Creation : Consumption

So I’ve been using @yfd to track various simple bits of data since the start of the year, like movies I’ve watched, flights I’ve taken, and so on. It’s very nice: frictionless, as anything that’s really supposed to be a background process should be. Less than a quarter of the way through the year though, and I’ve already come across the occasional worrying statistic. It turns out I’ve spent more of 2010 watching movies than I have exercising, for example. Even seasonally adjusted to take into account my usual winter hibernation, that’s not good.

Not to panic. The whole point of the quantified self thing (if indeed there is one, which would probably be questionable if it wasn’t inevitable) is to figure this stuff out, to read the data and draw some conclusions. Inquiry, observation, measurement, calibration. It makes tidying the apartment more interesting, at least. It also begs the question of what a better set of habits would look like. Being unhappy with my current ratio of loafing to running suggests that there must be an optimal ratio that I should be shooting for.

So I’m coming up with The 20% Activity : Passivity Rule.

It’s simple. For every 5 minutes that I spend watching television, films, or playing videogames, I must do a minute of exercise. Yes, I’m being sort of easy one myself, here. And yes, this is another game to trick my lizard brain into behaving a bit more like I wish it would by default. The choice of 1/5th is arbitrary and subject to change. It’s not the golden ratio of lifestyle balance, but it’s attainable, a starting handicap. I’m free to engage in whatever activities I want to, as long as I stick to my side of the deal and end the week in the black.

What about mapping other activities? Maybe I should write in proportion to what I read, forcing myself to spend time typing dutifully to purchase offsets for wasting time reading crap on the internet. Or how about aiming high and creating a minute’s worth of reading material, putting back into the world in proportion to what I suck down? (Book reading might get a free pass, since it feels like more of a virtue in itself; for every book I read, I’ve read a book.)

I also considered other direct credit trades but I don’t think that would really work: I might have to create few minutes of edited video for every film I watch, or I would have to design a scene of game time whenever I sit down to play a videogame. Not very workable, although it’s an intriguing idea. I like that it would force me to consciously maintain a level of control over the type of content that I spend my attention on. If I’m interested in looking at photos I should have a go at photography myself, if only to develop some critical faculties by struggling through the formal process of creation myself. The means of production of pretty much any media I care to consume are freely within my grasp. If I’m going to consume media of any form, I should be able to reflect on it enough to engage with it. This wouldn’t make me much good at making films, but the process would certainly increase my appreciation of films.

Best to keep it simple, though. Fun but generally unproductive things go into a single bucket of time. Maybe I’ll try the more complicated stuff later. For now, Fantastic Mr. Fox costs me a run.

— 14 Mar 2010