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The quantified self

Since finishing my third read/listen-through of his mind-expanding book What Technology Wants, I've added Kevin Kelly's several blogs to my reader feed.

One of those blogs, The Quantified Self, discusses "tools for knowing your own mind and body" by quantifying yourself, making an experiment of your life, and measuring change and improvement.

I never thought about it quite that way before, but that's exactly what I've been doing--all my life! I love quantifying things. I've logged my bike commutes for 14 months. I've been logging my food and exercise for the past month. I even have a tag "Attempts to categorize myself" which kind of gropes toward the same concept.

It's more than "keeping track," according to TQS, and much more than a stern nanny (which is how calorie-counting has sometimes seemed to me)--it's a way of seeing the next increment of change and moving towards it. It's a way of having direction.

(NaNoWriMo is a way of quantifying writing--apparently a very good one, to judge by people's engagement and enthusiasm for it.)

One of the tools reviewed on TQS is Track Your Happiness, a massive data experiment, running out of Harvard, that asks volunteers to respond to three brief surveys a day at irregular times.

So I signed up. The surveys ask what kind of thing you're doing and how you feel about it, whether you have to do it, whether you want to do it, how long and soundly you slept last night--things like that. The questions vary a little from one survey to the next. They come to your email or your phone. At the end of a month, you get a report full of data, correlating your happiness with various factors.

So far (no surprise), my happiness factor is highest when I'm doing something I want to do but don't have to do, and when I'm writing. :D

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