Thursday, 13 December 2012

Time to track?

Are you an up-with-the-larks kind of person or a night owl? Or maybe you're somewhere in between these two extremes.

We're a funny old species (I know, speak for yourself I hear you say) because while we may have a fair amount in common, there's also an awful lot of individual difference between one person and another; both physical and emotional.

And of course not only do we differ from the next person in line, it's likely that we ourselves change from day to day. Sometimes even from minute to minute.

So given that we're pretty sure that mood is a moveable feast, what's the best time of day to track it, if you're only going to do so once? Indeed, can a single measure really say that much if your emotions are in flux? And why doesn't Moodscope enable you to measure your mood more than once a day?

Like a boy reaching for the apple crumble before his liver and bacon, let's start with the last one. We felt it was best to restrict the daily scoring to a single result partly because allowing more could easily get confusing (and annoying even) for a buddy. I know not everyone chooses to share their scores, but a lot do, and with good reason: sharing amplifies the effectiveness of tracking. Imagine getting six emails a day from someone, with a dip every time they stubbed their toe or a peak when they'd finished the crossword. This could quickly become too much.

As well as possible problems with buddies, perhaps we should be more focused on the bigger picture of mood change over time, rather than on the minutiae of hour-by-hour ups and downs. I'm pretty sure that getting better (or worse) happens over time rather than instantaneously.

However, although Moodscope only records the first score you get in a single day, there's nothing to stop you going back as often as you like after that. You'll get more scores: it's just that they won't be recorded, nor forwarded to buddies if you have them.

So, back to the meat and potatoes: what's the best time of the day to track? My own strategy has always been to record my score the minute I'm out of bed in the morning. This way, I figure I'm interrogating my 'base mood' before there's been time for the day to influence it. It won't have been affected by a traffic jam on the way to work, for example. Although you may choose to determine your score at a different time of day (in the evening, say), my advice is to be consistent about doing so at the same time each day. This way you'll be comparing like with like over a period of weeks, days and months. It's similar to what you'd do if your were tracking air temperature. If you recorded at midnight on Monday, then at midday on Tuesday, you'd end up with a fluctuating graph even though both days might actually be as warm as each other.

As for how a single score could suffice when, surely, you're up and down through the course of a day, the key thing to remember is that we're interested in trends over time. Returning to our temperature analogy, the day to day variations are like the difference between a sunny Saturday and an overcast Sunday, whereas Moodscope is more about determining whether it's Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter. These longer-term variations are even clearer with the versatile Moodscope Plus graphing options that let you look at your progress over any period.

What do you believe is the best time of day to measure your mood? Tell us, tell other Moodscopers, by commenting below.