Monday, April 24, 2017

Bullet Journal

We're generating data for other people as we go about our lives—Google, Apple, Gojek—why not generate some data for ourselves?

OK, so I am obviously partial to the quantified self. When my iPhone was stolen and I could not recover my May-August 2016 steps activity I died a little inside. That hike with Freida to Gunung Gede? Gone. (And so were the pictures!) I had also been trying to collect data on my sleep but I've been far too forgetful to start the tracker app before I go to bed.

Consistency has also been a problem for me in tracking my work, too. I had a moderate success when tracking early tasks for Generasi Evaluation using Slack with Donghee, but I could not say the same when I tried that for JKN project. I moved to Wunderlist and had some success, but many tasks at work simply do not have clear deadline, and we soon began to miss deadlines for the tasks that do have deadlines. As I start to ignore the reminders, it became less and less effective. I am still using Trello to manage the tasks in creating the Indonesian lesson on Duolingo Incubator, and while this works OK so far, restarting tasks is still not seamless.

Enter bullet journal.

I can't recall who shared this on my Facebook newsfeed (it might be Willy). Thinking that this was a perfect productive procrastination task, I turned the remainder of my black notebook into a bullet journal. This was September 20th, 2016.

Now, more than six months later, I'm on my third journal. How'd I do? The guide video was not kidding when it says that it can easily track the past. It became easier for me to extract a nugget of information from a meeting a couple of weeks ago. This was something that is often hard to track with my old notebook when I just threw notes wherever.

More interestingly, though, now I can turn my tasks into discrete data points and I can play around with it. Check this out:

If the plot alone did not wow you, let me walk you through this graph:
(1) Monday-Masyhur is an ambitious guy. Creating big to-do lists, not finishing much.
(2) Tuesday-Masyhur is actually worse and is bent on one-upping Monday.
(3) Thankfully, sense prevails and as the week progressed, the number of the tasks declines while the completion rate improves. Those outliers, though: 31 and 30 tasks on Wednesday and Thursday?
(4) Saturday is a lazy day.
(5) On Sunday the restlessness returns with the Gwaith-i-Megyr weekly sword practice.

When I made this graph, I wondered if there's a similar monthly pattern. The short answer is no. Look at how the dots are all over the place:

Another neat thing that I could do with my data is to figure out how often I go swimming at GOR Sumantri swimming pool. The answer: not often enough.

Mostly this is because a casual swimmer like yours truly now have to compete for space with athletes who hogs half the pool as their usual venue at Senayan is closed for renovation prior to Asian Games 2018. At the same time, the remaining half of the pool is dominated by the club swimmers. Even with the price hike (Rp20.000 from previously Rp15.000 for 6-8 am entry), it does not seem to reduce the overcrowding.

But in terms of tracking my activity, I'm pretty happy with how my experimentation with bullet journal go so far. This complement my other tracking apps nicely: Goodreads for book, Nike Running Club for running, Moment for time spent on phone, and Rescue Time for time spent on desktop. Admittedly though, I could still improve how I write my tasks down as some tasks took up more days than they should.

I once read a blog where the writer put online his to-do list for all the world to see, arguing that the best way to manage one's tasks is to make them transparent, but I could not found that page. This intrigued me, but I probably won't go to such extremes. However, he also had a good point: if you're writing a to-do list for yourself then you may end up listing an unmanageably big chunk of work as one task. For example, you could end up listing "Learn statistics" as one task because you already know which statistics concept you understand *at the time of writing*.

When you look away and refer to your to-do list again later, though, you might have already forgotten what you meant in the first place. And instead of starting learning right away when you looked at your list, you'll pause to think what you meant instead. You might decide to switch to another task, and so the original task remain in place forever. My takeaway is that when I found a persisting task, I need to refine it (e.g. read Chapter 1 of Statistical Inference) to minimize the mental barrier that I need to overcome to start the task.

So what now? Crossing a dot that say "publish a blog on bullet journaling". And maybe starting up on that chapter.

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