Austin Kleon blogs that in his diary writing he tries to start with writing down the best thing that happened yesterday. Calling it ‘cheerful retrospection‘ Judging by his post he writes his diary by hand.
For the past 3 years I have had a survey hosted on my laptop to do self reflection. It contains that same question. When I started using the survey, which I named self-pni, I wrote that the survey has
“three distinct question blocks. A block asking questions about what happened during the day and stood out, and why it stood out for me. A block with more mindfulness oriented questions on how I felt in the here and now. A block about my current outlook. All in all a mix of qualitative and quantitative elements.”
The survey hasn’t changed in 3 years, but I also haven’t used it much either. Long periods go by without filling it out. Only when I feel stressed or otherwise feel there’s something that needs to change, it is that I return to the survey. I also as yet haven’t tried to do anything with the database, other than browsing my responses occasionally. I know from others that for them part of the benefit of asking those questions of themselves lies in doing it in handwriting on paper. Writing it down brings an impact even if you don’t look back at it at all they report. For me answering the questions without ever looking in the database has effect as well: it makes me stop and reflect. I imagine writing it out takes a bit more time, and makes that ‘stop and reflect’ moment longer.
I have installed the open source survey tool Lime Survey on my laptop’s local web server, to use it for self reflection.
Through the years I have often journaled and measured various parts of my life, and I track certain aspects of my daily routines for habit forming. Not in the sense of Quantified Self (which is more about measuring things with sensors, like number of steps taken), but along the lines of things I do (did I blog 2 times this week, did I initiate new business contacts). Journaling I’ve done on and off, mostly when I didn’t feel ok, but it takes quite a bit of time to write, and more importantly, the journaling can’t be used to e.g. detect patterns and correlations. So I was looking for a way to combine my normal tracking and measuring with the things I experienced. This can be done by combining capturing personal experiences with asking questions about those experiences and other tracking questions. Using the questions as context and metadata for the experiences, you can then look at patterns across experiences. What you end up with however is not a journal (which you can use a locally hosted blog or physical journal for), nor a list of measurements (which you can use a spreadsheet for), but more a survey with a need to do some statistical analysis on the output. So I needed a survey tool, and given the personal nature of the data, I don’t want to use a service or server where the data is outside my own control.
This is the set-up I now use:
- MAMP (a package of Apache, MySQL and PHP for Mac), which I already was running for various others things such as a locally hosted blog, test environments and php scripts I regularly use)
- Lime Survey installed on MAMP. Limesurvey is an open source survey tool, which allows you to define surveys with a wide variety of questions types (and you can play around with building your own as well).
The survey I created, and will be testdriving in the coming weeks, has three distinct question blocks. A block asking questions about what happened during the day and stood out, and why it stood out for me. A block with more mindfulness oriented questions on how I felt in the here and now. A block about my current outlook. All in all a mix of qualitative and quantitative elements. Self administered participatory narrative inquiry of sorts, so I’ve dubbed it self-pni. Let’s see if it provides some insights in the coming three months.
Looking at the man in the mirror with Lime Survey