A Quantified Self
On the last day of 2014 I posted this on Facebook:
What did these numbers mean?
Whatever else happened in 2014, I did a lot of cycling.... that says something. doesn't it? I formally defined, recorded, and completed 579 tasks - what does that say? Something! I clearly got out of bed...!
More numbers - this time for 2015: I completed 625 tasks (up 46) , 15 projects (down 14) and 51 events (up 3), and 1600km on the bicycle (down 1579), and saw 21 films (down 5).
In those 2015 numbers there was some big stuff:
- we bought a house & moved in
- I gave a TEDx talk
- saw Star Wars (!)
Although I cheekily only posted numbers on Facebook, I do capture a bunch of different artifacts and then use them as anchor points to try to make sense of... to try to bring narrative to... my identify and purpose.
I use Evernote on my phone or computer to do the capturing. It's easy to do. I create "tags" for the various artifacts I want to collect.
Examples below are from my work life:
For instance - and much more meaningfully than mere whimsical numbers - whenever I get unsolicited feedback I keep a record of it - I have 65 entries so far, including a book cover a friend told me reminded them of me, Post It notes from my 40th Birthday, and proper evaluations from schools I've worked with...
These little files I keep have been incredibly helpful for me because I happen to suffer nasty bouts of imposter syndrome - the awful feeling in my gut that I am a total fraud, totally out of my depth, and the world is about to notice & call me on it.
Brené Brown in "Men, Women and Worthiness" gives a good antidote. She talks about our "sacred ground", where we are neither puffed up nor do we shrink back.
My capturing, my quantifying in an externalised system, has given me anchor points to come back to when I've felt shaky.
This year, for a bit of fun, I targeted those nitty gritty 625 tasks and used Wordle to analyse the most frequently occurring words: (bigger means more frequent).
Nothing too profound, but still therapeutic and quite beautiful, to peer at some of the fabric of the practical steps that I've taken, one by one. I find it interesting that people and interaction are prominent!
I travel quite regularly for work, and this year thought to track it all onto one map:
It does something, to see it on a map. The map represents quite a few years - but it does accumulate!
Just this year I started taking snaps of each hotel room I stayed in:
I feel I ought to finish with something profound... but all I've got is that life is a messy patchwork, but I want to savour it, and to savour it I need to watch sometimes, like an observer. Capturing & quantifying is a quaint habit of mine but it sure helps me take that step back for perspective.
Whatever 2016 brings I'll be sure to be playing a little bit of archivist along the way.