How Do You Measure A Year in the Life?

30 Dec

Earlier this year I read an article about a designer who publishes an “Annual Report” about his life. Nicholas Felton uses a series of charts and data points to clue others into what’s happened to him in a given year. But unlike the Annual Reports you see in business, this isn’t about financial results and board member bios. Instead, Felton’s reports provide a glimpse into his daily life. And unlike traditional family holiday letters that focus on big accomplishments and personal changes, Felton’s reports span all parts of life. Throughout the year, he uses digital tools to capture mini-reports about where he goes, what he eats, who he sees, etc. His tool checks in on him every 90 minutes. Some reports end up being quite “exciting” – for example, a trip for a wedding. Others feel quite mundane – for example, data showing he’s at work more than most other places. But when you put all the details together, even the mundane ones, it creates a really fascinating infographic that measures a year in his life. For example, in 2012 he sent 47 reports from hotels and 185 from cabs. His most-visited store was a Safeway grocery store in Palo Alto. His least-social day was typically Sunday. He attended 12 live performances throughout the year.

Interestingly, Felton’s day job is designing the Facebook timeline. But unlike what we post on Facebook, his annual reports capture more than the “notable” (though let’s be honest, everyone has their own interpretation of what’s “notable” enough to share on Facebook!).  We may think that our years are defined by exciting trips and social celebrations and personal growth. But in reality, our yearly fabric is woven up of so much more than that.  Felton’s reports made me think about how I document my own life. I do keep some personal journals, but I certainly don’t write down how many times I go to the grocery store or see a particular person at work.

In honor of Felton’s idea, here are a few “data points” that help measure my 2013. I didn’t use as precise a tool as he did, of course, but thanks to my journals and online account management tools, it’s pretty simple to do some rough estimates.

Trips 2


fun facts 2

And one last thing: here’s a quick round-up of what happened on this blog in 2013. As always, dear readers, thanks for tuning in to Culture Cookies. Hope to see you all back in 2014!

Top 5 Posts Published in 2013 (Non-Food)

  1. Holiday in Spain 
  2. Send My Regards
  3. Did I Get It?
  4. The Thrill of Traveling Alone
  5. Be Nice to Tourists

Top 5 Posts Published in 2013 (Food)

  1. Piece of Cake
  2. Wave the Flag
  3. Pumpkin Lovin’
  4. The British Are Coming!
  5. Full of Surprises

2 Responses to “How Do You Measure A Year in the Life?”


  1. The Annual Report (vol. 2) | Culture Cookies - January 11, 2015

    […] What I like about Felton’s particular data set is its emphasis on the seemingly mundane. So much of what happens in our year isn’t social media share-worthy, or even text share-worthy. The bulk of our moments throughout the year are made up of things like buying a quick lunch on the go, walking to the bus, and sitting in business meetings. Facebook’s “Year in Review” would certainly look a bit different if it reported on things like that, wouldn’t it? […]


  2. The Annual Report (vol. 4) | Culture Cookies - January 16, 2017

    […] the beautiful weddings I attended. But since I keep a journal of sorts, I like to look back on smaller things, too. My journal isn’t very typical. I don’t use it to express myself or track my emotions. […]


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