Maybe the title would be better with Tech* up your life with what I’m about to write about, however that wouldn’t be nearly as poetic.
Back in my day, we used to ‘knock on’ after school and play curby until the streetlights came on, that’s when we had to go in for dinner!
Found yourself saying that to somebody? I guess I was a bit of both when I was growing up. I loved building dens and forts in the garden in the summer, but in the teens I was addicted to immediately logging onto ‘MSN’ on my desktop tower as I got in from school. My computer still lit up but shutting down as I was getting into bed. I had serious FOMO.
I remember getting my first phone at age 13, I also remember begging for it as I didn’t need one. My first phone was a Nokia 3330 and I remember I could Shazam by texting “2580” (straight down the middle of your keypad) and it texted you back with the song that was playing and it was the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen.
Fast forward a number of years and things have changed tenfold. People still have FOMO possibly more than ever and have their faces buried in their phones, near fully ignoring the outside world. It’s an addiction as a society. People can’t sit with their friends in the real-world without their phone on the table, face up, in case somebody else ‘needs’ them or they miss out on something – FOMO. What I’m beginning to see more of, however, is people starting to use technology, apps and gadgets to help them run and manage a healthier life. This post is about people who use technology to analyse and possibly therefore enhance their own lives, then I will continue to go on about the stuff I use for myself.
The new turn of people who take control over their own wellbeing rather than blaming others or suffering it out have a range of choices to choose from when it comes to technology to prompt, encourage or monitor their activities. These days, we can get apps to remind us to think positively, apps that track us to tell us how much work:home time we’re spending and gadgets to measure our activity; like our sleep, steps and heart rate.
As a nerd, I love being able to see my activity in graphs and broken down into bar charts. I have apps for where I spend most of my time and how many unique places I visit, apps to track how much music I listen to and tell me who my favourite ‘artist of the month’ is at that time. I also have an activity band to measure how many steps I take a day, give me hints and tips, and measure the duration and quality of my sleep.
So, some of the apps I use to Science up my Life:
Saga is a cool little app that runs in the background (most of the time) while you are out and about. It tracks your location, assumes you are on a morning/evening commute if you have set your workplace, gives you quirky little badges, named traits, based on where you’ve been and compares your time at work, time in transit and number of unique places with the average. I love this app and it’s really handy to tell me where I was at a certain time if I’ve failed to keep my calendars up to date, and even tells me if it’s due to rain soon and then when the rain is due to stop (and quite accurately too!). The only downside that I have of this app is that sometimes I have blocks of ‘no data’ whereby I assume I had no wifi or data coverage.
An oldie but a goodie, last.fm is installed on both my Macbook and my iPhone. I was a bit obsessed with buying iTunes other than using Spotify (although I have recently ‘made the change’ and moved to the dark side) as I loved keeping track of my play counts. Last.fm documents what you’re listening to (and calls them ‘scrobbles’, how often you listen to that song or artist and tells you if they are on tour. I feel like the iPhone Scrobbler doesn’t work as well for me, but that may be due to a lack of faith. My Mac Scrobbler works fine in the background, my ‘favourite artist of this week’ is Passion Pit with 8 whole plays this week!
If you’re a type like me who immediately turns to social media or youtube when you should be working, this is a handy app for Mac stops all that. If you were to go onto an ‘unproductive’ website, a progressively harder and frustrating game of snake crops up on your screen and you can’t access your preferred medium of procrastination without completing it. Sound fun? No. This thing nags more than your mother, its easier just to do your work.
* Since publishing this post, I’ve tried to make this app work on my new MacBook (late 2014) and I can’t get it to work. It looks like it hasn’t been updated since 2012, so may only work on earlier mac models.
Lloyd’s Bank Money Manager: Free
Yeah, you read it right, my bank analyse my spending patterns for me, put it into a nice graph and then I can make a spending plan if I want to. I haven’t checked that one in a while… *shifty eyes*
Jawbone UP24: £99.99*
When I received this band in December 2014, it was the icing on the cake for the nerd that I am. This usually has a 7-day charge and comes with a free app. UP24 can measure my steps, sleep, water and coffee consumption, to name a few features. The band will recognise when I am (rarely) exercising and can also log my mood! Not only that, the personalised SmartCoach feature with Jawbone gives hints and tips based on my activity to be able to improve and enhance towards my goals. The band can tell me what is the best time to go to bed, tells me when I am in light or deep sleep and gives me a boost every now and again to spur me on to walk more!
*Update 5/12/15. The Jawbone UP24 broke. It broke loads. 4 different jawbones broke 4 different times. What I can say, is their customer service is fantastic. They have now upgraded me to the UP2 (silver) which is so far, so good (but will often fall off – make sure you catch it.)
**Jawbone’s warranty is a year, and, even if you don’t have a receipt (mine was a 2014 Christmas present) they have all the details on their end. Then, if you’re unlucky enough to have as many problems as me, don’t fret. Each accessory has its own one month warranty. Make sure you ‘test’ it properly in that month (including doing a full charge)
Cheaper alternatives that I’ve used have been phone apps as linked below, however since having a Jawbone UP24 band, it’s amazing (and also reassuring) to see how many steps I do away from my phone! I also really enjoy, and find it much healthier, to sleep in a different room to my phone if I can. It’s nice to have that break from your phone, wind down and sleep without any of these blaring gadgets, so as much as I enjoyed the apps that I’ve previously used below, I don’t miss them since getting my band.
I used to use the Argus iPhone app to count my steps and I found it really accurate. I could set it to look like I had ‘1542’ notifications (steps) so I could see without going into the app – and it used to update in real time too while I was walking along! I see now that iPhone have brought their own pedometer function out now, which does the same thing for free.
Sleep Time:Sleep Cycle always worked for me (the paid version) for analysing my sleep and showing it on a lovely colourful interface. The app was fairly accurate and I can only imagine the app went off movements in the bed as the phone had to be facedown in the bed with me. The only issue I have with this type of app, including apps to measure things like sleep talking, is the fact that it is in the bed with you. This is dangerous if left on charge as it could potentially catch fire, I was also unsure with the idea of the phone being on and close to my head for long periods of time.
How do you Science up your Life?