Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Virtues of Critical Thinking

The article here has been making the QS rounds today.  Check it out.

I should start by saying that I don't really care for the tone of this article and so I could be overreacting.  I think I have something smart to say either way.  The author's use of  'obsessive' and 'virtually every' makes me think he might not be a big fan of the QS peeps.  Again, maybe I am overreacting and the rest of my thoughts should still be valid even if I am overinterpreting.

First point - even if imprecise feedback was better than precise feedback, how do either of them compare to zero feedback (which is what most people have)?  If any kind of feedback is better than no feedback...that is a argument for QS, not against.

Second point - This assumes that the person getting the feedback is positively motivated (so the can positively "distort the information")  The discussion in the QS community about gamification and behavior change shows that new habits often require more than just data to actual get a change in results.  I am not sure that any imprecision will get used for good.

That all being said the study showed what it showed and the results may seem a bit paradoxical to some QS'ers.  If taken literally it means we might even consider fuzzying our data on purpose.  That couldn't be right could it?

I have at least a stab at an answer.  I think when things are directly connected it would be hard to have data that is too precise.  If you are diabetic and you have a donut, I don't really think anyone would suggest that "your blood sugar is higher than it was" is precise enough to take action on.  You need to know what your blood sugar is so you can determine how much insulin you need to take.

Contrast that situation with something like weight loss.  There are a whole lot of factors that can get confounded with each other and if you are weighing yourself to the gram every hour you might very well find some connections that aren't there.  I think a weekly update on your weight (perhaps with some sort of body composition check up) would be the way to go in that situation.

However, if you were a pro bodybuilder trying to get from 8% bodyfat to 7% bodyfat...maybe you would need to hourly weigh ins down to the gram.

Point is....don't read too much into this article.  Keep on quantifying. To bastardize an Einstein quote - your data needs to be as precise as it needs to be, but not one bit more.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Blood Pressure Hacking

There is a surprising lack of information that I could find about Blood Pressure in the Quantified Self community. The only item I found is this.  Not very helpful.

I went to Curetogether to see what I could find. There was more but it wasn't very helpful.  Reduce salt and exercise are incredibly non-specific.

I guess I am going to be breaking some ground here.

The QS article does make a good point as far as the variability in measuring BP.  My plan will be to take the measurement first thing in the morning.  That will presumably be the most standard time (no variation due to stress or activity).

I have already started recording my morning BP.  I will continue throughout the sleep experiments to see how that affects BP.  I will continue taking the Lisinopril I am on through out the duration.

When I decide to formally test the BP  It will probably look something like this
Very eager to hear if there are other things to test

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sleep Hacking

While I intend to start measuring for everything simultaneously....the first active work I am going to do is on sleep.  I think it will affect all the metrics positively, and it will also be the easiest to measure/play with thanks to the Zeo I ordered.

I will collect a week of control data.  Then I will test a number of the ideas I have heard for improving sleep.
  • Orange Glasses - I already own Orange Glasses and believe they do help.  It will be nice to have data to confirm deny the effects. (Here is a way to get them cheaper)
  • Standing on one leg -  I have my doubts.  Will be probably be a bit more convenient than the glasses if it has an effect
  • Pzizz - This will be at the bottom of the list of things I try.  It costs money.
  • Earthing - Sounds very shady. Also costs some money so will be at the bottom of the list
  • Meditation - may try this, but quantifying the meditation part may prove to be a challenge
Expect the Zeo to be here any day now.  Will get started after that.

What am I going to work on

I am not interested in quantifying for the sake of itself.  There are a couple of items I specifically want to work on

  • Sleep - I don't have any particular sleeping issues.  I know the difference in how I feel and perform after a good nights sleep so I would like to maximize that.  Ultimately, I would like to reduce the number of hours I sleep while still deriving all the benefits of longer sleep
  • Blood Pressure - I am currently prescribed medicine, for my blood pressure.  This is annoying for several reasons and I will be working to eliminate the need for that.
  • Productivity - This will largely be a subjective measurement.  1-5 scale
  • Sneezing - I am allergic to something.  I dont know what it is.  I'm going to track it down.
  • Appearance - I wanna look good.  More Muscle.  Less Fat.  There are ways to quantify this, but unfortunately it is a slow process so there will be big gaps.  Less easy to iterate.
Anyone who has any theories on how to affect any of these...I am looking for ideas.  Send them my way

What we are doing here

This will be my pseudo-public journal (Is it public if no one knows about it?) chronicling my efforts to improve body and mind. 

I'll be using the philosophy of the Quantified Self to test many of the hacking ideas of Seth Roberts, Tim Ferriss, Dave Asprey, and many others.

I'm doing in an a blog so that others may benefit from the results and I can get feedback from others for further improvement/experimentation.