The Body · The Soul

A Year of Living Quantitatively

I’m a big believer in the unquantifiable. When you’re a metadata geek, you know that a lot gets lost in the process of quantification.

But that’s not to say quantification doesn’t have value. A healthy person needs both data and memory/experience/emotion. And even the unquantifiable can be duly noted, described, and stored.

I am taking this year to live mindfully. Of course, it’s me, so there’s loads of apps involved, which quantify everything and create data that can be analyzed. And for the stuff that can’t be analyzed? This is why God invented journals, Marie Kondo, and yoga.

If I were to write my New Year’s Resolutions in a traditional way, it would be as follows:

  • Lose the 8 pounds I gained after blowing out my knee and acknowledging my depression/anxiety
  • Pay off remaining debt and enhance savings plan
  • Learn krav maga
  • Advanced yoga 4 days a week
  • Walk 5 miles a day

But doing all that crap means you need a TON of support. And it’s not fair to burden other people with that responsibility. This is why we have apps. My go-tos for this process (which I’ve been using for a few months leading up to the new year so I know I can stick with them) are Habitica, MyFitnessPal, and Mint.

Habitica is the Master App. It’s a sort of role-playing game where you rack up “coins” and level-up for everything you achieve. I have “habits” like “Eat produce” – when I choose an unhealthy snack instead, I have to click the “minus” button and I lose points; it incentivizes me to stick to the plan. I have “dailies” like “make bed” or “yoga” or “clean apartment” – these can be scheduled so they are only applicable for certain days. When I check those off, I earn points. And then there are “to-do’s”, which is where I put my work goals, my financial goals, and my health tasks (“get bloodwork done”). I am currently at Level 58, with an absolute warehouse of equipment and mounts.

Many of my friends know me as a diehard Fitbit aficianado. And I continue to think it is incredibly effective. But over the summer, during a super-awful period at work, I decided that being paid for the super-awful meant I could treat myself – and I did. To an Apple Watch. Which I absolutely love. But it threw off my health game. I had to get used to new software, a new interface. I finally have, and I use MyFitnessPal because Fitbit doesn’t have an Apple Watch app, and I refuse to wear two wristbands. (I love data, but that would just be insane.) I have gotten the hang of MyFitnessPal and you will pry my watch from my cold, dead wrist.

And then there’s Mint. It’s no substitute for immediate and direct access to your bank account, but in terms of describing your spending habits, it’s indispensable. I’ve always liked Quicken, but the data entry is horrid. Mint removes the data entry element, and replaces it with a time delay. Between directly accessing my account every morning when I wake up (thanks, Habitica!) and Mint, I have more insight on my finances than I ever have before in my life.

My life is not all mechanically-operated, however. I travel a lot for work – there are plenty of opportunities to put the apps on “pause” and immerse myself in other cultures, if I want. And I’ve asked Habitica to ensure that I journal every night. This is where the unquantifiable goes – my feelings, my crap. My journaling is in no way an accurate portrait of me – any more than my stats are. But it ensures that the unquantifiable has a home.

Speaking of home – yes, over the holidays I Kondo-ed my apartment. I purchased her book at the Amazon Store in Seattle just for a lark. I didn’t feel like I had a whole lot to get rid of – I had just moved! I left a lot at Bernardo’s! What’s to purge?

Turns out, 9 bags of trash, a huge bin of clothing and shoes, and 9 boxes of books. Salvation Army is coming tomorrow for the clothing, shoes, and books (I know, I know, but Goodwill isn’t on Staten Island).

So we’ll see where this leads. So far, what I’ve learned in 2016 is that a high-protein breakfast, a high-protein lunch with LOADS of raw veggies, and a high-protein dinner help slay the reflux dragon. Stress makes my eyelids twitch, so if my eyes are twitching it means I’m anxious (I know, reverse-engineering, who knew). Making my bed and knitting every day is critical (and thank you, Chris, for your lovely gift; I am making a gorgeous snood).

We’ll see where all this leads. Day-to-day, there’s certainly plenty of data being generated.


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