WakeMate – Get to Know Your Sleeping Self

WakeMate – Get to Know Your Sleeping Self

WakeMate is a sleep phase alarm clock that can wake you up during one of your light sleep phases and in addition offers extended analysis of your sleep patterns. After my first experience with a simple iPhone app for sleep tracking I found it quite interesting to gain deeper insights into my sleeping habits with this dedicated tool.

Sleep phases correlate with subtle body movements and can therefore be analyzed with a scientifically proven method called actigraphy. Its main principle states that comparatively higher body activity indicates light sleep phases, whereas less movement indicates deep or REM sleep. WakeMate comes with an armband, which detects these movements and a mobile application that interprets this information and works as a user interface for the sleep phase alarm clock.

By monitoring your sleep activity, this app detects light sleep phases and – within a given timeframe, which you can set for when you intend to wake up – will alert you with a charming alarm tone at just the right moment. After waking up, you are informed of your sleep score, which is calculated comparing the length of your awake, light sleep and deep sleep phases. So far, it has really worked well for me. The alarm has always gone off either when I was already waking up, or when I was just about to turn over for a little more sleep. Even though I’ve never had problems getting up in the morning, this product can definitely help make waking up in the morning easier and less stressful.

In addition to being a sleep phase alarm clock, there are some other exciting features that WakeMate offers for the lifehackers among us. Straight from your mobile app, sleeping stats are uploaded to your free and personal profile on WakeMate’s website. There, you will get a detailed overview of your sleep score, which is projected over such variables as length of sleep, day of the week or the time of day that you went to sleep. Identifying the right circumstances for a higher sleep score might then be used to improve sleep quality. Other stats show sleep frequency based on sleep length, sleep or wake time. All in all, this gives you an outstanding representation of your general sleeping habits from any perspective you find most helpful.

Quantified self-experiments with WakeMate

One of my favorite features about WakeMate is the possibility to create several tags in order to analyze the quality of my sleep under varying conditions. I had a great time collecting a load of data and testing how my sleep quality would vary depending on differing influences such as stress, relaxation, social activities, late work nights or a few drinks. The results were actually quite surprising. Contrary to my expectations, my sleep scores turned out to be the highest when I had drunk lots of coffee that day or enjoyed working late into the night. On other nights, when I could unwind by spending some quality time with friends or while watching a movie, my sleep scores actually sunk. Maybe these results are based on the deep satisfaction the great work my team and I are doing gives me, or it just means that the short-term analysis over 50 nights doesn’t provide a solid enough database. As I extend this analysis long-term, I will keep you updated on the further results.

WakeMate Analytics from igrowdigital

Does WakeMate help improve sleeping habits?

Being an early bird type, I have never had trouble getting up in the morning, but still I enjoy using WakeMate as a pleasant way to start my day. I see the product’s main potential for improving sleeping habits in its analytical functions. Using WakeMate on a regular basis leads to a rich dataset. As the number of monitored sleep phases grows, the reliability of the data interpretation regarding different sleep circumstances will rise correspondingly. In the long-term, I expect this to produce some deep personal insights, which might be used to optimize sleeping quality.

WakeMate’s mobile application is available for iPad, iPhone and Android. I am currently using it on my iPad, which is most convenient for entering tags. Right now I’m testing WakeMate and Zeo in comparison -stay posted for the results!

 

Everyday – Train Your Camera Smile

Let’s be honest – who has ever truly felt comfortable with having to pose and paste on a smile for a picture? I know I never really used to be. Somehow I couldn’t let go and just smile. The iPhone app Everyday was a great tool to help me really improve this. Just as the name might suggest, Everyday offers to document a portrait of you every day, and then automatically combines each picture to create a short movie which shows you how your looks change over time. Is there any better way to celebrate your own personal development than by watching how you improve yourself from day to day?

The app was actually inspired by Noah Kalina, who took a picture of himself every single day for 6 years. He has a video posted on youtube which combines all the pictures into a 6 minute movie. It is actually quite moving to watch, you can see how time flies by and how each day, he changes just a little bit from the day before.

Create a video documentation for yourself with Everyday

What I really enjoy about the Everyday app is that it allows you to set a fixed time at which it will remind you to take your picture each day. On top of this, it will automatically calibrate and combine all the pictures you have taken to a video documentation of yourself. The app does not necessarily require you to look happy for your daily portraits, but it sure is a great way to learn how to overcome camera shyness and become more aware of your facial expressions.

Get control of your facial expressions by watching yourself Every Day

Just like hearing your voice recorded sounds kind of silly at first and takes a little getting used to, really watching your facial expressions each day can get you accustomed to understanding how others might see you. When interacting, our body language – which to a large extent consists of our facial expressions – confers more of our message than the words we choose to say it. Monitoring your facial expressions thus becomes a huge way to impact the way you communicate and interact with others; learning to control it means that you can really get your message across when you need to. By seeing yourself through a camera lens you can learn to better appreciate your expressions and the impact you can make on others.

In case you do decide to smile on your Everyday documentation, remember that a real smile isn’t just about showing your teeth. A happy smile comes from the heart, and people can tell you’re being genuine when your eyes crinkle up.

Withings WiFi Body Scale – Weight Watching for Aesthetes

I’ve been tracking my weight for over a year now with Withings free smartphone app WiScale.  Monitoring your weight on a regular basis can become a tedious task when you have to record your data manually, making it hard sometimes to maintain a regular overview. After reading Tim Ferris’ The 4 Hour Body, I decided to loose a few pounds with his slow carb diet. In order to obtain a genuinely accurate feedback on my progress in losing weight, I treated myself to a Withings  WiFi Body Scale and started tracking my weight routinely. Having a rich set of measurements then was a great support for reaching my goal. But now, let me tell you something about the product which helped me with that.

Withings WiFi Body Scale comes with great design and usability

The WiFi Body Scale consists of a glass slab, metal encasing and a wifi connection that is a breeze to set up and sync with your computing appliances. Within minutes, my phone, iPad and home computer were all linked up, and the scale’s setup assistant promptly asked me if I wanted to share my data with my followers on twitter. Well, no, I didn’t, but for those of you who want to add a little peer pressure, this might be an option. The scale measures data such as weight, body fat and BMI and reports it to your free profile on Withings’ website or mobile applications where you can see it displayed in beautiful graphs. Especially the data visualization on iPads, which have interactive navigation features you can access with simple touch gestures, is stunning and certainly a best practice for self-tracking technology to date. Seeing how the diet worked for me in the fancy charts really boosted my motivation to stick to the diet rules.
This caused a positive feedback loop, which made cutting back my eating habits easier than never before. On the other hand, it’s really fun to watch the effects that an isolated binge at a 2-day party had on my weight. After using the scale and app for quite some time now, it’s just beautiful to have all that data visible.

Take it or leave it?

My verdict? The beautiful design, along with its user-friendly, intuitive handling and in-depth tracking and charting possibilities put a whole new playful, and convenient spin on how to lose weight smart and effectively. For me, the investment was worth every dime. Even when not on a diet, it’s just great to follow your weight in that amazing visualization on the mobile apps.  After my truly positive experience with this product, I went for Withings Blood Pressure Monitor as well. Both these devices combined with the smart biosensors, which should be available in the near future, are great ways to gain intimate insights in your physical condition. Next, read more about the Quantified Self and how new technologies can provide support in developing body and mind.

Boost Your Motivation and Gain Personal Insights by Self-Tracking

First things first: When it comes to getting yourself organized, tools like Things, Omnifocus or Wunderlist are quite helpful task managers. Most people enjoy the satisfaction of crossing tasks off their lists. But when you’re managing regular events such as routine exercising, you’ll have different tracking needs than what basic task managing tools have to offer. For activities where you can track your progress based on location or movement– say, when comparing times over distances when running or cycling – services like Runkeeper, Nike+ or biosensors like Fitbit are handy tools to keep a good overview of your progress and are a great way to keep yourself motivated. But what about golf, gymnastics, mental training or any other goals where your progress can no longer be represented by how far you go, but by how well you’ve been achieving the goals you wanted to reach? Here’s where some special tools step into the game.

Several tracking services allow you to transfer personal data into metric scales, thus making it possible to track your efforts while visualizing your improvement over time. This not only gives you the same satisfaction of crossing an item off your list, it also offers an overview chart of the progress you’ve made so far. From my experience, tracking tools available to date all cover different aspects. Tools like Daytum allow tracking individual

daytum horizontal charts

items on a numeric basis, and can be used to monitor  everything from the number of workouts you did to the amount of movies you have seen. Items can be grouped into categories and then be displayed with different type of graphs, as seen in the example on the left. This approach leaves you a lot of freedom to track whatever you’d like, but also challenges you to build up a tracking system that fits your needs. For all of you who want to try this service, I encourage you to keep in mind that with the free version, your charts are visible to the public on Daytum’s website. Apart from that, Daytum offers good usability, connecting a powerful web interface with the easy interaction possibilities of its smartphone app. On the other hand, there are tracking tools, which allow you to monitor things on a more qualitative level. Apps like Track & Share provide a set of icons that can be used to track your mood, your satisfaction with certain areas in your life or anything else that could be described with indicators from bad to good or from sad to happy.

Even if self-tracking may seem kind of rigid for some people, the underlying idea is to help reach personal goals. As a rule of thumb, creating new habits takes about 40 days of consistent practice before becoming routine. So, to get myself used to a daily gym workout, I found it useful to track my workout by having each exercise routine organized in a checklist. In this example tracking was a means to keep in mind what I intended to do. Looking at it from a technological point of view, there is a much bigger potential in self tracking. Analyzing your data may not only give you fancy charts, but also help you to learn more about yourself. This can be particularly helpful, say, if you would like to figure out in retrospect which routines and schedules were the best to help you achieve your own personal goals. Here’s an quick example: If your personal goal is to lose weight, but you haven’t quite figured out which dietary approach is best for you yet, tracking your weight and nourishment daily and comparing the results over time can give you the overview you need to know how best to adjust your dietary plan. Sure, this means you’ll have to try out several different dietary plans over the course of a few days each in order to get appropriate results, but in doing so, you can quantify your progress and produce “scientific” results from you own self-experiments! All in all, self tracking then becomes a huge boost both for your motivation as well as a great tool to find the smart decisions for you to make.

From what I’ve experienced so far, a completely perfect tool to these ends has yet to be designed. That’s why my team and I, along with many others from the Quantified Self movement are continuously working on expanding and improving future software for a more holistic self-management approach. Stay tuned for more information on new products and thoughts on how you can use software to improve your personal development!

Make Your Everyday Life a Personal Development Game

After reading a whole lot of literature on coaching and personal development, I started forming a clearer picture of who I wanted to be and what my core values are. In order to fortify certain characteristics about myself, I began playing a little game I had learned from Sir Winston Churchill. In his younger days, the famous politician had his desired traits for his own personality written on a set of flashcards . In order to develop his character,  he then drew a card every day and practiced behaving accordingly to the specific characteristic.

Using a mobile app makes behavioral training fun for tech enthusiasts

Tagcloud life-gamification on igrowdigital.comNowadays, thanks to modern technological advances, we no longer need to carry a batch of flashcards around with us. There are several flashcard applications available directly for your smartphone, which can make this training even more delightful.

 

Priming is a powerful tool to get focused on whats really important in life

For quite a while now, every morning I use the iPhone app “flashcard deluxe” which randomly picks my personal behavioral goal for the day. Doing this right after waking up takes advantage of the powerful phenomenon known as “priming”: A clear mind in the morning leaves your thoughts open for information which can easily be remembered and recalled throughout the rest of the day. So, whenever you have a quiet moment for your thoughts, remembering your behavioral goal for the day can help provide guidance on how to react to certain situations. I found it helpful to make my personal development game more precise by reflecting how certain characteristics might best be expressed in specific actions, then summarizing these actions on the back of my flashcards. For example, one can practice confident behavior by focusing on an upright posture and by speaking in a loud and clear voice. Or, being more relaxed might best be expressed by making sure to smile often, breathe deeply and generally taking things slowly.

Practicing behavioral pattern leads to personal development

Practicing behavior patterns forms and strengthens personal traits and widens your scope of reaction mechanisms. This will give you the freedom to choose how best to deal with different situation in your life. Mixing this training experience with randomly picked goals from your mobile device adds more fun into the equation, and you can easily get back to your training instructions whenever you need them. In my opinion, the experience of interacting with a mobile device in order to train personal goals is a simple showcase of a whole new palette of personal development tools and products which we will soon see popping up in the future.

My Polar heart rate monitor – Why you should have one

Photo: Polar.fi

If you run five to six times a week, go to work by bike and do strength training in between your running days, you don’t want to spend more time than absolutely necessary at the PC writing all the stuff down. At the same time, it is important to see and calculate progress (or plateauing).

I got the RS300 Polar heart rate monitor to keep track of the kilometers I ran and to see my pace while I am running. After the training sessions, you can see your average and max pace, heart-rate and which sport-zones you used (customizable heart-rate zones). It even has a function that can measure your current fitness level (it’s called OwnIndex and is correlated to your VO2max) and another test that determines your current aerobic zone in the first minutes of your particular run! Two really cool features!

When you start running, as I did about three years ago, you’ll be overwhelmed by numbers. Same goes for other (endurance) sports. So, if you are like me, you start tracking what you can measure – the data will useful for motivation, new training plans, calculating your training load and much more.

At first you want to know how much time you spend on the track. Then you will start measuring your track length and calculating your pace. Soon enough, you buy a heart rate monitor to ensure the right training load and you begin training pulse oriented.

Running in the woods
He wears Polar

If its not enough to write that all down, maybe you want to see an average displayed by week/month/year in fancy, colored graphs, ready to share online with your training partners. Your personal Nyan Cat of data, there you go, the RS300 helps you do just that. Go to the website polar offers you to keep track of your personal goals, trainings plans and much more. Sure, I hear from time to time that people “feel” how much load they take, they “sometimes run fast, other times slower and it works well”.

Yes, it is much better than watching TV. Now consider the following: maybe you want to go faster and farther and run more relaxed all at the same time, get the lost calories counted and do it in perfect alignment with your body – then, of course, get yourself a heart-rate watch. Even with half-hearted endurance ambitions, monitor your heart. (And get a training plan of course, or let the Polar software design one for you based on your fitness test – well done Polar, well done).

Do you already own a heart-rate monitor? Have different ways to stay in touch with your training load? Share your knowledge, write a comment.

Simple Sleep Tracking with the iPhone

Do you often feel tired? How long and how well did you sleep int the last days and when do you usually got to bed? In order to get answers to theses questions for myself, I analyzed my sleeping habits with an iPhone app called Sleep hygiene. All you have to do is press a button when going to sleep and again after waking up.

As you can track several sleeps a day, this will work for those of you who are into naps as well. After a few days you get stats on your average sleep length and bed time. I was really surprised with the results, which were kind of different from what I expected and recommend this to everyone who wants to find out some more about his sleeping habits. Sleep hygiene offers additional features such as tips on sleep improvement and suggests your optimal wake-up times based on biorhythm. Also, you might analyze your sleep stats in order to find out your optimal sleep-length and bed-time.

If you want to get more into details, there are sophisticated tools for sleep tracking. Using biosensors, you can measure data like body movement or brain activity, which allow monitoring sleep-length detailed into different sleep phases like REM or light sleep. Right now I’m testing WakeMate, Fitbit and Zeo to track my sleep. Watch out for in-depth reviews and comparison.

What to expect from this blog

Hi there! This blog is all about personal development in the age of mobile and connected devices. We are a group of tech enthusiasts who are particularly keen on personal development, and since we enjoy testing any and all new gadgets, apps and software services on ourselves, we figured it was time to share our insights with you. Welcome to our blog.

Unlike other reviews you might find on the web, this blog offers you not only regular updates from a technological point of view, we will also share our personal experience with you on how using the products impacted our own personal development. We will review trends and upcoming products, discuss software and biosensors already available, and in some cases, we will also cover software that wasn’t even actually intended for personal development goals, but still does a great job for self improvement, if you know how to use it just right. The possibilities are endless. Unleash the potential of your digital products for your personal growth.