Andrew White

The quantified self, but not really

I’m not a big quantified self type. Some of the things I’ve seen people track have exhausted me just reading about it. But I do track a few things using really simple systems, and I’ve had some genuinely life-changing insights from it. The big ones have been:

  • I am significantly happier on days where I have a balance of getting things done and quality down-time
  • I am similarly happier on days where I have a good balance of family time and personal time. Time with friends moves the needle as well, but not as much
  • Drinking alcohol
    • makes me irritable the next day after drinking it once I’m over a couple of drinks
    • really dramatically increases my anxiety. Even small amounts have some impact
  • I run and walk slower when I listen to podcast and audiobooks than I do when listening to music or nothing
  • When I switch from one type of generic drug to another (the NHS doesn’t always provide the same manufacturer’s drug) I have mild symptoms like the ones I experience starting the drug
  • I used to take walks through a local nature reserve along the river to a nearby pub. I’d sit, have a pint or tea, read a book, and then walk back. Weeks when I included that activity I was much happier and had more energy at the end of the week
  • My blood pressure and resting heart rate are more variable than I expected, and are affected by exercise (and I believe time outdoors), caffeine, alcohol, and preprepared food
  • I can avoid that desperate need to use a washroom that many runners have by getting up about 20 minutes before my run and letting nature take its course in advance
  • On vacation
    • I enjoy myself more when I continue to exercise as I would at home
    • I sleep on average one-and-three-quarters-hours longer than “normal” for a total of around eight hours
    • I lose weight despite eating more restaurant food because
      • I am very active
      • I don’t snack out of boredom, stress, or other negative states of mind

All I use for my tracking are my Withings watch, a Wahoo heart-rate monitor, a Eufy scale, and forms I put together first on Google Docs, and then in Tap Forms, the nearest equivalent to Access for Mac users. I generally start with a hypothesis, and then design a form to track and test. It’s all much simpler than it sounds, and it’s really improved my quality of life.

Edit: Forgot about Moodnotes and Day One.