#205 - Life Tracked

10 minute read

Motto: Aaron, Meet Aaron

This post is going to be long, but it's kind of a big deal. Hopefully some of you find it interesting. Last week I added the 52nd "weekly summary" into my Life Tracker. That means I've successfully tracked one full year of my life. With that, I've decided to call an end to the Life Tracker and claim victory in accomplishing the longest-running, most intense project I ever took upon myself. For those of you paying keen attention, you'll notice that I didn't start this project last September; I started it last March. I took off a week or two every now and then (including all of July, 2013), so getting 1 year's worth of tracker data actually took 17 months. Although I may not have tracked as consistently as I would have hoped, I managed to keep the project running for a much longer time than I anticipated going in. Along the way, I learned a ton of useful information. The idea came to me when I realized how unstructured and hectic my life was. I was fresh out of college, living on my own in a new city. There were so many variables in the air, so much more room for catastrophic failure. I worried that I'd soon become a fat, broke, introverted loser unless I did something about it. I wrote down my goals and tried to find tool to satisfy them. When I realized no such product existed, I decided I should just make something. Melissa suggested I use Google Forms and Google Spreadsheets, I learned Javascript and the Google Apps API, and within a few weeks I was up and running. That's the history of the project. This is what it was like to actually do the tracking: I wake up. I hit snooze. No part of that gets recorded, it's just something that happens. I eat breakfast. I grab my phone, hit a button on the homescreen, Chrome loads the Life Tracker Input form, I hit "Diet", "Next", then type "Che", select "Cheerios Protein (2.5 cups with 1/2 cup 2%)" that pops up, then hit "submit". Now I've successfully tracked breakfast. I go out for lunch at Chipotle. I pay for my lunch, hit a button on the homescreen, wait a second, hit "Money", "Next", then type "$7.43", then "Chipotle", then choose "Other Food" from the categories list. Afterwards I enter the Chipotle burrito bowl into my diet like I did with the cheerios from that morning. For dinner Melissa makes some sort of stir fry in our wok. I see what she puts in it, go to Wolfram|Alpha on my phone, type "1 cup white rice + 7 oz chicken + brocolli + carrots + mushrooms + 3 tbsp soy sauce", then transcribe the resulting nutrition information into the diet section of the Life Tracker using the same method as before, then make the arbitrary decision as to whether the food was "Good" or "Bad" for me, then hit "Submit". I go to the gym and do my squat/bench routine. I hit a button my homescreen, wait a second, hit "Exercise", "Next", then type "Bench/Squat", then choose "Heavy Lower" from the categories list, then "Submit". As I lay down for the night, I hit a button my homescreen, wait a second, then hit "Demetri", "Next", then I answer the following 27 questions:
What day is this entry for? (combo box for day selection) What did you do today? (paragraph box for review of day's events) The rest of them I just checked off each completed thing - BodyWorked out - Tracked Drank Water - >2 Liters Ate Well - Tracked Brushed & Flossed Slept 7.5 - 11:30 to 7 MindWrote a Column Worked on a project - non-Column Learned/practiced something useful Read >20 minutes Stayed intentionally positive ManagementBudgeted spending - tracked Stayed on top of appointments and bills Kept place clean & organized Knew and worked towards goals Used time well - didn't waste it WorkTook breaks, but didn't waste time Meetings: On time and took notes Took steps to further career Knew all projects statuses & next steps Communicated well & often OthersWent on a friend date Did something nice for someone Talked with family Took care of relationship Focused less on yourself After I answered all of the above questions, I hit "Submit" and go to bed. Rinse. Repeat. So now you know where the project came from and what it was tracking, what were the results? In short, I eat less than I probably should and definitely worse than I should. I manage things well. I treat my friends better than my body and my body better than my mind. I do about as well at work as I do at taking care of my body. The only major failure in this project was the Money tracker. I kept changing my mind on how it should work and reorganizing things. I just never did a good job of tracking all of my monetary transactions. About halfway through the project I gave up on tracking money with the Life Tracker at all. "An average day" In any given day I will eat on average 2685 calories - 101 grams of fat, 298 grams of carbs, and 137 grams of protein. The caloric breakdown of those macros is 34% fats, 44% carbs, and 20% protein. The remaining 2% comes from rounding both errors and alcohol (which yields calories but doesn't fall into any of the above categories). I will most likely NOT exercise in this day. If I do - it will most likely be a heavy upper body workout. I'll spend roughly $51 (this figure doesn't really make much sense, though). I'll accomplish between 2 and 3 of each of my five work, mind and body goals. I'll accomplish between 3 and 4 of my management and "other" (which really should have been named "Social") goals.
I can tell you more beyond "what does an average day in the life of Aaron look like", though. Life is complex. Trying to look at trends in something like calorie intake or money spent on a day-by-day basis is like trying to understand white noise. It's amazing to think that everything we manage to get by with such a chaotic mess underlying it all. I made a ton of bar graphs and charts. For those of you who like pictures to represent data, this section is your treasure trove: Dietary trends over the year:
I've grown to eat ever so slightly more calories. I spiked up during my first ever 30 Day Challenge: The October Project.
Over the course of the year, I started to eat more protein, a consistent amount of fats, and slightly fewer carbs. More on the carb thing in a second.
My macro nutrient ratio stayed fairly constant, except when Melissa and I did the 30 Paleo Challenge, where I upped my fat intake and lowered my carb intake. The ratios did NOT change during my "eat as much as you can" month last October. Dietary trends over the week:
I eat in a cycle, every other day I eat more... it resets on Mondays. This result amused me.
My macronutrient ratios don't change much over the course of the week. If anything, I eat slightly less protein on the weekends.
The percentage of my food that I deem "good for me" follows an oddly consistent wave pattern. This result also amused me. Demetri trends over the year: 

I became a slightly less productive person throughout the year. This could be do to several things, but it's probably easiest explained as "I'm getting lazy". So I need to stop that.
That chart is ridiculous. What you're seeing is the average totals from each category of the Demetri list. When I added trendlines to it (not shown) I was able to determine that over the course of the year I got slightly better at caring for others and worse at caring for myself.
I exercise less often (which, when combined with "eat more calories" from above, does not bode well). Demetri trends over the week:
The most obvious one of all - on the weekends I see friends more and go to work much much less. Looking at the individual categories, my effectiveness at work over the course of the week looks like a (very flat) bell curve. I manage things best at the beginning and end of the week. I am mentally burnt out on Fridays. Actually, I just don't get much accomplished on Fridays at all.
I just picked out 4 seemingly interesting Demetri data points and determined how likely I was to do them on any given day of the week. My place is most likely to be clean over the weekends. As with before, my friend dates happen mostly over the weekends. I eat much less clean over the weekends. I sleep the most on towards the middle of the week.

One final note about exercise:
My workouts break down into two main types, heavy lifting types and non-heavy lifting types. When compared to days without a workout, I eat more when I lift and less when I run or do yoga. When compared to days without a workout, I eat healthier when I lift and even healthier when I run or do yoga. WHEW. That was intense. So. I made the mistake last night, after sorting all this data out, of asking myself "if I knew then what I know now, what would I have done differently?" That's where I came up with the Top 5.

Top 5: Things I'd Do Differently If I were Building the Life Tracker Today 5. Actual integration with the 30 Day Challenges project. Make a note each month of the challenge and create a data summary by month. 4. In terms of organization, I'd keep a single sheet of the workbook for each facet and I would keep the weekly summary view, but I would add in the monthly summary that I just mentioned AND a new main page where I aggregate and summarize data on a day-by-day basis. I had to do that manually yesterday. It took the entire night and it suuuuuuucked. Seems obvious now, but I didn't think of it until yesterday. Correlating across sheets was very difficult without a single, consistent index. 3. Include more objective data: such as sleep patterns, pedometer stats, heart rate data, weight, and anything else I can get my hands on. It would be interesting to see how amount of sleep correlates to productivity. How weight correlates with exercise and diet. 2. Also include more subjective data - not Demetri-type goals, but more like a survey. "How are you feeling physically?" "How are you mentally?" "Where you tired throughout the day?" While I'm at it, I'd probably reduce the size of the Demetri list. I'd soften some of the rigid spots and firm up some of the soft spots. Automate pieces that could be automated. 1. Establish clear money goals & budgets beforehand. I would leave out bills, only include spending on a voluntary basis. If I can choose WHEN I spend it, then I'll include it.

I think we all define ourselves differently and that's an inherent thing about humanity. Your life satisfaction can really only be measured by you." - Joe, who doesn't have/do exactly what I would want so I assume his life sucks -