.com is a popular way for measuring your finances.

This year I want to remember to send birthday cards to all of my family. I’m setting up reminders in NotifyMe 4 days before each birthday for the whole year.
I’m using Evernote to keep track of ideas I get for writing more posts, songs, film ideas, business ideas and fun things to do to achieve my goals of: building my personal brand, being in a touring punk band, making an indi film, starting my own business and making memories with my family. I really like the tagging feature in Evernote that lets me tag any ideas I get for easy filing.

Another goal of mine is to exercise more and lift weights. I haven’t found a good way to track lifting other than keeping track with paper and pencil since I don’t want to  carry my iPhone in the gym. I have a spreadsheet that I record how much weight and how many reps that I carry with me in the gym instead. This way I never forget how much weight I did the last time and I can push myself when I start to see myself plateauing. I will be using a calorie counting app called DailyBurn on the iPhone to track how many calories I’m getting. We’ll see how it goes.

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