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In our last cast, we discussed the power of active tracking for greater productivity. If not, it’s highly recommended you go back and listen to that cast first. You will learn about empowered choice and for that alone, the previous cast is worthwhile. Today on this cast, we discuss the importance of taking charge of the passive data being collected about you already and learning to track data that you can use productively without having to do all the work. In contrast to our active tracking discussion, we delve into the world of ambient data ripe for the picking, if you know the right ways to do so. Also, the pitfalls, perils, and opportunities that abound with passive productivity/wellness data tracking. Pull up a seat and join us for this important and timely discussion on passive tracking for productivity.
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In this Cast
Resources we mention, including links to them will be provided here. Please listen to the episode for context.
Some recommended readings, even though we didn’t discuss these in the recording itself:
Productivity and Continuous Improvement – Measurement (and RescueTime) makes it happen, both Personally and at Work
If You’re Not Collecting Productivity Data, You’ll Never Succeed at Work
Items we discussed in the recording:
Khan Academy – Statistics and Probabilities
Getting Things Done by David Allen
Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler
ProcrastiTracker (OSS for Windows)
Workrave (RSI prevention but helps passively track your mouse/keyboard activity, free, Windows)
Other notables we didn’t mention in this cast:
Raw Text Transcript
Raw, unedited and machine-produced text transcript so there may be substantial errors.Read More
Are you ready to manage your work and personal world better to live a fulfilling productive life, then you’ve come to the right place productivitycast
the weekly show about all things productivity here, your host Ray Sidney-Smith and Augusto Pinaud with Francis Wade and Art Gelwicks. Welcome back everybody to productivity cast the weekly show about all things productivity. I’m Ray Sidney-Smith. I’m here with Augusto Pinaud, Francis Wade, and Art Gelwicks. Last cast we discussed the concept and the power of active tracking and looking at that data in order to to increase productivity and and so if you have not listened to the last cast. I highly recommend that you go back and you listen to that one before you listen to this one, but generally we talked about the idea of empowered choice and that means taking the information that you have and then making in that informed choice going forward. So today I’d like us to discuss the importance of taking charge of passive data that is data that’s being collected about you already. It’s just being picked up from ambient the ambient environment in which you operate and the importance of actively tracking data passively that is being able to get data tracked around you and going forward and doing that. So today we’re going to we’re going to talk about the world of ambient data, you know, which I believe is really ripe for picking if you and and really it’s all about knowing the right ways to do so some of the pitfalls perils and opportunities that are around you. When it comes to passive data collection and tracking. So let’s let’s dive into this. I really want to discuss sort of a couple of things here what passive tracking is to you all to to to to us here on productivity cast and why you would track your data passively and again I’ll probably make this argument several times, but the data is already being collected about you. You just don’t know it yet. And then we’ll talk about what other data you can track passively through other means what you should track what you should pay attention to what you shouldn’t pay attention to and some ways in which you can harness that data, whether that be through apps or other kinds of devices. The technology is is certainly you know wide reaching today in terms of wellness and fitness applications and health applications to to all other kinds of passive tracking data. So let’s let’s start off with what is passive tracking. I mean, I kind of gave a compare and contrast there with regard to it being not active tracking, but I know that we had a little dialogue before we were recording about the itself so Augusto Do you want to start us off with how do you see the difference between active and passive tracking
the difference between the active and the passive is the active will require you to do some kind of effort. Well, the passive their electronic device or the system will track it for you without you needed to do anything. So last week I was talking about how impressed I was with my Apple Watch, and the tracking and I can give a perfect example inside of the watch. I said that I have been working a standing up for many, many years and now the watch out automatically track how many hours I am standing up or how many times in an hour. Stand up on that it does it automatically without me doing anything to just give me a report at the end of the day, but exercise, for example, is something that I need to tell so standing up is passive watch will do it with or without all that I need to do is where the watch the active will be for example when I want to register that I’m doing some kind of exercise so I need to go open a certain application and tell them. Okay. From this moment on I will be riding the bike or I will be walking or I will read run or will be swimming. So the difference will be how much interaction do require in order to track to to certain activity. I use a program that
tracks my time. It’s called manic time. I think it’s mentioned in the show notes and it’s one that I set up and it tracks all of my basically my keystrokes and what I use my computer to do out call that passive, to some degree, even though I set it up. But the fact is I have to go in each week and actually assemble a full record of my time because I’ve been tracking my time for for years because my time doesn’t track time. For example, when I’m in a meeting that doesn’t involve my computer or when I’m on the road or when I’m doing some reading that’s offline or away from my laptop so I have to supplement it. So there’s some there’s some active and passive that I have to do tracking I have to do in order to create an accurate record of my my week but that’s the one that I that I use the most that question. And what do I use it for and that’s that’s as appropriate get into the next, I believe.
Okay. The difference for me between active and passive tracking is actually pretty simple. It’s a matter of does whatever I’m tracking require me to remember to push a button. If it’s active obviously I need to make a conscious effort to start and stop the tracking process if it’s passive. I don’t have to think about it, it’s just going to happen and somewhere in the middle there are the actively passive tracking things where I start something tracking, but it will keep tracking and change state depending on what the state changes. So if I bucket this stuff active tracking is like a time tracking tool, something like in fresh books for example where I go in and say this is where I’m starting to work this is what I’m stopping to work done on the other end of the scale something that’s completely passive maybe location tracking within Google to identify where I’ve gone within different places in the middle is things like my fitness tracker like a gusto was talking about where I say it’s always kind of tracking things like my pulse rate and activity level for walking around, but if I’m exercising I push a button to started tracking the different types of exercises that I’m doing. So for me, there’s kind of three areas, but it’s still boils down to. Did I remember to push the button or not.
Yeah, and I think there’s a very fine line between mincing active versus passive tracking and I think it’s important to just recognize that there is, as you said, are a kind of Active Passive tracking and then a passive tracking. Either way, the, the reality is is that if you’re not recording the data yourself and doing the measurements. I consider that passive, but I can see how because you have to push a button in order to start say a timer or start an application in order to start tracking what you’re doing in terms of time or movement or otherwise you might consider some of that activity. It kind of harkens to my, you know what, what, how, how short should the next action be in sort of GTD you’re getting things done lingo people start to get very manic about how much granularity you know is pick up a pencil, the appropriate next action for writing a book or drawing a picture when you know picking up a pencil really doesn’t trigger you know you to actually do that thing you know becomes a little bit too too granular on some level that I think it’s just a matter of is the data is the data being collected without you having to track all of the data points right and and i think that’s important for everybody to just take heart to so I wanted to, I wanted to talk about a little bit about why you would track data passively and and some of the reasons behind
tracking this data and and how you can actually use it right. So how can you use passively track data and and to some extent, how is that more effective than actively tracked data my
data that I’ve collected, as I said, it goes back several years.
No one then very rarely like once a year or something once every two years. I have a need to go back and see how much time I spent doing something I don’t think I’m making the best use of the data. I have where I spent my time and I’m I’ve actually done quite a bit of searching on the on the internet to try and find someone who has said, Okay, if you’ve tracked your time. Here’s how you can feasibly use that data to generate reliable useful insights and I found almost nothing all of the websites that talk about time tracking. They don’t go the next step and say here’s what you do with the data, other than reported in a spreadsheets or in a timesheet for your boss, which is the very lowest level of time tracking in my mind. So I’ve been stuck on the question of how do I best use this data for some time. I’ll keep collecting it because I think I’m going to answer this question at some point but terms of actual answers that I’m trying to solve. It’s sort of a case by case basis at moment very, very ad hoc and we more ad hoc then I wish it were some wide open to suggestions and looking for answers
you bring up a really great sort of discussion point here, which is that for many people, they don’t have a background in statistics
and and no one is faulting you for that. The,
reality is that as soon as you take into the account of taking data and being able to do analysis and synthesis of that data. You have to really start to understand the data that you’re collecting and so the reality is is that if you put bad data in you’re not going to get good data out right and so the the fact that you analyze this data and didn’t get an didn’t get an answer out of it could just be that you’re collecting the wrong data right and you may not be I’m just saying that I think for listeners, they have to be very, very cognizant of the fact that you may do a lot of passive tracking and come to find that you do not get the right data that you’re looking for and and that is you might not get the right answer you’re looking for and even to the extent that you might not get the right answer that you’re looking for. Even when you collect the right data by not reading it correctly. Right. So we have to be very, very cognizant of the fact that we are now doing a you know a higher level sort of view of data and there does does require you to have the right tools and even then some of the apps. I see which we’ll talk about a little bit later in the cast has have produced wrong charts, like the charts are not showing correct data, you know, you have to be very careful when someone starts around or do estimations and statistics, you can you can you can now round numbers and make averages that look completely different than what is reality. So be Be careful of that that little bit of
wiggle room that gray area that becomes a skewed. Yes. He wanted when I think about this type of data piece of the equation. People often get themselves out of sorts, when they start to look at the amount of data, they have available to them and then ask the question, What can that data. Tell me honestly that’s backwards, if you approach it that way you’re only going to come up with answers that the data set that you’re gathering can provide you doesn’t mean that those are the answers that you need. I always recommend to people start the process backwards. What’s the information that you need to know what are the answers you need to get to, am I wasting time on these types of tasks. What am I spending my time properly ask those kinds of questions and then work back backwards to say what information do I need to be gathering to get to those answers and what’s the most efficient way to gather that information is it actively tagging items. Is it actively going through and starting and stopping the clock is running things in the background is it finding an app that if you work backwards. You have you are then able to address this plethora of different ways of capturing data that we have available to us, but we can still evaluate that all of those captures are going to allow us to process the infirm information in a way to get to the report output that we need for our own decision making and it’s really easy to fall into the reverse trap you hear this in corporate space all the time. Well, what do you want to know from the system. Well, what can you tell me. Well, I can tell you whatever it can generate that doesn’t mean that any of that is valid relevant or important it’s a matter of what questions do you need in answered and work back to do I have the information to answer those questions.
So I’d like to point out here that just sort of answer the question why track your data passively art you kind of answered the question and I want to kind of put an exclamation point on that which is decide on the data you need in order to be able to make that empowered choice in in the future, about how to change your productive life and that’s the data, you should seek out. Now, a couple of caveats here I think are important, which are just say that one you need to be aware of that the data you think on the surface that will help you won’t necessarily be the data that you need in order to make an empowered choice I give I’ll give the example of of health and fitness here which is that you know something as simple as tracking the number of steps is is not going to stop you, your physical health status. Right. So while tracking steps might be something to motivate you to actually walk more that’s not going to give you a good understanding of how healthy you are right. So, so be very, very cognizant of the fact that you might have, you know, a different perspective on or different view on what you want and you want to be able to track the right data for the right things. So if I was saying, Oh, I want to know my general heart health. Well, you might get a fitness tracker that tracks your your heart rate and tracks that throughout the day passively right and that will give you a better view than the number of steps you take daily right because if you say oh well I take, you know, 10,000, steps a day. My heart is really healthy but it’s really not. You don’t know that from the number of steps that you’ve taken right so just be aware that you have to do a little bit of thinking about what’s the what’s the answer. I’m trying to what’s the question I’m trying to answer and tracking the right data appropriately.
You make a great point when you mentioned that not all of us on me, me included know enough is statistics for the data to be to irrelevant and and I’ve been thinking here on the background about it because that’s one of the things was a data juicy. Sometimes people who cried and report about how they track actively or passively and how all the information they can learn about themselves while they’re doing this, but you need to remember that you may not be an aesthetician that is totally fine. So if you are not, then you need to understand and maybe educate yourself on what is the kind of information you’re tracking and what is what you’re trying to obtain out of that information. Otherwise, doesn’t matter how great is a information or how bad is the information because the resold may not get you. Where do you want to go
I will put a link to the Khan Academy a course that I took way back when on statistics and probabilities and I’ve always had a fairly strong maths and science mind right so it’s not like I was somebody who felt like I was weak in that area. But when I took that went through and watch the the Khan Academy course I recognized how poorly I had remembered and how poorly. I knew just basics. With regard to the understanding of the collection of data, the understanding of then being able to analyze, interpret present and organize that data which are really the fundamentals of or the fundamental parts of dealing with statistics. So I think it’s just it’s good to pay attention to that fact. Alright, let’s let’s move along to what types of data that we can track and what we should track what we shouldn’t track and some other considerations about passive data collection. I want to bring up at this point. Just a bit of a of a caveat here my caveat regarding passively tracked data is that so much of your data is being tracked today and you don’t know it right and this is this is not to like light of an alarm bell or to set off any fight or flight responses, but you’re being tracked in so many ways. Today, you know, if I just think about the ways in which I’m being tracked you know my car has on star in it. Right. And so the on stars tracking and collecting all kinds of my movement data whenever I get in my car. It tracks everything about my movements, if I if I drive a lot you know my phone is collecting all kinds of data, the accelerometer in it is telling Google and everybody else who has access to that data where my phone is in terms of GPS location the accelerometer tells them how fast I’m moving and with just that data and elevation, it can pinpoint me anywhere in the world and tell them all kinds of things about my general well being and movement. So, there, there is a there’s a level of understanding that a lot of data is being collected about you what I believe is that you should be taking control of that data right you should you should understand that it’s being tracked about you and you should then be taking taking command of it for your own purposes. Right. And so, first is getting access to that data. So that’s something that we can talk about the other is of course data security, making sure that the way in which people and devices that you’re using, make sure that they’re secure do a little bit of research to make sure that you’re not leaking data that could be compromising your security and then who owns that data. Right. And I think that’s really important to recognize as well as who owns the data that’s being collected if you start or install an application that’s passively tracking your data and they’re bundling that up and selling that to others, our licensing it to others. Just make sure that you know that, but you should know who owns that data so that being sort of set aside. We’ll talk a little bit later about data fatigue and data overwhelm but I wanted to sort of start out with with a little bit of just sort of warning there but what are some of the types of data that you gentlemen track passively and and we’ll go from there. Francis you already started us off with the fact that you track passively within manic time can you explain a little bit of the fundamentals of what the computer program is doing for for folks to get a flavor of what’s happening,
minus the stuff that you put in to fill in the blanks when when I go to a particular website it it picks up on the fact that I’m there and mentions them all the time. I’m spending on website and app program,
whatever it is I’m doing. It’s just a dumb a dumb measurement system for what my activity is online it’s supposed to turn itself off when I walk away that doesn’t quite work as advertised but then it delivers you a sort of a just a long list or a database of
your usage over the past, how many hours so it’s it’s You’re the one who sets it up it’s of course it’s not it’s not spying on you in the sense that it’s a it’s outside of your knowledge, although of course it does track everything which means if you have a boss was looking at your data. You may not want to advertise everything so it’s up to you but if you’re just doing it for personal purposes like I am, it’s it’s it’s it’s a great tool. Of course, they don’t make money by having the program available to me. The program is meant for managers who wanted to track their employees so it’s it’s meant to be observation software. I just use it to observe myself and when I go through the data on a about every other day, a kind of a basis I I fill in the gaps. Like I said, but what’s really useful is the the feedback I have for myself because I find that it it gives me a true sort of reflection on what I’m doing with my time and the choices I made when I don’t do it. All right. Don’t go in and keep the information relevant or up to date. I feel myself drifting nothing any severe a sense but it’s the only feedback I have that says here, look what you spent the last couple of days
last couple years of effort on here’s what you were focusing on and of course that raises questions like, is that really what I wanted to focus on what I really on that social networking site for that long. Did I really not do any work on my editing my book like I thought I did so it’s an immediate. The only immediate feedback I have about Hello I spent my time is through this exercise of using manic time and it is totally passive but but the benefit that I get from it. The speak to the statistical question is that it it gives me this feedback this immediate feedback that I don’t get from anywhere else. I don’t have a boss who tells me I’m spending too much time on anything. The only feedback I have is the one that I drive from manic time and
the never on the question of statistical knowledge so I I don’t know if I mentioned this, but I used to teach statistics at the Masters level so I know a little bit about it or I should know
but but the way I’m using manic time doesn’t require this mystical background at all because now I’m really just getting feedback on my time usage. That’s about it.
Right. And so my question to you then is are you trying to use the the data set in appropriately right which is that taking it in the larger context right of all that data over the course of a year, two years, if you’re purely using it for real time or near real time feedback, then that data is probably is not as useful to you in the abstraction, you know, four or five levels up in terms of time or, you know, four or five levels out in terms of horizon, because the data. The data doesn’t tell you very much more in the larger aggregate you know so so that might be one of those things where you might need to look at it, just from a perspective that yeah that might help me now and I and I don’t mean just you Francis I mean everybody listening is that, you know, this may help me right now. But, you know, if I if I track my mood right now and I know my mood. So, therefore, it gives me a better understanding of how to deal with what I need to deal with right now or I’m feeling highly energetic I’m feeling positive great I can tackle this particular type of task. Now if I collect that over the course of a year. Does that does that specific Lee helped me maybe in terms of placing items in and tasks in that timeframe, but maybe not
yeah I don’t you mean if I don’t collect that kind of data, but it could. The reason I like my next time or or any of the other systems. I’ve used is that as a as a total Task Scheduler. So I schedule all of my time and it helps me to make better estimates, so I know when I’ve estimated that this particular task should spend to take an hour and a half. So manic time actually tells me how much time it actually took so no and then I do a comparison between here’s what I thought something I thought something would last for long. I thought it last and here’s how long it actually lasted match your podcast is a good example we I scheduled on our in my calendar, but the overtime would have noticed is that it’s actually it’s actually a build up because I have to prepare for the call, we usually get on a little bit early, just to kind of shoot the breeze and we stay on a little bit longer so it’s actually more of a two hour commitment than I want to work commitment. So manic Tam tells me Oh look, look, here’s exactly how much time you’re spending, even though my mind might think I’m only spending an hour so in the future. What I would do is then schedule the two or a two hour window as opposed to a one hour window so that feedback for in my case is really important because I’m trying to schedule all of my time. So the one accurately. I can do it, the better. I am and manic time helps that way. I think a good analogy for listeners is in finances, you know, you have a budget and then
you have actual right and so you can budget in this particular case as Francis is doing. And then the passive tracking with manic time that he’s using is giving him actual
data and and i think that’s that’s a that’s a way to kind of think about it. It’s interesting that you mentioned that specifically around that whole time budget thing because there was an article I was writing. I just posted last week about the concept of time budgeting, which isn’t a new one. I mean, people have operated in the idea of having a fixed amount of time and working to that for quite some time. Heck, if you go all the way back to the the stoic philosopher Seneca he talks about how we value our time related to evaluation of money but if you think about that tracking and then I look at my own, I realized that I don’t do as much passive tracking around information that is immediately actionable. I do a lot of passive tracking around what I call aha data and what I define as aha data is data that I look at it’s interesting to look at, but every so often there’s an aha that comes out of it. Oh wait, I I’m doing that. That’s why am I doing that or that’s a really good thing
but for the most part it’s looking for those aha moments. It’s not acting on every piece that comes in. So I’ll go back to the health tracker because it’s probably the lowest common denominator
I look at
every so often when I have a little idle time I’ll look at the charts that the thing generates and they’re neat to look at and they say, but every so often an aha will pop out of it. Maybe
we went up a little bit more than it should have and well what was happening there what what triggered that spike or what triggered that drop and that’s that aha that I go back to, but I’m not spending an hour every day analyzing every bit of that data. So when I look at the passive data and the amount of passive data that’s getting collected and then I that I allowed to collect and that I’m actually aware, I’m collecting which is a whole different conversation.
It’s what is the value
of that data
and that’s where I have I’ve started to measure what I’m collecting just as much as what I’m collecting is measuring me so if the information that I’m collecting has value I pay more attention in many cases that transitions it from a passive state to a more active state, but if it doesn’t have a lot of value to me then it doesn’t get a lot of attention. I’m capturing here’s an Active Passive thing that’s kind of funny, there’s an app called swarm which used to be the old Foursquare, and you go to a location, location tracking pings you and says, Hey, I think you’re here. Do you want to check in and I will just habitually check in. Now you can go back and you can see all the different places you stopped. If I were actively consuming that data and looking to process it and report on it back to myself I’d be looking for habits, I’d be looking for opportunities to improve efficiency, maybe you know i don’t know
running errands better routes to do that and that’s is that realistically happening. No, why because the value of that does not offset the amount of cost. I have to spend in time to get to that in dancer. So when I look at the things that I’m passively tracking again you know all that background stuff if an app says it’ll track this stuff. Go ahead. What the heck, it’s not gonna hurt me any if anybody really wants to know what my average pulse rate is per day. Fine, feel free. I’m sure you can make the argument. Oh, well, you know, healthcare companies will want to know that and insurance companies will charge you more and I’ll make the argument back. Yeah, that’s fine. They’ll find a way to charge you more regardless of the data that you’re passing to them. So with that being said, no offense to the healthcare people in the audience.
With that being said, if I think about again that data that I’m allowing to be captured. It’s what’s the value of that data to me and do I consciously want it to be tracked. That being said, again, I don’t think I’m actually tracking that much passive data, the more I I break it down. There’s I know there’s a lot being captured. Do I go back and look at a lot of it really you know i partially agree with
you know my my watch again it’s it’s tracking passively you know blood or at least heart rate constantly. Do I go back and look at that. I don’t think I have gone one other than to play, but it’s cool to have the information there. So
if if if I get to the doctor and he gets curious I can pull a report in a second and have it. The question is what are you tracking and what you are aware and to be honest with you. I’m sure there is things that are getting tracked
for me that I’m not necessarily aware and there are things that I’m
that they are being tracked passively that I may get used to it is just
I think the line between tracking to get useful information and tracking just to spend time tracking is really thin and you need to be aware why you’re doing dot on why you are spending the time tracking the information for me tracking the information is to have an a specific goal. I want to know
x. Other than that, tracking for tracking to get more reports or to spend time playing with numbers. It is not something that I necessarily care
yeah I care what you’re saying and I happened to be a fairly focused on the numbers person and so that that makes a lot of sense that since I am kind of hyper focused when it comes to that kind of stuff at least as it relates to my personal productivity. I spend a lot of time paying attention to my health data and as I said in the last cast you know i’m i’m very active in the quantified self world and as a quantified self or q self or I like the idea of knowing as much about my health and wellness and how it how it improves or holds me back from being productive, right. So, whether that be nutrition sleep or fitness and I want to make sure I have that data at hand to be a kind of a feedback loop, but now it’s a it’s a it’s a longer feedback loop than say in immediate you’re doing the right thing or doing the wrong thing right now but that in my weekly review at least tells me each week how the data that’s being passively track tells me how to present myself in the next week more productively right so I know that I actually have if you if you start to look at the ebb and flow of your month I have highly productive weeks and I have very low productivity weeks. And what I mean by that, in essence, is that those low productivity weeks are high travel weeks and therefore I can’t do a lot in between moments of silence because I’m running from here to the airport or I’m in the car driving to a client site or something like that where my The, the ability to track actively is not as easy and the ability for me to say drive and type is not legal. So, but but safety and in mind you know it doesn’t make any sense either I go ahead and I take those productivity hits and I am aware of them. And so, you know, it’s like that kind of data really does help me. It really helps me look at it and it’s it’s like a glance you know it’s just a glance at your at the reports as long as you understand how to set them up correctly before we move on and talk about the apps, because I think there are a lot of them out there that are really helpful to folks in terms of being able to track this data. I didn’t want to I want to talk a little bit about I see I sound like the Debbie Downer on this cast of all the things you should be worried about. But, but I’m going to talk about it because I think it’s important and that is data fatigue and data overwhelm and this is the idea of either tolerating or avoiding data and what they tell you to do or what maybe Cass Sunstein and Richard Fowler, who wrote the book nudge they would call this a nudge nudge or things that nudge you the the idea here is that you start to salary to avoid them because of fatigue and overwhelm. Okay, so be aware that too much data can be a bad thing. Get Data indigestion. Don’t try to take on too much passive tracking because if you have all of that data and you attempt to understand it all all at once, or in a way that it’s not organized it will really start to turn you off. And I think the way you’ve approached art which is it’s collected and if you look at it. Great. If you don’t, who cares, that’s a kind of good you know laissez faire nonchalant perspective about it. And I think that’s probably good. If you’re new to data tracking and you don’t want to get overwhelmed. I want to take us on to our final segment of the cast, which is I’d like to talk about the apps and that are available and that you use for passive tracking and what areas of your life. Do they track and and so I’m going to start off with just a couple of them because I think these are really just phenomenal. So I’ve started using an app called Instant and it’s available across iOS and Android and instant is a smartphone application and it automates the tracking of several different areas of your of your world now it doesn’t do all of these to some high degree of accuracy. So don’t don’t start you know writing into us and telling us how you know bad, the data is it is a very new app and all of these apps that fit into this category are going to be to some extent inaccurate to some time level, but it can be helpful and informing I think in some ways, but instant is great because it tracks screen time of your mobile device. And so what I what I recognized over time was that while using a desktop based tool that tracks your desktop usage. You know, we toggle between our mobile devices and our desktop devices and tablets and so forth throughout the day and it’s actually helpful to have a full picture of your productivity and so on the mobile devices. I have instance, so it shows me how many times I have, you know, looked at my phone, you know, how many times have opened it, how many times I’ve what applications. I used on it right was i was i on Words with Friends when I should have been doing an email right.
It gives me that kind
of data that’s really, really helpful. It also tracks sleep and and it does movement. It tells you how how how many steps you’ve taken and and you know I said sleep and some other different types of data and obviously the sleep data is going to be pretty inaccurate because it’s it’s tracking probably some algorithm that says when you put your phone down and stop touching it or something like that. And the point in which you picked it back up again overnight so I’m not sure it’s really all that accurate but I guess your general sense right you got four hours of sleep last night or you got seven hours of sleep last night. You know that those are the kinds of data points that it can it can probably be helpful with so I really like instant, it’s a great tool. What other tools do you all use gentlemen in terms of passively tracking data
that I’ve been looking for an app just like instant for four months so I’m glad that you you mentioned this, because I’ve been trying to track my uptime on my on my smartphone and I couldn’t find anything. So I’m going to download this right away. Um,
I actually, I think I’m the Luddite maybe a I just got a blood pressure monitor and started using it. Just last week, and I’m back at the pencil and paper stage right to get dog and I know their apps out there that alone would allow me to capture it not passively but at least on an ongoing basis, but I don’t know what comes to my health and something so physical I’m very comfortable using pencil and paper. So I don’t think I use trying to think of any other apps I consciously use to track I I’m not coming up with any other than the popular mention,
so we’ll say in that vein Francis there’s instant there’s another tool called gyroscope and then there is exist and I’ll put links to all of these in the show notes, but I think you will like instant the most for at least for screen time and and in terms of tracking the screen time
don’t really use any for passive try I’ve tried I’ve tried using a couple of them. The only one that I use. That’s remotely close to a passive state tracking is the karma capability within to do list and that’s specifically around keeping track of tasks that are accomplished project or tasks related to projects the basically the amount of work moving through my work stream. It’s not truly passive because nothing gets updated unless I market task is complete, but it does categorize that information. So that’s, that’s probably the closest I have to that aside from all the health tracking things, but I do want to reiterate a point that you mentioned earlier, and that’s it’s important to look at this data with a critical eye and understand the passive data is assuming or you’re allowing the tools that you are used to collect that passive data to make assumptions about what you are doing and identify that as a factual event which is not necessarily the case and I’ll go to the sleep tracker. For example, I have a Samsung Gear Fit too and I love the the Gear Fit fitness tracker. It does sleep tracking so I wear it when I go to bed and in the morning, it tells me how I slept and how long I slept, and it’s fairly accurate based on what I can tell, but I again have to take it with a grain of salt. So
listen, the tool. Keep that in mind. And if if you try one of these tools and I suggest you do give it a shot worst thing you can do is say it’s not for me
but take it with a grain of salt and understand that you are asking a digital solution to make assumptions about your behavior and then report that back to you as being fact and it may not necessarily be the case. But as for my passive tracking yeah like I said to do is to is probably the biggest thing
and the health tracking but aside from that, I probably should do more, just not quite sure what would be the best way for me to approach it specifically because I switch systems, a lot I do as much work on my phone as I do on multiple web browsers on multiple machines. I’m constantly bouncing back and forth between systems. If I was always working off of one platform device, it would be a lot easier, but I just don’t have that option.
Until recently, I I had to really one Active Passive tracking and it was only focus using geo fences. So if you if your task manager allows you to use geo fences, that is a way of do passive tracking. Hey, you just you are leaving work. Remember that you need to do this or you’re leaving home remembered you need to do this or you pass to the grocery store remembered you have on your list. This and that. That was my at least more conscious passive tracking until I acquired the Apple Watch that now tracks up a couple of other things
but but again it’s for me tracking for tracking makes no sense. So, so it may be that I have more things that I’m on taking consciously or passively tracking, but I wanted to bring up the geo fences part because it’s a great way to passively tracking where you are. But more importantly, what are the activities that you need to do when and, you know, or when you are arriving or when you are leaving to an a specific place
yeah I think geo geo tracking in general and geo fencing in your case gusto is is a very powerful way in which you know it’s, again, it’s not it’s not about the fact that it’s collecting that data right so data collection is important but it’s really the fact that it understands it and then it provides an intervention. It says, Hey, you said that you wanted to pick up this thing at the grocery store and you’re at the grocery store. Here it goes. That thing you wanted to pick up and I think that’s, you know, highly productive and highly useful. And so I want to I want to talk about a couple of other things that could be useful to folks just a couple of applications. I’ve come up with over the course of years and I’ve noticed that people use so there. There are several applications like the one that Francis uses that tracks your desktop time, the one that I’m most familiar with is rescue time and again links to all of these are in the show notes and rescue time does the, the, the, you know, analysis of what’s happening on your you know your computer and so it can track what websites and it can even block certain websites throughout the day. And so you can say, Oh, well, I don’t want to look at Facebook from 10 to noon, because that’s my highly productive time during the day. So you can actually have rescue time block Facebook during that time frame. There are other time tracking applications that again it just basically analyzes what applications are running and which ones are in focus or out of focus throughout the day time dr work pulse and work snaps all do that kind of functionality. There’s a tool called procrastinate tracker and this is for Windows only but procrastinate trackers is one of those that I’ve seen that does some interesting passive tracking and then one that I thought was really helpful was one called work rave and work rave does repetitive stress injury prevention. So it actually pays attention to what you’re doing on your mouse and keyboard and then it provides interventions for being able to do that, but it can also it at the same time it’s passively tracking your mouse and keyboard activity. So that’s also helpful that’s free software and it’s it’s windows only so I want I wanted to just pay attention to those also if you’re a small business owner and you’re you want to hire freelancers up work up work calm, they have this built in to their platform. So what’s really interesting is that while work Polson works naps and manic time and so on so forth. They’re really for managers to record what their employees are doing right in terms of how they’re spending their time they take screenshots of what’s of what’s happening on screen on a regular basis so that it can then you know you can sort of keep a try. Lack of record of what your staff is doing and therefore keeping honest people honest, in essence, well up work does the same thing. So if you’re hiring freelancers. This can nominally do the process of hiring and managing those freelancers. But it also has this additional functionality that if you hire someone for hourly work they’re actually doing an hour’s worth of work and not doing the work in five minutes and charging you for an hour. That’s kind of a cool concept there. There are some other notables that I’m going to put into the into the the links in the show notes so you can go check those out.
Yeah, I want to echo something that I’ve said before in a big way which is that we’ve all been saying that you need to sort out the the objective before you actually I think even think about the app or passive versus active. But what I found is that there’s what I found is that there’s hardly any help on the on the web in terms of setting up their original problem and then looking for the right app and then looking for the right way to collect the data that whole process which is what’s Moses discourses don’t teach until the very end is actually the most important the original setting up with the problem. And that’s the part I think people, people don’t do and therefore end up with more data than they know what to do with because they haven’t structured the problem accurately or usefully in the first step I wish there were more sites more and more and more apps or is there the right answer to that, but more assistance, I guess so that people who have real problems could then ask the question. Okay, what’s the problem I’m trying to solve. What’s the app I need to get what’s the data I need and take them all the way from the source of the problem to solving the problem using the data. So I wish there were more help, like that. I’ve never seen a site that does that. Well, hopefully somebody is listening and they will we’ll create such a site.
Well, I think this closes out this cast for productivity cast. If you have been tracking data passively. This is a great opportunity to look at the health data, you know, Google Fit or Apple Health and seeing what the data has been collected and is is informing you about and maybe that can help you create some motivation to changing things into the future. So with that, I’m going to close us out for this episode of productivity cast the weekly show about all things productivity. Thank you to Augusto Pinaud, Francis Wade and Art Gelwicks. Thank you, gentlemen. And here’s your productive life.
And that’s it for this productivity cast the weekly show about all things productivity with your hosts Ray Sidney-Smith and Augusto Pinaud with Francis Wade and Art Gelwicks.