Take Your Big Data And…

the quantified selfUse it to your advantage. What do we mean? Well, think about it. We are walking [or sitting] data generators, whether we like it or not.

On a daily basis, most of us sit at a computer during some part of our day and generate data by going online. We visit websites, make purchases, and click on things of interest. Then, we walk away from our computers (but not without grabbing our smartphones) and we continue generating data while checking our Facebook newsfeed, looking at photos, and searching for the nearest restaurant.

Then later, we may pick up our tablets and surf the web or watch streaming video, and by the time the day is over, we’ve generated lots and lots of data, which is collected, analyzed, and then implemented in marketing and other outreach strategies.

Oh and if you aren’t online, then you probably aren’t reading this article, but you still generate big data when you shop at stores, make purchases using a loyalty card, or swipe your credit card to purchase any and everything. Face it, we generate data with almost every move we make and we are giving someone permission to use it.

But there is also other data we are generating. This data about ourselves, generated by our choices and how we spend our day, can be incredibly important and influential, if tracked and used.

Through the Quantified Self movement, some are choosing to collect personal data to create a data-driven image of who they are based on habits and actions. They are actively collecting the data (by entering it in an app/one a website, or through attached sensors) and using the numbers to paint a picture and create a better understanding of themselves.

Here are three ways to collect your own data and use it to your advantage:

1. Track your food/nutrition intake (not just to lose or maintain weight). Our perception of what we eat and how much we move our bodies is not always reality. By using an application or website to track the calories in and calories out, we have a more accurate way to monitoring and painting a picture of reality to help us understand how to achieve our nutritional goals. For instance, if you are looking to lower your cholesterol intake and enter everything you eat into the Lose It! app, you will be able to generate reports on a daily and weekly basis to see where you are and make tweaks to your diet to bring your cholesterol back to a healthy level.

2. Use a Time Tracker or To-Do List. On the daily, you probably hear someone say, “Oh I wish I had more hours in the day.” In reality, they are saying, “I wish I managed my time more efficiently so I can do everything I want to do in a day.” By tracking your time, you can easily see where and how you are spending your time, then make adjustments based on your work/life priorities and goals. Although time tracking may seem tedious, you can easily use a to-do list application (try Wunderlist, which syncs across devices using the cloud technology) instead and categorize each to-do. At the end of the week, you will have a visualization of time spent, and identify where you can make adjustments.

3. Build a History. Whether you decide to use a tracking system to coordinate your care maintenance, your personal health history, or your spending, tracking your habits and how often you do “something” can be a huge benefit when making smarter decisions. Case in point, if you are looking to adjust your budget, you might want to check your payment history on all your bills to find out when you are making payments and the cost. Dig a little deeper into the data, and you might even be able to figure out where cuts can be made and save a few dollars. Without a complete picture and accurate history, you would not be able to make strategic data-driven decisions and changes.

By tracking data related to your actions and choices, you can create a quantified self image that can lead to more efficient and beneficial decision-making. So, take your personal big data…and use it!