After the longest time, I finally decided to invest in a smartwatch. I’ve been quite a connoisseur of unique and interesting watches, but a while ago I became a backer of a new type of smartwatch. However, that project has taken longer than expected to come to the fruition (at the time of writing people are still waiting, but that’s part of the problem with crowdfunding ... anyway I digress). I began to feel a creeping desire to use a smartwatch.
Ultimately I went for the Apple Watch Series Three and below I want to outline my reasons why and how I've managed to incorporate it into my productive day.
I’ll be honest, I am a committed Apple fan. Ever since I got my first iPhone all those years ago I have just found their devices to be so user-friendly and perfectly suited to my way of working, but when they announced the Apple Watch in 2015 I thought it was madness. I had no desire to be notified of emails, text messages or anything else on my wrist. If I wanted to be disturbed (and in most cases, I don’t) then I could just have notifications switched activated on my phone and check there. After all, the Apple Watch, until recently, required you to have your phone with you at all times so frankly what was the point?
So how did I get to 2018 with me dictating this article to my wrist? Well, it all started with my new year’s promise to take my health and fitness more seriously. I have used fitness trackers in the past but have always found them wanting. The most innovative fitness tracker I tried was the Atlas wearable, it was really smart, so smart in fact that it was able to recognise the exercises I was doing automatically and in later iterations, it could correct your form and give you hints to be better. If you were slacking at pushups, it would let you know. I would just put on my Atlas and start my workout. I then used a Fitbit for a while, but again, this was a dedicated fitness tracker and wasn’t something that fully was incorporated into my everyday life and that's what I felt was missing.
In the early months of 2018, I began to feel that my current approach to fitness tracking wasn’t working. For one, simply tracking your heart rate whilst in the midst of vigorous exercise was interesting, but it wasn't the complete picture. How quickly does it take me to get back to my resting rate? In fact, what is my resting heart rate? (for those interested, it’s apparently 40 beats per minute). What relation, if any, is there between the time of day and how active I am? All of these are questions that can only be answered by having a device that’s with you throughout the day.
I was also frustrated by the lack of integration with health and fitness apps. I never felt anything I was doing was really getting the complete picture of me. I would have a certain app for my workouts which was meant to be really clever and dynamic, this meant that it would give me recommendations on what workouts I should do based on what I had just done. This is all well and good, but if I logged a two-hour bike ride in another app then it would be completely ignorant of that work and carry on recommending me to do lots of exercises regardless of the punishing ride I had just done! I was getting really frustrated by this lack of awareness that other apps had with regards to the exercise I was doing. As a result, I and finally accepted that up I was so far embedded in the Apple ecosystem, that I might as well give them all my health data as well.
So how have things changed since using the Apple Watch? To start with I had to be very strict with notifications: as soon as I activated the watch, all of the apps on my iPhone which had an accompanying watch app installed. This meant I was getting bombarded constantly with the most inane and meaningless notifications. After I began to rain in some of the applications and notifications I had a look at Apple's 'Activity app'. In essence, the watch prompts you at regular intervals to be active in order to live a healthier life and goads you with the excitement of closing three coloured rings which represent different aspects of a healthy day. There are also a number of pre-installed workout trackers on the watch which are perfectly fine for most users and I can see that in the future they’re going to be more developments to make it a more complete and useful tool for monitoring my health and fitness. I can now use all this fitness information to give to a personal trainer or share with a friend to get coached in the right direction or have a bit of healthy competition with. However, there have been some other benefits besides fitness monitoring.
When I first made my purchase I was frankly worried about what impact this watch would have on my general productivity. I thought I would be making a trade-off between the benefits to my health to the determent that the watch would have with all the notifications and distractions it would provide at the flick of the wrist. Thankfully the opposite was true. My productivity has increased and here’s how I did it. My first trick was to have my task and project managing app choice (OmniFocus) visible on my watch. This meant that every time I glanced at my watch I could see a number of tasks I had to complete. This made me focused on getting that number as close to '0' as possible. There was something quite addictive about ticking off tasks by just tapping the watch face. When I look at my phone I can often get distracted and bamboozled by the sheer amount of applications that are available to me, but having a watch face that just displays the time and the number of remaining actions I need to complete keeps me surprisingly focused. It makes me wish I had discovered it earlier. The other thing which is been a really big bonus to my productivity was something I hinted at the beginning of this article: the fact that I’m using my watch to dictate a large amount of my written output. When I had seen the adverts of the Apple Watch suggesting that it was possible to reply to a text message or even answer an email using this tiny screen I was severely sceptical, to say the least, but it is surprisingly easy and accurate. If anybody has used dictation on the iPhone before then you will know how easy it can be and the experience is very similar on the Apple Watch. I know sometimes it can be more hassle than it’s worth to respond to a text message using my watch when I have the phone in my pocket but every time I talk to my wrist I feel like I’m on Babylon 5 and that novelty certainly hasn’t worn off yet!
However, it’s a far cry from just sending a text to dictating articles of over 1000 words. I clearly wouldn’t have attempted anything like this if it hadn’t have been for a chance discovery of an app which is changed my relationship with writing. The app in question is called 'Just pressed record' and it has been worth every penny. As the name suggests it is a simple audio recorder that runs on the watch and after you press the record button you can talk for (as far as I found) an indefinite period of time at the watch will diligently listen and record what you say. That in and of itself doesn’t sound very exciting, but the magic comes when you use the companion iPhone app and all those recordings are now sent seamlessly to the iPhone where the companion iPhone app uses the same clever dictation software that Siri uses to transcribe all of my audio recordings. This means that I can be walking out in the woods letting my thoughts flow freely and when I get back to my phone it’s all there in plain text. Obviously, I have to do a lot of proofreading, but it has taken away such a big obstacle which was to sit down and try and find the time just to get some text out of my head and onto a word processor. You don’t have to be too concerned with removing pauses while you are dictating as well because it all just happens as if by magic. I have to say that this method works particularly well when driving because I can just press the record button before starting the car and by the time I have arrived at my destination I can’t have an article written with just a bit of cursory proofreading to do. Obviously, your experience may vary depending on what environment you’re in but that’s just one of the many reasons why am thankful I drive an electric car because they are just so silent.
Now the new Apple Watch Series 4 has been released and there are some new and interesting features that I might be tempted in one day but that also means that Series 3 watches are more affordable so now might be the time to see if you could use the Apple Watch as a new addition to have a productive day.
Let me know how you use technology to stay more productive and if there any tips or tricks to making the Apple Watch more useful, I would love to hear them.
See your next time.