Tonic Self-Tracker

I’m considering shifting my self-tracking from Google docs (accessed via a web form on my iPhone) to Tonic. Anybody using this app who would like to advise? If you have experience using your Tonic data to make visualizations, I’d appreciate any tips.

Background: One thing I’d like to begin investigating is the relationship between what I eat, the time I eat, and my energy/focus. Variations in focus can have a big impact on productivity and I’d like to find out what causes the biggest variations

(Tonic’s creator, Rajiv Mehta, is a long time contributor to QS and a moderator on these boards. )

Gary, that is awesome. I wish I’d had tools like Tonic when I had to solve the same problem in the mid 90’s. I am going to start using Tonic as soon as I figure out how to upgrade my iphone to 4.0 and keep it jailbroken. Lots of QS apps aren’t 3.0 compatible.

Managing my mental alertness using food and timing has been life-changing and career-enhancing for me. The Bulletproof Diet is designed to avoid foods that - in most people - cause less mental focus, and not just because of macronutrient ratios. If you want some help in figuring out what to look for, I’d be more than willing to provide advice, on or off the forum. However, if you want to go purely on data mining/quantification to avoid placebo effects, I completely understand that too!

Thanks Dave - I’d love to connect about this. I’ll send an email. Or maybe we could move this part of this discussion into the diet forum…

(now here

Hi Gary!

Rajiv was kindly enough to let me test the Tonic app for feedback, and I tested it last week, before someone decided to drop my phone… :frowning:

What are you planning to track about yourself? That’s a useful thing to know before so I can judge if Tonic would be a good choice.

Anyway, I find the app is one of the best and flexible apps for tracking. I used it for medication but it should also fit your needs for self-tracking. One of the nicest things I find was the way alarms measure response time and it features CSV export :wink:

Hi Gary,

I’m thrilled to know that you’ll be trying out Tonic for your own needs. Existing Tonic users have been using it for a very wide variety of health activities, and so I imagine that it will support your needs as well.

Here are a few observations from user experiences that may help you, or other QS’ers, with using Tonic for self-experimentation:

(1) It’s quite flexible; take advantage of that! We say that Tonic can be used for anything in your health practice, but it seems to take newbies a while to appreciate this flexibility. They often start off using it for the “medical” stuff — medications, medically oriented symptoms, the usual biometrics, etc. Over time they realize they can use it for their herbal remedies, and food, and stretching breaks, and “number of positive social encounters” and … So, think broadly. Tonic will probably support it.

(2) Most users I’ve spoken with have been using Tonic to make it easier to manage day-to-day health practices that they were already trying to do. For them, the big benefit of Tonic is simply that it helps them do their activities more successfully. And so these users have not been taking advantage of the data-export functionality, and haven’t been analyzing their data. The few that have looked at their data just use Excel or the Google spreadsheet (I’m told the Google charts do a better job of plotting versus time than Excel). I’m still looking for good visualization tools for plotting the diverse range of data that people capture using Tonic. I was intrigued by the BodyTrack presentation at the recent QS meetup. That might be a good tool.

(3) Note that both the Amount and Units fields are very flexible. Usually people enter numerical amounts. But there’s no reason you can’t enter words. So you could record pain using a number (say on a 1-10 scale), or you could use words (mild, sharp, throbbing, etc.). Of course that might make it difficult to graph. Still, there are times when words seem more appropriate. Perhaps you want to keep track of the color of your clothes, and see what impact this has on your mood.

Looking forward to hearing your feedback.

re: what you eat – I’d put money on carbohydrates (starch, sucrose, fructose) causing big variations in focus. I don’t have any numbers, but when I stopped eating carbs 6 days out of 7 I felt a lot better 6 days out of 7. Something to experiment with.

This is possible, but I had the opposite effect when I went to very low carbs. The diet was welcome in many ways, and I lost weight, but the mental effects were not good. I’ve been keeping an energy and food journal with Tonic for one day now, and have already learned one thing: it is very easy to identify the problem episodes. I was worried there would be some ambiguity, but I am never in doubt. I use a 3 point scale: good, medium, poor. I moved through all three points on the scale several times today.

One big thing about Tonic I like, and one small thing I don’t. Like: it is very flexible and includes a “journal” space for each entry. This is excellent! Dislike: when finished with the entry, it takes two clicks to get back to the main screen: “done” and “save.”

Seth has loaned me a glucometer, and when I get going with it I’ll track this in Tonic too…

Here’s the Tonic app site (with screenshots), for those wondering:

I just downloaded the app and started playing with it.
I don’t have specific medical issues to track or medication but i am interested in discovering correlations between different things going on throughout the day, energy, mood, focus etc…

I haven’t looked at what I am going to do with the data later but I think I am going to get a benefit simply out of having a framework for recording specific things, either scheduled or non scheduled.

I am curious about what other people are using as reminders and units for tracking things like mood, energy, focus.

I like the gottafeeling app because it has a rich language built in for choosing a feeling and it’s pretty and pleasant to use. topic could great as it could support anything.

After hearing Dave talk about using free cell to measure mental performance at the QS conference I developed somewhat of an addiction to playing free cell but so far I haven’t actually recorded my playing time. So I setup a “free cell time” item in Tonic to record my playing time when I play it.

As we’re constantly hoping to improve Tonic, it’s great to hear of your experience.

Regarding your 3-point scale: Would it make your data-entry easier if you create a text list for your data entry, so you could choose amongst “good”, “medium”, and “poor”, rather than a number 1/2/3? Would you prefer choosing from a list of self-selected words rather than entering a number?

Journal entry: Joost pointed out that any commas you include in your journal entry will get stripped out on export, so use some other punctuation. We’ll fix this in the next revision.

Done + Save: Yes … gotta improve that.

I download Tonic earlier today. It’s quick. It’s flexible. Nicely done, Rajiv!

If you decide to add automatic data-exportation to gDocs (e.g., see: Daily Tracker iPhone app), you can mark me down as a Tonic evangelist ; )

How do I quickly review events/journal entries in Tonic, to look back and check on how things are going? Do I have to export via email first?

Gary — You can see the information in Tonic, without exporting. If you scroll up/down the main Tonic Schedule screen you’ll see your entries in chronological order. Note that only a few days are pre-loaded, but you can get more days as you continue scrolling. To see a history of your entries for just a particular item, go to the Tonics page (tap bottom right icon on Tonic Schedule screen) and tap on that particular item. I’ve attached an example of that History view.

Thanks Raj. Starting to get the hang of it now. Lots of toggling around, a bit hard at first, but I’m sure when mastered it becomes very easy. Another question: when typing more than a few lines in the journal space, the words are recorded but the screen doesn’t scroll to show them. Any way around this?

Darn. Looks like you’ve found a bug. I’ve found a workaround that allows you to continue to see what you’re typing: when you can no longer see your typing (when the display has stopped scrolling), change the iPhone’s orientation (say from Portrait to Landscape), wait for the display to change orientation, and then switch back to your original orientation. Keep doing this as you need to.

Have been using Tonic for a couple of days.

Like the flexibility.

Don’t like the two clicks to accept new entry.

Wish that there was a way to default display buttons on the home screen for the most frequently used 9 or 12 tracked items (for symptoms, activities, etc that aren’t on an alarm schedule) to facilitate quick entry. Would also be nice to have a numerical scale type option (for items with a numerical rating scale) with a pick list instead of having to type in a number.

Weird that I can only update the timestamp of a new entry in upright portrait mode. But not a big deal.

Good work so far!

Hi Keith,

This is Aleksey, co-creator of Tonic. Is your interest in export to Google Docs specific to your data in a spreadsheet format, or simply a backup of your data? Also, when you mention automatic export, how would you envision that working?

Thanks for being a customer!


Hey Aleksey,

Great work on Tonic!

Regarding Google Docs: It would be nice to have automatic backups - peace of mind. However, my main interest is to get Tonic data automatically into a Google Spreadsheet; this would allow me to setup Google Gadget charts, which auto-update; to merge Tonic data with other data-streams for continuous analysis (e.g., Zeo); and, most importantly, to setup custom events (e.g., email/SMS notifications) based on either the completion of milestones or the absence of data.

As far has how I envision this working, I suppose this would require either a Tonic API, imported into the Google Doc, or the use of the Google Spreadsheets API.

In the meantime, I’m happy to use Tonic’s CSV-export feature.

I’d like to second the request for scale entry, with a pick list. Two click recording still a problem for me, it has never become a habit and the fact that I can select another entry after I click “done” but before I click “save” which then causes the app to erase is a problem. It’s discouraging to lose an entry.

On the plus side, the organization by “day” is really helpful, easily scanned.

On a meta level, using Tonic has been instructive in how hard it is to design a good tracking app that is meant for frequent daily use and flexible/open to all tracking data. The problem isn’t that the job is very complex, abstractly, but that I’m complex, I don’t act the same way all the time, I bring varying degrees of distraction to the interaction, I change my habits/modes… And I’m just one person. Obviously the app has to work for many different people.


You probably already know this, but just in case, every time you sync your device with iTunes all of your data is automatically backed up. So if you lose your iPhone and get a replacement, all of your data will be restored to when you last sync’d.

I’ll look into the Google Docs API for export directly to gDocs. It would be helpful to see what you are doing with Google Gadget charts. Perhaps you would be willing to share some screenshots offline? Thanks.