It is 2014, and there is about a 63% chance you are reading this post on a smartphone. Chances are also good that you use your smartphone for more than just calling, texting, and browsing the internet. If you are anything like me, you use your phone for everyday activities like driving, health/fitness, and business.
Smartphone technology also makes it increasingly easier to quantify our lives. By “quantifying” I mean to actively record data about our activities and behaviors in order to analyze and reflect on that data. It sounds really nerdy, but it actually is the easiest way to recognize patterns in your life and manage changes.
I have put together a list of my top 4 smartphone apps that I use on a regular basis to quantify my life:
Lose It! is an application for tracking and managing food and exercise. This application acts as a “food diary” and makes the process of logging what you eat on a daily basis extremely easy. The app is perfect for anyone trying to lose weight (as the name suggests) as well as those trying to gain weight or for everyday, health-conscious, calorie-counters.
In addition to logging food, the app also can log any daily exercise, calculate the calories burned (based on duration of the exercise and your weight), and deduct calories burned from your daily calorie total. The app works with both Android and iOS systems and has an awesome web component, in case you are at home or do not have access to your mobile.
It is a free app with amazing features. I have not tried the premium version, but for $39.99/year it gives you a boatload of extra features and integration with other apps/technologies.
PayMeBack is an iOS application that keeps track of personal debts and helps in situations of splitting the bill or dividing checks at restaurants/bars/etc. The design of the app is very clean and simple, which is one of the biggest reasons I like it. The app keeps track of money you owe and money owed to you; there is also a simple calculator built-in for splitting the check between any amount of people.
The PayMeBack app is exclusive to iOS, which is unfortunate considering I just switched to Android. However, I have been using a similar app called IOU, which has similar functions and more; I would recommend IOU as a great alternative to PayMeBack, plus IOU is on both Android and iOS systems.
These apps are simple tools for financial management, a concept that many of us have trouble mastering. They can be used in conjunction with other, more in-depth financial applications or with your own personal financial spreadsheets to make tracking your finances a breeze.
Sleeping is a fact of life. Since we all have to do it, why not keep accurate record of your sleeping patterns? With these apps, it is as simple as plugging in your smartphone, setting it on the edge of the bed, and dozing off to sleep.
After being an iPhone user, Sleep Cycle was a great tool for my life quantification. I used it to track my sleep for several months and was amazed at the patterns that I could see when going back through the logs. The app is very well-designed, has an simple tutorial for how it is used, and it connects with other health apps like RunKeeper.
I have been using SleepBot on the Android and it is very similar to Sleep Cycle, and a great alternative. The app feels a bit more dense than Sleep Cycle, but it has more features and is free (Sleep Cycle is $0.99). One thing I really like about SleepBot is that it records sounds as well as movement. It is neat to see any correlation between the two, especially if you live with other people or in a noisy city.
In all, it is great to see how you are sleeping and reflect on causes for restlessness or tiredness. It kind of gives me a peace of mind that the phone is there tracking sleep, almost like I need to fall asleep faster so I do a good job on the “test.” Whatever the case may be, these apps are simple, rather unobtrusive, and give you great life data.
I thought really hard about featuring this app on my list; It is not because of the app, as I think this is one of the best apps I have ever downloaded, but it is just because of how relatable to the general public it is. Everybody eats, everybody spends money, everybody sleeps, but not everyone exercises (especially running). However, I think RunKeeper can be used for quantifying more than running, hence its inclusion in the list.
RunKeeper does exactly as the name implies: the app keeps track of every run you go on, including mapping the route you took via GPS, timing each mile, and determining things like elevation change, average pace, as well as a host of other data. The app is available for iOS and Android and has an amazing website that offers more detailed/holistic views of your activity.
I was never into running for fitness’ sake, but RunKeeper changed all that. Since September 2011, I have logged a total of 515 miles! I have found the app perfect for tracking leisure walks (especially calculating distance of, say, the store from my house), for biking, as well as rowing in my kayak. There are specialized apps out there for driving/milage tracking, but I could see this being used as such if necessary.
The best thing about RunKeeper is its integration with other apps, such as SleepCycle and its integrated online community. If you sign-in with Facebook credentials, you can add your friends to the app and see which of you is exercising more per month, add friends to activities you may have completed together, or motivate your friends with messages.
The app is free, but there are premium features (as with every app) that get pretty in-depth. I have been tempted to buy an annual subscription for the metrics, but I am by no means a serious runner. It may be worth it if you are a serious athlete or if you run several marathons a year. Otherwise, the free app is amazing, keeps great data, and could not be easier to use.
There you have it! Now go forth, and quantify your life.
It is one thing to collect data, but the best part is reflecting on that data; making connections and recognizing patterns in the data makes it all worthwhile.
Feel free to share other great quantification apps in the comments 🙂