Can We Use Measurement For Self Improvement?

Recently I read The Measured Life which took a look at group of people who call themselves “The Quantified Self” who track and measure many of the different actions in their daily lives. Reading this article  fit well with some initial thoughts I had about  what could potentially be done in self-measurement and reminded me of my recent (failed) attempt at a  personal measurement dashboard. Measuring what we do and our personal growth isn’t something that has been fully explored yet but is something that potentially could play a stronger role in our lives in the years to come.

Data Everywhere!

In our lives we create a lot of collectable data. Thinking about our external data sources there are data trails such as your banking records, what you purchase, how much you travel as well as usage data from a variety of electronics and apps you use daily. Additionally for yourself personally there are  things such as how you sleep, your mood , general health and physical activity levels that can all be measured in one way or another. Could bringing all this data together potentially give us a much deeper view into how we live our lives and give us a way to better optimize it?

Why Could This Data Be Useful?

The big advantage of any financial tracking application (example: Mint) is that you see where your money goes which  makes you much better equipped to spend your money more wisely. Additionally  knowing your purchase or usage habits lets you know what you should buy or replace on a more effective basis.


Could we all eventually have our own personal dashboard? Picture c/o Bill Rice

Use cases for measuring our lives could be things such as receiving an auto reminder when your car  or other devices should be serviced or seeing how often you purchase a particular item so you know the next time you should pick it up. In terms of tracking your life data it could potentially  be used in improving your health, gauging your personal satisfaction as well as let you weigh out potential decisions and opportunities.

But What About Fate?

Taking an opposing stance it could also be argued that knowing everything about ourselves could remove the serendipitous or by chance occurrences in life and limit us to our own predetermined paths. Could we be taking out some of the exciting aspects of life by putting a number towards our achievements and actions? I think this type of issue would come down to whether a person lets their life measures rule them or if they simply use  them as a resource to make generally better decisions.

What’s Coming Next?

If I had a crystal ball I would say that opportunities for personal measurement are going to pop up more frequently in the coming years. With the popularity of tools such as Klout  ,web applications like motivational app  Epic Win  as well as real life activity tracking tools like Nike + I think there is a strong desire for people to be able to quantify their actions so they can make a better judgments of their accomplishments as well as compare themselves against others.  With some creativity and good use of technology I think we could have some interesting applications to use in the years ahead.


What are your thoughts? Should we be measuring ourselves? How do you measure yourself already?




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  1. I do see the need that some people have for this Kev. I’m one of them. I try to track my spending and calories with iPhone apps. The only problem is that I go through spurts when I’ll use them and then forget about them for a few weeks, so it’s not really working/helping at all.

    Your post also reminded about this new bracelet I saw a couple weeks ago that was debuted at a TED which tracks your health (somehow) and works in conjunction with your smartphone. Have you seen this?

    – Sheldon

  2. No I haven’t but it looks absolutely awesome! Thanks for sharing Sheldon. I’ll have to check this bracelet out when it becomes available. 

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