I’ve been getting very into personal instrumentation recently, tracking energy expenditure via a Fitbit, weight via some Withings scales, mood via Mappiness, movies, gigs and books via my very own @oo5 project. I started noting all this stuff out of curiosity; I didn’t have any concrete plans for the data. There were vague thoughts of some kind of visualisation to help me find correlations between my habits and my general wellbeing. I ran across an anecdote from the Evernote CEO, related by Tim Ferriss, which got me thinking though. This chap had been trying to lose weight for years. He’d tried every fad diet under the sun but while the weight shifted, it always came back. The single most important thing in his road to a leaner, meaner self was simply to weigh himself every day and let his subconscious do the rest.
Since reading that I’ve noticed something about my behaviour as it relates to what I do, where and when. My Fitbit makes me think twice about getting the bus all the way to work; my Withings scales influence my lunch destination; @oo5 (with the help of my Kindle) effects whether I browse the internet, catch up on Instapaper or read a proper book. The simple act of measuring things has changed my behaviour.
When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely in your thoughts advanced to the stage of science.
— Lord Kelvin in 1884
Curious, I wanted to try measuring some things I wanted to change. I tried using the very beautiful Daytum but it was just a touch too slow to inject into my daily routine. After a bit of a think I decided to make a simple iPhone-installable counter, that could be launched fast, used quickly, and forgotten about. So on the way back from SXSW I hacked together TallyHo. You can create counters for anything you like, add them to your home screen, and away you go. I’m tracking a whole bunch of things, including cups of coffee, which I should drink less of, glasses of water, which I should drink more of, and plastic bags, which I want to use less of.
The main focus is on what you’ve done today. There’s a big number in the middle of the screen telling you how you’re doing. Underneath is the medium term view - how you’re doing this week, and the long term view - how you’re doing overall.
I released TallyHo quietly a while back and uptake has been surprising. Somewhere over 1200 items have been counted to date, with tallies including:
- Bars of chocolate
- Bags of crisps
At the moment the data gets synced to my server and there’s an option to claim your tally by signing into Twitter, so you will be able to retrieve your data should anything happen to your phone. I might add a sync to Daytum too, to benefit from their lovely visualisations. In the meantime, drop me a line if there’s anything you’d like to see TallyHo do. I’d also love to hear from you if it’s helped you change something (anything!) about yourself.