Brushing up on my statistics I was reminded of the difference between a sample survey and an experiment. When the laboratory, population and subject of your efforts is yourself it is difficult to have a control group. You can’t have a double blind experiment when you are the experimenter and the target of the experiment. Even gathering information can be difficult as self reporting is entirely subjective. Here are three things I have found:
Surprise yourself – Design data collection in a way that a silent alarm triggers you to enter some information. Your conscious mind will forget that you are studying yourself and you will get a truer measure. For example, when I entered information about my mood based on when my mood was bad I would enter it inconsistently. When I set a silent alarm and entered my mood every time it alerted me I got a much nicer survey result.
Use Devices – Devices on their own can be a distraction if they are acquired for their own sake. When quietly observing your activities and collecting on an ongoing basis as part of a study you are conducting they are excellent. The data collected can be surprising and useful. And use your devices to support your studies. Don’t buy them for their own sake.
Keep Study Period Short – A fourteen day study can give you a good sample set. I have let my studies go for a very long time and though I had a mountain of data at the end, the insights could have come in shorter periods. Shorter periods keep you moving through topics quickly and can prevent exhaustion.
Quantified Self studies are in early days. We have a lot to learn, and a lot we need to discover. Keep surprise and time on your side.
This is my heart rate profile while doing The Work of Byron Katie, an interaction where you and a partner ask each other a series of questions for consideration. In this my heart rate seemed to spike when I had a thought and was anticipating injecting a new concept in the conversation. When I simply listened my heart rate seemed to remain lower. This is the basis for a larger QS experiment I am conducting on improving active listening using a heart rate monitor and data across a large number of interactions with other people.
A 33 week study using Quantified Self techniques to understand stress triggers that had surprising results. I presented a slightly longer version at the QS Meetup in London on March 31st.
I don’t like the corporate weight that his being thrown into wearables as it has the potential to steer the positive energy of Quantified Self into a race for buying gadgets. When people feel they are improving their lives because they have five or six gadgets in their inventory then we are simply perpetuate the perceptual error fitness clubs exploit where membership is a proxy for feeling less guilty for being out of shape.
For me Quantified Self is about self awareness. Logging and being aware of the way our bodies and minds work changes our behavior and improves our lives. In my own experience the act of logging itself is the exercise because moving my awareness to the behavior changes the behavior.
It is not the device on your wrist or sewn into your coat seams, it is about your attention. Where it resides in real time, consistently over the course of your life. And that has nothing to do with how many gadgets you bought.
This great article is on the impulse of both acceptors and rejectors of wearable tech. In both cases people seek for personal awareness. In the acceptors view technology can help. In the rejectors view technology impedes. The debate can continue around how technology plays out, but all agree that more personal awareness is good.
I believe technology can help, and it can easily distract. Monitoring your heart rate to determine stress levels is not about the heart rate. It is about determining and lowing the level of stress. As technology becomes more pervasive and the voices selling it louder we are further challenged to keep our eye on what matters…awareness.