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Easy Ways To Graph Your Life

Your habits, behaviours, and the things you consume every day create patterns over time that say a whole lot about you as a person. It’s time to graph your life.

Chart by Chandler.

How many Cokes do you drink per day on average? How many hours do you game per month? How much money did you spend on eating out this year? It’s not difficult to track and visualise personal data points like these on pretty charts with little or no effort. Not only do personal info graphics give you insight into who you are and how you’re spending your days, they can also help you make changes over time. Whether you want to to lose weight, save money, figure out where you’re spending all your time, quit caffeine, or do more exercise—tracking your current habits is a great way to start. Let’s take a look at a few good webapps out to help you graph your life.

Daytum

Designer Nicholas Felton has turned himself into the grandmaster of personal info graphics with his eye-popping Annual Report, in which he publishes beautiful charts of a wide array of data points about his life, from how many beers he drank during the year to how many digital photos he shot of his cat. To make that kind of personal metric-charting easy for everyone, Felton built the free webapp Daytum, “a home for collecting and communicating your daily data”.

Take a spin through Daytum to see charts and lists of the most mundane details of people’s lives, that, in aggregate, become fascinating. Felton’s own Daytum account is a good place to start; registration is also open for you to start recording everything from how many miles you traveled this week to how many times your boss hovered over your cubicle clutching a cup of coffee. You can also add to your Daytum account on the go via Twitter direct messaging or using the mobile version of the site. On Daytum you can record and chart anything, not just the most obvious things people want charts for, like personal finance and weight-tracking, so its best use is for those wacky data points there isn’t already a measurement-specific application for. Daytum chart by feltron.

Plodt

If you’re already using Twitter to record facts about your daily life, take a gander at Plodt. While Plodt doesn’t offer the variety of displays that Daytum does, it’s easier to incorporate Plodt entry into an existing Twitter habit. Here’s how it works: you include asterisks around a data point you want Plodt to chart into your Twitter status, and Plodt automatically picks it up and plops it on a chart. For example, your Twitter status might be:

OMG, that double cheeseburger looks so good *hunger 10* *willpower 2*

Plodt will pick up what’s inside the asterisks and chart your hunger factor at 10 and willpower factor at 2. The downside: Plodt entries might make your Twitter updates look stranger to non-Plodt’ers. Plodt chart by amandahesser.

Habit-Specific Trackers

While not everyone wants such navel-gazey information as how many cups of coffee they drank last week, many people do want stats on things like their eating habits, weight changes, and yes, even web browsing—and so there are applications built to track those things specifically.

Web Browsing
MeeTimer, a Firefox extension that tracks your browsing history and habits, is an obvious place to start. BBCer Roo Reynolds rolled up his sleeves and dug into the MeeTimer data to find out more about his most-frequented sites; check out a few good-looking charts he created for a birds-eye view of that data. Chart by Roo Reynolds (full story).

Of course you don’t have to run another extension to see how often you visit sites in Firefox; here’s a quick browsing history hack to get a list of what sites you’ve visited most often.

Similarly, apps like ManicTime for Windows (our review) or Slife for Windows or Mac (our review) tell you what applications you spend time in outside of the web browser.

Travel
While creating charts isn’t its main purpose, travel web site TripIt compiles some interesting stats about where you’ve been and when. On sites like Daytum you’ll see charts on where people have traveled and how far, but TripIt makes that data entry for long trips (like flights) easier. After you create an account, forward your flight confirmation email to [email protected] and TripIt will show you some cool stats about how far you’ve gone. (I was shocked to realise how many miles I’ve traveled by air or boat already in 2009, shown in the screenshot here.)

Nutrition and Fitness
Finally, webapps abound for tracking your exercise habits, weight loss progress, and calories consumed over time. Kevin’s already taken you on a tour of tools for tracking your fitness progress. Our resident marathoner, Adam, likes web-based Traineo. Runners tempted by Nike+ with an iPhone should also check out Adam’s rundown of how to roll your own Nike+ iPhone for free. Weight chart via the Traineo blog.

What are your favourite tools for capturing and charting personal metrics? Are you an old-school Excel user or do you have a favourite mobile-enabled webapp? Let us know in the comments.

Gina Trapani, Lifehacker’s founding editor, can’t get enough of navel-gazing charts. Her feature Smarterware appears every week on Lifehacker.


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