Interview with Jamie Todd Rubin

This article first appeared in Alpha Efficiency Journal: Challenge 13: Self Quantification

Jamie Todd Rubin is the one that most evokes me to extend the quantity of my writing. His self-generating phrase rely studies and charts that get compiled into Google Spreadsheets are an immense source of motivation for my productiveness output, and might be for yours too.

In the course of the day he’s a developer, but by night time he modifies his hat and becomes a writer of science fiction. On prime of all of this he is a superb blogger with a big audience.

Jamie, welcome to Alpha Effectivity Magazine! I am very excited to have you ever right here.

Jamie, can you introduce your self to the viewers of Alpha Effectivity magazine?

First, thanks very much for inviting me. By day I’m a software program developer. But I also write. I’ve written brief fiction, principally science fiction, for most of the main science fiction magazines, and a few anthologies. I also write nonfiction, focusing totally on know-how, for locations like The Every day Beast and 99U. I’m Evernote’s paperless way of life ambassador, and I’ve blogged about life and know-how for near 10 years.

You’ve been self-quantifying for a very long time now, how has this helped you enhance your productivity and your output?

For me, wanting at the knowledge I acquire from numerous automated sources–like my FitBit Flex, or my writing, or RescueTime, which captures how and the place I spend my time on the computer– has helped in several methods.

First, just tracking the numbers for a while without worrying much about them offered me with a baseline. How a lot walking did I really do in a day? How a lot time did I spend in distracting time online vs. working in productive purposes? How lengthy did it sometimes take me to put in writing 500 phrases? Having a baseline was an essential start line for me because it meant I had something towards which to measure enhancements.

Having a baseline was an necessary start line for me because it meant I had one thing towards which to measure enhancements.

Second, having the baseline allowed me to determine a couple potential areas for improvement, or ways that I might be extra productive. As an example, I discovered from my numbers that I might persistently write 500 words in 20 minutes. That’s about two manuscript pages. Having 10 minutes between meetings, or 20 minutes whereas the youngsters watch a TV present means I might write 250 – 500 phrases, respectively, if I used that point for writing.

Lastly, I might truly measure my improvement over time by comparing my attempted improvements towards actuality. If they labored, great! Typically they don’t work and that is just as essential to know.

My days are fairly full, what with my day job as a software developer, my fiction and nonfiction writing, my blogging, and of course, my household. Taking a look at my numbers have helped me make the most efficient use of my time to help guarantee I can do all of this.

What recommendation would you give to somebody who’s desirous about starting to dabble with self-quantification?

I’d supply the relatively simple, two-pronged strategy that worked for me once I began out. Everyone seems to be totally different, and objectives range, however once I started out, I had two requirements in mind that I’ve tried to stick with:
Give attention to goal measurements; that is, issues for which I would not have to make a judgement call. For me, that meant I prevented issues like temper tracking, and targeted as an alternative on issues like step counts, phrase counts, productivity pulse, and different concrete measurements.

The RescueTime “productivity pulse” view

Focus solely on knowledge that can be collected mechanically, without requiring an motion past my regular exercise. Keep in mind, I’m making an attempt to be extra environment friendly, not add overhead by manually counting things. So I wrote some scripts that might routinely rely what number of words I wrote each day; my FitBit routinely captures my activity; RescueTime routinely captures how I spend my time on the pc. I don’t need to do anything additional for this knowledge.

Beyond that, I’d add one thing: start easy. Decide one thing you are trying to enhance, set a baseline, and from the baseline, decide a sensible aim to goal for. I didn’t attempt to monitor every part directly.

What, in your opinion, is the most important benefit of tracking your personal knowledge?

It won’t seem straight-forward, however the largest benefit I’ve seen is having the info to answer questions that I can’t consider right now. I used to be monitoring my step rely for quite some time before I discovered helpful questions to answer. I might do this as a result of the whole process is automated. I wouldn’t advocate monitoring for the sake of monitoring if it required a guide step.

Now I’ve a large set of knowledge about myself from which I can draw to reply all types of questions. As an example, I typically felt like the longer I slept the better I felt the following day. Since I had a ton of knowledge on my sleeping, I took a better take a look at it. I discovered that regardless of how lengthy I sleep, if my sleep efficiency (a measure of how many minutes I am restless over how long I’m in mattress) is above 95%, I really feel well-rested in the morning. But on days once I “sleep” for 9 hours, if my sleep efficiency falls under 90%, I really feel like I tossed and turned and acquired little sleep a lot of the night time. What it taught me was that it’s extra import to sleep restfully than it’s to sleep lengthy. I might by no means have figured this out if I didn’t have the info to help answer the question.

What are the most important challenges you’ve found when amassing your info?

As a software program developer, I have an advantage over some in that I can tap the API (software programming interface) that many units and providers present to programmatically automate knowledge collection. That stated, I’ve discovered that totally different providers gather knowledge in several methods, and finding a constant approach to seize it may be tough.

A second challenge is making an attempt to be statistically accurate. I needed to bone up on statistics with a purpose to ensure I’m using the right tools for the job. Correlations are useful, however because the saying goes, correlation is just not causation. It may well grow to be straightforward to read things into the info that aren’t there. I attempt to be vigilant, but I’m not all the time successful.

It will possibly turn into straightforward to learn things into the info that aren’t there.

In one in every of our articles this month Sam Spurlin talks about the advantages of measuring psychological developments, similar to temper. What are your ideas on this?

I’ve little question that measuring psychological tendencies may be useful, however they don’t seem to be one thing I am taken with tracking. First, to track them requires some sort of subjective evaluation on my part. Was I in a great mood at present? A nasty mood? It’s too fuzzy a judgement name for me.
Second, it requires me to remember to take an extra action each day. I’ve discovered that if I’ve to take additional steps to collect knowledge, I’m apt to cease amassing it over the long haul.
Lastly, whereas I’m positive tracking temper is beneficial for many individuals, I’m not making an attempt to correlate my temper with different issues. In different words, I don’t how I’d use the info, and because it isn’t something that can be collected routinely, it appears pointless for me to gather it once I don’t know the right way to use it.

We all have “off days” from time time time. How do you deal with this?

Nowadays, I simply attempt to roll with them. I’ve come to simply accept the truth that I’ve an off day once in a while. January was a miserable month for me when it comes to step rely–half of what I had final January. However I informed myself I’d attempt to do better in February and tried not to let it hassle me. The same is true with writing. Typically, I solely get in 100 phrases or so. It doesn’t occur typically however it does happen. But 100 words is a hundred greater than I had, and, for me, all writing is follow, so I’m getting in a bit follow, even on my worst days.

For me, whereas it is fascinating to take a look at the info I acquire on off-days, I find the large picture to be a much more helpful accounting of how I am progressing towards my objectives.

What are your emotions whenever you see you’ve been consecutively writing for 2 years without breaking a streak?

I’m pleased with my writing streak (which stands at 567 consecutive days as of this writing), but more than anything, I’m awed at how a lot I’ve improved as a author during the last two years. One fascinating metric I’ve pulled from this streak is the next: Between 1993 (once I began to put in writing) and the top of 2012, I bought a story or article as soon as each 1,100 days on average. That’s about one story each three years.

Since I began writing every single day again in 2013, I’ve bought a narrative or article as soon as every 45 days on common.That tells me that the apply I get from writing day by day pays off.

Do you assume there’s resembling factor as “too much” quantification? Some extent where you turn out to be too obsessed with the info and overlook the actual function of amassing it?

Years ago, again once I lived in L.A., I was a personal pilot. I flew small single engine aircraft, and typically, taking a new flyer up, they’d be in awe of what number of devices have been on the cockpit dashboard, even for a small aircraft. “How do you keep track of all of them?” they’d ask. I informed them the reality: that underneath good climate circumstances, there were actually solely six devices essential for flying. Just six measurements that you simply needed to know at a glance. Every little thing else, while useful, was not crucial. I feel the same principle applies to self-quantification.There’s all the time a restrict. There’s a tipping point where the time it takes to gather and analyze knowledge eliminates the productiveness positive aspects you may get from the info. Typically that is okay in case you are trying to reply a selected query, and understand getting in that it costs time to reply the query, however usually speaking, I attempt to take a look at issues by which each the info assortment and the evaluation could be automated.

You was Evernote’s paperless dwelling ambassador. Are you still doing this? What prompted you to link up with the Evernote workforce?

I am nonetheless Evernote’s paperless ambassador. For over two years I wrote a weekly publish referred to as “Going Paperless” through which I documented a use case of my efforts to be paperless and extra productive. The common column ended because I felt like I used to be beginning to come up with things for the sake of the column, moderately than issues I found myself doing to enhance my productivity. But now and again, I nonetheless write columns–solely now it’s once I find another fascinating and sensible means that I’m going paperless.
When Evernote started their ambassador program several years in the past, they reached out to me because I’d been writing about how I exploit their product to go paperless. It’s been a very good relationship for each of us, I feel.

You’ve actually turned the tweaking – some may even say “hacking” – into an art type on the subject of paperless, automation and self-quantification. What’s your favourite “hack”?

The author in me needs to say, “the one I’m using now.” Because with stories that’s true–the one I’m engaged on “now” is all the time my favorite. However in terms of paperless automation, I feel my favorite “hack”–if that’s what you’ll be able to call it–is how I’ve discovered to leverage Evernote’s search capabilities. I find that I can most often impress individuals by how shortly I can pull up a document on my telephone, or reply a query with a bit of data I’ve in Evernote.
On the physician’s office, the physician may ask if he might get a replica of some x-rays from one other doctor. I can pull up the x-rays in a number of seconds. I can do this for almost every thing I’ve in Evernote because I’ve adjusted my organization to take full advantage of Evernote’s search capabilities.

As a developer, writer and productiveness enthusiast…who evokes you?

As a developer, I’m impressed by people who come up with easy, but helpful instruments. Gina Trapani for her todo.txt system, a slightly modified version of which I exploit to manage my own to-do lists. Once more, Gina Trapani and Anil Sprint for their ThinkUp service which provides me distinctive insights into my social media conduct.
As a writer, the listing is way too long. It begins with Isaac Asimov, and incorporates so many nice names, from Allen Steele and Jack McDevitt to Connie Willis, Ken Liu, Juliette Wade, and lots of others.
As a productiveness enthusiast, I are typically inspired by individuals doing superb things with knowledge to assist understand and improve productivity. The parents at RescueTime are one example. Anand Sharma and what he has completed with AprilZero is one other. I feel I was initially inspired to start out self-tracking by an incredible submit that Stephen Wolfram wrote referred to as The Personal Analytics of My Life again in 2012, where he demonstrated what was potential with knowledge that is already being collected.

It’s custom for our friends to point out us their iPhone display and favourite apps; Can you tell us a bit extra about your prime 5 used purposes?

Listed here are my prime 5 apps. I feel the one one that isn’t out there on the iPhone at current is RescueTime.

– Google Docs, by which I do all of my writing. I can write from anyplace, don’t have to worry about copying documents, and I can use the collaboration options to work with editors.

– Evernote, which acts as my digital brain, remembering all the things for me in order that I don’t need to.

– TextExpander, which I exploit to shortly increase often typed issues like my e mail tackle, website URL, or widespread replies to FAQs.

– WordPress, which I exploit as my running a blog platform.

– RescueTime, which exhibits me how productive I’m being each day, and helps me better perceive how I work.

That stated, I principally use these apps on my laptop. I find I am far less productive on my telephone than on my laptop. I primarily use my telephone for communication (e-mail, text, speak, and so on.) and searching up info. For precise work, I principally use these apps on my MacBook Air or my iMac.

What are your future tasks? Any plans to put in writing a ebook on self-quantification?

Most of my writing nowadays is concentrated on fiction, each brief fiction, and a few longer items that I’ve been working on for a while now. I’m also writing an occasional non-fiction piece at times. I’m simply making an attempt to turn out to be a better writer.
I am doing slightly more talking here and there, and I’m nonetheless actively engaged as Evernote’s paperless ambassador.
I don’t presently have plans to write down a ebook on self-quantification. Part of the reason is time, but half is that my explorations are typically very particular to my very own objectives. And whereas a number of the rules might apply usually, the precise problems won’t. Books and articles like these are better when they are extra common. There are in all probability dozens of individuals out there higher suited to put in writing concerning the common instances than I am.

Thanks for talking to Alpha Effectivity Journal!