Wes Ostler

@wesostler

Turn your Apple Watch into the ultimate productivity device

I’ve been an Apple Watch user since the inception of the device. I was able to get one expensed through work because I wanted to build a watch app that would surely be super useful and drive lots of users to the app. That didn’t end up panning out and the watch app didn’t survive very long (that is a different story), but at least I got an Apple Watch out of it all!

Opinions on the Apple Watch, and its usefulness, vary nearly as much as the assortment of colors and bands Apple has created. There are those that swear by it, and those that can’t seem to remember where they put it, or the last time they had it on, and everything in between.

My own relationship with the watch has certainly gone up and down over the years. There have been long periods of time where it sat under my bed because one of my kids ran off with the charger and I hadn’t bothered to track it down. There have also been stints where I’ve worn it religiously for months at a time. If this sounds confusing or complicated, its because it is. One thing I will say is that whenever I return from long periods of time without the watch to getting it back on, I am always glad that its back. In that sense I guess you could say I like wearing it more than I like not wearing it. Not exactly a very compelling value proposition for people that are on the fence, but I’m hoping to pull you fence sitters over to this side of the fence before long!

One of my main grievances with the watch is that the apps are pretty useless. Even though there are lots of third-party apps available now, it just isn’t a very common occurrence that I will think to reach for the watch version of any given app. So what is it good for? Notifications. And thats about it. Sure it tells time and tracks calories (though to my wife’s dismay, this seems to be greatly skewed to benefit males as I apparently burn more calories in my sleep than her watch gives her credit for after a day of wrestling with the kids) but the real value for me has been in getting email and text alerts that I might have missed if the phone were in my pocket or (more accurately) in the other room playing a Disney show for the kids.

Apple seems to realize that notifications are an important part of the watch experience because they provide many alerts out of the box that remind you to breathe and to stand up and to update you on your fitness stats, etc. These alerts are useful in that they do cause you to think about the thing they are intended for, but less useful because the thing they are reminding you to do isn’t necessarily what you’ve signed up for or are completely committed to doing.

Make your Apple Watch go from good to great

With a little bit of effort, you can take the best part of the Apple Watch experience (the notifications) and personalize and customize it so that the usefulness of the watch is taken to a whole new level. It is only at this level that the watch becomes a device you can’t live without because it is actually helping you accomplish your goals and improving your life in a meaningful way.

In order to achieve this new level of Apple Watch zen, you will need to download a free goal-tracking app called Strides. This app is really well built and provides a lot of useful functionality for free. There are more features available for a monthly fee, but the free version has been plenty useful for me. The beautiful thing about Strides is not only that it is a nice goal tracking app, but it also leverages the notification capabilities of your phone better than any app I’ve seen. More specifically, it lets you set unlimited notification reminders for a given goal that you are striving to complete throughout the day.

Here is an example of how this works for me in practice. I set a goal to do 100 pushups a day. They don’t necessarily have to be consecutive, I just want to do 100 per day. To accomplish this I added a goal in Strides to do 20 pushups, five times. In addition to making it a requirement to do five times per day, I was also able to set five reminders for each of those events, one hour apart. So now as I am working or going throughout my morning, I will get a notification on my phone (that automatically forwards to the watch!) with this custom message from the reminder I set: “Get down and give me 20 — NOW!”. And I do it! I do it every time. It is a goal that I have signed up for and am interested in keeping and no matter what I have going on, I get down and do 20 pushups.

You might be wondering why the watch is critical if you can just get the notifications on your phone. Inasmuch as you are a committed watch user, you will always get and feel the notification and are accordingly that much more likely to act. The same can’t always be said of the phone, unfortunately.

This isn’t a revolutionary concept, but it is powerful in practice if you spend some time setting up some meaningful goals up front (stay tuned for a follow-up post on how this has affected the cleanliness of our home). It is a way to force the future you to be accountable to the current you who is making the goals in the app. I have found that getting reminders and having accountability for what I do with those reminders is a great way to get stuff done. My Apple Watch is something I rely on everyday to keep me on track with the goals I want to accomplish. It has become a device that is making my life better, which is a much better value prop than where we started!

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