THE QUANTIFIED EXPAT

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When I switched over to this blog from my previous one, I promised to tell you about my 2014 “quantified life” project. Finally I am getting round to doing just that.

Before I do I just want to note that following my last post the views of my blog increased significantly for a couple of days. Having thought about it I suspect it was because I mentioned “Game of Thrones” which attracted lots of fans expecting something of interest to them. So maybe its a good idea to mention Game of Thrones again to see if I can keep the numbers up. Did I say that in a minute I am going to watch another episode of Game of Thrones? There, that should do it.

Back to business. The things I am tracking can be split into four main categories: Health & Fitness; Sleep; Work; and Family. There is some overlap between these but that doesn’t matter. I shall take each in turn and try and explain what I am tracking and why (other than because I’m a geek and I can).

Health & Fitness

For a few (ok, maybe more like ten+) years I have struggled with my weight, probably something to do with comfort eating in times of stress and having a fairly sedentary lifestyle. Every so often I try to do something about it, changing my diet or getting more exercise, but I’m not very good at sticking to whatever it is I try.

Watch out for the "Abu Dhabi stone"!

Watch out for the “Abu Dhabi stone”!

In the run up to our move to the UAE lots of people told me about the “Abu Dhabi Stone”, the amount of weight many expats gain in their first year here due to over indulging (brunch anyone?) and not getting enough exercise in the hot summer months. I therefore decided I better keep a closer eye on my weight because I already have enough “Bolton Stones” to deal with and certainly don’t need any more! Hence my weight is the first thing I am tracking on a daily basis.

Linked to this the other things to track are obviously calories in and out. Calories in has proven a little onerous to track, I managed it for the whole of January but then let it slip, only starting again very recently, but I am determined to keep it up now. I look forward to the time when this can be done automatically, which may not be too far away based on some of the devices in the pipeline.

Don't drink too much...

Don’t drink too much…

An important component of “calories in” is alcohol consumption, another area that can (apparently) get out of hand for expats. I tracked exact consumption in January but since then have focused more on how many “dry” days I have, and on how many days I have more than I should (which I’ve set a fairly low threshold for).

Calories out is easier thanks to the various apps and devices that are available these days. I’m currently measuring:

  • Steps taken each day, which can be converted to calories.
  • Days on which I get some proper exercise, which is either on an exercise bike at the gym, or cycling outside in the cooler months.
  • How many calories I burn from these exercise sessions.
Some rare exercise

Some rare exercise

In a future post I shall share more about how I am tracking these areas, what the tracking is showing so far, and most important of all, whether the tracking is actually making me change my behaviour. I’m hoping that by going “public” I will have an extra incentive to keep doing the right things.

Sleep

Why sleep? Because I am a bad snorer, or so Jo claims. Being a typical man, I of course was in denial when she first confronted me about this, so I decided to track my sleep in order to prove she was lying. Of course, it proved the opposite, so I have continued to track my sleep quality to see if I can identify factors which influence how much I snore. Maybe it’s weight, maybe it’s alcohol, maybe it’s something else. Hopefully over time the data will help me work out what it is, and do something about it.

Work

What I am tracking here is how long my daily journey to and from work takes. I’m not exactly sure why, I think I maybe want to see that its better than in the UK, and see if it changes over time. Because of the way I’m tracking this I also have a record of when I leave for work in the morning, and when I get home in the evening, so that should help me identify if my hours are creeping up and impacting on time with the family.

Since my role expanded at the start of the year I’m also tracking the proportion of my time I spend in Dubai, and the proportion in Abu Dhabi, with a view to helping me ensure that I am balancing my time appropriately.

Family

The final areas I am tracking fall loosely into the category of family. They are:

  • Books read, which I discussed in my last post.
  • Reading with the kids. During the couple of years prior to moving to AD I found it harder and harder to make sure I was home to read with the kids before bedtime so I was determined to change this when we moved here, after all it probably won’t be very long before they don’t want us to read with them. To hold myself accountable for this I am tracking how often I manage to get home in time to read with them, and if not, what the reason is.
  • TV watched. Jo and I would both admit that we used to watch too much TV back in the UK. It’s easy to get into the habit of flopping down in front of the TV after a hard day at work or looking after the family. We are watching far less TV now (although did I tell you I am watching Game of Thrones at the moment?). This isn’t necessarily due to a conscious decision but it is positive nonetheless.
  • Eating out. We eat out far more here than we did in the UK, it is part of the expat lifestyle. I keep track of this to ensure it’s not getting out of hand (!), but also because it’s good to remember the places we have been.

So there we go, that’s what the “quantified expat” means to me. It may seem a lot to be tracking but actually most of it happens automatically, with minimal intervention from me. It takes a minute each morning to ensure that records for the previous day are up to date which is nothing really.

In future posts I’ll talk more about how I am recording and analyzing everything, but I hope this has set the scene for you.

As always, thanks for reading. Guess what I’m going to do now……………

If you’ve made it this far without getting bored I’d be very grateful if you could click on one of the like or share buttons below. Thank you in anticipation.

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