Learning from Everyday Activities with Exist

I’ve been wearing a fitness tracker regularly for the last several years. Every single tracker I’ve worn (Fitbits, Jawbones, and now my Apple Watch) has had one problem – they just track numbers. Eventually, you reach a point where the numbers become predictable. You know how many steps you usually take and how much sleep you get. Yet we keep wearing them, so what’s next?

Meet Exist. Exist lets you connect a number of web services together, not to track numbers but to help you find trends.

Right now, Exist is pulling in data from my Apple Watch, my weight and body fat from my Fitbit scale, events from Google Calendar, how I’m using my computer from RescueTime, emails from Gmail, weather from Dark Sky, my Spotify listening history from Last.fm, and posts from Instagram and Twitter.

Once you’ve had everything connected for a few weeks, that’s when things get interesting. Even for someone like me who’s used fitness trackers for years, you start to see new and surprising patterns emerge. It might let you know you’re walking less 20% this month, and maybe that’s because you spent more time sending emails. Sending more emails is also correlated to your weight going up. While those may seem fairly obvious, what about knowing your weight tends to be higher when you listen to certain music? Exist can let you know. (If I have any hope of reaching my goal weight, I should listen to less Lana Del Rey and Florida Georgia Line.)

Here are a few other correlation’s Exist has found. Apparently, Tweetbot and Instagram aren’t as detrimental as I thought.

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One of the areas I’ve been paying considerable attention to is Exist’s mood tracker and the recently added custom tracking. Each day, Exist’s iOS app can prompt you to rate your day on a scale of 1-5. Within that same prompt, you’re given an opportunity to write a quick recap of the day and add any custom tags for further tracking.

While it’s still too early to see any correlations for custom tracking, I’m excited to see if any new trends emerge. Does meditation actually lead to any noticeable changes in my mood or productivity? How does that afternoon Venti Iced Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks affect my sleep? Being able to track anything, the possibilities are endless – although right now, tracking is limited to binary yes/no options.

Thanks to Exist, I finally feel like I’m getting something out of all of these areas of my life I’ve been tracking. Exist is free for 30 days and $6/mo or $57/year after that. You can get an additional free month by using my referral link.

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First Impressions of the Fitbit Force

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Happy Friday!

I’m pretty excited right now because my Fitbit Force got here a day earlier than I thought! I got a Fitbit Flex in June and was planning to do a review on it, but I just didn’t get around to it, so today’s post will be a bit of a review on the Flex and my first impressions of the Force.

So to start this off, I preordered my Flex and it arrived in June. After a LONG wait, I was beyond excited when it finally came in the mail. I set it up, and it’s been on my wrist ever since (aside from when it was charging). It took a bit to figure out all the taps, and I’m still not entirely sure I have them figured out. I usually just tapped until I got the alarm to go off, or got it to buzz for sleep mode. {Not a fantastic design there…} My main issue, one that everyone else seemed to have was with the wear and tear of the wrist band. After 2 months of wearing it, it was a wreck. It actually started to separate around the window that the tracker shined through, and I had contacted Fitbit who quickly sent me a replacement band. {I honestly wonder whether the bands were on backorder for so long because they had so many issues with them.} (Note: The pictures used in this comparison show the original band I received. I decided to continue using it until it fell apart. It’s nearly split completely at the base now.)

Anyway long story short, despite the band issues, I loved my Flex. No single device has motivated me to stay active more than this thing, and for that, it’s worth it’s weight in gold. When I heard about the Force, it was a no-brainer. I preordered it as soon as I could. I did have some hesitation after realizing I can’t wear it in the shower, and I can’t change the band, but I decided I’d hope for the best.

So about the Force. {and pardon the bad lighting in these pictures…}

Packaging (shown above) was VERY similar to the Flex. I again got the Black.

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Fitbit Flex on the left/bottom. Force on the right/top.

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Original black Fitbit Flex band (6 months of wear); Fitbit Force, unused black Fitbit Flex band

Upon taking it out the packaging, I was surprised to see that the band does look to be made of a slightly different material than the Flex. {This may be a good thing… *fingers crossed*} Also gone is the recessed Fitbit logo that tended to collect dirt. In it’s place is a slightly raised logo that’s barely visible. {I like.}

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Fitbit Flex on the left, Force on the right.

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The Flex’s cable has a sort of pocket to hold the tracker, whereas the Force doesn’t.

The charger is sporting a slightly longer flat cable instead of the Flex’s round cable.

Set up was a breeze. I simply set up a new device to replace my Flex, and everything was done in under 2 minutes.

Easy as pie.

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Right now my only gripe is that I can’t seem to find a way to get the screen display to stay on. The line you see next to the MI is the screen animation starting to wipe away the stats. It took me forever to get my camera to focus in time to get a picture. I’m not sure it’s possible or if I’ll even want it to, but for watch lovers, having to press a button to check the time may be a pain. {In trying to find a way though, I did discover it has a timer…} Update: After reading the Force 101 tutorial, the timer is for sleep. Why a timer, I have no clue. Not exactly intuitive on a watch-like device. Maybe Zzzz’s would have been more appropriate than a timer.

Now I’m off to package up my Flex which will be going to my very lucky mother who seems to be getting lots of gadgets lately thanks to me.

Do you have an activity tracker? I’ve always wanted to try the Up because it looks so much more stylish.

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What’s on my iPhone?

I’ve got a bit of a tech theme going on here lately, so why not continue it with a post about what’s on my iPhone?  And why not on the day Apple announced the newest iPhone models?

It takes about 5 seconds of knowing me to know I’m an Apple girl. I’ve been using Macs since I was 2, and while there were a couple years that I used PCs, in high school, I went back to Mac and never looked back.

I’m now on my 3rd iPhone, so I’ve tried my fair share of apps over the years. I had originally planned to go over all the apps on my phone, but despite being pretty strict about what apps stay on my phone, I still have over 90 apps – much too many to review each and every one, so I figure I’ll give you an overview of how I organize the apps on my phone, and then I’ll go over some of my most used apps.

Let’s start with the home screen. These are apps I like to have quick access to or be able to glance at quickly.


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  • Across the top row you’ll find Calendar, Weather, Things, and Fitbit. These are all apps I like to check in the morning when I’m getting ready.
  • Next is Clock, Calculator, Phone, and 1Password. These are all tool/utility type apps I like to have quick access to.
  • The next two rows don’t exactly have a specific category. They are just apps I use frequently or like to have on my home screen. So here, you have Pocket and Reeder. Camera+, Light, and Waze.
  • And of course you’ll find the App Store and Settings.
  • In my dock, I try to keep apps I use most frequently or need quick access to in the car like Spotify.

Now onto the rest of the apps. I only have one page of apps aside from my home screen. Any more than one page, and I start freaking out. I also like to keep them all in folders mostly organized by activity.

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  • First up we have the Apple folder for all those apps Apple insists on putting on the phone and won’t let you remove.
  • The next folder is Files. This is where I keep all my cloud storage apps.
  • I’m not really into playing games on my phone much any more, but I do have a folder where I keep a few should I for some reason actually have nothing to do.
  • I keep any fitness apps in the Health folder.
  • Misc. is my folder for anything that doesn’t really fit in the other folders. When this folder starts getting full, it’s usually time to consider adding a folder or getting rid of some apps.
  • Any apps related to books or audiobooks are stored in my Read folder.
  • The $ folder has any shopping, bank, or credit card related apps.
  • Social is of course for social networking apps.
  • And last but not least Watch holds my video related apps like Netflix.

So which apps are my favorites? {By the way, I’m limiting this to non-Apple apps. If you use an iPhone you already know Apple’s apps.}

  • Spotify without a doubt gets used the most. I use it to listen to music in the car. I also use it stream music to my stereo when I’m at home.
  • Mailbox has revolutionized the way I deal with email. It’s also finally given me a way to take a break from work emails when I’m out of the office.
  • I’ve bragged about Things in the past. I’ve used this app for years on my phone, iPad, and Mac, and I don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon. It’s my favorite task management app, and I’ve tried quite a bunch.
  • 1Password is by far the best password management app I’ve ever used. In fact, I love it soo much, it was first piece of software I ever paid for on my Mac. When the latest iPhone version was released, I even stayed up late to get it when it came out. {Not even embarrassed about it…}
  • I’ve posted about how Pocket has changed the way I read content on the internet. Spotify
  • Reeder is by far my favorite RSS reader for iOS, and I’ve tried quite a few.
  • My go-to navigation app is Waze. In fact, my car has a nav system built in and I still use this one. I also love trying to figure out who around me is using Waze when one of the little Wazer icons pass mine.
  • Health-wise, my favorite app is the recently released Blogilates app. It’s well worth the $.99/month to get the calendar. Every day you get a list of video workouts and you can check them off as you go. Super simple.
  • and last but not least, I’m a big reader, so I use GoodReads to update my reading progress and keep track of what I’m reading.

Well that’s it. I hope you’ve enjoyed my quick tour of my iPhone.

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Living a Healthier Lifestyle

One of my overall resolutions is to live a healthier lifestyle. I’ve been one of those lucky ones who have been blessed with a good metabolism, so I’ve never really had to worry about what I eat or exercising for that matter. I’ve also never been the active type, but more of the “sit in front of a computer all day, and watch TV all night” type. But somehow, over the years, I’ve shrunk rather than getting larger. {As shocking as this sounds} most of my clothes from elementary school that I still have {but would never wear} still fit. My clothes from my high school years are actually a few sizes too big now. While I’m thankful for that, I have begun to realize it will likely not last forever, and now that I’m working full time and spend 40 hours or more sitting at a desk in front of a massive 27″ computer screen, I figured now is probably a good time to start making some changes.

The first change I made was cutting the majority of the caffeine out of my life.

Backstory: When I was in high school, I only drank soda. Soda for breakfast, soda for lunch, soda before bed. I would actually have panic attacks if I didn’t have soda. That’s when I realized it was really bad and decided to give up soda. For 2 years, I drank flavored water and teas {and an occasional Sprite}. In college, I developed an unhealthy obsession with Monster energy drinks and was actually buying them by the case. If I wasn’t drinking Monster, it was Mountain Dew. I decided that probably wasn’t great, so I, again, went back to teas and water. Fast forward to the past year or so, I kept up with mainly drinking tea and water, and then my mother bought a Keurig. She was the only coffee drinker in the house so it made sense to her, but the Keurig made it easy to quickly make a cup of coffee and soon everyone in the house was drinking coffee. I would bring a 20oz. travel mug to work each day and on the weekends I’d have at least 2 cups a day.

The first day back to work this year after the holidays, I was dragging my feet as I got ready {because who really wants to go back to work}. I ended up rushing out the door because I like to be early to work, never late, so I quickly threw my lunch together and decided to skip the coffee. More than a month later, and I haven’t had coffee at work. I do have a cup on the weekends, and I occasionally splurge for Starbucks, but overall, the coffee habit is gone. Some afternoons {when it’s really slow at work or I have somewhere to be later that night} I pick up an energy drink from the vending machine, but gone are the days of multiple sodas, energy drinks, and cups of coffee. They’ve been replaced with bottles of water. I’m trying to track my water consumption, and have been using an app on my iPhone called Habits Pro. I got it for free during a sale, but it looks like the developer created a new version that’s free called Track & Share. It’s not the prettiest app, but it’s the best app I found so far.

That leads me to another change, being more active.

Fitbit Flex

My job requires me to sit in front of a computer all day, and although I love the wonderful Apple products my work has provided me with, I’m quickly realizing it’s damaging effects. Sitting in front of a 27″ display has really messed up my eyes. The good thing about all the water I’m drinking now is I’m forced to take more frequent breaks from the computer to walk to the other side of the building where the bathrooms are – good for my eyes, good for my body, and I’m staying hydrated. It’s still a work in progress though and sometimes I do forget to get up and move around. I’m currently saving for FitBit’s new Flex activity tracker which is supposed to be released in the Spring. Until then, I’m using an app on my phone called Moves to track my steps. {I forget to bring my phone with me a lot though so this isn’t too accurate.} I’m hoping that the Flex, given that it’s always on me, will solve that problem.

My third change – exercise.

Beach Babe DVD by Tone it Up

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you may have picked up on my latest obsession with workouts from Tone It Up. I know I’m not going to be tiny forever, so I might as well get in the habit of working out. Not too mention, I’d really love to not be out of breath after climbing one flight of stairs or my 10 minute walk from the parking lot to my office. Being able to fit in a size 0 doesn’t mean you’re healthy. Each week, I get an email from Tone It Up with a workout schedule. I plug the workouts into my Filofax and I generally try to stick to them, but sometimes I do change them up. Yesterday for example, I added the Bikini Sculpt workout from the DVD because I wanted more of a challenge. The hardest part of working out for me is getting the motivation to do it. I love the energy I get from working out. I love the results. I love that I can walk to my office without huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf trying to blow down the three little pigs’ houses, but when I get off of work, after 8 hours in front of a computer, I’m ready to be in sweat pants, eating dinner, and watching a movie. So today was day one of my decision to try waking up earlier to work out before work. Needless to say, I woke up early, only to reset my alarm back to it’s normal time and climb back in bed. Tomorrow we’ll try again I guess.

My last change comes out of necessity of the third change – eat healthier.

I’ve never been one to eat much. I don’t pig out on sweets and snacks {typically}, and I’d rather have an apple over a candy bar {or broccoli over french fries} any day. I love food, don’t get me wrong, I do pig out, and I do eat but I hate preparing it, or going to get it for that matter, so it’s easy for me to not eat much. A typical week day for me would probably consist of a granola bar for breakfast; a sandwich on whole wheat bread, apple sauce or cottage cheese, and some snacky item (gummy snacks, chips, wheat thins) for lunch; and dinner is either whatever my mother decides to cook, or some crappy microwaved burrito type thing. That lifestyle probably worked while I was lying around the house all day, but now I’m actually being more active. I’m not working out to lose weight, but to be healthier in general so I’ve had to pay better attention to what I’m eating, and how much so that I’m not dropping weight. I don’t know that I’ll ever be one to count calories or keep a food journal, but for now I’m just trying to eat better foods and a bit more of them.

Do you have any resolutions to be healthier {I assume most people do}? How’s it going for you? Feel free to ask any questions or share tips. I’d love to hear them.

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