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Ten Years of Logging My Life (chaidarun.com)
452 points by artnc 28 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 156 comments



A few days ago I finally stopped doing something very similar.

As fascinating as the data could be (I never managed to transform it like this), the constant recording of every single thing made me stop enjoying things. It made me hyper-conscious of everything going on in my body as the primary goal was to figure out some health issues. Everything I felt or did seemed to have an "event handler" attached to it.

I now just stick to one line a day in a spreadsheet as a sort of diary.

To anyone attempting it:

1. Figure out what you want to do with the data first. Even if you just want some pretty graphs, create some random test data and set everything up so you can see these graphs. Don't just throw data into a black hole for years.

2. Make sure recording the data is as easy and comfortable as possible. That android app from the article looks good, but you have to be absolutely sure it's okay to use many times a day. Be aware that there's no good answer to "why do you keep reaching for your phone all the time?".


A simpler solution is to embrace lazy tracking.

Apps like RescueTime (time spent online) and Withings (sleep and steps) are simply running in the background of your life, with no additional input needed from the user.

I'm always impressed when I see people who maintain these massive data-entry systems, I know personally I would never be able to maintain them which is why I opt for lazy tracking. The less data entry I need to do, the better.


Pretty much this. If the app requires me to insert stuff manually - I am out... There are plenty of basic trackers for sleep / exercise today where you literally have to just wear the device...


I'd be really curious if there was an API to consume data my watch tracks on my health. Such a wealth of lazy tracking data i imagine.


One of the frustrating things about wearables is a lot of them are closed down and the export data options are pretty limited.

Oura ring however has an open API, I don't own one or use it but worth checking out - https://cloud.ouraring.com/docs/


We've been building part of this at https://mana.ai! Our goal is to provide data that's even richer than Chronofile effortlessly using integrations (as you mention) and AI.

We currently support desktop agents (Windows, MacOS), Calendars (Google Calendar, Outlook), health monitors (Apple Health, Google Fit), as well as Chrome, Slack and a few others.

We're big supporters of MyDataGlobal and the OpenHumans movement, and have a few features for export in the product already. Happy to chat if you'd be interested in a way to feed out just the API data we're already managing so you can use it elsewhere, DM me or mail support@mana.ai and I'll see it!


I've found the Fitbit API to be pretty usable.


>Even if you just want some pretty graphs, create some random test data and set everything up so you can see these graphs. Don't just throw data into a black hole for years.

"Avoid black holes" is a good tip when you struggle with forming the habit of logging. If you have a graph that auto-updates as you add data, it's fun and the habit will stick better.


Forget the data - I’m just amazed by the act of sticking to an activity. I’ve attempted “never break the chain” trick to try to build good habits but I always come short.

Saying all that to say I truly admire people like you!


> I’ve attempted “never break the chain” trick to try to build good habits but I always come short.

Chains are unstable[0]. Usually you miss a habit because something has gone wrong. This time, when something has gone wrong and you most need support, is when you lose all the support of the chain. In fact, you also have to deal with the shame of breaking your streak. "I always come short" is the inevitable outcome! There's no goal! They're good for taking 95% compliance to 99%+ (days without an accident counters, the best of the best at their activity), but not good for taking 20% to 80%, which is what most people need for most habits.

I had some good success (but not perfect) with what I call Fibonacci Streaks. You go for 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, etc. in a row. When you hit a goal, the counter starts over and you go for the next goal. If you miss, you start over at the first 1 and get some goals to hit again quickly. You could also have a variant where you try again for the goal you missed. In this system, the counter starting over is a normal part of things. Why Fibonacci? I considered doubling, but the jumps are a bit large. 1.5X seemed right, but gives fractions. Fibonacci is ~1.6X each step. I made a free sort of add-on app for tracking it in Todoist[1].

[0]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longitudinal_static_stability [1]https://habitsfortodoist.com/


> This time, when something has gone wrong and you most need support, is when you lose all the support of the chain. In fact, you also have to deal with the shame of breaking your streak.

I find this stuff really fascinating. About a year ago, Garmin added a new feature to “pause” the Training Status measurements the watch takes. Apparently when folks where getting sick they became incredibly disheartened by their watch telling them their lack of activity is not conducive to improving their fitness. It’s almost reinforcing the bad habit instead of trying to frame it in a more productive way.


This has always been my problem with Duolingo. You get a streak going, forget it two days running because you're busy with work or the dog has to go to the vet or the kid needs taking to the airport - and bam, 80 days irretrievably gone.

When this happens, I set the whole thing aside for a year, every time, even though I shouldn't.


OP (and Duolingo employee #34) here.

I can definitely relate to the frustration! It's been years since I've worked on the product side myself, but for what it's worth we do allow equipping up to 2 streak freezes now. I believe you can also restore a lost streak as an in-app purchase; I've never done so myself.


Lmao so now learning a language has the monetization model of pay to win mobile games?


I've heard that so frequently I'm shocked they haven't done more about it. The data must be super obvious that people who break streaks stop for so long.


Without criticizing your Fibonacci Streaks idea, I don't think that your pessimism regarding chains is actually accurate. I think that voluntarily performing some practice every day becomes increasingly stable past a certain threshold of time. I have maintained a number of chains over many years. For instance, I have a daily diary in which I have written daily entries since early... 2019? I think I have missed 2 days, total, and in both cases, it was a case of simple forgetfulness due to some involuntary cause (e.g. taking a nap and sleeping through the night), and thus did not decrease my motivation going forward. At this point, I think daily journaling is extremely well-ingrained, and I do not think I will cease doing it any time soon.

The difficulty that people run into with maintaining daily rituals is that they have no way of reliably enforcing the ritual during a period of low motivation / energy. My approach is to find a low-commitment version of the ritual to be performed on days where you don't feel you can really give it your all. How I approach this with diary writing is simple: on nights where I feel I cannot possibly spend much time writing, I write an entry of the form, "It is incredibly late and I do not want to write more before I go to sleep." Nothing more. By doing this, I am able to maintain accountability without torturing myself.


I wouldn't call my views on chains "pessimistic". I have ideas about their nature (good when things are good, bad when they're bad) and think they're usually (not always) misapplied.

I'm really not persuaded by your story because you don't actually seem to be engaging in "never break the chain" behavior. Like, can you tell me exactly how many days in a row you've journaled? Like, if you had a counter going in Duolingo or put a red X on a calendar every day in a row that you wrote a joke like Jerry Seinfeld? You seem to be engaged in the system of "do the thing almost every single day, however small, forgive yourself when you miss it" which is a wildly more applicable and effective system, in my opinion.


You're right that if you refuse to accept any excuse for not performing [habit], the chain rule could be demotivating. But this is just a misapplication of the rule. The sensible reason to use the chain rule is to prevent a failure of volition. It's meant to address the problem where you say "I won't perform [habit] just this one day, because [reason]," and then before you know it, you've lost the will to ever [habit] again. If I ever decided not to journal, I do not think I would forgive myself. I forgive myself for the couple of incidents where I made no decision at all.

I think the last time I forgot to journal was... maybe a year and a quarter ago? I fell asleep before I intended to, and when I woke up, realized I had missed a night. I have never ever decided not to journal on a particular night, and this fact is enormously motivating. That is why the chain system is useful.

One interesting question is, how do I journal when it is extremely impractical? The answer is, I've done whatever was necessary to maintain the chain. Lacking a journal, I've used a pen and scrap paper. Lacking any writing utensils, I've used my phone. Lacking my phone, I've borrowed someone else's phone. The important part is that I made the sincere choice the perform the action, in however nonstandard a way, and this reminds me of my commitment. I've essentially inducted myself into my own religion.


I think these are good points, I’ll try this out


Thanks for the feedback - I’ll give it a try.


Thank you, but I don't feel like I've put any special effort into this. It began as a way to calm myself down, then became a habit, and then it simply turned into this "don't break the chain" effect because the chain seemed to have actual value.

I wish I could form some actually positive habits this way!


I would add that it’s fine to track something very important in an expensive and manual way, you can simply do it less often (e.g. weekly)


What types of data do you store in that spreadsheet one-liner, out of curiosity?


How I feel (e.g. sick) / What I'm trying (e.g. some new exercise, medication) / Anything noteworthy that happened.

It's intentionally non-machine-readable. Just to see the past weeks at a glance.


I've been using Daylio [0] for the last 2 years to track my mood and activities. It's less comprehensive than the system described here but much simpler to implement. It lets you set up a reminder with a mood selector, and you then select the activities you have accomplished. The activities are completely configurable. I've started by tracking just a few habits and I've added more along the way.

I can't praise this app enough. Main pros:

- all your data is stored locally not in the cloud, but you can easily back it up on Google Drive

- it lets you export your data anytime

- It comes with nice dashboards, weekly, monthly and yearly reviews. It let's you see the impact of each activity on your mood. It really gave me some interesting insights on my mood patterns.

My only complaint really is that the only numeric value you can track is your mood, everything else is yes or no.

A year or so ago, I've also started using Clockify [1] to track the time I spent on each activity. Again, I don't track everything, only a few habits I want to improve on. It has a mobile and desktop app. The UI could be improved but all the features I need are free, and most importantly data export.

It's the perfect time of year to set up a tracking system. My recommendation is start small. Track only a couple of activities first and add more as you build the habit.

[0]: https://daylio.net/

[1]: https://clockify.me/


+1 for Daylio. A low-friction way to track your activities and mood. Comes with a lot of ways to look at the data as well.


Does Daylio let you export data to json/csv or something, or is there an alternative that does? I'm looking for a very simple mood tracker that might let you add a journal entry, but not much more. moodpath used to be that way in the startup stage and then got bought, rebranded and they just kept tacking on more bloated features and started selling it..


Yes Daylio does csv export. It also lets you add a journal entry and pictures.


Wait, I can only add three photos to my Daylio entry? That's kind of lame. I just downloaded it and maybe I'm missing something, but it seems I am limited to just 3 photos on Android.


Yes Daylio exports to JSON.


I had a list from every year from 1952, which I seem to have lost.

Anyways: First experienced memory on that list was when I realized winter was reoccurring thing in spring of 1955. I was sitting on a sleigh on water-covered skating field and imagined I was a boat. I then suddenly remembered that this has happened before, but very long time go, maybe half a life-time ago.


Wow, that's quite a long time. Why did you begin? Are you remorseful you can't find your lists? Did you transition to electronic formats as technology progressed?


Yes I had this list already in 1960's. Because of it I could still remember every year in 1976 when I had a computer in personal use. The list was still around on the first MSDOS-machine 1983, but I cant figure out where it might be hidden in various zipped DOS-directories. It might be even in some handy database format, but unreadable now.

A video camera 1984 solved the remembering problem totally. I know exactly what happened thereafter.

Anyways various archives seem to be more and more important with age, as human physical memory is only 7 years long. Thereafter there are only memories of memories, which often get twisted in the weirdest of ways.


Now I realized where the list is. It in HP100LX calendar/diary-format somewhere. Most of the wacky diaries of 1990 where written as notes in the calendar, but I printed them out in txt-files and dumped them into Internets. This is the prime example of this format: http://timonoko.github.io/bellabel.html which is almost readable after Google translate.

"Dream of an apartment separated from opera restaurant by a glass wall only" is the first good one..


"...human physical memory is only 7 years long. Thereafter there are only memories of memories, which often get twisted in the weirdest of ways."

I hate to be that guy, but... you have no idea what you're talking about.


All human cells are replaced every 7 years. Known fact. Or was.


OK? Is it my turn to say something irrelevant? Here goes: Elon Musk is worth $200 billion. Known fact. Or was.


That's the average. Some brain cells don't churn as fast (or maybe at all?). The memory-of-a-memory thing isn't on a 7 year scale either, but does happen. I don't remember the exact science, but I do remember the metaphor I came up with (evidence in my favor!).

Remembering something is like pulling a note out of a cabinet. It gets saved from the back, where the papers tend do degrade. Then, it gets put at the front. The trick is, the original note isn't put at the front. A copy is made. So remembering tends to reinforce, but also can change during this lossy copying process.


"Some brain cells don't churn as fast"

None of them "churn".

"The memory-of-a-memory thing"

That "isn't a thing".

"I don't remember the exact science"

You also have no idea what you're talking about.

"I do remember the metaphor I came up with (evidence in my favor!)"

I have no words.

"Remembering something is like pulling a note out of a cabinet."

Not really, no.

"lossy"

Please just stop.

"copying"

Memory is a "copying process"?

Please guys... please just stop.


Jeez it was just a light-hearted comment. I think you can address your doubts about what I wrote with more kindness and less snark.

> None of them "churn".

By churn I mean "lose and hopefully be replaced". That definitely happens. Some brain cells die and are replaced, some live your whole life (or die first)[0].

The cabinet is just a simile for cued recall[1]. More recently learned/recalled items are remembered better (front of the cabinet)[2]. Recalling memories in a different context can change them[3], suggesting recall isn't a "read only" operation.

[0] https://www.livescience.com/33179-does-human-body-replace-ce... [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recall_(memory)#Cued_recall [2] https://memory.psych.upenn.edu/files/pubs/KahaMill10.pdf [3] https://news.northwestern.edu/stories/2012/09/your-memory-is...


Not quite the same thing as the article talks about, but I’ve been semi-regularly journaling and note-taking for many years using various systems, ranging from Microsoft Word, to plain text files, to Tap Log, to OneNote, to Day One, to homemade CLI apps. Some semi-structured data like the article describes, mostly unstructured text.

Earlier in the year I discovered Joplin and I’ve stuck with it, enjoying its balance of structure and unstructure. If it had the instant-data-entry-into-CSV feature of Tap Log it would be perfect, but nevertheless I decided having one journal / personal data repository was better than having several, and set about importing all my entries from my previous system. I now have many, many thousands of entries spanning over nearly 25 years, and I’m happy to report that Joplin is coping well.


I tried to like Joplin, but it keeps annoying me that the files are not just plain md files server side, it's just a big mess. For that reason I use (for my admittedly much more spare usage) the build-in md editor and files from NextCloud.


Joplin is just a SQLite database which is very easy to query.


The name is a bit unfortunate for a few Slavic languages. Not as bad as Pidora, but still.


Curious to know what joplin means in those Slavic languages.


It's a bit of a reach tbh. "jopa" (жопа) would be a crude way to say "ass". Then some schoolyard nicknames would sometimes have a suffix -lin or -in (-лин,-ин) as general creative addition to create nickname. Unless I'm clueless about of some slang usage, or grandparent refered to some other Slavic language (not russian), "Joplin" (жоплин) doesn't mean anything directly.


Czech here and no idea what it should be. Not even close to some profanity.


I am Russian and I have no idea what that Joplin is supposed to mean.


This is such a reach. Looking for something to be offended by.


I built something comparable for myself, that I already mentioned here:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28896170

It sends an email a day and I just respond to it, and the response is stored in an Sqlite db.

It's not a log, exactly, but could be used as one as I can respond multiple times for the same day.

But I use it to store not just what I did each day, but also my thoughts, or my reactions to things I read, or little things I learn, etc.

It took a little getting used to at first, but in the last 30 months I have never missed a day.

Although it's not the main use, it's fun to be able to tell friends, with near certainty, when exactly we did what.


Haha I did this too. I wish I factored in line breaks.


I have a friend who also tracks his life: https://www.denizcemonduygu.com/portfolio/vital-signs/

> What you see is some of the daily data I’ve collected during the last 7 years of my life (2,498 days between 01/03/2014 and 01/01/2021) charted as basically as possible in order to allow global readings and comparisons. (A nice method is just to scroll up and down with the mouse cursor pointing to the time of interest.) I update it every January. I started to log some topics later on, and there is a period where I did not log mood for some technical reasons in mid-2015. I have a lot more data on medical issues, food, people, and daily activities, which I chose not to show here.


Incredible. My favorite line is the last: "they're both tools that do nothing more than show me the results of my own decisions."

I've unsuccessfully attempted various implementations of life logging for years and I wonder, how much of those failures were due not to poor system design, but rather a poor relationship with myself throughout time? I have some theories to test starting in a few days.

Some questions I have for OP and anyone else with similar habits: Do you journal regularly alongside / in addition to your activity logging? How are you recording emotional variables like stress? Any plans to expand your data capture to encompass more signal?


OP here. Great question! I've never journaled or recorded emotional variables partly because that takes much more time and partly because they're harder to analyze.

For example, I could record stress on a 1-10 scale. Do I just put 11 for a day of unprecedented stress? Or should 10 always represent the global maximum thus far? More generally, how do I ensure consistency with myself?

I do vividly remember the stressful times in my life and can see their effects in the blog post's charts. I figured it's probably best to preserve at least some of my own privacy, although I did touch on this a bit when discussing music.

All that said, I have friends who journal and I might end up trying it too out of fear of losing data (even if it's squishy). Maybe once a week would be a sustainable cadence?


I've been attempting to solve this as well. I think stress is particularly difficult to measure as a simple number, as there are multiple forms of stress. For me, I've noticed urgency (stress on time), difficulty (stress on cognition), uncertainty (stress on confidence), and guilt (stress on emotions) make up my 'stress matrix'. I'm often able to identify the key strain during stream of consciousness, but only once I've made the conscious effort to backtrace.

I'm also a musician, and ironically, I will often increase my total stress levels by procrastinating certain tasks, using an instrument as my weapon of distraction. Sometimes this has instigated negative feedback loops, causing me to avoid playing for an extended period.

So my plan is to allocate a few minutes in the beginning and at the end of my day where I will reflect on the previous and upcoming cycle, including tasks and goals. Here I will have a -1, 0, 1 flag where -1 is "I am stressed," 0 is "I am relaxed," and 1 is "I am excited." I can either set these flags for an entire period (hour, day, week) or I can set them per object (task, goal). The default state is 0, as I'm more likely to set a flag if I'm experiencing emotion in either direction. Importantly, I will also set these flags retrospectively; so in the morning, I might flag a task as -1, but in the evening, it might be +1.

There are some useful data points here that I should be able to achieve with minimal friction. 1) how often am I stressed or excited? 2) how often can I easily identify the source(s) of emotion? 3) how consistent are my emotional flags over periods of time?

I also wonder what quantifiable data must exist in any form of extended journaling that can be unlocked via NLP or simpler heuristics. When I'm excited, do I tend to use more or less punctuation? When I'm stressed, does it take me longer to complete a journal entry?

Thanks for the inspiration to jot these thoughts down. They've been lingering in my head for awhile.


Interesting approach! It'd be great to hear how it ends up working out for you.

That's also a great point about NLP etc. I was kinda hoping that my "Average daily log entries" would show some kind of trend like that, but I guess it was too simplistic. It really might be worth recording journal data and just assuming that the tools for analysis will catch up later.


There’s also physiological stress, which some smartwatches do record.


What inspired you to start? You’ve always been a data/metrics person?


You could say that. More concretely, it was a stressful first semester of college and I felt like adding more structure to my life would help.


I built a real-time personal dashboard for my life which primarily relies on lazy tracking (requiring little to no manual data entry from me) - https://github.com/Andreilys/personal_dashboard

I do journal as well, using vimwiki (Where I implemented some simple tagging for things like happiness/productivity/stress/etc. ratings from 1-10).

However one of the side projects I'd like to work on at some point is a mood recognition project using a camera that I can put beside my door. The idea being to take a "photo" that then uses an ML algo to determine my mood (from 1-10) and record it whenever I enter/leave my home.


I also looked up recently and realized it had been ten years of doing something similar. It’s fun to see what we did differently. Your daily activity data is amazing

I ended up moving towards the mental side, to see if I could measure aspects of flourishing and wellbeing, and more recently to see if any core attitudes about the world are changing over time.

If you’re interested, check it out for comparison:

https://lars.yencken.org/ten-years-of-measurement/


Thanks for sharing - your story reads like a movie script! I'm lucky enough to not be worried about my health (yet) but maybe I should start tracking variables other than bodyweight. I'll definitely be coming back to your post for more inspiration.


I use Toggl for this — there's an app for every platform, so it's a keyboard shortcut away.

https://toggl.com/

It seems designed for people who want to bill their time, but works just as well for people who want to track 24/7. It takes some patience for a week to get into it, but now it's second nature.

While reviewing the data at the end of the week is useful, I've found the greatest benefit is requiring myself to choose how to spend my time. Getting distracted (e.g. browsing Hacker News!) requires the mental step of stating "Now I'm going to distract myself".


I've been tracking my daily activities in detail for 5 years now and I greatly appreciate the insights it provides into my own behavior and health. I love reading these kinds of articles to see that I'm not alone in this particular obsession and also for tips on how other people do it.

For my system I have repurposed Org Mode's clocking feature and run a dedicated Emacs instance in a terminal window. I then have a bunch of R scripts for visualizations: https://github.com/he-sk/timelog

The main disadvantage is that I need to enter activities manually when I have been away from the computer. I just save notes in my smartphone but it's a bit annoying.


I do something similar, using a text file instead of a spreadsheet or app:

https://www.gibney.org/a_syntax_for_self-tracking

To make this fast and easy, I developed the syntax described in this essay. It turned out to work pretty nicely. I have logged over 14,000 entries over the last 2 years.


This looks similar to how I believe Nomie logs data behind the scenes. But it looks for keywords on the line and transforms them into data e.g. "Today I #walked(4)" gets coded in JSON as { walked: 4}.

https://github.com/open-nomie/nomie5


What conclusions were you able to come to from this data? What was the cause of your headaches and sore eyes etc?


Well, as they say: The issue with statistics is that you can never be sure :)

As I am not aware of any existing software to analyze causalities in such an irregular log, I started writing my own this year.

It is an interesting challenge. The approach I currently take is a visual one: I draw a chart on which every notch on the x-axis is a 24-hour interval. And two lines on it. One is the line where I did not do something (say take Vitamin D3) and the other line is where I did do it.

The y-axis is the probability of an effect (say having a headache) in that time interval.

The center of the graph is the 24-hour interval after the treatment. Then the 24-48 hour interval, then the 48-72 hour interval etc. And left to the center is the 24 hour interval before the treatment. Then the 24-48 hour interval etc.

So it would be a "perfect" graph if the two lines look very much the same before the treatment and very much different after the treatment.

Some treatment/effect pairs look promising, but so far, I don't have a result clear enough that I feel confident enough to publish it.


Author here. Thanks for reading - I'm happy to answer any (ok, most) questions!


Do you ever think it's enough? For example:

> I can make everyday plans with greater precision, knowing exactly how many minutes I’ll need to shower or drive or buy groceries or do laundry or water the plants.

I used to think like this, I tracked how fast different routes took to work to optimize and decide. I optimized where I put what during laundry to make it less bothersome, and so on. But do you need 10 years of this? For me, after doing it a couple of times I basically got it.

A shower, I don't need to track it to know I can do it between 2-15 minutes. Or less, if I REALLY need to get going.

I've also built my apps, and used pre-built ones. But each time I've stopped, I haven't really missed it.


> A shower, I don't need to track it to know I can do it between 2-15 minutes. Or less, if I REALLY need to get going.

I just put a big (so I can read it without my glasses) battery operated (no electric shock risk) cheap (cuz I'm cheap) clock visible from the shower.


Counting in my head works too. When I aim to finish after 120 seconds (2 minutes) I'll wind up taking 300 seconds (5 minutes), but that's better than taking three times that long.


Right, you certainly don't need to track yourself for 10 years to figure out how long a shower takes!

A rough analogy: you can figure out from your HP bar how much damage you take from each hit, and it's probably worth doing so if you're going to be fighting these same baddies forever and have no other way of knowing, but the HP bar also serves other important purposes related to resource management: it gives you a sense of how you're doing overall, and it constantly reminds you that HP management is even worth caring about.


Would you define yourself as being anywhere on the autism spectrum?

Sorry for the very personal question. You certainly don’t owe me an answer. I just find it fascinating how some people care a lot about tracking their lives and others (like me) do not. I’m curious how it relates to personality types.


Hmm I've always been hesitant to self-diagnose stuff like that, partly because it feels like potentially trivializing others' experiences.

I basically see myself as a garden variety introvert. I suppose that in an informal sense, I might be further along the spectrum than the median person off the street, but then again I suspect the same is true of many other software engineers - especially HN readers.

So generally no, but technically maybe? IANAD


I'm fascinated by inter-personal differences in sleep patterns. Could you dive more deeply into what you learned about your sleep habits? For example:

1. How did you defined it - horizontal/unconscious/etc 2. Whether there are any 'outcome variables' it seems to cause 3. Whether your needs changed by age, or exercise level, or previous sleep duration (ie 'sleep debt')

Thanks for doing this! I always find them fascinating


1. For tracking purposes, I assume that I fall asleep immediately after putting my phone down. That's generally true enough, although sometimes I do find myself still lying awake and having to add a "Not sleeping" entry before putting my phone down again (for hopefully the last time of the night)! After my alarm goes off or as soon as I'm otherwise conscious enough to do anything, I mark "Sleep" as over.

2. It's not surprising that lack of sleep can get you feeling down. But since starting to track myself, I've been more conscious of the fact that whenever I'm feeling down, it's almost always after a night or two of bad sleep! I now take sleep a lot more seriously and ask myself first whether I've been sleeping well whenever I'm feeling down (as opposed to blaming other people, etc). This is especially important since I tend to ignore what my body tries to tell me.

3. The 7.5 hour average has remained roughly constant month over month for the entire decade. It's hard to say how much of an effect that other variables like exercise have since I always aim for 7-8 hours regardless. I do notice that if I get like 4 hours one night, I'll end up sleeping more than usual for the next night or two.


I see that you released it (thanks!), any idea why it starts to install, the progress bar goes to end and then it shows message that the app was not installed? Without bothering you too much with logs and stuff, if it's even available somewhere for not yet installed apps. Android 10 on Galaxy S9+.


See https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29701546

I've just uploaded a new APK that should hopefully work!

https://github.com/artnc/chronofile/releases


Yes, it works, thank you!


Would it be possible to add support for Android 9 and lower?


I record daily spending activity and often add comments against the transactions, e.g if it is a restaurant bill, I will include who was with me and if it was extra-ordinarily good or bad then I will add a comment about that as well.

I developed an app installed on my phone which automatically detects SMSs transaction notifications and uploads them to my online app which is a simple General Ledger with simple and good enough reporting capabilities.

For cash payments (less than 10% of my transactions) the same app allows me to quickly take a picture of whatever I was buying or the receipt and uploads it to the online app for later posting. I even have a Google Cloud Run job which reads email notifications since some of my cards don't have SMSs notifications. I have been doing this since 2015 and it has been one of the greatest decision I have ever made.


Why do these posts never include sex? Such a weird taboo.


Author here. I certainly don't not track it!

If you're wondering where it could appear in the charts, any one of the Sleep/People/Exercise/Other categories would seem a possible candidate...


It would create a lot of awkward interactions for any of their ex's who see the data after it's published, or their family.

Easier to avoid it at least in the public copy. Though I'd argue even tracking it personally might cause issues if your new SO saw it and started to compare to past partners. Best to just leave it out entirely.


They also don't mention time spent pooping and peeing. Doesn't mean it's taboo. Might just not be useful information to track, unless you're trying to have children or to check how your sex life was affected after already having children.


Love and relationships and as part of those sex are such an integral part of life. It seems odd it's such a taboo in tech to discuss, or in this case measure it as part of a life log.


It simply isn't true that love, relationships, and sex are an integral part of life. It's true for many people, but definitely not for everyone. Lots of people are single. Many are celibate (for whatever reason).

I don't think there's a taboo regarding sex and relationships in tech. People can discuss whatever they want. OP is free to choose whether to log (or share) their sex data.


So is pooping. Nothing prevents you from tracking your sex life but I would never do it and especially not put it out there in a public blog post.


Their point is that actually no, it's not similar. I won't call pooping an integral part of life.


A few days without it, and I bet you'll find it pretty integral.


Maybe because of some of the following?:

- it's embarrassing to talk about your sex life, and maybe especially gaps in it, online? - it's naturally private and people value their privacy, particularly online? - people are so taboo about it that they don't even want to record it for their future self? - it just gets lumped in with "sleep"? - it doesn't take up a significant enough amount of time?

All of these depend on the person, of course.


> it's naturally private and people value their privacy, particularly online?

People who value this type of privacy don't publish a decade of logs chronicling their daily life.


perhaps it's not an omission..


If the OP did have sex during this time, I expect it is filled under "people". It would be interesting to track, though. In particular, how much life is dedicated to the pursuit of sex vs actually having sex. I know that my time spent actually having sex has decreased from probably an hour per day to an hour per week. Not sure about time spent in pursuit of sex, though.


I want to track sex. So far it's been a spreadsheet.

Is there anyone else with a better method?


I guess it's the Christian problem -- they seem to hate sex, or at least talking about it.


Aside from the fascinating findings and good summary, just wanted to point out how disciplined one must be to do what the author has done. Congrats!


I am not capturing the data quite like the author of the web page, I don't think I have the mental fortitude to do such a thing. I have tried on ocassion to do so, but I've not been able to make it stick.

I have been tracking the metrics of my life to varying degrees for close to four decades now. Every book I've read, every movie I've watched, every music album I've listened too, every science paper I've read through (rather than just glanced at), the bills each month, breakdown of grocery bills by product for the past 20+ years, every recipe I've ever cooked (though not every meal I've ever ate) for the past 10+ years, continuous screenshots of my desktop from my laptops and workstations, and recently (past 8+ years), multiple angle RGBD (colour+depth) photos of my home office and my home workshop. For a few years (between 2001 and 2008) I wore a homemade SenseCam that captured hundreds of photos per day as I went about my life.

I am always interested in other people's personal life logging habits so this is a fascinating insight in to it.


I'd love to track all this, but it feels like every few years some new technology comes out and I lose a weeks, months, or years worth of lists somewhere.

Where do you keep all this?


Spreadsheets, OneNote (originally text files, but OneNote for the past 18+ years and probably for the next 18+ years too), cameras captured to JPG or PNG. I don't rely on online services or SaaS websites that can arbitrarily disappear or lose my data.


This is fascinating. The dedication it takes to keep this up for 10 years is impressive.

Did you consider any existing apps before making your own? Are there any apps like this that are available for download?


Author here! I had searched around but didn't find any existing app that matched my requirements. A few that immediately come to mind:

1. I have sole ownership of the data

2. The data is stored in an easily parsable format (TSV)

3. Duplicating a recent activity takes one tap

4. Pie and area charts are displayed in the app

My app is open source and available on GitHub[1] for any Android developer to compile for themselves, but if there's enough interest I can also get around to packaging it up for the Play Store/F-Droid/etc.

[1]: https://github.com/artnc/chronofile



I've recently began to take life tracking semi-seriously and mostly use "off the shelf" tools. A good all-around dashboard is https://exist.io/, capable of pulling data from multiple sources like RescueTime and various health-monitoring applications that come with smart watches.


This is formidable. I used to track everything for 3 years with Toggl, quantitative productivity got to a point when I spent "productively" 80% to 90% of the day. From then on I decided to switch to qualitative and stopped tracking. Not so successful, I must admit, it's much more difficult to make it objective.


I thought about this just a few days ago and I thought I would like to ha e a personal assistant which tells my brain what Todo.

Like when I look at my watch it says 'work' and that should help me to allow myself to focus on work because I know my assistant will also 'schedule' news reading and other things.

Otherwise I'm constantly thinking and rethink ing what I want to do and end watching some yt because I'm to unmotivated at the evening to do something else.

Supporting this by visual cues around the flat with smart lights.

Of course just another, probably not working, tool for antiprocrastination.

With the stamina of the author (doing sport, playing instrument and keeping book for so long) I might not need a tool just his stamina :D


I thought of this too, but with scheduling as well. So I could add "buy gloves", and it will try to fit it into the schedule and optimise it for when I'd be close to a shopping centre (e.g. for flat visits or groceries, etc.).

Same for wanting to do 5 hours of exercise a week, around work hours. What to focus on within working hours, etc.

With Alexa and Google Calendar, we're pretty close already.


For me, having something visible constantly in written form looses it's meaning and purpose after a while. Sticky notes notes on the fridge for example simply become invisible.


For me as well :-(

But surprised how good the smartwatch vibration works for "time to move".

But just an hour ago I thought how I could tell Plex to stop playing and showing a screenshot to say 'its time, your show will continue in 30 minutes.' or the Amazon fire tv.

Might be doable with writing a Kodi plugin.


I’ve done something like this in the past with a spreadsheet, but I recently fell out of the habit because of the overhead of taking a few minutes at the end of a long day and opening the spreadsheet up on my laptop. I’d like some kind of cross-platform life logging app that is equally usable for longform entries when I have full access to a good keyboard and quick notes when I just have a phone and a few seconds of time. Some kind of highly customizable rich schema support (long text entries + basic biometrics like self-reported sleep) would be ideal. Any suggestions?


Checkout airtable. Functions like excel but you can make survey style webpages that will drop data responses directly into your database


I wonder if this kind of logging follows the law of diminishing returns. The most of the value comes from the actual process of writing down what you have been doing and having an overview of the past days and weeks, but the stats of what you did, let's say, two months ago, don't add much value. So, the actual value of logging is in the discipline of taking the time and logging. Which means that, people, who would most benefit from this, will never be able to do it -- they lack the dedication.


I think the act of paying attention to your behaviour is the value. That can come from writing it down yourself. But if someone else writes it down and then you review it say Sunday night, then I think the value is there.


Awareness is important but I feel this kind of self-logging goes really too far in terms of efforts vs results.

Some people might feel that they are not in control of their life even after a month of logging. Some that they should optimize every minute of their life for "productivity".

I suspect doing some introspection with help from a psychologist could be much more effective for both types.


I initially read this as “ten years of logging: my life” and was disappointed it wasn’t going to be about forestry or timber… I should go outside


I did the same, but with a far less complex system. It's a markdown file synced using iCloud, where input happens using Apple Shortcut. Works quite well. Screenshots here [1].

[1]: https://mobile.twitter.com/giansegato/status/146896340342311...


I've thought about keeping a log, but if I did, it would not to this level of detail. It is enough for me to know that I performed a specific activity but I wouldn't want to log how many hours and minutes that I spent on it.

The author writing their own Android app to accomplish the logging was interesting to read.


I've been doing a "3-positives about your life" every night for almost 4 years. I get up to 5 emails a night if I don't respond in time, then my response gets stored. I thought I could correlate them with major events in my life but the values were between -1, 0 and 1. I don't know if it even makes sense and sometimes I didn't take it seriously. Still it's cool it has been running for so long.

Anyway I didn't get really any insight from it so... idk if it's a waste of time or what. I still use writing a lot for personal thoughts/state management.

I was using Mailgun for the emailing/API and Raspi/Python/Apache/MariaDB for my stack.

I am aware using third party my stuff is passing through them, it's not super detailed just positive/negative sentiment with abstract context.


You can try with gratitude instead (not tracking, but writing), it has serious scientific backing:

- https://www.coursera.org/learn/the-science-of-well-being

- https://hubermanlab.com/the-science-of-gratitude-and-how-to-...


> science of happiness

Yeah I'm not sure, I think it's natural to have ups and downs. But for me personally there's always something worrying me. I don't know if once I escape being poor "for good" eg. have money invested/don't have to work. If I will lose this constant anxiety.

I still struggle with the whole "altruism" thing like I help people but I also in the back of my mind have this feeling of "mine". "I'd be further in life if I was an asshole" etc...

I think productivity is also subjective... if you setup businesses/have passive income/don't have to work. If you don't do anything are you not productive? Anyway I know what productivity means for me (getting things done) but that's because I can't stop yet. Not that I want to stop but yeah. It's like I don't want to wake up/sleep 9-5 but I need to because I have a job.


You can research happiness while still believing in a life with ups and downs.


Not sure what you mean by "believing in a life with ups and downs" is that not reality?

Happiness seems simple to achieve to me, do the opposite of what makes you unhappy unless you need something like medication.


I'm sorry, it sounded like you were averse to studying happiness because it would remove the ups and downs. I don't know what you wanted to say if not that.


haha, my soundtrack in life is the Lego song "Everything is awesome"

idk, this whole 'studying happiness' sounds like you're trying to trick yourself to be happy, but that's an ignorant take without looking for myself.

I know can really get down in the weeds, hierarchy of needs, Buddhism, philosophy, etc...

I think that as a sentient/alive being, your mind will always be on/running. And actually having problems like being broke distracts you from the fact that time counts down and you exist regardless of what you do. Mainly to stay alive and avoid pain.

Even if you have money and didn't have to work/have freedom, how long till you're bored. Anyway I have plenty of reasons to be happy you know like I have family in a third world country with parasites, barely have access to water, here I am paid to write code, running water, hot shower everyday, etc... I used to stack biscuits into a box for a job and hated myself, I changed it.

Life is not so bad (but it can be better, Wonder woman meme).

Anyway I'm just rambling here


I spent much of my life without money, and I was altogether fairly satisfied and curious. I would often wonder, will I feel the same forms of loneliness, inadequacy, aimlessness, when I have money, as I do now without it?

Yes, I have.

Emotions are their own realm, and the time you spend observing and reflecting on them, as we are doing in this thread, is valuable.


Without going quite to the extreme of the author, a good place to start understanding your habits is to use something like Xero to consolidate all your personal credit cards and bank accounts.

Not only does this give you a good idea of what you did each day, but it’s extremely beneficial for both budgeting and tax purposes.

The base plan for $10/mo does this. You can use Microsoft Todo to set the habit of consolidating every morning with your coffee.

I spent around $1200 on alcohol in the 2 year Melbourne lockdown, around $2000 on coffee, and a whopping $40 on entertainment venues (indoor sports, movies, tickets, etc). Aside this, I learnt that I spend less than I expected on eating out vs buying groceries, and all things considered it’s probably cheaper for me to rent a car permanently than own one if I want a nice car.


To me it doesn't feel right to let my financial data accessible to some random company. If i could hide to my bank, I would!

I used a non connected Android app before, but since I moved to a phone without Google Play support, I'm writing my own app.


You might be interested in the free Personal Capital app which can juggle investment accounts, credit cards, and checking accounts all in one app. I tried a few of these including Wealthfront and Personal Capital worked the best for me. They make money selling financial advice so you might get a couple of phone calls early on, but they seem to have stopped calling me.


Fascinating, great blog post.

Don’t think I have the dedication to track things similarly, but love the data. I use a Whoop fitness band to track sleep, vitals, exercise, and enjoy seeing all the data. Would be cool go log more than health, but that’d require some extra effort… :-)


Perhaps the next iteration of such tracking would be values for related series of objective measurements that should improve with the investment of time. Continued exercise should yield improvements in weight, speed, endurance, etc (at least for an individual as young as the OP).

Malcolm Gladwell often trumpeted "deliberate practice." Does the OP receive feedback regarding the quality of his musical practice or the form displayed during physical exercise? Does that yield greater gains per time?

More (most) importantly, what are the GOALS of these activities? The ultimate assessment would be the extent to which such data, discipline, and tracking actually spark progress in the desired direction.


Author here! I do track my gym workouts and finances using other apps - I just figured that that's pretty common and less worth mentioning. Those are both very quantifiable, so it's relatively easy to measure progress.

I'd probably improve faster by taking music lessons, but improvement is really a secondary goal after having fun. For what it's worth, I do still get some feedback from bandmates and my own ear - recording your own playing and trying to mix it into something presentable makes it painfully clear what needs work!


I recently found Stethoscope.js [0] which looks pretty neat and the plugin system is done using Javascript with a simple interface.

I've been looking to automate my tracking somehow for a bit, my best bet could be using the Google Fit API which already logs most of the stuff I want based on other devices I have (a smartwatch, for example).

My ideal setup would be something that can be self-hosted, exportable, and resilient, but haven't found the right recipe. I'm not good at logging things manually.

[0]: https://stethoscope.js.org


If you are using a smart phone, have a Google or Facebook account, an email account, spend electronic money, or take photos then you already ARE logging your life. I am constantly amazed (and occasionally grateful) that there is such a comprehensive log of everything I do from credit card expenses and receipts, to Google/Apple map history, to EXIF photo (location) data, to social network interactions, to email and texting information. I compile much of that information into a MySQL database to get a better timeline of my history.


I’ll just leave a link to the Feltron annual report 2014 here: http://feltron.com/FAR14.html


He also built an app to help in creating your own personal annual reports: http://reporter-app.com/


Anyone able to install the chronofile (OP's app name) APK? I am running Android 11, and whenever I try to install, it says app not installed.


Apparently, the OP has released this apk with the android:testOnly flag, so you need to install it with adb using adb install -r -t <file>.apk


Whoops, apparently Android Studio silently adds that flag nowadays! Thanks for investigating. I've just uploaded a new APK that should hopefully work.

https://github.com/artnc/chronofile/releases


I do this, but no apps, just a plain old google sheet. I sometimes miss several days due to forgetfulness and neglect, and have to recall what I did.

It's also a great way to estimate how long projects take - pretty much thanks to past data. And you can use the data to tell how productive a company is - I had one whose project iteration times are a full 50x longer than what it took to do it yourself.


Wow... I wonder how much time does logging of all those tasks take time? I'm not sure if I could do it since I'm switching among tasks all of the time. Manual logging of activities does take some time but I guess it it more precise than application that comes with some fitness wristband.


He said it takes one minute total, per day, using his app. Previously 10 minutes.

Just to share my experience, the time spent recording data often feels like it's worth it; there's a tangible reward that's more obvious after a while. At first it had novelty value but years later I recognize it as a distinct value separate from novelty. The act of recording by itself has a noticeable impact and anchors a feeling of self-control. (I use a sloppy tag-and-gather method though, not an app, which seems like it could be really fun to create)


To me it seems amazing to use just one minute. I guess I'm not that fast :)

I agree that logging is a great steering mechanism but I guess that you first must have a goal what you want to achieve.


I use a text file where entries have a start timestamp, end timestamp, and a description. I have a macro to automatically enter the timestamps. It takes about 5 seconds to make an entry and about 4 minutes if I'm doing all the entries at once.


If you want to start simply tracking few things and you are on Android, I highly recommend https://loophabits.org/ (FOSS, F-Droid, Play Store). It is sleek and very usable.


Now if that android app came with APK, or was accessible on F-Droid or the Play Store..



Thanks!


It's open source. The source is linked in the article.


I once logged every mistake I made programming, hoping to avoid repetition.

I found the list years later. "20. Forgot to eat. Got sick."


I use the Focus app from meaningful-things.com, you can store the data in iCloud and export it as a txt file if you want.


I’ve started trying to create a timeline for significant events each month of my life


This the future, but you will not be needed to enter data manually, everything will be automatically sooner or later.


And then used against you.


It depends, but yes it's the high possibility :) Hopefully we are wrong :)


Obligatory: If you use org mode, you can use the Capture templates to conveniently capture data.




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