How could you capture and use the small data about yourself to make your own life better? Whether to reduce your Coronavirus risk, increase your Healthspan or improve your daily happiness, what simple steps could you take today, and every day?
Corona, Kareena or Kambli
We are surrounded by increasing amounts of data about things that matter – like the latest Coronavirus – and things that don’t matter – Bollywood and cricket.
Bollywood, like Hollywood, benefits only a small part of the population in a significant manner. It would be good to ignore most of the stats that are pushed out to grab your attention. They’re unlikely to make your life significantly better. You will not live longer because you know who won an Oscar last year.
Cricket has not helped countries like India or Pakistan move the needle in terms of creating healthier populations. Nor has football, basketball or baseball been instrumental in bringing down the obesity rate in North America. Like the gladiators during the centuries of the Roman empire, televised sport as another form of gripping entertainment is used by the powerful to distract the masses from issues that really matter.
You will not live longer or healthier because of the knowledge of someone’s batting average. Instead, when you can, please go out and actually play some cricket! Want efficiency? Play soccer instead. Want even more efficiency and don’t want to rely on others? Go for a run, ride a bicycle, or lift weights!
Aim and Focus
In my previous article, I urged you to be focused on the internal-external-divide. Here are simple examples of what you can do today in terms of the data that pertains to you.
For ease of navigation, to allow you to jump to the parts that interest you, here is a hyperlinked content list.
F I N A L T A K E A W A Y
Corona Symptoms [top]
First, about the current Coronavirus strain that is visiting every corner of the earth right now.
- At a very personal level, are you tracking your symptoms?
- If you have developed any, are you logging them in a diary?
- Are you maintaining a similar diary for elderly folks you are taking care of?
- What about the young children at your home? You could make them write things in a traditional way with pen and paper. Teach them the importance of journaling when they are young. Discussing football scores of TV matches is such a pointless parenting exercise. The memory muscle-flexing could be used to a better-shared end goal.
Corona Statistics [top]
With the COVID-19 numbers and stats being updated from a global level down to national, state, city and even neighbourhood levels, you, I, and the rest of the world are watching things with great fear and interest at the reality playing out like a sci-fi movie.
My favourite sites for tracking Covid-19 statistics are here:
- a 3-D image you can twist-and-turn
- a beautiful numbers dashboard
- WHO dashboard
- superb data visualization including possible air-passenger transmission
- move a slider and see how it spread
- simple map version – the one I’ve used the most
- the FT graphs
I remind you once again. These numbers are about the world external to you. From the Axioms of the Internal External Divide, remember the Interface Axiom. With fear and, sometimes, panic gripping parts of the world, it is even more important to be especially conscious that what matters is that which passes through that interface between what is external to you and what is internal to you.
Simple Small Data Steps to Take [top]
If you are WFH (working from home) here are the simple things you could initiate and make routine going forward. Now your excuse of “I do not have time” is destroyed by “time saved from not commuting for work”. And if you are not WFH, do it anyway. Remember, excuses are the tools of the incompetent (courtesy: Obama).
- Keep track of the duration of your sleep.
- Weigh yourself every morning and record the date and Kg. If daily feels like a pain, pick a day of the week and do it as a routine weekly activity. My recommendation is to do it daily, not weekly. This is easiest done if your weighing scales are in your bathroom.
- Make a note of the time you finish your dinner and the time you break your fast the next day. It is not too late to have a relatively fixed time for your meals and not eat randomly through the day. It will also help you focus on the possibility of increasing your daily (overnight) fasting window.
Even if you do not keep a detailed log of what you eat and drink, you could gain a lot of insight into your future health if you keep a very simple record. Here’s a possible list:
- Number of servings of fruit you eat in a day
- Whether you ate salad or not
- Whether you consumed green leafy vegetables
- Whether you ate dessert.
If you do not already live by my mantra “avoid eating out at all times of the year” then this is a great time to start to keep track of a simple count of how many meals you ate in any given week that were prepared in an industrial kitchen, a restaurant or a hotel.
If you are unfortunate enough to drink alcohol or smoke regularly, simply keep a count of how many of those you consume in a day. Remember, no one, other than you, needs to see your data. You know that after a week you will have enough data to make you baulk at what that implies for a single year’s consumption.
If you are religious, you could spend a bit more time on prayer to connect with yourself. And, religious or not, if you are not already in the habit of doing so, start keeping a daily journal about your day. This is best done at the end of the day, as a way to lift the burden of the day from your shoulder and to place it inside a book (paper diary or computer doc!) If you are tired at the end of the day, it is tempting to delay it until the next morning – my strong advice is that you avoid that temptation of delay. The rewards will accrue to you, and only you.
If you do not already invest time daily on study beyond what your current business or school requires, today is the best time to start. Pick a topic that is tiny and, therefore, manageable and try to master it over the next few days. Keep a simple track of how much time you spent on it daily. You will be amazed at how fast you can learn something new if you do it daily.
Corporate Bullshit [top]
A lot of corporate managers have gone berserk over the last few years about Big Data. Investing millions without a proper plan when they have done nothing much with their “small data” that they’ve been collecting for years.
Never mind all those fears about what data the internet giants are collecting about you. It is about time you took up the responsibility of collecting your own data.
Start today, start small… but start!
As always, I hope you found this note useful. If you did, please share it with your family and friends.
Dr Purnendu Nath spends his waking hours focusing on helping individuals and organizations reach their goals, to make the world a better place. He speaks, writes and advises on topics such as finance, investment management, discipline, education, self-improvement, exercise, nutrition, health and fitness, leadership and parenting.