New Year’s has come and gone and tax season has come to a close for most of us, so we’re once again looking back on the year that has passed. As you list your income, look at your expenses, note big changes in your personal situation, you can’t help but reflect a little. Those simple numbers don’t capture the essence of a year, now do they?
Maybe you need more. More data, that is. Nicholas Felton is a designer and entrepreneur (he was one of the designers of the Facebook timeline by the way) who has created a personal annual report from 2004 till 2014. These reports are based on data he could capture with his phone, his computer, or other technology. And the results are fascinating.
Below is an overview of the data he collected for one of his personal annual reports. It lists exactly what he collected, how the collected it, the volume, and a key statistic.
Data does give you incredible insights into what you did in a year’s time, for instance about what you had to drink. You have to admit, seeing your preferences laid bare like this is more than just numbers.
Another fascinating example were his communications. Felton tracks all his communications in a year, meaning he knows exactly who he called/emailed/texted etc., who he communicated with most often, how long the conversations lasted, and even what volume the conversations were at (!).
Moreover, he doesn’t just list communications, but further details his relationships and friendships as well:
(I do wonder what his friends think when they see their friendship listed in numbers like this…and how jealous they get when they see he interacted way more with others!)
But Felton doesn’t just gather data, he analyzes it as well. Here’s a visual insight into some correlations he discovered:
Pretty cool, huh? You can find out more about Nicholas Felton and his personal annual reports on his website (the last one was from 2014 by the way and he doesn’t give a reason why he stopped).
I’ve always been big on keeping a diary and collecting some sort of data throughout the year, but this is taking it to a whole new level. It’s impressive, yet scary at the same time. If you analyze your personal data like this, you cannot prevent uncovering some nasty habits, some deep flaws and weaknesses. Data doesn’t lie and laying your life bare like this in pure data, it takes major guts.
In an interview, Felton stated that the reports had made him highly aware of his routines and habits. Interestingly, he also admitted that keeping track of his life like this helped him to break his routines, caused him to say ‘yes’ to activities he would have declined before. It’s the power of knowledge, in this case in the form of sheer overwhelming data transformed into a personal annual report.
Personally, I don’t see myself doing something similar if only because I don’t have the time, but I have to admit it does trigger me to spend some more time analyzing the data I already collect. Because let’s face it, by using our smartphones we already track a whole lot of our lives anyways…