Tag Archives: productivity

What We Are Reading

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Articles

The validity of consumer-level, activity monitors in healthy adults worn in free- living conditions: a cross-sectional study by Ty Ferguson, Alex Rowland, Tim Olds, and Carol Maher. A very interesting research study examining the accuracy of different consumer activity trackers when compared to “research-grade devices.” Free living only lasted a few days, but it’s a great start to what I hope to see more of in the research – actual use out in the wild.

The Healing Power of Your Own Medical Records by Steve Lohr. Steven Keating has a brain tumor. He also has over 70GB of his medical data, much of which is open and available for anyone to peruse. Is he showing us our future? One can hope.

Mr. Keating has no doubts. “Data can heal,” he said. “There is a huge healing power to patients understanding and seeing the effects of treatments and medications.”

Why the DIY part of OpenAPS is important by Dana Lewis. Always great to read Dana’s thoughts on the ever evolving ecosystem of data and data-systems for people living with diabetes.

Why I Don’t Worry About a Super AI by Kevin Kelly. I, for one, am super excited for advancements in artificial intelligence. There are some that aren’t that excited. In this short post our QS co-founder, Kevin Kelly, lays out four reasons why he, and maybe why all of us, shouldn’t be fearful of AI now or into the future.

Responding to Mark Cuban: More is not always better by Aaron Carroll. Earlier this week Mark Cuban started a bit of an kerfuffle by tweeting out, “1) If you can afford to have your blood tested for everything available, do it quarterly so you have a baseline of your own personal health.” What followed, and is still ongoing, is a great discussion about the usefulness of longitudinal medical testing. I’m not sure I agree with the argument made here in this piece, but interesting nonetheless.

Show&Tell

My Quantified Email Self Experiment: A failure by Paul Ford. Paul takes a look at his over 450,000 email messages dating back 18 years. He find out a lot, but states that he doesn’t learn anything. I disagree, but then again, I’m not Paul. Still fascinating regardless of the outcome.

Filling up your productivity graph by Belle Beth Cooper. Want to understand your productivity, but not sure where to start? This is a great post by Belle about how she uses Exist and RescueTime to track and understand her productive time.

Visualizations

2014: An Interactive Year In New Music by Eric Boam. We’ve featured some of Eric’s visualization work here before, but this one just blew me away. So interesting to see visualization of personal data, in this case music listening information, turned into something touchable and engaging.

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“Women and Children First” by Alice Corona. A fascinating deep data dive into the Titanic disaster. Was the common refrain, “Women and children first!” followed? Read on to find out.

Access Links

HHS Expands Its Approach to Making Research Results Freely Available For the Public
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Grants Public Access to Data through Scientific “Data Warehouse”
FDA ‘Taking a Very Light Touch’ on Regulating the Apple Watch
Selling your right of privacy at $5 a pop

From the Forum

Survey on Self-tracking for weight-related purposes
Aging Biomarker Test

 

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QS15 Sponsor Highlight: RescueTime

In the lead up to our QS15 Global Conference and Expo, we’re going to highlight our partners and sponsors that help us produce our events. If you’re interested in sponsoring our work or events, please get in touch. 
QS15_RescueTimeMost of us spend a large percentage of our time at work. Next to sleeping, it’s likely the activity we do the most. Just like tracking sleep or exercise, there are a lot of things to be learned from tools that help an individual examine their time at work. RescueTime is such a tool.

RescueTime was co-founded by Robby Macdonell, a long time contributor to the QS community. Robby and his co-founders developed RescueTime to answer questions like: How much time do I spend on Twitter each day? Is Outlook my main time sink? Am I coding or daydreaming?

RescueTime_ERgraph
My 2014 RescueTime data. Yes, I spend way too much time in email – 314 hours in 2014. 

We’ve collected a few of our favorite examples of individuals using RescueTime to understand themselves and their work, starting with Robby’s own show&tell talk from our 2013 Quantified Self Global conference.

Robby Macdonnell: Tracking 8,300 Screen Hours
Robby works on product at RescueTime and has been tracking how he uses his computer and even his phone for over six years. In the fall of 2013 he presented his data and what he learned from tracking over 8,000 hours of screen time including how to do what we all only dream about  - spending less time in email.


Robby also wrote up a fantastic blog post detailing a few different ways you can use RescueTime for interesting self-tracking projects: Getting the most out of RescueTime for your Quantified Self Projects

Buster Benson: How I use RescueTime
In 2011 Buster presented his “no input required” data capture using RescuTime. In this talk he describes how he used the data to better understand how he worked, what constitutes good and bad weeks, and how this data has become “a meaningful reflection of what I’m actually doing.”

Jamie Todd Rubin: How I Used RescueTime to Baseline My Activity in 2014 and Set Goals for 2015
In this excellent blog post, Jamie writes about his methods for using RescueTime to understand how he spent his time while working on his various computers. He describes how he used RescueTime data to better understand his time spent writing and how that data is helping him plan for the future. Jamie is a great resource for ideas related to exploring RescueTime data. Make sure to check out how he used it to find out what time of day he was actually writing.

Bob Tabor: Productivity, the Quantified Self and Getting an Office
Bob used RescueTime to analyze his productivity after becoming curious about the quantity and quality of his work while working at home. The ability to measure meaningful and productive work prompted him to find an office after he realized that he wasn’t as productive at home as he assumed.

Tamara Hala: On Using RescueTime to Monitor Activity and Increase Productivity
Tamara has been using RescueTime since 2012, sometimes even forgetting it was running in the background while she worked! In this excellent post she describes what she found out on a year-by-year basis and how it has impacted her work and productivity.

We hope to see you at the upcoming QS15 Conference and Activate Expo where you can meet with members of the RescueTime team and learn more about their tool in person.

There are excellent opportunities for getting involved in the QS15 Global Conference and the QS Activate exposition as a sponsor, including very affordable sponsor tickets, sponsored demos, and exhibit activations produced in collaboration with QS Labs and our production partner e2k Events. For more info, please get in touch.

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Greg Kroleski: Six Years of Tracking My Time

Greg Kroleski has been tracking his time for the past six years, starting when he was 20-years old. Using a spreadsheet he designed himself he collects how much time he spends in eight different categories: Survival, Labor, Social, Spiritual, Mind, Expression, Body, and Distraction. In this talk, presented at the San Francisco QS meetup group, Greg describes the data he’s collected and what he’s learned about where his time goes. If you’re interested in applying his tracking methodology he’s graciously put his spreadsheet template online here.

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Ian Billett: Tracking My Time, My Life

The days I use my time wisely are the days when I feel most fuliflled and therefore happy.

Ian Billett stumbled upon our Quantified Self website here and instantly became fascinated by our community of individuals who were learning about themselves through different technology. With his interest piqued, he began to investigate how he could understand himself. He started with a self-designed Excel spreadsheet where he manually tracked every five minutes using his own tagging system. He’s since switched to even more fine-grained tracking, tagging every minute of his life to describe what he was doing and who he was with. In this talk, presented at the London QS meetup group, Ian describes his process and some of his recent findings.

Slides are also available here.

Special thank you to Ken Snyder for his valuable work documenting the talks at QS London.

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Tracking the Recovery Process: Learn from Maggie Delano at QS15

Join us at our upcoming QS15 Global Conference and Exposition on June 18-20 in San Francisco to learn how to use self-tracking tools to aid in recovery and get back into a productive lifestyle without overdoing it.

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Maggie Delano was diagosed with Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS) after hitting her head over Labor Day Weekend. To recover, she had to give her brain a break from anything too cognitively stimulating, such as using screens, reading, intense physical exercise, and loud music. Maggie was able to return to work after several weeks off. She has developed strategies that balance getting work done with giving her brain a rest and preventing burnout. She’s been using apps such as Awareness to keep her mindful of how much time she’s spending on her computer, HabitRPG to slowly build back up her prior habits and self-tracking, and Beddit to help figure out what allows her to sleep best.

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Maggie’s session is just one of the many hands-on, up-to-date, expertly moderated sessions we’re planning for the QS15 Global Conference and Exposition. This year, QS15 is going to be two full days of self-tracking talks, demos, and in depth discussion, followed by a third day for a grand public exposition of the latest self-tracking tools. Join us at the Fort Mason Center on the San Francisco Waterfront. We’ve made some early bird tickets available for readers of the Quantified Self blog (for a limited time): Register here!

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QSEU14 Breakout: What is Productivity and Why Are We Tracking It?

Today’s post comes to us from Brian Crain. Brian has been testing different productivity methods for over three years. After his great show&tell talk desrcribing how he tracks his own productivity he led a breakout session on the topic. This led to interesting dicussion around how people tracked themselves and what they wish they could track better. You’re invited to read Brian’s description of the session below and then join the discussion on the QS Forum.

Productivity Breakout Session
By Brian Crain

The idea of the productivity breakout session was to discuss three questions that I thought were central to tracking productivity in a systematic way:

  • How do you define productivity?
  • What metrics represent productivity best?
  • How can you use those metrics to track what you actually care about?

These were difficult questions to answer for me and the same turned out to be true for the other participants in the session. It seems, while many people are interested in productivity tracking, few have clearly defined what they mean with the term in the first place. And even when there is a definition, upon closer inspection it is only loosely related to the thing we track.

After the session a participant made the following comment to me, “It’s fascinating to dive into this big unknown.” This was a great summary of our session, but also astonishing in a way. When compared to those new, exciting Quantified Self pursuits be it lifelogging or tracking hormones, productivity tracking seems like a quaint discipline with a long history. Yet, we seem far away from any definite answers.

There was, however, one topic that kept coming up during the discussion: many participants mentioned that, for them, being in a flow state or a state of high cognitive performance was productivity. Strictly speaking, this is nonsensical. Cognitive state might be what makes productivity possible, but surely it is not productivity itself?

Admittedly, since many methods of ‘productivity tracking’ are indirect, focusing on cognitive state might not be so unreasonable. Unfortunately, it seemed that no one had been tracking his cognitive state, so we’ll have to wait for a show&tell to see the promise of this approach. At least, based on my small unscientific sample, tracking flow states might be a great self-tracking project for those hoping to make a big splash at QSEU15.

If someone has ideas about how best to approach a project like that, please get in touch on our forum discussion!

For those who are interested in reading more about the topic, here are some books and resources mentioned during the session:

If you’re interested in discussing productivity tracking we invite you to continue the conversation on the QS Forum.

 

 

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Brian Crain on Optimizing Productivity

There are many people in the QS community who are fascinated by understanding productivity. We’ve featured many different talks that explore different methods for tracking and hopefully improving productivity. At the 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference we were happy to continue this exploration with a show&tell talk by Brian Crain. Brian has been thinking about his productivity since 2011. He tried a few different methods, but he’s found that using the pomodoro technique has been very helpful in understanding and improving his work. Watch his talk below to learn what he found by tracking the number of pomodoros he completes each day and what new methods he’s using to make sure he gets things done.


You can also view the slides here.

What did you do?
I started tracking my work time using the Pomodoro Technique in 2011 and have been logging all my sessions since September 2012. While, I have kept experimenting with different productivity methods, my consistent usage of the Pomodoro Technique has given me a great view of changes over time. I also discussed my experience with tracking my commitments over the past months.

How did you do it?
For the Pomodoro Technique, I would set a task, work on it for 25 minutes, then log the task. Over time, I built a large excel sheet that automatically updates with a variety of metrics that tell me how much productive time I spent working and how that has changed over time. For the commitment tracking, I would use an agenda, where I write down all commitments. I would then cross out completed commitments and track my compliance at the end of each day.

What did you learn?
I learned that having a continuous metric is enormously motivating since it allows you to continually improve yourself. These small, continuous changes make a huge difference over time. I also learned that building a user-interface is tricky, but very important to make tracking rewarding. This is something I successfully did with the Pomodoro Technique, but have found difficult to replicate with other methods. Finally, tracking commitments has taught me how critical one’s mindset is. When I would slip into thinking of commitments as simple tasks, my success with that method derailed completely. So for that method, I realized how important it is to build a system and user interface that helps maintain the commitment mindset.

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QS Gallery: David El Achkar

We thought it would be nice to post David’s 138 days of activities visualization here. Make sure to watch his talk from the 2013 QS Global Conference to learn how he created this and what he’s learned from tracking his time.

This is my life during the past six months. Each square = 15 minutes. Each column = 1 day. This picture represents 138 days or 3,000+ activities.
- David El Achkar

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David El Achkar on Tracking Time

When David El Achkar made a big change in his life, transitioning out of his consultant role, he started wondering how the lack of daily structure would affect how he spent his time. He decided to tackle this question and start tracking his activities. In the video that follows David explains how he accomplishes this by using a Google calendar and a specific formatting system. He also elaborates on a few key insights about where his time goes and what he’e learned about his productivity. After you watch the video make sure to check out David’s website, where he’s done a great job explaining his findings.

We’ll be posting videos from our 2013 Global Conference during the next few months. If you’d like see talks like this in person we invite you to join us in Amsterdam for our 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference on May 10 and 11th.

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Robby Macdonell on Tracking 8,000 Screen Hours

Productivity tracking is nothing new. People have been keeping checklists and marking off to do’s for ages. But what about all the little stuff that gets thrown in during the day? For the last six years Robby Macdonnell has been tracking his productivity and how he spends his time on his various computers (home and work) and even how he uses phone. Over those years he’s amassed 8,300 hours of screen time. Watch his great talk to hear what’s he learned about his work habits, productivity and how he’s come to think about time.

We’ll be posting videos from our 2013 Global Conference during the next few months. If you’d like see talks like this in person we invite you to join us in Amsterdam for our 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference on May 10 and 11th.

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