Tracking My Life in 2014

by Mike Shea on 12 January 2015

The nerdiest annual letter you may ever read.

A Year in Structured Data

Every day in 2014 I used my lifetracker app to track six primary drivers I consider most important in my life on a 1 to 10 scale. The following chart shows the results.

Tracking this type of data over the year helped me in a few ways:

Procedure: Tracked Every Day with the Life Tracker

Every evening at 10pm I open up my Lifetracker app and fill in the web form. It usually takes a couple of minutes and automatically tracks the date, time, and location. Each night I scored my six main drivers and clicked tags for regular daily activities. I also entered tags for any new activities I wanted to track.

Here's a sample of the data:

"07/27/2014 10:07:24 pm",Write,1
"07/27/2014 10:07:24 pm",Read,"Last Argument of Kings"
"07/27/2014 10:07:24 pm",Read,"Y The Last Man"
"07/27/2014 10:07:24 pm",Audiobook,"Mr. Mercedes"
"07/27/2014 10:07:24 pm",Videogame,Hearthstone
"07/27/2014 10:07:24 pm",Videogame,"Assassins Creed 4"
"07/27/2014 10:07:24 pm",Movie,lifeitself
"07/27/2014 10:07:24 pm","Listened to Michelle",1
"07/27/2014 10:07:24 pm",Impatient,1
"07/27/2014 10:07:24 pm",Critical,1
"07/27/2014 10:07:24 pm",Sarcastic,1
"07/27/2014 10:07:24 pm","Emailed Friend",1
"07/27/2014 10:07:24 pm","Game With Friends",D&D

This resulted in 8,400 rows of data containing three columns: a date and time, a key, and a value. Many times a key, such as "ate well", simply has a value of "1" to show that I did it. Other keys, such as "Audiobook" has the value of the book itself, such as "Mr. Merdedes". We'll get into this more in a moment.

At the end of the year I ran the data through a series of R scripts to output time series charts of the six drivers and a number of binary sparkline charts to show my specific daily activities over the year.

The format of these charts are based on the principles of Edward Tufte's Visual Display of Quantitative Information.

Managing Expectations: A Look at Successful Days

If we consider a score of 7 or above to be part of a minimal successful day, we can look at the six main scores a little differently. The following binary sparkline chart shows the six categories across the year with a score of 7 or greater as a positive and 6 or less as a negative.

Everything except health is above 80%, which I feel is quite satisfactory. Health itself started strong and then began to drop in June. More on this in a bit.

Tracking Daily Activities

Using the tagging feature of the Lifetracker let me associate keys (think of these like "tags") and values to specific activities throughout the day. These tags comprised most of the 8,400 rows of this data collected over the year. The following binary sparkline chart shows the days I conducted various activities.

Aligning Daily Activities to Goals

We can also break out the specific daily activites by the main five drivers I scored above. Here's a sparkline chart of daily activities broken out by driver.

Creative Activities

Relaxing Activities

Loving Activities

Befriending Activities

Healthy Activities

A Note About Health

Though I spent a good many days walking 10k steps or climbing five flights of stairs three times a day, those aren't the true defining factors for a healthy day. For me, the one measure of a healthy day is how well I ate. If I eat under 2,200 calories, it's a healthy day. Thus, the one measure to look at in the chart above is the "ate well" tag which clearly trended downward throughout 2014.

Relaxing Activities: Books Read, Movies Watched, Games Played

Because the lifetracker lets me track the details of an activity (the "value" of the key / value pair), we can take a detailed look at specific relaxing activities. For example, what books did I read? What movies did I watch? What games did I play? Here are the results. I included a list of my favorites as well.

Books and Audiobooks Read in 2014 - 16

Favorite books of 2014: Saga, The Peripheral, Throne of the Crescent Moon.

Video and Tabletop Games Played in 2014 - 33

Favorite games of 2014: Hearthstone, Shadows of Mordor, Paper's Please.

Movies Watched in 2014 - 58

Here are three of the best movies I saw this year, though they're not actually FROM this year: Kill Bill 1 and 2, Life Itself, Michael Clayton.

TV Shows Watched in 2014 - 27

Favorite TV shows of 2014: Cosmos, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, True Detective.

Locations Visited in 2014 - 8

The Lifetracker app tracked my location each time I entered in a day's record. Here are all the locations where I stayed the night.

Daily Goals for 2015

I'm happy with the things I'm tracking. I've spent a lot of time thinking about them and I still think the five main goals plus happiness are the things that matter to me the most and thus are worth measuring. I think tracking individual activities is an interesting way to look at my activities over the year. As I think about 2015, I want to re-evaluate what the scores mean to me, particularly in what makes for a "successful" day. That isn't a 10. It's more like a 7. What would we have to do to have a successful day every day?

Was It Worth It?

Tracking daily activities was a worthwhile activity. It reinforced the things most important to me every day. It helped me set a realistic baseline of what I can expect. It helped me evaluate what a good day looks like. It gave me a daily structured journal and I enjoyed the process.

If I can live each day like I lived those in 2014, I will have another day in a life well lived.

Send comments to mike@mikeshea.net or follow @mshea on Twitter. If you enjoyed this article, please bookmark and use this link to Amazon.com for your next online purchase.