LifeJournal Newsletter- January 2014

How are you doing with your journal writing so far this year? I imagine that you are back in the thick of life after the holidays, and hope that you are on track with your journal writing. 

Read the articles below on a new movement, life logging or self-quantifying and how LifeJournal fits in.  The second article about the Daily Pulse, the feature in LifeJournal that integrates self-quantifying data with your writing. You’ll get some ideas about how to use the Daily Pulse feature with your own journal writing.

I also invite you to take part in a class or join a telechat this month to keep your journaling lively and energized.  I get such fabulous feedback from participants about our classes and would love you to join.

Keep writing,

Ruth Folit — LifeJournal Software–click the LIKE button!

PS Have questions? Email me at; or, call 941-227-4410 or 877-456-8762 and please leave a message, if necessary; or, go to the LifeJournal Support page.

PPS If you have gmail, there is a new format with tabs which separates your email into primary, social and promotions.  If you want to find future LifeJournal newsletters more quickly, click and drag this email into your “primary’ tab. 

Life Logging and The Quantified Self: Is This Journaling? 

by Ruth Folit

Do you know about the growing movement known as Life Logging or a different trend but close cousin called The Quantified Self?  Both of these use technology to help track your life in new ways.

Life Logging uses phone apps to capture lots and lots of information about your days.  Some apps, which run on your phone in the background all the time, use wearable cameras to take photos/videos of parts of your day, and keep track of when you go to sleep and wake up, commuting times as well as when you come and go to work, see friends, run errands and eat at restaurants.

A variant on this Life Logging concept is The Quantified Self movement that is based on collecting detailed measurable data to help make better life choices. The tag line of The Quantified Self movement is “self-knowledge through numbers.”  All kinds of devices and apps allow you to gather and compile information about your hours and quality of sleeping, your exercise (number of steps taken, heart rate, and running pace), your diet (calories, protein, carbs, caffeine etc.), your heart rate, blood sugar, blood pressure, even your golf swing.

(Let’s assume that the data that is being collected via sensors is correct.  People have commented that the data doesn’t always make sense. But that’s another story…)

One aspect of both movements that is attractive (especially for those who like technology and gadgets) is that you don’t have to do the work of data collection and recording.  And in some cases you wouldn’t be able to gather the data without these gadgets. The sensor (in a shoe, on a wristband, or the smart phone itself) in combination with the app does the information collection for you.  Most of these apps help you not only gather and record your information but also do some analysis. For example a sleep app might tell you your average time in bed; the quality of your sleep (based on how much you move during the night); which day of the week that you sleep best/worst.

An underlying principle of the Quantified Self movement is that each of us is unique. We all know generally that if you sleep between 7-9 hours we will probably be healthier and more energetic than if we regularly sleep 3-5 hours/night.  But that generalized information will be more helpful and relevant if it’s applied to you and your unique biological needs.  You might find out that indeed you feel better and are more productive if you sleep 7.5 hours, rather than 8 or 8.5 hours. With the quantified self apps you’re doing your experimenting and testing on yourself (n=1, rather than n=1000) and finding out what works best exactly for you.

The issue I want to raise is, would you consider Life Logging or The Quantified Self apps journaling? Consider the purposes of journaling.  Of course, each of us keeps a journal for a different purpose. Some want to quickly report what they did that day and others want to go deeper and make meaning of their lives. I think that journaling at its deepest and most useful consists of more than simply reporting. In its highest form, keeping a journal is about actively (rather than passively) and thoughtfully observing and processing, moving you further into the realm of understanding, interpreting, making sense of, gaining insights and shifting perspective.  It’s about digging below the surface and much of that requires using language as a way to digest and integrate the event or interaction, see the subtleties, and make sense of it. Most of the research that Pennebaker has done showing how journaling improves health is closely related to language use, processing, and perception.  I think thoughtfully written words is a critical piece of journaling.

Additionally, consider this example: there are studies that show that in some situations the recording of numbers is not what’s important. In a study about the value of keeping a food journal,for example, the findings reveal that what was most important was that people simply wrote down what they ate right after they ate it (rather than at the end of the day). The studies about keeping a food journal show that when people wrote what they had eaten in this manner for six days a week, they lost on the average twice as much weight than those who had written their food intake less often. These findings show that you don’t have to keep an elaborate food diary.  It seems that the concrete act of writing down what you are eating soon after you eat (which probably means reflecting and being more aware of what you eat) is the key piece.

I agree generally that the more information we have about ourselves the more we can improve our lives. To a degree, I think collecting quantifiable information is a good thing.  What concerns me is that people can go overboard on quantifying their lives, measuring a myriad of minutae, falling in love with the gadgetry and technology rather than making best use of the information.

LifeJournal’s Daily Pulse feature pre-dates by more than a decade The Quantified Self movement, albeit from a different perspective. Rather than being the central focus, it’s just one integral part of the whole program. The Daily Pulse is basic compared to the sensors and analtyics of The Quantified Self movement. However, in LifeJournal quantification (the numbers) and qualification (the written word) are included and integrated in LifeJournal so that one side informs the other.  Perhaps we should have the tagline of LifeJournal, “self-knowledge through an integration of both language and numbers.”

I like what Gary Wolf, the co-founder of the Quantified Self, a collaboration of users and tool makers who share an interest in self-knowledge through self-tracking, has to say in this six-minute TED talk video. His last sentence is, “If we are to be more effective in the world, we have to get to know ourselves better.”  Amen.

LifeJournal’s The Daily Pulse: A Taste of the Quantified Self

By Ruth Folit
LifeJournal’s Daily Pulse feature allows you to track up to 10 different scales of your choosing, allowing you to select those measurements that matter most to you. I find by talking with customers that this feature is often underused. I’d like to encourage you to use it.  It’s pretty intuitive to use, and below I’ve described the main features.

By default LifeJournal comes with four subjective scales: mood, health, stress, and energy, in which you can rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10.  Click the Daily Input button on the app tool bar and a Daily Pulse Input dialog box appears.  Move the sliders up and down to assign the value, or enter the value in the text box below the slider. Click the Save or OK button.

To create particular scales that you are interested in tracking for yourself, click the Manage Daily Pulse button from the Daily Pulse Input dialog (in LifeJournal for Windows that appears in the top left  as an “I” bar with circle on it.)  Of course, the scales can be subjective (rating yourself on a scale of 1 to 10, or 1 to 100 if you’d rather) or objective (measuring the hours slept or the minutes exercised).

You can enter the Daily Pulse values of the day on the day of, or for previous days. (In LJ for Windows, go to the Tools menu>Daily Pulse Input for past date; in LJO, in the Daily Input dialog, click the Show By Date button.)

When you click the Pulse Graph button, a graph of your Daily Pulse values appears showing you trends. You can click on the scales on the graph which will show/hide them.  This allows you to focus on just a few scales and see if you can find a pattern such as when  one scale (say, sleep) goes up, the other (say, stress) goes down. Or you might notice that there’s a lag between two scales: For example, your energy may improve a few days after the number of hours you sleep rises.
Additionally, there’s many ways that LifeJournal cross-references between the Daily Pulse and the written entries:

(A) In the Journal Explorer there’s a column that lets you know that you have Daily Pulse information for the day of the entry.

(B) From the entry toolbar there’s a symbol of the Daily Pulse which, whenyou can click, you can see your Daily Pulse values of that day.

(C) When you click on a particular date point on the Daily Pulse Graph and you’ve written entries that day, then those entries will either open up (in LifeJournal for Windows) or appear in Journal Explorer (in LifeJournal Online) where you can easily open them.

(D) And finally, you can do a search (click the Search button on the application toolbar) for all entries that have a particular range of values for a particular Daily Pulse scale. So you could find all entries that you’ve written when you mood is really good and/or when you have slept more than 8 hours and/or when you have exercised for more than 30 minutes.

Yes, in LifeJournal the way you input the raw data is more primitive than with these sensor driven apps, but the amount of information that you can learn from the well-coordinated combination of numerical data and the written world is limitless! 

End Quotes 

“There is no truth. There is only perception.”—Gustave Flaubert

“What gets measured, gets managed.”—Peter Drucker

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