My Life and Performance is a straightforward app:
- Pick a couple activities that you want to track. Food and sleep are the easiest ones to start with.
- When you are about to engage in an activity, open the app and tap a marker with the corresponding icon.
- The app creates a journal entry for you that you can edit later.
- To help you with the review at a later point, it is useful to add short notes or otherwise rate the events.
- After 10-14 days, you can examine your activity and see patterns.
Full user manual can be found here:
Thoughts about food events:
- Add a quick note about what you ate
- How did you feel about eating the food? The taste marker is initially positioned in the middle, meaning “average”. Losing taste for certain kinds of foods you enjoyed before is an indication of your mental state. At the same time feeling that your food is delicious once again is a good sign.
- How much did you eat? The portion size slider helps you remember if you ate a regular portion, nibbled a bit or filled your stomach to the brim.
If you are feeling drowsy after a meal, take note of how long it took for the feeling to come over you. This indicates not only how quickly your body digests food, but also helps you know what to expect from this kind of food in the future.
Thoughts about sleep events:
This website is about sleep, and I have a lot to share. In the interests of brevity:
- Your sleep is controlled by a circadian (24 hour) rhythm of hormonal activity.
- The hormone responsible for sleep is Melatonin, which starts to get secreted ~3 hours after sunset. (This is why there’s a sunset arrow in the app)
- Melatonin secretion stops 1.5 hours after sunrise.
- Your sleep onset is influenced by light exposure later in the day. Bright light delays sleep onset according to the phase response curve. It’s effect depends on the timing of the light exposure.
- Caffeine has major effects on sleep in sensitive individuals. Some depression medications extend the effects of caffeine for up to 46 hours.
To improve your sleep:
- Pick a time after sunset in 1.5 hour increments as your bedtime. This helps you sleep in an equal number of sleep cycles.
- If a sunset is at 6PM (18:00), try preparing for sleep at 22:00 and going to sleep at 22:30.
- It will take up to 14 days for your body to adjust to the new bedtime.
- Your rise time should measure an equal number of 90 minute intervals from the bedtime(equal number of sleep cycles) Alternatively, you may use a Smart Alarm clock app to determine best time of awakening.
- Stick to your new times of going to bed and awakening.
You can track your episodes of insomnia and dreams with the app. To do so, create a bedtime entry when you go to sleep. If you are still awake after 40 minutes or more, open the app and create an insomnia entry. The following day, you will be able to examine your history and identify the probable cause of insomnia and try to eliminate it. Was it caffeine late in the day? Did you think about something?
Sleeping with external sleep trackers or sleep aids is subject to “first night effect”, when your brain has heightened awareness of the alien device monitoring you. This can induce light to moderate insomnia, but it will disappear after a few days.
As you examine your sleep pattern, you will notice that your awakening times and bedtimes may “slide” around the day. This is known as “delayed sleep phase” syndrome or “advanced sleep phase syndrome”. This may also be a symptom of irregular lifestyle.
Thoughts on Exercise performance:
The first thing that you will notice as you start to track exercise is that you either exercise or you don’t. Your brain will come up with a million reasons why you cannot exercise today, and these reasons are in themselves a manifestation of a certain state of mind. Maybe you are exhausted from stressful work, or think that there’s no point. That’s why you should use the app to keep track of days when you do and do not feel like exercising.
Moderate intensity aerobic exercise has been demonstrated to increase the blood endorphin (happiness/well being hormone) levels by up to 5 times the resting state. Over time, your sensitivity to this hormone is increased, so you are feeling better and better. Each event lets you assign a duration to it. The app then remembers this duration and assigns it by default to the next event. I was surprised to find that my walks and meditations lasted the same amount of time +/- 1 minute on 3 consecutive days! Because I was happy with the results of the meditation, I’m more likely to repeat it in the future. By monitoring how long I engage in activity, I can estimate my overall level of motivation and well being. If I can maintain quiet reflective mood for extended periods of time, it is good, if I cannot, something is troubling me. It could be something that I ate, saw or did earlier in the day.
Another important metric that you can track is your meditation performance. Meditation is quiet mindful, reflective activity. It is a special state of mind, where the hectic frenzied activity of the day disappears from the mind. See how well you slept on days when you did or did not meditate and observe it’s impact on your productivity the next day.
Thoughts on work performance.
I work a lot and notice how variations in mental performance and mood can cripple work on certain days. The days would look the same: I would be sitting in front of a computer, doing something, but the quality of what I’m doing would vary. On some days I may be occupied with some “work fidget type” of behavior, where I would be doing minor detail work, which would not even constitute to 1% of the task at hand. It’s easy to get lost in that kind of behavior and think that I’m working, while in reality I’m sluggishly moving forward.
On other days, I’m more aware, and prioritize more important work. 80% of the day’s accomplishment may be tied to a single 5 minute burst of action. Such actions are reponsible for the majority of the innovation in design, layout and features of the
“Lucid Dreaming App” and “My Life and Performance”
This is why tracking not only when you work, but also when you accomplish important tasks is valuable. Instead of spending multiple ho
urs working on insignificant details, it may be more productive to take some other action, and work on the important stuff when you have energy and motivation to do so. Keeping track of when you have energy and motivation is the purpose of work tracking.
Another thing that tracking work accomplishes is tracking procrastination. Let’s say your productive window in the morning is 90 minutes. This is when you are most fresh, creative and full of energy. Tracking work helps you identify the duration of this window and pinpoint the signs that you are losing momentum: this is when thoughts start to drift into your head about doing something else. I find myself getting up to get tea, going to take a shower or getting distracted by dozens of website and marketing related tasks that I may need to do.
Thoughts on Mood.
My Life and Performance is a very basic mood tracker, it’s benefit is that the moods are shown alongside everyday events, helping you identify what contributed to the mood. Your moods affect everything about your life, from your thoughts to your outlook on life, past, present and future, and all other moods.
When creating a mood entry:
- Ask yourself the question: “Why am I feeling that way?” at least twice.
- Write down the answer. If need be, use code words, but identify the reason.
- Once you find yourself getting past the mood, go back to the entry and enter duration of the mood.
- By tracking the duration of your moods, you will be more aware of how and how long moods impact you.
- Recognizing your moods and emotions as they happen is an essential part of Emotional Intelligence.
- Recognizing moods and emotions of others, and responding appropriately is an essential part of Social Intelligence.
Your moods affect every single aspect of your life and cognition. This is why estimating moods are difficult. To help you with the task, pick a subject and write a line about it. For example, the state of the world affairs, the economy, global warming, etc. If you are in the negative mood, you will notice that your outlook on the subject is negative, pessimistic, the problem seems huge, and is indeed seen as a problem.
If your mood is neutral, you may think of economy, world affairs, etc. as just how things are. There are good things, there are bad things, people are doing what they can, noone is perfect, etc. The scope and severity of the issue are no longer major,the issue is tolerable.
If your mood is positive, your outlook on topic will be positive, you will be able to easier recall good news an ideas about the subject. There are opportunities everywhere, people are doing their best, and maybe I can do something too.
As you examine your mood diary, you may be surprised to find that the same mind (I) can view the world so differently at different times of the day, week or year. Simply knowing that your brain works that way and having proof in your hand is enough to make you see that things will get better, then worse, then better again. It’s a normal state of being, and everyone else is going through the same thing day after day. Some people wake up and get off bed on the right foot, some on the wrong 🙂
Another interesting tool for mood evaluation is looking at your image in the forward facing camera of your iOS device. Within a second of initial exposure, you will get a “feedback” feeling of how you really feel. Try not to look for any particular facial features, just a brief glance at your reflection, and your Amygdalae will do the rest. You will know very quickly how you really feel.
Two extra entries are available in the mood section:
Good Times: these are the peak experiences that “made your day”. It is something that elated your mood, spirits and/or reaffirmed your belief in the future of the human race. The amount of such events largely depends the overall quality of your life. If there aren’t that many such events, you need to make some. These include love, good sensory experiences, adventures, vacations, exciting purchases, good movies or cliffhanger TV series, discovering new music, great inspirational speeches or cool websites.
Social Events: social interactions have a profound effect on your mood, because your brain constantly scans faces of your company for various signs of danger, disapproval and mood. If you hang out with the wrong people, their mood quite literally “infects” you. This fact has been demonstrated by Daniel Goleman, the world’s leading expert on emotional intelligence. With a little bit of practice, you will be able to pump your emotional intelligence muscles as well!