Using technology and measurement for a better [and easier] life

Growing up in another country, I did not even dream of how technology and measurement can actually make our lives better, healthier, and yet easier to manage in a way that I am about to talk about. Extensive and intermittent reading on the Web, and living in this country and having easy and inexpensive access to the technology and resources, and the course of time – all these things together have collectively changed a lot in my everyday lifestyle, and I must say that the change has been for the better.

Consider for example nutrition. We know how our bodies need a specific amount of energy every day. If we work out or play any sports, the amount of energy required for these activities is added. If you want to be healthy, you must avoid certain foods, eat more of other foods, and exercise. The basic equation for maintaining weight plays with the balance between how much the body is burning and how much we are eating. We all know that. Yet wouldn’t it be better if we could break this down to a quantitative level of detail, so we would know exactly ‘how much’? If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing it well. Why do half things? Why do things based on intuition? We can do better than that. And it’s easy. How?

Buy a measuring cup. You know that 1 cup of brown rice gives you (give or take) 250 calories. So use 1 cup. Don’t use a handful. Don’t do it ‘by feeling’. Do it accurately. Do it right. The same goes for measuring spoons and weight scales. These things are inexpensive on Amazon. 6 oz of white meat is what your portion should be. And it’s easy to measure. Buy a George Foreman grill – so you can grill your chicken breasts and don’t have to use a knife/ pan/ baking pans etc etc. Get an electric rice cooker. Make life easy for yourself – we’re talking about appliances that cost less than $15 each!

But it doesn’t end there. Use LoseIt – something I came across when I read Scott Hanselman‘s blog entry here. It’s an incredibly easy and useful application and it’s free. Tell it what your target weight is, and what your current weight is, and it will tell you how many calories you need to consume every day to reach that goal. Add every day everything you eat, and it will collectively count the calories for you. If you eat something that doesn’t exist in LoseIt’s database, you can ADD it – get the nutrient information from the Web and just create a new food item, and it’s there for you to use later! Graph your weight progress, and your eating habits. The calories you spend working out are subtracted from the overall calories for the day. Find on the Web how many calories you spend doing a sport if you don’t already see it in LoseIt’s database. See weekly reports. Measure it accurately. Don’t get me wrong – you don’t have to go to the extreme – no matter what you do it will still be slightly inaccurate – what with that odd extra tablespoon of oyster sauce you put in your chicken – but it’s still way better than not doing it at all.

I only wish I could have this app on my desktop. Maybe there are alternatives out there. But I like it so far, despite the fact that it’s on the Web.

Okay, now let’s talk about work, professional stuff, and productivity. Do you know how much of your time every day is wasted in email, surfing the Web, and contemplating stuff? Do you want to nail down the exact amount of time you are spending on a project, and see nice graphical reports? Use Toggl – which I came across thanks to Vanessa Hurst‘s blog entry here. The basic app is free, despite being on the Web (again, maybe there are desktop alternatives – and I would like to have something like that locally installed). But the interface is great and very useful. Create several projects. Start tracking time when you’re actually working on your project, and then stop tracking when you get to your email or some random activity. Start tracking again (maybe another project this time) when you get to it. See how many hours you REALLY work in a week, and not just sit in front of your computer. Eye-opening, isn’t it?

Technology today, is awesome. And it can make our lives better, healthier, more efficient, and easier to manage. We just need to figure out the right tools for the job, and then use them smartly.

Measure it – because if you don’t measure it, you know nothing about it. Leave alone being able to manage it.

 

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3 thoughts on “Using technology and measurement for a better [and easier] life

  1. I’m gonna do a counterpoint on some of your philosophy here (at the top and bottom).

    Micromanaging your life, is not something that OBVIOUSLY needs to be done. There is something to be said for leisure, relaxation, and generally half-assing it — not breaking down our live into individual constituent atoms.

    If, over the course of your life, you spend 3 total months measuring, plotting, and analysing your life and, as a result, you extend your life for a year… you may have something… arguably. If you end up being hit by a bus, killed by a falling piano, or put against the wall by revolutionaries, your months of work (time that could be spent enjoying life) were for naught.

    Two quotes:
    1) “Everything in moderation”
    2) “Eat, drink, and be merry… for tomorrow we die.”

    • I respect your points 🙂 But I also want to grow, and not coast through life. But rest assured that I follow your two quotes entirely on Saturdays 😉 [PS: drink?? Who’s talking?]

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