Jan 05, 2017

Start logging your life and become a quantified self this year

Becoming a quantified self will help you understand whether are you’re living the life you think you are or want to live.


You must have made some new year resolutions: maybe to spend less time on your devices, eat healthier, lose weight or more. If you’re not good at keeping them, what you could do differently this year to live up to your resolutions is to start measuring everything about yourself.
Because what you can’t measure, you can’t change.
I’m talking from experience. As a tech observant, until about two-and-a-half years ago, I failed to keep a check on how much time I spend online, browsing, signing up on multiple websites and testing apps. My geekery was so consuming that it started affecting my food and sleep timings, which in turn took a toll on my health. After suffering this for a few weeks, I decided to change things. That’s when I realised how important it is to measure the time you spend on different activities to keep your lifestyle on track.

Becoming a quantified self will help you understand whether are you’re living the life you think you are or want to  

That’s when I turned to lifelogging — the first step to becoming a quantified self.
Now, two-and-a-half years later, I’ve become adept at keeping track of how I spend my time, the food I eat, the places I visit or the people I meet. I’ve successfully become a quantified-self.
In the short term, this will help you figure out simple things like whether you’re like spending extensive but unproductive time on social media, or more serious things like are you fit enough for an upcoming 10K marathon etc. In the long run, becoming quantified will help you understand whether are you’re living the life you think you are (or want to). It will help you optimise your time and improve your quality of life across dimensions.
You too can become a quantified self and turn over a new leaf this year. Here’s how.

What is a ‘quantified self’?

A person who is aware of his or her activities and measures everything (well, almost) that has an impact on his or her day-to-day life is called a quantified self.

Where do I start?

So, how do you start lifelogging and become a quantified-self?
A combination of software (apps) and hardware (devices) brings lifelogging to the palm of your hand. It’s fairly simple — all you need to do is ‘ask’ your phone about the steps you took yesterday or Google about the place you had gone to on a particular day of the last month.
But, with an entire universe of apps on Playstore and a zillion services on the internet, which ones do you choose to fulfil your particular purposes.
Here are my recommendations of the best apps and services to help you track your life. They work independently without any wearables, but connecting them with wearables and smart devices like a Fitbit, a Mi Band, Samsung gear, heart and BMI monitors etc will give you an holistic picture of your health and lifestyle which the sensors in your phone can’t provide.

Rescue Time

Ask yourself this question: how many hours do you spend on your laptop in a week? Easier still, ask Rescue Time.
I checked my Rescue Time app and it told me I spent 44 hours and 30 minutes on my laptop last week. This is the breakup:

My Rescue Time dashboard

Rescue Time helps you track the apps you use, the websites you visit and the time you spend on each app/website. It categorises how you have spent your time based on the data it captures enabling you to review your day. It has helped me to understand how productive I am on weekdays and how I spend my weekends.


Instant is like Rescue Time, but for your phone. It doesn’t have the advanced tracking features of Rescue Time, but it will help you effectively keep track of how you spend time on your phone.

Instant’s mobile dashboard provides you an overview of your phone usage


Gyroscope automatically captures data from multiple sources (wearables and software: see below) to help you keep track of your health and everything else that matters to you. It is your one-stop app to integrate data from the sensors in your phone and apps like RescueTime,
Moves, Fitbit and others.

Wearables and software that can be integrated with Gyroscope

Gyroscope works like a dashboard of your life. Apart from tracking the basic stuff like steps and weight, it helps you keep track of your heart rate, weight, body fat, calories, computer usage etc, as shown in the image below.
Multiple dashboards and reports provided by Gyroscope

Bonus tip:

A quantified self generally focusses on health and well-being. However money matters are also important for holistic lifelogging. Apps like Wally, Walnut and Money View help you keep track of the money you spend — on utility, credit card bills, fuel, shopping etc. These apps also provide you insights by categorising how you spend. If you are on Android, it is easier to keep a check on your spending because these apps read your SMS inbox (of course, only if you permit them to) and understand the nature and category of the expense. You also have the option of adding your petty expenses manually.

A screenshot of how Walnut provides a summary of your transactions

Hope these apps and services help you kickstart your journey towards lifelogging and becoming a quantified self this year and beyond.

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adithya is a writer of FactorDaily.