Experiments in data/life tracking/visualization

Daytum lets you track key inputs/outputs
Daytum lets you track key inputs/outputs

I’ve been investigating tools and methods for tracking, measuring and displaying key inputs and outputs for daily life.

Why am I doing this? Because I’m sick of important things falling off the table.

Long term effect is a product of the cumulative effect of short terms actions. While it’s hard to keep a long term goal in sight, it’s usually not too difficult to keep your daily habits and actions in line with daily goals. Provided the long term and daily goals and actions are aligned that is. Ahem. Yes, it’s a simple concept we can all grasp at a young age but one that seems to require habitual reminders for throughout life. But maybe that’s just me.

This all leads to using tools to track, measure, report and manage with.

Example – Scenario ‘a’

Inputs

Sleep = 8 hours
Engergy = Good
Eating well = YES
Excercise = YES

Outputs

  • feeling of satisfaction
  • calm, assured
  • money in the bank

Example scenario ‘b’

inputs

  • stay up late
  • get drunk
  • chuck beer bottles on the front lawn while singing ABBA songs in my falsetto voice

Outputs

  • jail house
  • poor house

More

This includes work and home life. For example I want to raise the visibility of certain tasks for my young kids like doing their homework, studying, eating the right food and exercising.

I went looking for web based solutions that would also work well on paper and on my iPhone. This research netted me squat. That drove me back into the waiting arms of spreadsheets and online solutions like Google Docs and using Google Gadgets to add visual indicators to my data (like the nice dial graphic below). Spreadsheets are great for flexibility but lacking somewhat in their setup time and maintenance.

Back to more research. I finally started finding some good links. One tool I’m trying is called daytum and the user interface is by far the best out of those I’ve found. However, I came across a problem when I tried to print out pages for my kids for our refrigerator. They have no css print style sheet! Grrrrr. Printouts looks like Mosaic outputs from 1997! So if printing things out is important to you then by all means try something else.

For now I’ve moved on to evaluating me-trics.com. Like daytum, it has a social aspect, allows for multiple inputs (web/mobile, etc.) and also integrates online tools and activities like twitter, Flickr, and others which is a nice add! I’ll let you know how that goes. Er, and if they have a print style sheet.

update: I failed to report that I’ve been using RescueTime for a while. RescueTime logs your actual time spent on your computer tracking application use, web behavior and so on. Most of my frustration with it so far is that it occasionally eats huge amounts of memory (not all the time) and it’s automated categorization of activities is understandably woeful. Not finding it particularly useful but I’ll keep at it a while longer.

I’ve also spent a bit more time with me-trics and it looks like you can’t add custom questions on your own. Instead you pick survey questions that other people (or me-trics) have added. For many things this is great but I immediately found that to be a non-starter. They do offer to add items to track via e-mail which is a nice customer service but not one that really addresses my needs.