The Digital Self: How to Use Data Become a Better Worker
Understanding the “Quantified Self” and how it applies to our daily lives
A few years ago, Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly coined the term for a movement that was rising in the US and other parts of the world: the Quantified Self. As Wikipedia describes it, it is “a movement to incorporate technology into data acquisition on aspects of a person’s daily life in terms of inputs (e.g. food consumed, quality of surrounding air), states (e.g. mood arousal, blood oxygen levels), and performance (mental and physical).”
In plain English, this means that you can use things like apps, tools and software to measure everything you do daily, from your sleep quality to your performance at work, the steps you take during the day or your heart rhythm. With all this information, followers of the Quantified Self movement affirm that you can improve your quality of life and work more effectively by learning from your daily patterns. As the experts say, it is a marriage between technology and self improvement that provides us with the tools that change our sense of self in the world.
This self-quantifying movement, or personal science as others call it, is directly opposite from the data analytics that companies glean by searching and sneaking into our personal lives through social networks or monitoring our behavior online. This digital footprint can be easily followed and as a result, our reputations precede us more than ever. The data that companies collect help them to understand customer behavior to build more effective, engaging campaigns.
But what they are missing is this priceless personal information, which may help to build a better, healthier world. One example is in the health sector. As the article states, thousands of patients are already sharing information about symptoms and treatments for different conditions on pages such as PatientsLikeMe and CureTogether, which sometimes provides insightful data that can be studied by experts after the fact.
What’s in it for me?
So how can all of this data collection help improve my work or the work I do for my clients? As explained in his shocking article “The Personal Analytics of My Life” in Wired, scientist Stephen Wolfram took it to the extreme and analyzed more than twenty years of data about himself, including email management, keyboarding, business meetings, phone calls and written words, which gave him an overview of his productivity and behavior during the years. For us workers, such an in-depth study may not be feasible, but tracking what we do every day can give us some tips for becoming more productive.
Although there are lots of tools that can help us track personal data, if this is something you want to try it’s important you are perseverant about it and willing to spend time crunching numbers, so it may not be right for everyone. This article from the Wall Street Journal shows us steps to help us measure ourselves to make a difference in our daily work lives, based on three ideas:
- Tracking screen time. There is a technology called knowledge workload tracking that records how you use your computer. This can help you find out where you are spending your time and take measures to keep yourself away from distractions if necessary. Sometimes those distractions help you be more productive. For example one employee found out that chatting with colleagues during work really helped his performance.
- Collecting Thoughts. You can also track your mental performance and try to improve it. There are mental games you can play during downtime or you can create a cognitive map to help your creativity if your work demands it.
- The Physical Side. The article also mentions the tracking of physical activity in order to help workers. You can track what situations cause you stress or even if they interfere in your sleeping patterns so you can make adjustments to improve your health.
So, share what you think – Is this just geeky behavior, paranoia or really the tools to create a better world?