Minding the Borderlands

Mark Koester (@markwkoester) on the art of travel and technology

How to Get Your iPhone Usage Data

How much do you use your phone? Which apps do you spend the most time on? Are you addicted to Candy Crush or some other game? How often are you checking your email? Just what are you doing on your phone?

These are some of the questions we all want to answer about our phone usage. Unfortunately, Apple devices can make this a bit of a pain.

While an iPhone is an amazing device for tracking steps and loads of other health data, Apple’s permissions have historically made it hard to track the overall phone usage. Unlike an Android, you don’t have access to a lot of underlying activity on your phone. Fortunately, there is an easy workaround for any self-tracker looking to know more about their mobile usage.

Hidden in your iPhone preferences is section called “Battery” and it contains a lot of interesting information. Technically it’s recording how certain apps consume your battery. But with the click of a setting, you can suddenly see all of your iPhone usage data as an amount of time. You can even know your actual screentime on these individual apps.

In this post, we will how you how to find this area and some simple techniques to log your usage as well as how you might use this data for self-improvement.

Tracking TV & Movie Watching With Trakt.TV

How do you spend your downtime? What movies and TV shows are you watching? Are you addicted to TV or just enjoying some relaxing entertainment before bedtime?

Most self-tracking is about your active time. You might use time tracking to look at productivity and computer usage or an activity tracker to record your steps and exercise. Habit trackers and life logging tools can help you record even more of your life and there are lots of other areas we have been examining in the realm of self-tracking.

As self-trackers, you can also learn some interesting aspects about your self by looking at what you do in your post-work downtime. Do you read, do you watch movies and TV or do you spend hours on YouTube? Simply, how do you spend your downtime?

We often say, you are what you eat. When it comes to media like TV and movie watching, how much and what you consume matters too.

In this post, we are going to look at a simple tool and social network called Trakt.tv. It’s a way for tracking your TV and movie watching. For quantified self-ers and self-trackers, it is the best tool for you to become aware of how much time and what you watch on TV.

Life Logging or How to Track the Meaning in Life’s Miscellaneous

What’s the relationship between drinking coffee and pooping? Does your energy level relate to weather? To wake up time? Does regular drinking of water factor into overall mood? Does smiling or saying thank you change if you rate a day as good or so-so? How do different aspects of your routines and tendencies affect your overall day?

These are some of the questions you can attempt to answer and understand through life logging.

If you are attempting to “track everything” as we are doing, then there are a nearly endless amount of possibilities. We’ve looked at steps, music listening, meditation, podcast listening, running and habits. I’ve written a lot about time tracking too. There is a lot of ground to cover when you think about “tracking everything,” and we are slowly seeing more and more tools and techniques to passively track our lives. That said, life logging is likely one area that will remain as it provides a way to capture what we rarely consider like smiles, thank you’s or how often you shave.

Life Logging has a history of being one of the most extreme areas for the quantified self movement. Historically it meant recording your life in live streaming video. But in fact life logging has a much simpler meaning.

Life logging is a form of tracking where you “tally” or count different things in your life. It could be how many coffees, how often you pee, or when you complain. It could be who you spend time with or what activities you do most. Like habit tracking, there a number of great tools for recording different aspects of your daily activities.

Life logging is a kind of organized “tally” tracking. Like tracking your habits, it is possible with life logging to create behavior changes. But by its nature of being a much broader form of tracking, life logging requires more thought and maturation before you gain insights and actionable lessons.

If we are a product of our habits and tendencies, life logging provides an interesting way to learn about areas of your life you didn’t previously notice. Life logging makes it possible to put concrete examples onto some area of your life you hadn’t thought about before. I would argue that the value of life logging doesn’t come just from the data, but from the noticing and reflection from that noticing.

In this post we are going to look at tally tracking or so-called life logging. We will look briefly at what it is as an area of self-tracking as well as look at some great tools to get started. Finally we will open conclude with a reflection on life logging as a habit of noticing.

Track Your Habits, Change Yourself: Tools for Self-Tracking Habit Builders

We are a product of our habits–personal and organizational. Coming to grips with our habits and tendencies can have a huge impact on your life.

There are two areas that I believe all self-trackers need to incorporate in order to effectively track a life: habit tracking and life logging.

Habit tracking is about “check-ins” on your behavioral changes, while life logging is about recording all (or part) of the miscellaneous things you do in a day, i.e. how many times you smile or how often you poop.

When done consciously and meaningfully, habit tracking and life logging provide a wealth of information about the self. But when it comes to habits, it has the added bonus of helping you improve yourself. To effectively track a habit is to build and reinforce a (positive) behavioral change.

In this post we are going to look at habit tracking. We will look briefly at the difference between habit tracking and life logging. We will examine some great tools to track your habits. Finally we will talk about the larger implications of habit tracking and personal development.

Run Smarter: Run Tracking and Personal Data Using RunKeeper

If you want to optimize your behavior and habits, then you should track. Tracking your exercise and runs contributes to both behavioral and habit changes while also providing insightful data.

This has been my year of running. You can go from a dead-beat to average to super human (relatively speaking) through progressive optimizations. Even if you aren’t a data nut like me, running statistics can be helpful to decrease your chances of injury and build up your endurance, strength, and flexibility. It’s also fascinating data too.

Developing any new habit comes with figuring out my favorite tools, preferred processes and tracking my data. For an obsessive tracker like me, running comes with one of the richest data sets to explore about yourself.

This personal data can lead to a lot of actionable lessons as you train to run farther and faster. Whether you are merely looking to make some initial health adjustments or preparing for a long distance half- or full marathon, run tracking should be a key part of it.

Like counting steps, run tracking is one of the most developed areas of self-tracking. You can go the route of an activity tracker, a wearable or leverage your smart phone. For example, you can get a dedicated wearable for running, like a GPS watch or use a strap-on heart rate tracker. For most beginners, it’s best to start with your smart phone and a run tracking app.

After nearly a year of running (and trying a lot of tech), my recommendation for any runner is RunKeeper.

There a lot of run-tracking apps and many work great like Strava, Wahoo’s RunFit and Run! Zombies. I’ve tried most of them. But after tracking over 100 runs, RunKeeper remains my favorite running app due to its strong core run tracking feature set, audio cues, rich post-run data and maps, and solid interface and user experience during runs. For data crazies, RunKeeper integrates with tons of other services (including Apple’s HealthKit), and it’s easy to get an export of all of your data to obsess over using a spreadsheet or a mashup data science tool like Zenobase.

Let’s take a look at the basics of run tracking, the key data points you get, and how you can leverage this to be a better runner.

Pocket Casts: A Podcast App With Listening Statistics and Tracking

If you are a regular podcast listener, you might be wondering how to track your listening. I found my answer in Pocket Casts app.

We are in the golden age of podcasting. There are so many great podcasts you can listen to. I’m currently hooked on the likes of Serial, Freakonomics and Presidential, b ut I also indulge in a number of niche podcasts too.

When it comes how you listen to a podcast, it’s never been easier. Depending on my travel and work schedule, I might listen to a single podcast in a day or several. I might listen for 30 minutes in a day or more. But I kept wondering exactly how much time was I listening to podcasts?

Tracking Your Meditation Sessions With Calm

Calm is a great meditation app. It’s visually and functionally beautiful and provides a great way to mediate through guided or unguided sessions. As an added bonus, it does a amazing job of tracking and displaying your progress.

Meditation is the practice of training your mind. It has been around for thousands of years. You take time to learn about your brain processes and develop mental frameworks. It’s a practice I highly recommend everyone trying.

There are a lot of applications out there to help you meditate. There must be hundreds of meditation apps in the Apple and Android stores. But when you are evaluating these tools as a self-tracker or, in our case, the goal of tracking everything, you are also looking for applications that provide a history of your usage. You are looking for great single-purpose applications that also store information about your usage and ideally provide graphs, statistics or a calendar. It’s not just about the app but about the data.

Tracking the Soundtrack of Your Life

We are on a journey to document how to track everything (or at least everything within limits). Let’s look at tracking the music we listen to.

Music has existed since the dawn of humanity. We’ve also been singers and drummers, and over ages, we’ve created a wealth of instruments, sounds and styles. Today we are both listeners and collectors of music.

Today we live in the age of personal music listening. The walkman brought music on the go. Future advances made music listening ubiquitous. We can listen to music on our computer, smart phone or mp3 player anywhere.

But do you know what you listen to most? Which tracks? Which artists? Styles?

There are a lot of aspects of our lives that we can track, and I’m an obsessive self-tracker and an adherent of the quantified self movement. We looked at counting steps and tracking time, and we will be looking at tracking food, habits, and many other areas. But for now I want to look at tracking what we “consume” including TV, movies, books, articles and even music.

In this post, we will look at tracking music listening. Using a service like Last.FM makes tracking your music listening easy. You are able to track what songs you listen to and then look at your listening habits over time.

Counting Steps: An Entry Into the Quantified Self Movement

I’m an obsessive self-tracker. I track everything. But it’s also the era we live in, the era of digital traces and the age of the quantified self. Whether we know it or not, we are track things. Or, to be more precise, our devices are tracking us.

This leads to a simple question: How much of our lives can be tracked?

It’s 2016. Where do we stand on our capacity to collect meaningful, personal data? How many data points can we collect about what we do, how we move, live, etc? What areas are currently more easily tracked? What areas have emerging technologies that will allow more tracking and capturing personal data?

In a series of posts and following a more philosophical and poetic prologue on self-tracking, I’m going to look at tracking in some of the following areas: Sleep, Computer Usage, Heart Rate, Exercise, Movement, Time, Internet Usage, Podcast and Audiobook Listening, Habits/Goals/Tasks Tracking, Location, and more.

While arguably the most tracked and monitored arena of human activity is internet and app usage, it’s not talked about that much. As more of our lives intersect with the internet, it’s created a wealth of information and data about our internet behaviors. In fact, most smart home applications essentially add internet connectivity.

Before we dig into data on our internet usage and our internet, I want to start by looking at tracking our steps. For many folks, like myself, counting steps was our entry into the “Quantified Self” Movement. Essentially we suddenly had a number that we could use a measurable target for daily movement. For this first post, let’s look at the one of the most public and active area of human tracking, the pedometer.

Tracking Everything: Prologue From an Obsessive Tracker

To the extent it’s possible and reasonable, I track everything. I record my steps and location. I track my time and internet usage. I check off my habits and completed tasks. I have a log of my heart rate. I journal about what I’m thinking about, studying, or debating internally. I have hundreds of hours of sleep in my logbook. I archive and highlight articles and quotes of books I read. I have written drafts on over 200 ideas. I’ve compiled a list of nearly every book I’ve read or listened to. I keep a weekly diary reviewing the past 7 days and often add daily entries. I have an extensive digital trace.

I write. I document. I record. I track.