A key part of the value of the quantified self is awareness. We know how to coach ourself when we give ourselves enough purposeful attention.
I’ve been travelling for work recently. Being away from home has put out my usual diet. I just didn’t have my usual options or as much ability to cook. Feeling the effects, I decided recently to start tracking my meals using the Fitbit app. I wanted to know what I was eating.
There were three quick lessons from this experience:
– the Hawthorne effect works: just being aware I was recording my meals ( with no cheating) helped me make better choices.
– after a few days I realised I didn’t need to know the data. If I concentrated on what my body was telling me, I knew whether I was hungry, when I had enough and what I shouldn’t eat. If I listened closely to those messages I could make better decisions without data.
– I enjoyed eating more, because I noticed what I was eating.
A big part of the value of the quantified self is helping us become more self-aware. We all benefit when we step out of busy distracted mode. There can be great value in novel insights from data. Usually, our problems are much simpler. We don’t need machines to tell us things we know but don’t do. We need to learn how to be more present and how to better coach ourselves.