Wearable reviews at nickchatrath.com are designed to let you know how useful a gadget is in helping to transform your personal performance, with the big four intelligences in mind. (The big four intelligences are mental focus, emotional intelligence, physical sustainability and purpose. In my experience, the most effective leaders devote attention to all four.) Whereas other sites review wearables from purely a technical or physical fitness standpoint, if you want to stop feeling tired and start having the time to focus productively on what matters, then you are in the right place.
My review will focus on each of the big four intelligences and give some tips on how to use the Apple Watch Sport to improve your performance.
Version reviewed: Apple Watch Sport, 42mm, April 2015 version.
I admit it – I’m a gadget geek. I picked up an Apple Watch a few weeks after they went on sale, and when my brother first saw it he turned to my sister-in-law and exclaimed, “I knew it, Nick is the first person we know to have an Apple Watch!”
As is always the case with first-generation devices, there’s a lot to love but a few key features missing. But even though it’s early days for the Apple Watch, using it has had a clear and unexpected benefit. In June I weighed 75.1kg, making me borderline overweight even though I have always considered myself a fit, trim guy. Just watching some of the metrics that the Apple Watch provided helped me bring my weight down by 1kg. And when I combined this with some advanced performance techniques (which I mention elsewhere), my weight has come down by another 4kg and my mental focus and sleep quality has improved.
That’s impressive, and it’s just one of the great things about the watch. But how else does it shape up as a tool to improve your personal performance?
Mental focus is affected by multiple factors including sleep (quantity and quality), diet (more sugar, alcohol and caffeine equals less focus) and your quality of attention. Although it seems ideal for tracking much of these metrics, the Apple Watch doesn’t actually make it that easy. That means turning to additional hardware and phone apps – for sleep tracking you can use devices like the Beddit or the Withings Aura. This isn’t all bad – I don’t recommend having your Apple Watch or iPhone in your bedroom at night (see below). It is also not possible to enter detailed diet data on such a small device, meaning you’ll still be relying on your phone for much of the tracking you need to get an idea of your personal performance.
- Using If This Then That, set up notification “Do” buttons to record whenever you drink a unit of caffeine. Have this automatically exported to a Google spreadsheet, and enter a weekly diary entry to review how focussed you felt that week, and compare this to your weekly caffeine consumption. (Learn how to use If This Then That – or IFTTT – using my quick step-by-step guide – sign-up below and I will send you it for FREE!)
Tracking your mood is one way to assess your emotional performance, but once again the apps for the Apple Watch aren’t quite there yet. Jawbone has a good Android and iOS app for this, but it hasn’t yet made it possible to enter your mood on its Apple Watch app. This means setting up notifications on the watch is once again the best way to go.
- Set up a notification, for the same time each day, to remind you to enter your mood (in a journal, on a spreadsheet, or using the Jawbone UP app).
This is perhaps the greatest strength of the Apple Watch. It automatically monitors your heart rate every few minutes, providing really useful data throughout the day. And beyond this you can choose to put the watch into Workout Mode, when it will measure your heart rate continuously. This is a battery drain, but as you would expect it’s really handy during workouts. Your performance will be most helped when you train in the zone which is 60-85% of your maximum heart rate.
- Use the QS Export Apple to get data from the Apple Health app  as a CSV file. If you know someone who works with code, they could export the Apple Health file directly in XML format – use the “export_cda” file, not the “export” file, as the latter is medical standard, and appears to be intended to be used by health professionals. Correlate this file with major events in your diary – did your heart rate spike when you met your boss last Tuesday? Is your resting heart rate worryingly high? (If it is, then make sure you see your physician or GP.)
- Use notifications as reminders to do sport, at times during the week when you think the motivation is likely to tip you into putting your kit on when you’re vacillating about it.
- Remember to turn on the heart rate monitor during selected workouts, and then track this afterwards – preferably in conjunction with a qualified fitness trainer.
I am waiting for the day when a wearable can provide easy goal-tracking tools. This is very important for meaning and purpose, a core driver of leadership success. Apple Watch is not alone in not yet engaging with this, but we should not blame them as it is not core to their strategy at the moment.
- Reflect on what success would look like in your life in 10 years time. And in 6 months time. Use IFTTT to have these goals pop up on a regular basis, especially just before you start work.
Battery life is OK but not great. When going on a trip I had to remember yet another charger. Is anyone else’s carry-on luggage starting to groan under the weight of a phone charger, laptop charger, shaver charger, electric toothbrush charger (OK, not everyone has one of those), wireless speaker charger (I love good sound in my hotel room), and now a watch charger? I’m seriously considering packing a multiple socket extension lead too!
But there is one positive about needing to charge the phone most days: I leave the charging socket downstairs in my house, in the same place, and charge my watch overnight every night. This means that I don’t take my watch to bed – a critical step if you are to minimise your exposure to the blue light that phones and watches emit, which in turn will help you sleep.
It’s early days for the Apple Watch and there’s still a lot of untapped potential. However, I do think it’s the device to watch in the months and years ahead; its app platform is unrivalled, and the gaps will surely be filled by developers before long. While its battery life is not where I’d like it to be, there’s enough good about it – particularly the notification functionality and heart-rate tracking – to recommend it over other general purpose wearables.
- Advanced notifications allow a range of productivity
- Sits within the iOS ecosystem
- One of the most stylish wrist devices
- Limited app-based functionality supporting diet and mood
- Hard to export data into third party applications such as Excel
- Needs charging every 1-2 days depending on use
If you are considering using a wearable to help transform your performance, and you’re ready for a comparative analysis of the wearables that are out there, download my free 5-page guide. I’ve studied 7 major wearables so that you don’t have to. Sign-up below and I will send you my FREE guide “How to chose a wearable that will help you lose weight, improve your mindset and become more productive” now for free.
 Assumption: Apple Watch being used in conjunction with an iPhone. If you have Android or another system, most of these insights should apply – just substitute the relevant app names, e.g. Google Fit for the Apple Health app.