Auto-analytics could change your life

I recently came across a blog entitled “The personal analytics of my life” by Stephen Wolfram and found it fascinating. Wolfram is a scientist-come-businessman who started an experiment in 1989 – what he calls a “self-awareness” experiment – by which, he has, for the last 22 years or so, collected and analysed data about his own behaviour.

There is no try; there is only do or do not
- Kevin-James Fenech

For instance, he has mapped out data about his e-mail usage, time spent in meetings, hours on the phone, even the number of his keystrokes. He has found that he has hit the back space key seven per cent of the time he is at his keyboard.

Apparently, Wolfram is a bit of a pioneer in a new and growing discipline named ‘auto-analytics’, the practice of voluntarily collecting and analysing data about oneself in order to improve performance at work. Professional sportspersons have been doing something similar (monitoring their training regimes and on-the-day performance) for decades, but in the business world auto-analytics is a recent trend.

Some claim auto-analytics proposes to revolutionise human resource management with work performance being tracked through the use of sophisticated technology.

Although, this type of performance measurement is currently owned and managed by the employee and voluntarily shared with HR specialists and career consultants rather than be imposed from above in Big Brother-type of control, it proposes to revolutionise the workplace and how we assess and encourage performance at work.

Undoubtedly, the use of this new discipline with emerging technology is immense and still evolving but early indications reveal that companies and their employees can use this new discipline to learn and improve the way they work.

For instance, employees could monitor sleeping patterns, heart rates, food consumed and hours spent travelling, time spent on the phone, in meetings or wherever and whatever, and link this in real time to performance and results at work. In a nutshell, the idea is that certain routines are conducive to good work performance whereas others are less so.

There already are a handful of useful apps, which the pioneers of auto-analytics are using to advance their research and apply it to the business world. I quickly searched Apple’s App Store and found ‘Sleep On It’, which monitors bedtimes, wake-up times, amount of sleep per night and sleep quality; ‘MeetGrinder’, which interacts with online calendars and quantifies the time and cost of daily events such as meetings; and ‘Body Media’, which can capture numerous physical data points per minute and makes suggestions related to diet and physical activity.

I find all this very exciting and predict a promising future in which auto-analytics could (if applied properly and with good intentions) help us maximise what we get out of life, and not just work.

This having been said and using good old intuition and experience, I can tell you today without the benefit of auto-analytics, that we can be more effective at the workplace by applying some other ideas.

Get up early and tackle the big problems with a fresh mind. Learn how to say ‘no’.

Avoid meetings at all costs and if this is not possible go to them with a clear and specific goal in mind. Get some physical exercise first thing in the morning and always try to have a good breakfast.

Think like Yoda, the Jedi Master from Star Wars, who so eloquently put it: “There is no try; there is only do or do not”.

Prioritise your work and daily schedule according to what is the most important and not the most urgent.

Enjoy the weekend with family and friends.

The beauty of auto-analytics, however, is that we will soon be able to confirm or negate with hard data whether these good practices make sense.

Auto-analytics will be a game changer, a source of competitive advantage for those who bother to understand and invest in it.

I imagine a future when my diary and weekly schedule will be heavily influenced by information gathered with auto-analytics.

I imagine a future when job interviewers will ask applicants for a lot more than a traditional CV but auto-analytical information.

I imagine a future when the physical and mental well-being of workers will be analysed by employers to prevent poor health, burn out and a drop in performance.

That and much more is the potential of auto-analytics.

Mr Fenech is director-consultant at Fenci Consulting Ltd.


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