The Examined Life: 2009

2009 has been a well documented year for me[1]. All year, I've been tracking my time in 15 minute increments using Bubble Timer (as I said I would a year ago). Now, with a little SQL magic, I can look at my entire year in one picture:

Nifty, eh? Each data point is one week; each color is a different activity. I'm not saying what each color is, for my own privacy[2], but a couple of them are:
  • The blue on the bottom is "sleeping"
  • The top is "Other" (notice how it fills in the cracks to make most days pretty consistent)
  • Other stuff in the middle includes Work, School, Music, Dog Walking, Housework, Food, Exercise, Reading, Personal, Web Surfing, Entertainment and Hanging out. But not in that order.

It's fairly consistent over time, but things do change; for example, all spring and summer, I worked on my Masters Degree, and then it ended in August, after which time I moved on to spending (some of) that time learning Pedal Steel guitar:

(Blue (on the left) is time spent doing school work. Red (on the right) is time spent learning the new instrument.)

In addition to tracking my time by category, I also "tag" certain time, like time spent listening to music. When I looked at that, I saw a disturbing trend throughout the year:

What's up with that? Turns out that in the fall, I diverted a lot of my listening time into "listening while practicing" time (I often practice by playing along with music), which I didn't also tag as music listening time. When I add that back in, I get it moving to a nice steady state:

Of course, it's not just for tracking trends over time; I can also see patterns in how I spend my time during a single day. For example, here's a 24 hour plot of how I spend the majority of my time:

And my daily routines are evident (though still pretty flexible, as evidenced by the large spread):

Was all this effort worth it? Who cares, it's pretty. :)

Seriously, though, I do actually enjoy both the tracking (which keeps me mindful of how I spend my time) as well as the eventual analysis (which hopefully gets easier as time goes on).

What's up in 2010? A few things. First, in reading a book called Beautiful Data, I stumbled across this self-tracking web site:

It uses Twitter as a collection interface to let you track anything you want to (moods, hygiene, health, exercise, etc.). Been trying it out for a few days and I like what it does so far (it's got lots of visualizations built in - in fact, that's the focus of the research effort). I'll also continue using Livestrong (which I mentioned here, and recently got an Ajax-y revamp so it's easier to use). I'm also thinking about getting a Fit Bit, which automatically tracks all your movements and sleeping patterns using built-in accelerometers.

I also learned this year that I'm not the only person who's interested in tracking all of this stuff about my life. In fact, there's a burgeoning community of "Self Trackers", with blogs like The Quantified Self. So, while I am most certainly OCD about it, at least I'm not the only one.

[1] - Some might even say my year has been a little too well documented. And by "some" I mean "my wife". But I guess she should know, since I spent 34.8% of my waking time with her this year.

[2] - Or putting axes on the graph, so that nobody comes back and complains that I am, say, spending 300 hours a year playing video games. Not that I am.


dreeves said…
So pretty! You might really like the idea of TagTime --

It's kind of nerds-only right now but that is obviously not a problem for you. :)

Danny of
Ian Varley said…
Thanks Danny, checked out BeeMinder and it looks pretty neat. I'll try it next time I've got a goal in mind to work towards. Thanks!

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