I am no longer blogging here at Little Nuances, but I would love for you to join me on my author website www.leewarren.info.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Tracking Life

Sean Fowlds sent me an email yesterday with a link to an article from the Wall Street Journal called “The New Examined Life: Why more people are spilling the statistics of their lives on the Web." He knew it would intrigue me and he was right.

Without some record of life, it's hard to remember the specifics. And if you can't remember the specifics, its hard to feel like the time you've spent doing anything really matters. I know that it does matter, but I'd still rather remember the little things that so easily slip away if they aren't noted.

In my 2008 reflections post, I told you that I wasn't all that happy about the way I failed to keep track of my life in 2008. I like to be able to look back and see what books I read the previous year and how my bowling average fluctuated and what I thought about a certain movie. I find that by keeping track of such things, I not only enjoy them more, but I also find good and bad patterns in my life and it helps me to make adjustments when needed.

The people who were interviewed for the WSJ article track their lives for the same reasons. Here's how the article describes it:
These quotidan aggregators believe that the compilation of our daily activities can reveal the secret patterns that govern the way we live. For students of personal informatics, the practice is liberating because it shows that our lives aren't random, and are more orderly than some might expect.
The primary subject of the interview, Nicholas Felton, can tell you that he lost six games of pool in 2007, read 4,736 pages in books, drank 632 cans of beer and then sorted them by country of origin, and he could even tell you every street he walked down in New York that year.

I wonder how the guy ever has time to do anything but track his life. But obviously he does – just look at how many activities he was involved in. Apparently he isn't the only person tracking the minutiae of his life. According the the WSJ article, a website called Mycrocosm has 1,300 users who chronicle everything from their moods to their medicine to their coffee drinking habits. Another website, co-founded by Felton, called Daytum, is in beta and will presumably allow its users to chronicle nearly anything as well.

I don't have any big desire to join one of these websites so I can share my life with people – most of whom I don't know. And I don't really care about chronicling every detail of my life. I'd never keep up with it even if I was interested in it. But I've noticed that if I keep track of what I'm reading, what I'm watching, and who I am spending time with, then I not only notice patterns in my life but I also feel a little more balanced – especially when I take the time to examine such things. My problem is, I am often so busy I don't take enough time to either track the things I want to track or to examine the information I have tracked.

So even in tracking the little things, I find that I need a balance. And I'm always pursuing it. How about you? Do you track the little things? Why or why not?


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