Viewing posts for the category personal tracking

What's Going on With David?

If you've seen me in the past week, you could probably tell that something was off. I'm not normally the most jubilant person in the world, but I like to laugh and smile as much as anyone else does. Additionally, I love to see others smile and I believe spreading joy is one of the most fulfilling things we humans can do. This last week I haven't laughed. I haven't smiled. And I certainly haven't made anyone else laugh or smile. My world has been colored gray, and I've just gone through the motions. So what's going on?

On and off for most of my life, I've struggled with depression. It's a hard thing to admit. And up until recently, I had never used the word depressed to describe myself or the way I've felt. Actually using the word is pretty scary but also feels relieving.

My depression is episodic. Meaning it occurs for short periods of time. Usually, a few days or a few weeks in length and then I return to normal. The time in between episodes is usually months. Overall I spend more time feeling good than depressed. This is something I've been tracking with the happiness tracker here on my blog. It's easy to see an increase in my happiness over the last year.

If I've blown you off in the past week, or just seemed cold and uninterested. Please reach out again. Thank you for bearing with me during the hard times. I really do look forward to the good times, which I've learned are never as far away as they feel.

When I am depressed I am locked in my own world. Prevented from having the empathy needed to see into the lives of those around me. This is truly the most difficult part of depression and can make me feel very alone. That wasn't the case this time. This week I was pulled out of the rabbit hole really quickly by a couple amazing people. To those who have given their time to listen to and mentor me, your investment is treasured. And your belief in me has changed my perception of myself.


If you are struggling with depression and keep it to yourself, consider sharing with friends and family what you are going through. There should not be any shame associated with your mental health and it will make recovery many times easier. If you don't know where to start, talk to me. I'll listen.

2017 Resolutions

2016 was the first year that I had and actually really tried to stick to any new years resolutions. I made 5 and was able to stick to 4 of them, the last uncompleted one was more of a goal and may yet be completed. I never wrote those with the intention of sharing them, but this year I am going to.

I believe an important part of picking resolutions is making sure they are defined in such a way where you can absolutely say whether they were completed or not. For example instead of something like "exercise more" I would write "run more than 500 miles tracked on Strava". Very easy to determine the success condition. So here it is, my 5 resolutions for 2017!

1. Write and publish something every day.

Success condition: Post count for 2017 on is > 365 on Jan 1, 2018.

This one is going to be the hardest. Because of that, I am going to leave it the least specifically defined. This does not mean I am going to write a full blog post every day, even tweet-length posts count. As part of this, I'm going to stop automatically posting to Facebook and Twitter. I'll only share certain posts there.

2. Read 36 books.

Success condition: This Good Reads Challenge is completed.

I love reading, I have never been intentional about making it a habit. Now I am going to try. If you're wondering why 36, that is about one book every 10 days. My very rough book theme this year is "Important things we rarely think about." Which includes things along the lines of farming, history, infrastructure, how other countries governments' work, microscopic fabrication, religion, etc.

3. Music purge. Listen to (and play) all new music.

Success condition: Have my Spotify library filled with new music on Jan 1, 2018.

For the last couple years, I feel like I have been stuck in a music rut. I've been listening to mainly the same stuff over and over again, not making any effort to listen to new music. This year I'm going to try to listen to only music that I have not heard before. I've gone through Spotify and removed all my saved songs. I am relying mainly on Spotify radio and playlists to discover new content. By the end of the year, I hope to have a whole new library of music I enjoy listening to. I've been in a similar rut with music that I play on the piano. Part of this resolution is learning to play new stuff too.

4. Run a marathon.

Success condition: Complete a marathon without stopping running.

As I said after running the Detroit half-marathon, I intended to run the Athens Marathon this November. Furthest I've ever run is a half marathon, so this is the next logical step :)

5. #GiveFirst 10%.

Success condition: (breaking my own rule) this one will be mostly judged by gut.

Give 10% of my time and money to organizations which I believe will contribute to one of the 6 things measured in this graphic. If at the end of the year I feel I have slacked giving 10% of my time, I'll make up percentage points by giving more money proportionally.

Here's to a great new year!

Six Months of Sleep Tracking

Since April I've been using the Sleep Cycle app as my primary alarm clock. Basically, the app uses the microphone to try and tell when you are not in REM (deep) sleep to sound the alarm clock. You get to set a 30mn window during which you would like to wake up, and it tries to wake you at the most pleasant time. About 50% of the time I wake up at the last minute of the time window and feel just as groggy as I normally do waking up. The other 50% of the time though I wake up during light sleep and feel much better! I've been recommending the app for the past few months.

At it's very worst, it's still better than the default alarm clock. Another thing I like, although probably not billed as a feature, is that when the alarm is active if you switch to another app it shows in the top bar. Which acts as a gentle reminder that I shouldn't be using my phone right before sleeping. I've been working towards not having any electronics in my bedroom at all, but frankly it's hard and I'm not there yet.

Another added benefit of using Sleep Cycle is that you can actually export your sleep quality data. Which includes: Start Time, End Time, Sleep Quality (a percentage metric they made up), Time in Bed, and Activity (number of steps the iPhone pedometer recorded that day).

A project I'm working on is tracking some key personal metrics over time, the first one I've talked about here is my happiness. Sleep is another fun one, this is my raw data from Sleep Cycle. I'll refresh the Google Sheet periodically with new data.

It's nice to see that my average (and median) sleep times are both about 7.5 hours. This is what I believe is healthy for me, and I intend to keep it up. Meaning I'll have about 16 waking hours a day. Best to not waste too much of that time merely keeping track of it :)

What is Measured and Watched


I first read this quote a few years back and it is something that I think about regularly.

There is, however, an important caveat. Deciding on what is measured and watched is just as important. Tracking the wrong metric and optimizing for the success of that metric can be catastrophic.

A big part of starting blogging is that it forces me to formalize the things that I am thinking about. Lately, I have been thinking about tracking different personal metrics over a long period of time. The first one I want to track is my happiness.

The happiness tracker is a simple piece of software that I wrote in about an hour this evening. All it does is remind me at the end of each day to answer the question "How happy were you today? (1-10)". Happiness, I decided, is an excellent metric to optimize for.

My answer to that daily question lives here:

Eventually, I hope to show the data in a clearer format and potentially ask other questions to myself every day. Or even use this same mechanism to help stay on track for yearly goals

For now, I am just going to track daily happiness. Today was a great day, I spent most of the day relaxing with some close friends I have known for over 5 years. 8/10