I’ve been slowly getting into using more tools in the genre of “personal analytics”. Gyroscope has been my primary app for the past 6+ months. In combination with services like RescueTime, Moves, Strava, and Apple’s Health, this service gives me an interesting perspective on how I’m using my time.

As 2016 progressed, I started to consider getting an Apple Watch for the first time. The primary reason was that I had grown used to taking my iPhone everywhere I went … it was my step tracker. This was not a desirable long term scenario. I also wanted to leave the phone behind when I was on a run, something the latest version of the Apple Watch allows you to do.

The Apple Watch would be another potential cause for distraction however, so another option I considered was a FitBit. And that is what my wife picked up for me this Christmas. Since Dec. 25th, I’ve worn a FitBit Charge day and night. And I’m very happy with it!

Here are the things that have come to mind over the first 4 weeks of usage.

  • It has stopped me from carrying my phone around all the time. Thank God! For one thing, you don’t have to remember anything … the Fitbit is just on me. Second, I look at my phone a lot less, which is always a goal of mine.
  • It seems accurate so far. I haven’t had the time (or inclination) to measure my stride length and calibrate this thing, but it has seemed mostly accurate. There are times when I notice it adding steps when none were taken. But these times seem to be balanced by other situations where several steps are not immediately tallied. At the end of the day, I’m not that concerned about 100% accuracy. If it’s inaccurate, as long as it’s consistently accurate, it achieves its purpose.
  • The battery life is quite good, far better than what I would get with an Apple Watch. The charge gives round the clock tracking with a charge only every 5 days or so. And it fully charges in about 90 minutes. No complaints on this!
  • The heart rate tracking makes a big difference over what I was tracking previously. Even when I’m less active, like when I’m sitting at my desk for an hour or more, I can do somethings to get the heart rate up.
  • The Fitbit app does a good job of recognizing increased levels of activity and logging an event. If I go outside for my lunch break and shovel snow or chop some wood, it recognizes that an elevated heart rate and increase in steps indicates some type of exercise activity. I then just categorize the event that the app has already logged. And the event shows duration, calories burned etc
  • The sleep tracking has been far better than any other option I’ve used. Previously, my usage was solely using Apple’s Health and the Sleep AI feature in Gyroscope. Neither are very accurate. Contrastingly, the Fitbit really nails this by showing the correct total time, as well as the quality of the sleep. Times awake or being restless in bed are shown.

I’ve previously owned a Fitbit, one of the early versions. And I eventually put it in a drawer and never wore it again, so I recognize there is a possibility this string of events occurs once more. And really, do I need a device and an app to tell me I had a much more active day or a poor night of sleep? Not really.

However, I find it helps between the extremes. On the weekend, if I have a 25,000 step day because of all the family activities, I feel it. Or if I stay up late working on a Sunday school lesson, I’m well aware the next morning. But it’s the other days where I see the differences. If I’ve hit 8,500 steps and we’re sitting down to eat dinner, I’ll make sure I hit 10,000 for the day. Same for the other activities tracked (sleep, drinking water etc).

Overall, I still have the mindset that data is not helpful on its own. To be informative and useful, you have to put it to use. There is just enough benefit tracking this stuff that it has an affect on how I spend my time. It increases my mindfulness.

For now, it stays.

Tracking Habits

Related to the above, there are a few tweaks that I have made that have helped me focus on goals for creating habits for each week. This has been an emphasis for me since completing The Focus Course last spring, a habit that has been further reinforced since I started using a weekly setup in my journal. That’s right: a habit focused on habits …

The following are my tools for doing this each week.

  • my journal: as referenced above, this past summer I consolidated my weekly review practice with my notebook usage. Although I do not properly journal on paper (I use Day One for that), I do track my weeks and days in a Bullet Journal style. But I use a weekly plan that closely resembles the SELF Journal setup. The part that pertains to habits is that I add a section each week for habits, where I include a grid of days crossed by the habits I’m working on developing
  • Gyroscope: this service recently added Goals to the Pro plan, which have been a nice addition. I can automatically set goals for the week like how focused I am during the work day, how much sleep I get, the number of steps taken, etc. The nice part is that these things are already being tracked, but now I can set a goal and monitor whether I’m on pace to meet them. Sound cheesy? It is, a little. But there is power in keeping score … not all of these bring a change in habits. But if I’m focused on ensuring I have more sessions of focus work in my week, I am aware that if I open Twitter in browser, that is bringing down my score and reducing my chance to meet my goal of 95% productive time on the computer for the week. This is already something I want to do and track in my paper journal. But seeing it quantified can affect my behaviour. That should not be underestimated
  • Zero: a newer too, this is Kevin Rose’s new fasting app. I’ve been a big believer of fasting for some time, but I struggle to do it regularly. This app’s sole focus is on helping you attain that string of days, like Jerry Seinfeld’s calendar on the wall (Deep Work fans will recognize the reference).
  • Fitbit: last, the Fitbit is powering a lot of this. I don’t have much more to add to the above

There are a lot of apps focused on this now (Productive, Way of Life, Streaks for example). Journalling tools as well. As with all things, I’m striving for balance. Although I focus a lot on the person I want to be, I also do my best to foster contentment in the present.

But when I want to bring change, these tools have been a help.