Quantify everything with Exist.io custom tracking

Ever since I wrote Slogger, I’ve been working toward a more “quantified self.” I’m really bad at correlating events in my life beyond a couple of days. Did the bad night’s sleep last week lead to eating things the next day I normally wouldn’t, which led to increased stress and decreased physical activity over following days, which resulted in the way I’m feeling today? Now that I’m actually healthy enough to notice these things, I really want to know.

I want all of that data, but I’m not great at recording it in the moment, and often forget things by my end-of-day check-in. That’s where apps like Exist.io have come in. Much like Slogger, they pull together all of the data sources that my Apple watch, iPhone, social media accounts, and even Last.fm and Spotify accounts create, automatically combining it to start drawing correlations. These are often humorous and obvious, but the more sources you add and the more data you record, the more interesting (and useful) things get.

A while ago they added Apple Health data, so my circles, my steps, and even my sleep are all recorded. You can also add Gmail and see how many messages you send and receive each day, and Calendar data to see how busy your day was (at least with planned activities). All great data.

What’s been missing, though, is the ability to record very fine-grained personal data. I’ve long planned an app that was essentially a database, with tiered levels where you could create nested checklists for common and uncommon things that happen in your life. Start a new medication? Check it off. Find yourself unusually uncoordinated? Check it off. Gathering that data easily and in a manner that’s simpler to statistically analyze is something I haven’t found a great solution for.

Well, Exist just added Custom Tracking, which allows you to create tags for any possible event, food/drink, medication, or even feeling. I can track what medications I take, what kind of exercise I got, whether I have a headache, and whether I felt productive or lackluster (or any other feeling I want to add). And all of those tags eventually build correlations with each other and all of the other automatically-collected data in Exist.

It’s not exactly what I planned for this app in my head, particularly because I can’t easily quantify each tag. I can add “coffee,” but if I want to mention more than one coffee, I have to add new tags for “2 coffees,” “3 coffees,” etc., but the implementation is simple enough that it’s going to be easier to keep up with than my plan.

I’m excited about this. I’ll finally be drawing statistical correlations that go beyond my steps and my music, how many times I tweeted, and how I rated my overall mood (although the correlations between those have been intriguing). If you haven’t checked it out, head over to Exist.io and create an account, then grab the iOS or Android app and start gathering that data.

As an aside, I also like aspects of Momento, and I love trying out apps. If you have a favorite I should check out, let me know in the comments.

Brett Terpstra

Brett is a writer and developer living in Minnesota, USA. You can follow him as ttscoff on Twitter, GitHub, and Mastodon. Keep up with this blog by subscribing in your favorite news reader.

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