How do I keep track of everything?
October 30, 2010 7:45 AM   Subscribe

What is the easiest and most convenient way to keep track of my physical and emotional health in great detail? I don't have a great memory and want something that reminds me to record various information throughout the day. I have a couple of chronic illnesses that I need to keep track of and I never remember to write stuff down when it happens.

Ideally this would be a program on a device that I carry with me where at different points in the day it alerts me to enter information, and then tracks this information and displays it on a calendar or chart. I suspect this might end up being an application on an iPhone or a Blackberry, but I am somewhat clueless in this realm and I don't know where to start. I need to also be able to enter information about symptoms as they happen and for that information to also be charted on a calendar and displayed in various graphs.

Things it needs to track:

-My emotional state every morning and evening, with the opportunity to write a journal entry
-The time I take my medication and vitamins
-My physical state - ie pain, symptoms I may be experiencing
-My menstrual cycle
-My diet and exercise
-It should also function as a calendar with reminders for appointments.

All I have now is an old Nokia cellphone and a couple of paper notebooks I always forget about. I have a PC laptop (Windows 7) so I hesitate to just go out and buy an iPhone and hope for the best as I need something compatible and very easy and pleasant to use. If the answer ends up being "get an iPhone (or Blackberry)" then please tell me the specific application I would need that will do ALL of the above.
posted by smartypantz to Technology (16 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I need to keep track of my sleep as well - I work varying shifts, some of them graveyards, so I should also keep track of when I'm sleeping and how much sleep I am getting.
posted by smartypantz at 7:52 AM on October 30, 2010

I've tried a gazillion apps trying to monitor my mood WRT sleep, meds, etc. Currently the one I prefer is MyMoodTracker for iPhone/iPod. I also thought this exhaustive online pay program called My Mood Monitor looked like it might fit my needs, but I wasn't willing to pay that much.
posted by MeiraV at 8:18 AM on October 30, 2010

For diet and exercise, I'm really liking SparkPeople. It has a large food database as well as thousands of user entries to draw from; you can have a list of favorite foods to make entry quicker; full nutrition reports; daily/weekly/monthly charts - the list goes on. Similar amount of chartability for exercise.

There is a journaling feature too. And as for tracking other things, you can set up several personal items and track them in different ways - something needs to be done three times a week, or twice daily? It can do it. There's a calendar but I don't know if it has reminders; haven't used it.

There's also a huge database of exercises and recipes, community features, even the ability to create your own set of recipe collections (cookbooks.) It's a very versatile site, and free.

(No affiliation, just a happy user.)
posted by Hardcore Poser at 8:26 AM on October 30, 2010

Best answer: For sleep cycles, I have used an app on my old iPhone. You could consider using an iTouch or an older iPhone with no service. You could just use wifi.
posted by nimsey lou at 8:38 AM on October 30, 2010

Best answer: Sorry, I know it's not exactly what you wanted, but I've been using iPeriod for menstruation & PMS symptom tracking. It's not the prettiest or snazziest app for the iPhone, but it gives me a nice monthly view of my symptoms and my cycles. I've tried a couple period-tracking apps, and I liked this one the best. I also liked that you could back up your info.

Re: devices
I own both an iPod touch and a couple of Blackberries. If your primary consideration for switching devices is for the sake of apps (i.e., tracking stuff, like you mention here), I'd say you really should NOT consider a Blackberry. Blackberries are great at a lot of things, but it has an unbelievably crappy app store with lousy app options. You'll never get something as easy to use, as cheap, or as fun on a Blackberry as you can on an iPod Touch/iPhone.

Seconding nimsey lou about the iTouch.
If you're fine using your old Nokia phone or if you have absolutely no need for internet on-the-go, I'd say save the cash and just get an iPod Touch. Data plans aren't very cheap, after all. If you're primarily looking to log things (as opposed to syncing or looking things up), you'll probably be fine with the WiFi on the iTouch.

On the other hand, if you wanted to upgrade to a smartphone, an iPhone is pretty snazzy :) Also check out Android phones, if you're so inclined.
posted by mittenedsex at 7:32 PM on October 30, 2010

I lose. Here's the link for the iPeriod app!
posted by mittenedsex at 7:33 PM on October 30, 2010

Memento is great for short notes or entries to yourself throughout the day. I like that you can also import your facebook/twitter updates so that you can have everything all in one place. But again...not a nice, consolidated app.
posted by mittenedsex at 7:36 PM on October 30, 2010

Best answer: Someone MeMailed me asking for more info about the programs I've tried, so I figure I'd add it all here in case it might be useful for someone else who's tracking with an iPhone/iPod Touch . . .

There are ones you can configure to track anything, such as ITrackAnything or DailyTracker or FamilyOrganizer -- I think the problem with those was that they were fiddly to set up to my needs, tedious to input data, and wouldn't let me evaluate things on a number (or other usable to me) scale or they wouldn't give you a clear graph to evaluate your data.

Moods (with the purple face) was great for recording as far as being able to make your own icons (so I could put in "meds" or "good sleep" or "minor discontent" lol), and while I like that it will tell you that you were 35% happy in March or 38% joyous last Thursday, on the down side it also included my additions of "sleep"/"meds" -- and since I did those religiously, they would fill the majority of percentages until my actual moods, like "minor discontent" and "utter rage", fell to the bottom of the list and didn't even show on the graph.

Don't remember why MoodReporter had me looking for something else . . . I didn't delete it from my phone in disappointment, though, so I'm guessing it almost hit all the marks. This is probably what I'd use if I wasn't using MyMoodTracker.

My friend and I both tried Mappiness! and figured out that all we ever did was sit inside and feel annoyed with stuff . . . it didn't track enough data points and my life is too mundane for their parameters to give me any decent feedback.

PsychMeds was tedious, and didn't record enough data points.

RateYourLife was too simplistic, I think? Just a 1-10 for the whole day, with no nuance?

MyMoodTracker can be set to alert you x number of times per day -- I have it set up to request my mood at 9, 2, & 10pm. When you click on the alert, you go directly to the input screen (unless you have the app password protected). Mood input is 2 options -- 1-10 and emoticons. I was doing the numbers by intensity and then the mood, but figured out it would graph better if I decided 1 was BAD and 10 was EXCELLENT, and then used the emoticons to define the mood. More emoticons might be nice, or they might get me over-analyzing -- so I'm content with the number of emotions to choose from. You can also click from there to add a note, if you need to. Bottom menu on every screen is the option to record the number of hours you slept, and if you took a nap; as well as what time you took customizable meds (with little pictures -- I used the little brown liquid to indicate "coffee"). From the "More" option on the bottom, you can, with the most recent update a couple weeks ago, enter exercise and track one's "cycle".
The chart is a little clumsy with the emoticons and the med pictures -- but you can have any of those options showing or not -- and then you have a nice line graph that goes up when you're happy and down when you're sad, with a block behind it showing lots or little sleep . . . And you can go back and edit things if you forgot anything.
posted by MeiraV at 8:38 PM on October 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock tracks your sleep.

TimeJot is a good simple app that you can use to quickly log whatever you want. However, it does not prompt you.
posted by lunchbox at 4:34 AM on October 31, 2010

Response by poster: Will the i-whatever be able to work with my PC laptop to import the data so I can see it on a big screen and perhaps print it out for my Doctor?

If I get an iPod Touch could I just use my wireless internet router to use the internet? Or would I go to a cafe with free wifi?

I want to spend the least amount of money on this, so the iPhone seems unlikely. However, it would be nice to have the phone part included so I don't have to carry two things around. I only pay around $20 a month now for my cellphone service (prepaid month to month) and the cheapest iPhone contract is more than twice that (and it's a 3 year contract). Could I get an iPhone and have it pay as you go? I live in Canada (BC) if that changes things.
posted by smartypantz at 7:43 AM on October 31, 2010

- Importing data from apps on the iWhatever depends on the specific app you're using. Some offer that function, others don't. (as for the apps i mentioned, iperiod allows you to send a pdf or text backup via e-mail, but it looks like momento doesn't really have anything that nifty).
- Yup, you'd be able to use your home WIFI/wireless internet.

please update if you find something you like. i'm looking for similar apps myself
posted by mittenedsex at 8:46 AM on October 31, 2010

What about a PHR/EHR system like Google Health or Microsoft's HealthVault?
posted by evoque at 4:55 PM on October 31, 2010

Best answer: First, I'm not sure that there's an all in one application that does every thing you want. At best, one tends to find apps or mobile websites that tie in one or two of those things. If you're still thinking iPhone or iPod Touch, I'd search the iTunes Store for apps that fit, either directly or through AppShopper.

Will the i-whatever be able to work with my PC laptop to import the data so I can see it on a big screen and perhaps print it out for my Doctor?

The easiest way this could work is to get an app or mobile website that shares data with a parent website. The parent website is what you would use on your laptop to view and export the data.

If I get an iPod Touch could I just use my wireless internet router to use the internet? Or would I go to a cafe with free wifi?

Wireless router would be fine. Any wireless connection you could find would be helpful.

I want to spend the least amount of money on this, so the iPhone seems unlikely. However, it would be nice to have the phone part included so I don't have to carry two things around. I only pay around $20 a month now for my cellphone service (prepaid month to month) and the cheapest iPhone contract is more than twice that (and it's a 3 year contract). Could I get an iPhone and have it pay as you go? I live in Canada (BC) if that changes things.

A pay as you go iPhone might be viable in Canada, but you'll have to look around to be sure how easy or hard it is. As for iPhone or any smartphone contracts, typically they have a voice component and a data component. I'd be very surprised if the total cost were Canadian $40. I took a quick look around the Rogers website, and it looked like they separated the data and voice costs. Maybe Apple's Canadian website is a better starting point.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:44 AM on November 1, 2010

Best answer: So far, after looking around, the closest service I could find that would seem to handle at least the data entry for multiple topics bit is, which has a free service, with a paid premium extra service that extends that.

I think what you want to do is great, it's just that Apple's App Store is an awful place to look for great apps in many categories.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:19 PM on November 2, 2010

And TheCarrot has an iPhone app, which is the important bit here.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:30 PM on November 2, 2010

Response by poster: I just wanted to report back now that I've had a few months to try stuff out. I ended up getting an iPhone 4 (which I love) and tried out many of the apps listed above.

I didn't really like MyMoodTracker - it didn't have as many moods to choose from and it didn't differentiate between good or bad moods only the intensity. It did have a nice graph but didn't really show what I was looking for.

The carrot was totally useless to me - I didn't like the interface for some reason and it crashed too much.

I haven't really been tracking my sleep as I found myself in a bit of "app fatigue" and was getting bogged down with entering stuff into various apps at all times of the day.

I have tried out "time flies" as well for trying to keep track of when I have done chores etc, but I never remember to check and it has no reminders.

I now use RxmindMe for tracking my meds. It has multiple options for reminders (ie daily, weekly, certain days, etc) and has as-needed and one-off options. You can snooze the alarm, which I like. I also like how you can modify the entry for each prescription. You can take a photo and have a pretty comprehensive entry for each one with 13 fields where you can input info about the medication. You can also make notes on meds taken, so you can have a record of why an as-needed was taken (for instance).

The iPeriod ended up being the most comprehensive app that I actually use on a daily basis. It has areas to enter both symptoms and moods, although both are from set lists which are fine for my purposes, but I wish I could personalize it. I also wish it had graphs for the symptoms and moods, it just exports lists of the symptoms and not the moods so it is only partially useful for those purposes.

Overall I am very happy with my iPhone purchase for my purposes.
posted by smartypantz at 5:38 PM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

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