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I was a bit skeptical about an app where I planted fake trees with the intention of the fake digital trees helping me focus.

Really, duh, why would I not be skeptical?

But curiosity won. I mean, if $2.79 helps me focus—or at least alleviate phone based distraction—well, let’s give it a shot, right?

I started here:

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And honestly this was probably the ONLY amount I focused ALL DAY last Thursday. But hey, ten minutes is ten minutes. 

Yesterday (which says today but is really yesterday) was better.

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I set it for 15 minutes. And then 15 more minutes. And wrote, knowing if I used my phone for anything but keeping the app open my trees would be deadsies. Somehow not killing fake trees is super motivating.

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I upped myself to 20 minutes after awhile, after I’d gotten 123 minutes of work done in short intervals.

LOOK HOW MANY FREAKING TREES I GREW.

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I don’t think I should be this proud of myself for fake trees and bushes, but you know what? Sometimes seeing what I have actually done is good.

It doesn’t mean I can’t get distracted by my laptop, and yeah, the novelty will wear off, but I think it makes me more conscious of NOT allowing myself to get distracted, at least by technology. If I’m writing, unless I’m doing research and then get sidetracked, I primarily check my phone for social media stuff (although iMessage does come through on my Mac). And when I glance down at my phone I see this screen with how long I have left on the timer ticking down, and it tells me to like, put down my phone, and I’m like, oh yeah this app is so on to me.

I didn’t take my Concerta at noon. It was evident when I was coaching tonight, although my Special O parents get me (specifically, Terri who laughs with me about my ADHD). And at least in a gym, I can run around and laugh about it and just live my life.  So, maybe ten minutes to write this post is all I’m getting tonight. But I’m sure the Groundhog and Capture the Chicken did me some good—when it comes to ADHD (and many things but ESPECIALLY ADHD) exercise is freaking medicine.
 
Well, on the note of medicine, I also got my flu shot done tonight. So, pending they formulated it right and everything, no flu for me and my stupid asthma lungs. Yay! ‘Cause I presume exercise does not work as well on the flu as it does on ADHD…
 
 
Challenge Update: Day 18
Plank: 135 seconds = 2 minutes, 15 seconds. Pretty shaky toward the end, but hey, done is done. Maintain at 135 tomorrow. See how the flu shot arm takes that. 😉
 
Meditation: I did the study meditation midday.
Curiously, I did not meditate before I went to sleep last night, and whether it was due to that or that I had to wake up early today (which often has a negative impact on my sleep quality, or an average of an 8% reduction per SleepCycle) my sleep quality was only 68% last night, versus an all time average of 74%. 

I try to track a lot of stuff, but I like that stuff to be as effortless as possible (I’m human, right?). The more stuff I track, the less likely I am to track a thing after a few days or a week, which means I really can’t do anything with that data. There are not a lot of things that will track themselves, however, thinking about this the other day, I became curious to do a bit of an inventory to see what kinds of things I am tracking basically automagically. (Magic, yes.)

Sleep.
For over 2 years (actually, well over 2 years, but I think some of my data got trapped in an old iPod or something before The Cloud was such a big thing), I’ve tapped the screen on my iPhone a few times to track my sleep—I use SleepCycle, and this same app acts as my alarm clock (and lets me use my own music—I actually initially bought it years ago because of that), so I have some motivation to set it. This is, aside from wearing my Fitbit, probably the most automated self-tracking actiivty that I do. So it’s not quite automagic… but it just about could be. (The Charge HR does have automatic sleep tracking though, as well, and I did use the sleep feature regularly on the One and Ultra).

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Graphs from SleepCycle. Above, time I went to bed over the last two-plus years. Below, the odd waves of different activity levels on my sleep quality…

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Activity.
I’ve been wearing a Fitbit since January 2012—first the Ultra, then the One, and now the Charge HR. This means, aside from the times that I’ve lost it or forgotten to wear it, I’ve been counting steps, calories burned, activity level, distance covered. Since May, I’ve got a near-continuous record of my heart rate—which is kind of ridiculous and I’m looking forward to someone getting that export heart rate thing figured out. And, since the invention of MobileTrack from Fitbit, even if my device dies on my wrist, I still accumulate a bit of data—though not as accurate as the thing attached to my body.
I also have a couple apps in my phone that serve this purpose. I’m not really sure why I haven’t deleted them yet, however.

Here’s also a little app called fit|line. It gives you all kinds of stats extracted from your Fitbit. It also says things like “You spend an average of 14 hours a day sedentary.” (Don’t worry. My Pebble Time is trying to put an end to that nonsense. Actually, I thought it would be like “You spend an average of 23 hours a day sedentary” so…)


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All time Fitbit stats from Fit|Line.
http://i0.wp.com/farm2.staticflickr.com/1673/25832612924_0b66f6916b.jpg?resize=281%2C500&ssl=1Slightly different view…

Here you’ll see where I lost my Fitbit, or forgot to wear it, or it died or whatever.
You can also fairly easily pick out the spot in 2013 when I was super sick and when I was no longer in school and no longer working outside of the house.

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Things I Set Up on IFTTT at Some Point And Forgot About.
Okay, let’s take a look.

  • If it rains, this gets sent to a spreadsheet in Google Drive. I was at some point going to trend this with peak flows and asthma symptoms but, ha, those don’t get logged automagically.
  • If humidity rises above 75% this gets added to a spreadsheet.
  • If I enter or exit a tennis club, these times are to be logged (a backup for logging my summer work hours).
  • This one doesn’t quite count because I have to manually check-in on Foursquare… SWARM. I have to check in on Swarm. (Damn these name changes, really.) but that does get sent to my Google Calendar. So if I forget when I went somewhere and I happened to check in on F—Swarm, then I can find out.
Computer Time.
I’ve been using RescueTime for quite awhile. So now I have all this data about how much time I spend doing what, and I really don’t do anything with that.
 
Similarly, I once installed Checky on my iPhone to see how many times I looked at my phone in a day, but it has to run in the background obviously, which then gets swiped closed.
Because once the guy at the Apple Store had to close all my apps and he told me he’d never seen that many apps open on a phone. And he works at the Apple Store. That’s pretty bad.
 
There are probably all kinds of other things, but that’s my rundown for 11:40 pm. I’ll add more here when I discover them. 

After upgrading to the iPhone 6 in December, I began to discover a bunch of apps that I couldn’t use, or couldn’t use effectively, with the iPhone 4. Even though I’ve been a Fitbit user since January 2012 […That is three years, people], I can finally sync it through my phone–which, I suppose if I were back in the lifestyle of walking to and from the bus all the time, and/or it was not winter and I could find any sort of motivation to go outside into the polar vortex, would be quite helpful.

That little comment about the polar vortex, however, is why I find value in self-tracking. In October, I attempted to chronicle a bunch of facets of the self-tracking I was doing, and intended to focus on throughout the month, aiming to blog every day. I didn’t complete the month-long project that I called “quantify this.” (underscoring that when research suggests not to undergo a bunch of changes at once, it is accurate for most of us), however, even since falling off the intensity of the project, I have continued to dig deeper into the myriad of quantified self tools about, and continue to keep these integrated in my everyday—to an extent, at least.

The biggest difference between the iPhone 4 and 6 (aside from the size, and the speed, and the Bluetooth LE capabilities and the camera and, okay you get it) is the motion processor.

Which means not only do I wear a Fitbit, my phone can now track movement. [And also I have a Pebble watch now, so I have Misfit on there—a post for another day. Related: I am out of control here.] While I purchased the Sync Solver app to feed my Fitbit data into HealthKit, not everything uses that data over the M8 data.

Including this cute little app called Lark which is actually pretty successful at making me conscious of my daily choices. Lark uses the M8 (or whatever M# processor your iPhone has) to grab data from Health (or otherwise, I would assume), and helps you identify patterns in your physical activity…

Edit/Note: Before I get too far, Lark is available for iOS and Android (Google Play and Galaxy). Thanks to Jay for the Droid links!

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…while giving other feedback on health science—clearing misconceptions and providing a bit of research-driven motivation:

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(The answers for the first question were “yeah” or “not really”. Lark gives the same feedback in a different way regardless of the choice made :).)

Lark asks questions and provides motivation by reminding you of previous feedback given within the app—most often multiple choice, but sometimes fill-in-the-blank answers—and encourages more mindful choices surrounding daily actions.


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(Another time, it used a spin on this to tell me that if I drank more water, I’d get more physical activity by going to the bathroom more. Also, clearly this thing magically knows I don’t drink enough water…)

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And, the old classic, of course—parking farther away. (The little super picture makes an appearance every so often—never fails to make me smile).

Speaking of smiling—Lark isn’t just about physical activity:

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While it’s nowhere near close to a food journal (that’s too much bulk for Lark!), it does encourage increased consciousness of attitudes surrounding eating—providing a few choices so to keep it quick.

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I thought I wouldn’t stick with the check-ins on Lark, but I’ve been using the app for several weeks now, and I find myself checking in with the app (read: checking in with myself) at least twice a day. Most check-ins take no more than a minute or two—and amusing for me in my current nightowl state, Lark has much briefer conversations with me when it’s getting to be later at night (because it knows I should be sleeping?)
Or this one, where it’s 2 AM and it’s like “Sleep is helpful, y’know”. (Continuation of the “detox” conversation above.)
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And of course, I was hitting up Lark through the holidays—the first time it brought up the holidays, I was pretty impressed, to be honest! :]

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As I said, Lark check-ins take no more than a minute or two, and while the graphs aren’t anything like this…
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I think they might be (almost) better at encouraging day-to-day behaviour change than getting inundated with data.
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I mean… Almost. I am a bit of a data freak, after all.