For many of us, the intrusion of “Big Data” into our lives is truly frightening. It means someone (some company) is out there tracking information about us and using it for their own purposes. They know our likes and dislikes, our temptations and our strengths, and our decision-making behaviors. While debates about the pros and cons of Big Data rage on, the truth is, it’s not going away anytime soon. I think a more interesting question is: If companies are willing to spend millions of dollars to understand our behavior, why aren’t we using this personal data to understand ourselves better?
- Addapp can pull data from multiple apps on your phone to make suggestions for diet and exercise based on past behavior. The app might recognize that your sleep quality has declined along with activity level. However, if you were able to take just 2,000 more steps each day, you could significantly increase your chances of getting better sleep in the coming week.
- RealizD tracks how you spend your time on your phone. By capturing data about how many times you unlock your phone, how long you spend on it, and what you are doing when online, RealizD provides insight into your behavior, and accountability for decreasing your digital addictions.
- LifeCycle works in the background of your phone to track time spent at work, home, shopping, enjoying entertainment and more. The goal is to help you raise your awareness of how you spend your time so you can align your goals and intentions with your actions.
- Journaly for the Mac and iPhone helps you privately journal about your life. You can manually operate it or auto-journal, by allowing your phone to track destinations, weather, fitness, travel and sleep.
- Instant tracks your entire life automatically and puts it on your dashboard. Lifelog your phone usage time, places you go, fitness, sleep and travel.
In many ways, these apps simply provide a starting place for gathering information and insight into your behaviors. With the exception of Addapp, all require you to draw your own conclusions; however, it’s not hard to imagine that in the near future these apps will become increasingly smart and more predictive. Imagine if you could ask your phone to distract you when you approach a temptation while trying to kick a bad habit.
What gets me excited about lifelogging is the prospect of being able to create a renaissance in my own life, using the small insights to create positive change. As you begin to experiment with behavior and mindset changes over the next few weeks, here are five guiding questions that can help you develop a practice of continual learning.
- How does the data that you gather compare/contrast to the past?
- How does this data compare/contrast to that of the people around me?
- What information looks false or might be missing?
- What factors shaped these outliers or unusual data points?
- And most important, given this information, how do I need to tweak my behavior for the future?
As you embark on this new adventure, I would love to hear how your lifelogging is going. Share your story or ideas with me at amyblankson.com/story and together we will continue to pursue a future of happiness.
Amy Blankson, aka the ‘Happy Tech Girl,’ is on a quest to help individuals balance productivity and well-being in the digital era. Amy, with her brother Shawn Achor, co-founded GoodThink, which brings the principles of positive psychology to life and works with organizations such as Google, NASA and the U.S. Army. Her new book is called The Future of Happiness: 5 Modern Strategies for Balancing Productivity and Well-being in the Digital Era.