How Can Data Improve Your Personal Life?

Data analytics not only benefit large companies and small enterprises – data can improve your personal life as well. For instance (using a common problem to highlight the power of data), data can help you shed excess pounds and reach your desired weight in a fast, safe and efficient manner without having to spending hours in the gym. You can use analytic and tracking tools to help you keep track of your weight, calculate the number of calories you have burnt, and even design a graphical representation of key data that will offer you deeper insight into how certain choices affect your progress. People are built differently and therefore have different metabolisms – each person’s weight loss formula is unique and data helps shed light on individual attributes.

Data can also improve one’s overall well-being: it allows you to track your mental state and your mood, how you feel every day, how you spend your time, etc. For example, if you use a scoring system… say from 1 to 10… to describe your well-being on a daily basis, you’ll likely be able to see trends in just a few weeks’ time if you are tracking other areas of your life as well. This will help you to understand yourself better and help you make better choices too. At the end of each day, you can decide whether it was a successful day and/or you managed to accomplish your goals or not – slowly but surely, you will notice how your decisions affect your mood and other personal metrics.

You can also make all sorts of correlations in order to pinpoint the activities that make you feel good and the activities that make you feel stressed. For instance, maybe working with deadlines or spending too much time working on your e-mail is more stressful than you thought. Identifying primary stressors will allow you to focus on the things that affect you the most.

You may also identify activities that have a larger affect due to their secondary affects. For instance, having to commute to work on a daily basis can have an impact on your mood and/or stress level, as well as have an affect on contributing to other unhealthy behaviors (ex. eating more junk food because you do not have the time to cook, or spending less time with friends, etc.). In other words, data analytics can help you identify unforeseen stress factors in your day-to-day life and remove them. At the end of the day, you can draw a conclusion based on the data you’ve gathered (ex. you’re watching too much television, working on your e-mails is a huge stress factor, a healthy social life plays a pivotal role in reducing your stress, etc.)

See how Quantified Selfer Stefan Heeke used analytics to improve his personal life…

Summary: A single choice can trigger a chain reaction which can have either a positive or a negative impact on your life. With data on your side you can get better visibility into how your choices affect the quality of your life. Through the insights gleaned from self-tracking and personal data you can eliminate the tasks that affect you in a negative way – the clutter and the things that simply don’t seem to work – and focus instead on those that benefit you, both physically and mentally.

10 Tips to Increase Self-Control

Another consistent trait of peak performers is their high aptitude for self-control. Self-control is our ability to stay steadfast regarding long-term goals despite natural human urges to partake in activities that are instantly gratifying. In excess, instantly gratifying activities can often lead to various forms of destructive addiction. Many instantly gratifying activities also lack the positive compounding effects that activities with deferred gratification possess. Many of you probably remember the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment on this subject. Here is a great little video highlighting how easy it is to be tempted, even when promised a greater reward in the future.

Training and acquiring mastery in anything requires work and practice. The good news is that there are many ways we can train ourselves to improve self-control. Here are 10 tips to increase self-control from the May / June 2011 edition of Scientific American Mind:

  1. Become aware of the risks and long term negative consequences of undesirable behavior.
  2. Increase your personal engagement by, for example, telling friends about your goals.
  3. Transform abstract overarching objectives into intermediate steps or milestones.
  4. Take pleasure in achieving partial successes and reaching intermediate milestones.
  5. Formulate “if then” resolutions to deal with critical situations.
  6. Replace old bad habits with new good ones.
  7. Change your impulse by learning to associate the mere sight of temptations with negative stimuli.
  8. Identify situations that pose a particular risk and avoid them as much as possible.
  9. Train you working memory.
  10. Plan enough breaks and relaxation periods to prevent depletion of your mental resources.

If you have any additional tips on how to increase self-control please share them in the comments section below.

Make the Call!

In my experience one of the clear cut differentiators between successful entrepreneurs and those that have been, for the most part, unsuccessful is tenacity and the ability to pick up a phone. Use these two skills to your advantage and almost anyone in the business world is accessible. For examples of this look no further than this Web site. How did someone like me get an interview with someone like Getting Things Done guru David Allen? I asked.

Tim Ferriss discusses an experiment he performed as a lecturer at Princeton (in his book The 4-Hour Workweek) where he challenged a group of students to contact three seemingly impossible-to-reach individuals for a chance at a round-trip ticket anywhere in the world. In the first year of conducting the experiment not one person was able to complete the assignment. The second year Mr. Ferriss was able to do a better job instilling confidence in his students stating, “From contacting billionaires to rubbing elbows with celebrities – it’s as easy as believing it can be done.” In the second year of conducting the experiment, 6 out of 17 of Tim’s students had completed the task within two days.

Roadtrip Nation further supports the notion that people are accessible if you are motivated. The show has highlighted numerous notable interviews, with remarkable interviewees, and virtually unknown interviewers. The show does a great job highlighting that fact that successful people will make time to help other people driven by purpose. The truth is successful people remember what it was like to begin something new, and if asked, are usually happy to help out the next guy… you! Success leaves clues, go find them.

Applying the Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 Rule as it is known to some, is the concept that 80 percent of any given output, usually comes from only 20 percent of a given effort to get that output.  Or conversely, that 80 percent of a given effort generates only 20 percent of a desired outcome.

The numbers 80 and 20 are arbitrary and are only used in the context of the general principle. The distribution could be 75 and 5, or 90 and 40. In other words, it is not necessary that the numbers add up to 100. What is important is identifying that in general there are tasks and habits that are considerably more effective and efficient than others.

Peak performers use this general concept to their advantage by continually evaluating any system they use to garner results (whether it is in business, fitness, education, or well-being) and eliminating tasks and processes with little yield. Identifying what is working and doing more of it, and identifying what is not working and doing less (or not doing it at all) seems intuitive but unfortunately is rarely applied in the real world — many people are simply resistant to systemic change to the detriment of productivity.

Contrary to Popular Belief, Peak Peformers Get Sleep

Peak peformers get sleep

Many people think peak performers are always burning the candle at both ends. I certainly believed that at one point. Others of us struggle to find balance and give up healthy habits like exercise, or spending time with friends and family, in an attempt to work harder thinking we will get more done. In extreme cases, some peak performers get anxious at just the thought of sleep because they fear the lack of productivity that occurs during restful periods.

To the contrary, as humans, we need to commit to balance of which adequate sleep is a crucial component. When we are asleep, we become free of all of the stress from the outside world and our body’s energy is able to restore & renew.

There are three very basic factors of sleep:

1. The time you enter sleep

2. The quality of sleep you get during rest

3. The time you wake up

To help improve these three factors you have to have proper sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is a fancy term used to describe ways to set yourself up for optimal recovery during rest. Organize and implement simple sleep hygiene principles and performance in all areas of your life will improve:

1. In the evening do things that are relaxing (such activities include reading a book and listening to slow music). Avoid things that are stimulating (such as exercise or watching a scary movie).

2. Have a pre-sleep routine. Routines train your mind it is time to go to sleep. Examples include taking a warm bath, reading a fictional book, or listening to relaxing music for a few minutes.

3. Have a fixed bedtime and wake-up time. Go to bed at a predetermined time and try to wake up at the same time every day. Keep in mind that you need at least 6 hours of sleep but the common suggested amount of sleep is 8 hours.

4. If possible, schedule all of your day’s activity. This means determining and following a scheduled meal time, workout time and other activities.

5. Avoid taking naps during the daytime especially after 3 PM. Naps sort of reset your energy level for the day, which can be beneficial but not if you have trouble sleeping. Doing so would mean you’ll have more energy and less of a sleepy feel come bedtime.

6. Put away gadgets or any electronics that would make you do something related to your work or remind you of your responsibilities or problems. Relax and remove your worries.

7. Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol well before your bedtime. Typically, it is suggested to avoid this 4-6 hours before bedtime as these chemicals are all powerful.

8. Avoid sleeping pills or if inevitable, take them with caution. Consult your doctor before taking sleeping pills or if you need them at all. Once you establish dependency, it is a downward spiral.

9. Buy a comfortable bed and use comfortable bedding; Buy them personally so that you are comforable with the feel.

10. Eliminate noise and light. Make the bedroom quiet, cool and dark. This type of environment soothes the senses and relaxes the mind.

11. Use the sun as part of your biological clock. As soon as you wake up, try and face the sunlight for a few minutes. This can help with Seasonal Affective Disorder as well.

Your bedroom should only be used for sleep or intimate encounters. Working, watching television, and/or playing on your laptop can all hinder sleep. A radio is okay if the station is not talk radio. Reading non-fiction or listening to talk radio is not recommended because it keeps your brain stimulated.

Getting the best sleep possible is one of the best ways to optimize the next morning’s challenges and opportunities. Getting sleep is one of the most undervalued traits of the peak performer. Improve the quality of your sleep and you will be rewarded!