Don't Buy Any Tech This Week!

I had just gotten done recommending the Vivosmart to someone today when I realized that CES is going on. Garmin has already made a bunch of new product announcements. Defer your purchases until it's clear what works and what doesn't - let someone else do the public beta for you. I'm hoping that devices will move beyond activity tracking and towards concretely helping our lives in less abstract ways. I believe I saw a reference to a coffee maker, for example, that can brew stronger coffee based on your recorded sleep quality for the previous night.  

 

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Metawatch Strata Update Coming?

 From Meta's Facebook page, a comment thread began in which there were voiced (IMO well-founded) complaints about the Strata having not been updated in nearly a year. MetaWatch_update

Although I pretty much only wear my Basis Peak and my Vivosmart nowadays for notifications and music control, it will be cool to see what Meta comes out with after a year and some experience with their M1 line.

The most recent feature additon I've been using is the countdown timer feature. When I'm in a get-things-done mode I like to use repeating 15 minute alarms. So far, I haven't found anything that automatically repeats the alarms without my help, but the Strata's pretty nice in that it incorporates vibration into the alert.

One quirk (bug) I noticed today is that when the timer ends, if you stay on the countdown timer screen, the timer remains at 0:00 and you need to manually reset it. However if you exit the countdown screen and come back to it, there's your interval already set up. 

So I guess I'll be looking out for a killer update to my Peak that will introduce smartphone notifications and hopefully improve HR accuracy, as well as an update for my Strata to see what that will bring. I guess it's not quite EOL yet, which is a relief. There isn't another device that has the Strata's approach - multiple widgets per screen for quick at-a-glance info. I can see my AAPL stock, the current weather, the time, and my next calendar event all on the main screen! Since Peak handles all of my activity monitoring without asking anything of me (in terms of button presses to enter some activity or sleep mode, yuck!) I currently use the Vivosmart more as a connection to my smartphone and completely ignore the step counting aspect. 

I learned the hard way to be very skeptical of promised updates, from the whole Kreyos debacle, but Basis and Strata have a track record of delivering quality products so I won't count them out yet.

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New Habit for 2014 - Getting Dressed Immediately, Staying Dressed All Day

While I'm one of those contrarians who eschews New Year's Resolutions, I sort of cheat because it seems wasteful to not use all the energy our culture puts into changing habits at the beginning of the year. It's as good a time as any to kick off a "habit test" and see what various adjustments to our routines make an impact, for good or ill.

Background

With a new baby coming any day now, I've been putting a lot of energy into cleaning up the house and organizing the space a bit. In spite of all the thinking I do about how to continuously improve, household organization is one area in which I can still grow (a lot). While working through this project, I have been purging and organizing my clothes. Just having this effort going on provided my mind with the fuel, and then a compliment I received about how good I looked in the pants I had been wearing (versus my usual super-comfortable furry pajama pants) provided the spark necessary to ignite a new habit for 2014: Getting dressed!

Now, I work in an office setting with casual dress, so I normally get dressed every day. On my way out the door. But when I had been waking up, and pretty much as soon as I returned home from work, I would change into comfortable sweats or pajama clothes.

In my mind, this remains "getting dressed", but I know Flylady among others recommends that the first thing you should do when getting out of bed is getting dressed in regular clothes that you can wear outside the house.  Flylady calls this habit "getting dressed to shoes". In my house, we currently avoid shoes inside due to the hardwood floors, so I'm just calling it "getting and staying dressed".

So far, so good

As with any new habit, for the past week I've been flying high on increased productivity. I've been tracking and enforcing this habit using the chains.cc app and have been reminding myself that my wife prefers my look in street clothes versus comfortable clothes as another motivator.

After 30 to 40 days I'll look back and evaluate whether or not staying dressed from waking up to bedding down will have helped my productivity (at home, specifically) - and the evidence won't need to be some carefully maintained list. My house will likely be all the proof I need  due to the high rate of clutter accumulation we normally have.

Here's to 2014!  Any habits you're trying out?

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MiniPost: Snow Shovelling with Polar FA-20 vs FT-60

Feedback. We know it's valuable. We know we need it to help progress toward our well-formed outcomes. There are so many ways to collect and analyze feedback that it boggles the mind but I have been very pleased with one particular way of measuring feedback regarding my physical activity and performance over time: electronic heart rate monitors.

I've been using a Polar FT60 heart rate monitor to help track my workouts and their effectiveness, allowing the STAR training program to guide my efforts. It provides great feedback and measurability which I will write about in the future - remember for now that feedback helps your relentless self-improvement and helps to fuel aggressive optimism. 

A while ago I also stumbled across an FA-20 Activity Monitor on clearance. It was affordable enough that I decided to pick one up just to try it out. It's based on computing your activity levels all day long rather than just in relatively short bouts of intense exercise, although it does have workout tracking built in (not heart rate-based, but accelerometer based).  This difference in measurement was highlighted today when I wore both units while shovelling the sidewalk. 

My FT-60 estimated my calories burned during the snow shovelling bout as around 220 while the FA-20, using my body motion, decided that I was still having a "lazy day"  (seriously, the watch literally says this stuff) and that I had burned about 6 calories since putting it on for the day.

It's probably calibrated around the swinging motion of your arms while walking or running and shovelling snow does not match those movements, leading to the interesting feedback I got. Lesson: use the right tool to measure the right activity. Even a HRM might not be completely accurate but it's at least available to be graphed in context with all of my other exercise. I've read that the newer FT-80 might be a better fit for someone doing the varied activities that I do (including some weight training) but for now I absolutely love the FT-60 and won't train without it.

That said, I am thinking of wearing my FA-20 more just to see what it thinks of my non-training activity levels.  I think it's meant more as an entry-level device to get sedentary people moving, who will then probably want to upgrade to something more interesting like the FT- devices.

 

 

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Remember to Put Your Fork Down!

In the United States, tomorrow is the holiday called "Thanksgiving". It's a day where the nation is to relax with family and take stock of our blessings. Something like this is key to Aggressive Optimism, wherein I encourage people to 1) maintain cycles in their lives and 2) power their attitude with gratitude.

I've probably mentioned this before but I will touch on it again: reading John Grinder and Carmen Bostic St. Claire's "Turtles All The Way Down" left an unexpected and far-reaching impact on me. One of the things I took from that book was the discussion on coherent cultures. I can't recall any specific text about time but I relate my concept of cyclical time to having read that book... time for a re-read!

In any case, Thanksgiving represents a yearly cycle where we can all check in with what it is we are thankful for. There's always something! I am going through some lean times right now but I am still able to stir up feelings of gratitude for many things. And for the spiritually inclined, I encourage you to reflect on what and/or who you might be thankful TO. If you're not so inclined and won't consider changing, I suggest finding something or someone to aim your thanks at, even if it's your unconscious mind :-)

As a final note, please remember to put your fork and spoon down between bites! Bring mindfulness to the food you eat tomorrow and you will help keep from sliding into a weight gain period. Put the glass or bottle down between sips as well, and drink lots of water!

Peace to you and your families.

 

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